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Lavellan

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Lavellan. 

That isn’t my name.

Long, slender fingers - white from the cold and well beyond the point of trembling - stripped leaves from the stem in hand one by one. The monotonous task was soothing and required no thought. Encouraged no thought. She did not want to think.

Once a stem was stripped, the roots were broken off and went into one pouch while the leaves went into another. The stem was cast aside, and another was picked.

All around, the ground was blanketed with snow, the air was almost frigid, and the nearby mud and slush road had deep wells and dips here and there from wagon wheels, and imprints from the hooves of horses.

Overhead, the clouded sky was tinged with an unnatural green color, which got darker and darker further westward.

Westward, where the clouds spiraled like a hurricane. At the eye of which great chunks of mountain floated in midair, rotating slowly, not falling despite their obvious size and weight - just slowly circling the eerie green void in the center.

The constant din of noise in the air from the void certainly made it sound like a hurricane. Or, if one listened long enough, screams.

Her hand ached.

She continued plucking leaves, refusing to think.

Lavellan.

A mage Lavellan. First of the Lavellan clan. Sent by the Keeper, presumably with a small entourage, to spy on the Conclave. To learn what the humans would decide their new stance would be on mages, and take that information back to the clan so the Keeper could decide what they would do next. All Keepers and their Firsts were mages. It would be relevant. 

Because someday she would succeed her and become Keeper herself.

Keeper Lavellan.

Lavellan the First.

That’s not my name.

She wasn’t Lavellan. But this was Lavellan’s body. She knew it was. She’d seen her reflection in the ice on the way up to the Temple of Sacred Ashes.

She knew this was Lavellan’s body. It was the face. She’d designed it.

Pale skin, fine features, brown hair pulled back tightly and twisted into a bun, green eyes, vallaslin honoring Mythal (the complex version) done in dark green- Cheekbones done just so, eyes made just a touch larger, mouth just a touch smaller, lips a little thin, jaw smooth and elegant-

Lavellan. First of her clan. Palm of her left hand marked with what looked like a scar- A scar that occasionally flashed the same eerie green that glowed overhead. Occasionally sparked, like lightning. Occasionally oozed something viscous and green that looked like vapor and slime at the same time and vanished before it even touched the ground.

Though not so much anymore, now that she had used it to temporarily close the…

Lavellan.

That’s not my name.

This was Lavellan’s body. But she was not Lavellan.

She was not the…

She could not be the…

She could not become the-

“Herald!”

She jumped in place and froze up, the muscles in her hands contracting sharply, curling her hands into tight fists that crushed the leaves she’d been holding, her shoulders hunching and her head lowering as she curled reflexively-

Someone fell to their knees in the snow next to her, hands reaching out but not touching, words coming out jumbled and panicked, while others ran up close behind.

“Oh, Herald, you’re safe- Why did you leave without saying anything? How did you get out without using the gate- The guards never saw you-”

“Oi. Shut up before you send her into a fit.”

A second person stepped around in front of her and knelt, boots sinking into the snow until the brown hem of his robes was soaked, and it was Adan crouching in front of her, grabbing her chin to jerk her head up and snapping his fingers in front of her eyes.

“You in there?”

She just stared at him silently.

Adan.

The man in front of her was Adan.

He was addressing the body of Lavellan.

Eventually, she unclenched her hands and grabbed the pouches she’d been filling, scattering crumpled elfroot leaves across the snow as she reached out and offered the bags to him.

Adan stared back at her for a moment, then took the bags and examined the contents.

“…Right. Elfroot. Been needing more of that. Thanks.” He looked back up and met her eyes again, “Just out here gathering herbs, then?”

Really, the gathering was secondary. The process of stripping the leaves from the stems had been a repetitive task. Repetitive tasks were soothing. She nodded, anyway.

“Right.” He nodded and stood, speaking over her as he gave the others his verdict, “She’s still there enough to be working, so she’s not having another episode. If that’s all, Seeker Pentaghast, I’m going back in.”

“Very well. You may go.”

The woman’s accent had her hunching back over.

Pentaghast. Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast.

And she was in the body of Lavellan. In the snow. While the eerie green eye of the storm stared down from overhead.

“Please, Seeker, your pardon- I had thought that, with the guard informed not to let her leave the gates alone, she would be fine on her own for but a few moments while I went for provisions-”

“You’ve no need to apologize.” The woman cut her off curtly, though not harshly, footsteps crunching in the snow and plated armor rustling together as she stepped over, “She was in enough mind to make a planned escape, and she succeeded. It was a decision. Not wandering. You may return, as well. I will take the Herald to the meeting, myself.”

“Y-Yes, Seeker Pentaghast. I will go see to the Herald’s dwelling, then-” The woman still kneeling in the snow next to her stumbled back to her feet and hurried off.

After a few moments, the Seeker stepped up next to her and reached down, grabbing her by her elbows and pulling her to her feet effortlessly. Having to look up into the face of Cassandra Pentaghast almost sent her back to her knees in a fetal position- But, like she had the day before, she managed to keep herself together.

“You are unharmed?”

After a moment, she nodded.

Cassandra silently looked her over, then sighed and started patting her over, brushing snow from her shoulders, picking stray leaves from her coat. “You are not wearing your armor, Lavellan. If you are going to continue going out on your own, I must ask that you at least don leathers. Haven is isolated and the Breach is still, but nowhere in Thedas is truly safe right now. You would do well to remember that.”

She was being fussed over by Cassandra Pentaghast. While the woman lectured her, her tone sharp and very disapproving.

She very much wanted to go back to gathering elfroot.

“Come. The others have gathered in the chantry, and we must speak of what to do next.”

What to do next… Declare the Inquisition reborn, be condemned by the Chantry publicly in Val Royeaux, recruit either the mages or the templars, properly seal the Breach, be attacked by Corypheus, spend how many weeks, months, years working to restore order to Thedas, undermine his attempts, rally an army great enough to challenge Corypheus and the Venatori- All for Solas to ultimately-

She followed Cassandra, focusing intently on her back.

Lavellan.

That isn’t my name-

Not thinking was easier than reality. Not thinking was better than reality. This could not be reality, no matter how the bite of cold in her fingers, nose, the tips of her ears, the pain in her left hand said otherwise.

She was not Lavellan. But she was in the body of Lavellan. To them, she was Lavellan. The Herald of Andraste. Eventually, the Inquisitor. The mark on her hand was the Anchor. The Anchor would destabilize and she would lose her arm.

An eight/nine/ten/something-foot tall ancient magister was going to throw her around like a rag doll, and she would have to retaliate by using an even older hunk of possibly sapient and extremely powerful metal to tear him to pieces.

Solas was going to gather the forces to destroy the world. And she didn’t know how she was supposed to stop that. They hadn’t gotten to that part yet-

She couldn’t do this.

She couldn’t do this.

She could barely walk.

She could barely look at the people around her.

She didn’t even want to think.

How was she supposed to-

This wasn’t happening.

This couldn’t be happening.

How was this happening.

What was she supposed to do-

Lavellan could have done this.

But she was not Lavellan. She could never be Lavellan. Lavellan was the First of her clan. She had shown magic at a young age and the Keeper had taken her under her wing and had started training her, right then, to control her magic, protect herself, and to someday lead their people. Ten years, fifteen years, if not more, of being trained to be a leader.

She was just a civilian. No leadership skills. No life skills that would apply to this world. She couldn’t even-

“You found her- Chain her!” Chancellor Roderick demanded forcefully as soon as she and Cassandra entered the back room of the chantry, “I want her prepared for travel to the capital for trial, and quickly, before she makes another escape attempt!”

“Disregard that.” Cassandra cut in, though the soldiers had made no move and had simply looked at her for confirmation, “And leave us. There was no escape attempt, Chancellor Roderick, as you have been told many times. She was not in her right mind then.”

“So she would have us believe.” He crossed his arms, sneering as the guards turned and left the room, “And what of this time?”

“She was gathering herbs.”

“A likely cover! How very elven. You walk a dangerous line, Seeker.”

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

“More than that,” Leliana stepped forward from the shadows, making the ‘elf’ in question shudder and pull back into herself, “The Breach is not the only threat we face. Someone was behind the explosion at the Conclave-”

She knew these words. Not by heart, but they were familiar, and as she heard them, it was like watching a movie. Though it felt like a horror film.

This was happening. This was an actual conversation that was taking place before her. They were real people. The room was warm, Cassandra’s face was starting to flush as the heat returned to her body, there was foamy spittle in the corners of Roderick’s mouth, Leliana sighed, breathed, as Cassandra and Roderick crossed verbal swords again.

Her hand ached again, the pain dull, but it was still pain, the tips of her ears hurt in a sharper way as they warmed and this was Lavellan’s body. 

Cassandra slammed the book down on the table, turning her eyes on Roderick and throwing her shoulders back proudly, “You know what this is, Chancellor? A writ from the Divine, granting us authority to act. As of this moment, I declare the Inquisition reborn.” She turned and stormed towards him, backing him up against a wall and pressing her finger into his chest, “We will close the Breach, we will find those responsible, and we will restore order with or without your approval.”

As Roderick fled, Cassandra deflated slightly, looking flustered and somewhat embarrassed.

While “Lavellan” was shaking and silently begging someone, anyone, to wake her up.

She was not Lavellan-

“We have no choice: We must act now. With you at our side.”

But she was going to have to be.

 


 

“Lavellan.” 

She jerked sharply and looked up from the snow, immediately afraid of the man in front of her - something a moment to realize who it was did not help.

Solas paused and just looked at her, then slowly gestured for her to follow him.

After a moment to think about it, she reluctantly stood and walked after him.

“Please, sit.” He gestured to the chair in front of the desk in the small cabin she assumed was his, pulling another over to sit in front of her as she hesitantly obeyed. “With your permission, I would like to examine your neck.”

Again, she hesitated. This man-

“…Lethlares.”

Her train of thought was interrupted at that, and she stopped and looked at him, clasping her hands together.

He had a gentle look on his face, like he was addressing a frightened child- And why not. She might as well have been.

Da’len, I mean you no harm. I only wish to check to see if the infirmity that prevents you from speaking could be detected now.”

…Right. He didn’t know she knew. He wasn’t a mind reader. If he was… she would have been dead days ago. Weeks, even. To him, she was just… a young, startled, silly Dalish First, terrified by the recent happenings and suffering from mental trauma. It was what everyone else thought, after all.

If they really knew…

She nodded and tipped her head back slightly, shuddering a bit when his fingers brushed her neck and warmth spread across her skin and seeped in as he used magic to examine her.

Lethlares… She’d been so used to hearing “Lavellan” and “Herald” and “Inquisitor” all the time that she kept forgetting Lavellan’s first name.

The name she’d given her.

And this man here… On every path, she’d romanced him - she was more used, than anything, to hearing him use vhenan.

But he was here now. He was real. He was a person. He was a man.

And the thought was both terrifying and made her face heat-

Solas sighed, pulling his hands back, “I am afraid I still cannot determine any physical reason for your speech impediment. I know you find it uncomfortable, but would you mind trying to speak for me?”

“Lethlares” made a face, lowering her head again and spending a few moments swallowing and working her mouth, trying to form words.

“I c-c-c-can-n-n-” Her jaw locked and her chin jerked down repeatedly, throat getting tense before simply closing, and she ground her teeth and lowered her head, clenching her hands over her knees as she had to spend several moments working on her breathing and swallowing before gasping and panting heavily.

She’d had a stutter as a child, and this was very much like that, only worse. She hadn’t remembered needing to strain quite as much when she locked up over consonants, and there certainly hadn’t been any physical and mental discomfort as her body and thoughts clashed over accents-

She had never realized that trying to speak with an involuntary accent could be so… uncomfortable.

A wooden cup was offered and she accepted it gratefully and drank the water inside, trying not to think about what microscopic organisms could be living in it without water treatment and filtering and hoping it had been thoroughly boiled-

“Thank you for trying. I apologize for the stress it caused.” Solas sat back down and rested his elbows on his knees, hunching a little to lace his fingers in front of his mouth and sigh, “You must have suffered some mental trauma. I must apologize again, my magic cannot fix that.”

It was more than most others would have deduced, at least. She remembered the “doctor” that would show up at Skyhold and her background talk of humors and bleeding- Fuck, she had to live in a world where humorism was still a thing-

“The good news is, time often helps.” The man across from her continued, sitting back and giving her a slight, encouraging smile, “Though it would also help if you did try to exercise your voice occasionally. For now, can you write? That is something Keepers teach their Firsts, is it not?”

The slight condescending vein that entered his tone clashed with the other turmoils swirling in her head, but she only nodded, keeping it to herself as he went to retrieve writing implements. Instead, she thought about the written languages of Thedas- Did English look like any of them? She couldn’t remember- She was certain Elvish didn’t, and she thought there was a written language that looked runic…

If English looked like none of them, she wasn’t certain what she would do. Pretending she wasn’t literate at all was certainly an option, but learning a new written language would be a lot harder than just using English if she could- She needed to know.

Besides, Firsts were taught to read and write. It would make no sense for her to act like she was illiterate. She was too old not to be-

“Here, turn around.”

She tensed quickly and stood, turning as Solas took the chair she had been in and turned it towards the table behind her. Several pieces of low quality parchment - wait, what would high quality parchment look like - and a feather quill waited.

Shit.

She’d tried using calligraphy supplies before, but she’d always been terrible at figuring out how hard to press and knowing when to lift and she’d never produced more than torn and/or bled-through paper-

“Ah, apologies, you’ve likely have never had access to ink implements, have you?”

For once, Solas’ condescension paid off as he produced what she assumed was a charcoal stick. The closest she would be getting to lead or graphite.

After a moment of thought, she leaned forward and picked up the stick, sliding a piece of parchment closer and starting to write.

 

I am not-

 

Did Thedas have cursive- She crossed out what she’d started and moved below it, switching to print and proceeding carefully. The trouble with being taught cursive so young and eventually only being allowed to turn in typed work: now her print looked horrible if she didn’t take it slowly.

 

I am not Lethlares Lavellan. My name is Morgan Chambers, and I’m stuck in this body. Please, help me.

 

If she thought about it too much, she’d think of hundreds of reason not to admit to this. To him, or to anyone. 

But she didn’t want to think about it. She didn’t want to be reasonable. She was scared. And, maybe, hoping he would just kill her. 

 

I know who you are, what you’ve done, and what you plan to do, Fen’harel. I don’t want to try to stop you or anything. I just need help. Please. I don’t know what happened. I don’t understand why I’m here. This shouldn’t be

 

“Whatever your Keeper taught you, you obviously know it fluently, da’len.” Solas spoke as he leaned over her shoulder, “But that is no written language I recognize. Do the Dalish of the Free Marches use something of their own make? Or just your clan?”

She stopped and just stared at the paper, feeling hollow.

Nothing he recognized.

Solas.

Not Fereldan, Orlesian, Elvish, Tevene, Ancient Tevene- If Solas didn’t know it, it didn’t exist.

“Though I believe it does resemble Orlesian. If you would like, I can to ask Varric to come look…? He can read Orlesian, I believe. And a number of other languages.”

…Oh. Solas didn’t know… So what else didn’t he…?

She nodded.

When he came, the dwarf blinked, then sat down and rubbed his chin, shaking his head. “‘Resembles’ is as close as it comes to Orlesian. Not even close to Common, or Tevene… Whatever it is, it even has a cursive form! Not that I can make out much… Mind writing something in cursive for me?”

Hollow, she took the parchment from him and wrote in neat, looping letters.

 

I am in hell.

 

“And look at the way you write! Definitely not a stranger to it, are you? You know what I mean, don’t you, Chuckles?”

“Indeed. Posture aside, her grip is loose and further back than it would be for someone unfamiliar with making letters, and she requires no hesitation to move from one letter to the next. Not typically something one would expect from the Dalish.”

At the mention of her posture, she quickly sat up and rolled her shoulders back slightly, keeping her eyes fixed on the paper in front of her and digging her heel into the floor a little as she listened to them.

A hand on her back made her jump a little, and she looked over as Varric chuckled.

“Don’t mind us, Herald. We’re just admiring you, really. It’s kind of a pleasure for old men like us to watch letters being made so neatly and smoothly. Not something you see often.”

Right. Because most people were illiterate. And even many of those who could write couldn’t do so very well. That’s the kind of world she was in now- 

 

I am in hell.

 

She wrote the words again, and then again, and then again, each time her writing getting sloppier and her shoulders hunching more, her head lowering, and before long, she couldn’t hear the voices trying to reach out to her anymore.

 

I am in hell.

 


 

There was a lapse in time between Cassandra declaring the Inquisition reborn and the “movie scene” before the “title card” took place. A few days.

Every wrong twinge in her palm that brought pain reiterated that this was happening. 

Since she was deemed unstable and delicate, Cassandra handled much of the work, but at the end of the day, she still had the mark on her hand.

She was still Lethlares Lavellan, the Herald of Andraste, First of Clan Lavellan.

Future Inquisitor.

Even as she stood with Cullen Rutherford, Josephine Montilyet and Leliana, watching Cassandra approach, listening to the heavy banner of the Inquisition flutter behind her as it was lowered, in the middle of a scene that was supposed to inspire, she felt nothing but abject fear.

I am in hell.

Before them, the eye of the Breach loomed, waiting.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, she considered running away.

Just slipping away, taking off, and never looking back.

But she knew she wouldn’t be able to survive outside of the walls of Haven. She had no life skills applicable to this world, she had no money, no way to make a living, no ability to speak, no ability to write in any language that was readable in this world. She was also an elf now. She had nowhere to go. At least in Haven she was having her needs taken care of, and she was being kept safe.

Sometimes, she considered killing herself.

This world had a plethora of blades and Adan’s poisonous plants weren’t exactly kept in an impenetrable safe. And, it wasn’t like she hadn’t been suicidal before at several points in her life. She had been. She’d come up with many plans, and when she had been completely alone, she’d even gone through the motions of practicing them. Thinking things over to make sure no details were missed.

But, even now, she wasn’t able to follow through. Which was ridiculous and it made her hate herself. This was so far beyond anything she had faced back home it wasn’t even comparable- She wasn’t a hormonally stunted teenager now, she was stuck in someone else’s body in another fucking reality with a hole in the sky everyone expected her to close and eventually she was going to have to fight an ancient powerful magic user and then have to do something about an even more ancient powerful magic user and-

No. This and that did not even compare. Taking her own life to get out of this was not unreasonable.

The problem with it was, it wasn’t her life she would be taking. This was Lavellan’s body. This body had the Anchor in it. If she killed herself…

No. No, if she was being completely honest with herself, it wasn’t even about that.

She was simply afraid of what came after. If anything. She was afraid of it being over. Of that being it. Of there being nothing. And, ultimately, that fear was greater than her fear of this world.

She was a coward.

That was what had her sneaking out of Haven and following the road out beyond the abandoned house, through the gates, passed the logging stand, passed the druffalo, on the other side of the snowy hill that overlooked the village-

Where she sat down, out of view and unable to hear anything other than the wind across the snow and through the trees, and cried, not for the first time.

She was a coward.

Too afraid to be seen by the others, too afraid to venture too far from their protection, too afraid to run away from this, too afraid to end this- No matter how many times she snuck out of Haven, she always wandered back before it got too dark, terrified of what would lurk in the shadows at night- Wolves? Demons? Crazed apostates or templars? Agents of Corypheus?

Or even just simple highwaymen.

Not just simple highwaymen, though. Not to her.

She was a civilian - weak and powerless. No idea how to use a weapon, no idea how to use magic, no way to defend herself- Highwaymen, a pack of wild dogs, a ram-

A deepstalker. She could probably manage to get herself killed by a deepstalker. And none of those even compared to the things she was going to have to face-

She was hyperventilating again, digging her nails into her face and pressing herself further and further into the cold snow as it all overwhelmed her and then she was screaming.

This was going to drive her insane. And then what? Even insane, she was still alive. She would likely be dragged from rift to rift, someone holding up her hand for her. Cassandra would storm her way through everything that was to come, dragging everyone along with her, carving a bloody path through Thedas that would ultimately end in disaster.

Could everything that needed to be done be done without the Inquisitor?

She wasn’t sure.

It was always stressed that the Inquisitor was a unifying force. Like the Warden had been for Ferelden, like Hawke had been for Kirkwall. Would things have turned out, could things have turned out the way they had without either of them?

And this wasn’t a Blight. This wasn’t mage-templar/Qunari tensions in a city.

This was something worse than both, bigger than both. And there was no Inquisitor to handle it. There was only a madwoman stuck in the body of the person who was supposed to save the world.

Eventually, she had no energy left to scream, nothing left to cry, and she was left curled up in the snow, breathing irregularly and shivering.

Not for the first time, she tried to think of someone, anyone, who could fix this.

Solas was powerless without his foci.

Flemeth was only found when she wanted to be found, only appeared when she wanted to appear.

Morrigan was at Celene’s side, and would not risk her son getting close to her mother.

She had no idea how to get to the Well of Sorrows. The Temple of Mythal was somewhere deep in the Arbor Wilds, and without Corypheus assaulting it and backup from Orlais, there was no way she would be able to get close to it without the sentinels killing her.

The Architect, if the Warden hadn’t killed him, would still be at large somewhere in Thedas, and he had once been one of the magisters powerful enough to break into the Fade… But he was now a darkspawn and focused on darkspawn matters. And he wasn’t anywhere near as powerful as Solas or Flemeth.

Ultimately, Flemeth would be her best chance. But where that woman was… And Solas was going to kill her.

There was no one she could go to.

Nothing she could do.

Nothing.

She was stuck here. Stuck in Haven, as Lavellan.

All of the few, only hopes she had would not become available until further down the road. Which meant she would have to play Lavellan, become the Inquisitor, and try not to fuck the Inquisition - and, by extension, the world - over.

And, once more, her thoughts turned to killing herself. Even knowing she wouldn’t be able to follow through on an attempt. Even knowing she would doom the world by abandoning it. At least, if she was dead, she wouldn’t have to bear this burden. Bear the reality of somehow being in this world. Of this somehow being real.

It was too much. It was all just too much for her.

The only way out was to move forward, and the idea of what was to come just…

 


 

“Well, well… What have we here?”

She knew those word.

She knew that voice.

The snow was so cold, it burned.

Struggling to breathe, her head swimming and her body shivering violently, she sat up slowly and looked over, choking on her own tongue as she looked to the woman a few feet away, down the slope of the snowy hill.

A cruel, knowing smirk twisted on dark lips as Flemeth stepped forward, feet moving through the green-tinged snow effortlessly, as if it melted before she even touched it- Or as if it weren’t there at all, given she left no footprints.

Had the Breach started growing again…? The sky was so green…

“What an interesting little girl you are… An interloper, lost and scared, knowing your surroundings but not knowing how to protect yourself from the most… basic things. Something must be done about you, but what? What to do, what to do…”

“…You already know… what I am…?” Shaking, she scrambled to her feet, wanting to go to the woman, pleading, “D-Did you feel me come? Do you know why I’m here? How I got here- No, I don’t care about- Do something, please- I don’t want to be here-”

“You don’t?” Flemeth blinked slowly, crossing her arms and cupping her elbows with her hands as her head tipped to one side, “You’re not at all interested in the gift that’s been given to you? Just… dropped right into your lap, with no effort whatsoever on your part?”

“I don’t want this body-” She insisted, her voice breaking as the tears came again, “I just want out-”

“Give it to me, then.”

“I-” She didn’t know how to do that. She didn’t even know how she had gotten into it in the first place. “…You can fix this, can’t you…? You can put things back to the way they were supposed to be. You can take me out of here, give Lethlares her body back, and she can be the Inquisitor-”

“Enough talk.” Flemeth cut in, no longer smiling and simply looking bored as she reached out, offering her hand, “Give the body to me, and I will let you be on your way.”

“I… I don’t…” She was confused-

But wait.

The sky was too green.

The snow was obviously snow, but it was… also green. She’d thought it was just from the light of the Breach, but…

And she was talking.

Perfectly.

In her own voice, with no accent.

“Fuck-” She jerked and stepped back, her hands clenching at her sides.

Flemeth was grinning now, too widely to be physically possible, her eyes narrowing dangerously. Her voice was no longer the right one- “Don’t you want my help? I’m here to take that body off of your hands, no strings attached. Though why you don’t want it, I can’t imagine…”

“I am not a demon.” She stood her ground and tried to sound firm, but this was becoming too terrifying to handle- “And we are done talking. Go away.”

“This will be the last time I ask, before you make me very angry.” It no longer looked like Flemeth, but was still maintaining enough of her features that she couldn’t make out what kind of demon it was. Her legs shook and almost gave out as she stepped back as it stepped forward. “Give me the body.

“I-”

What were the rules.

Don’t ask them for help.

Don’t even talk to them.

Talking opened the chance for dialogue, allowed them to strengthen their position, allowed them to worm their way in-

But neither could she just walk away at this point. She had spoken to it, so it was already engaged. If she knew how to use magic, she could destroy it or make it go away, but if it attacked her and won-

“I believe she has given you your answer, spirit. It would be best if you left now.”

She jumped and stumbled back as he appeared out of nowhere, Solas walking forward calmly to stand between them, his arms crossed behind his back.

The no longer even vaguely Flemeth-shaped being let out a deep, menacing growl of displeasure and moved back, its true form still not obvious.

“This is not your concern- The girl was making a deal with me of her own free will-”

“You asked more than she was willing to give, and you have been told no.” Solas sounded so calm as he spoke, completely unbothered as the demon screeched and lunged as if to last out at him. “It is not too late. If you leave now, you might regain your true form. Please, go.”

“She is mine-”

She screamed as the demon finally turned into-

 


 

She was still screaming as she shot upright, sweating and twisted in something restrictive that she fought against on instinct. In her thrashing, she rolled off of the surface beneath her and fell to the floor, eyes snapping open as she hit her head.

Wooden boards.

A small hearth.

A cage with a raven.

Feet in cloth shoes hurrying towards her-

“Herald-!”

The elven woman who had been designated the mad Herald’s caretaker quickly unwrapped her from the blankets she’d tied herself up in with shaking hands.

“Everything is alright- It was only a dream, and it’s over now-”

No dream in Thedas was ever “only a dream.”

But she was awake now. She was in one piece. She was not possessed.

As she let the woman help her up and sat back down on the edge of the bed, she noticed Solas on the other side of the room, watching her grimly with his hands behind his back. Right. He had saved her from… But how much had he heard…?

“I will take care of her from here.” He interrupted the fretting elven woman, stepping over and handing her a slip of parchment, “Here. A list of ingredients and instructions. Take these to apothecary Adan and have him brew this potion for the Herald. It will settle her nerves and quiet her mind, allowing her to relax.”

After some more fussing, the woman took the paper and bowed to him before hurrying out, her hands shaking.

Once they were alone, Solas stood silently for a moment before bringing a stool over so he could sit in front of her and regard her seriously.

How much had he…

“…Ir abelas, da’len. With you being the First of your clan, it did not occur to me that what took place at the Temple of Sacred Ashes would affect you so deeply. …No, rather, perhaps I was so focused on the task at hand, and the fact that you were the only one capable of achieving the necessary ends, I did not consider how serious your trauma might be.” He lowered his head briefly, then looked back up at her, his brow furrowed, “That you would be too rattled to be able to fend off a demon… Forgive me. I should have addressed this sooner.”

Because she was an elf? Because she was a mage? Because no one had actually seen her defend herself or even use magic? Because she was clearly mentally unstable? Because it was an inconvenience to have the wielder of his Anchor so vulnerable?

When the words came up, more easily after her success of speaking during her… episode in the Fade, they got caught in her throat, as they had been.

She still could not speak.

“…I shall try to make answering as simple as possible for you.” Solas rested his elbows on his knees again and steepled his fingers, regarding her seriously, “Have you been able to successfully use magic since the explosion at the Conclave?”

…He wasn’t asking about her odd discussion with the demon. He must have only caught the tail end of it and drawn some other conclusion.

She shook her head.

“Have you made any efforts to use magic?”

She had no idea how. She shook her head.

“…Do you fully understand the gravity of the situation at hand?”

She nodded.

“There is nothing about any of this that is confusing to you? Anything you might need explained?”

How in the fuck she got here would be a good start, but Solas might not even know. Probably wouldn’t even be a safe person to address that with. She shook her head.

“Do you know who you are?”

Lethlares Lavellan. First of the Lavellan Clan. Herald. Inquisitor.

But that wasn’t what he was asking.

She knew who Lavellan was, but there were many things she knew nothing about the woman.

There was also the fact that she had been born Morgan Chambers of the goddamn planet Earth-

After a moment, she raised her hand and made a tipping motion, indicating her lack of certainty.

“You know you are Lethlares Lavellan.” Nod. “First of the Lavellan Clan.” Nod. “Sent to the Conclave to observe the proceedings.” Nod. “You know the Conclave ended in an explosion.” Nod. “You know that, somehow, the explosion is connected to the mark on your hand, which can close the rifts that lead to the Fade.” Nod. “Nothing about any of that confuses you.” She shook her head. “…Do you remember being sent to the Conclave?”

She tensed a little. These were the defining questions. Questions that highlighted the difference between knowing and remembering. She could know something. But she couldn’t remember something happening if she hadn’t been there to witness it.

She shook her head.

“We know you do not remember the explosion, itself… What is the first thing you do remember? Do you remember walking out of the Fade?” Shake. “Do you remember being questioned by Cassandra and Leliana?” She paused, then tipped her hand again, unsure. She vaguely remembered it. But not really. “The walk up to the Temple? Meeting Varric and I? Closing the Breach the first time?” Again, unsure. “The meeting where Cassandra declared the rebirth of the Inquisition?” Nod. “…Some point between that and losing consciousness the second time, then… Why have you made no attempts at using magic, even to defend yourself? …Do you remember how?”

After a moment, she shook her head.

She couldn’t remember something she had no idea how to do, after all. But he wasn’t asking Morgan Chambers. He was asking Lethlares Lavellan.

Solas lowered his hands and inhaled deeply, nostrils flaring and lips pressing into a tightly line as he sat back and looked at her seriously.

It was similar enough to an expression of anger that she immediately looked down and lowered her head, opening her mouth to apologize before quickly closing it again right as her throat tightened, managing to catch herself before she started another stuttering fit.

“…I am not angry with you, da’len. Simply concerned. What you went through was traumatic, but it is deeply troubling that it has taken so many necessary things from you. Neither this Inquisition, nor you, will survive for very long if you are not able to at least defend yourself.”

Maybe death would be a blessing, she thought as she stared at the floor of her cabin. She couldn’t do it because she was a coward, but if she beat herself up enough, reduced herself enough, eventually…

The elven woman returned in as much of a rattled state as she had left in, and Solas took the steaming cup from her before having her leave again, citing his unwillingness to expose the Herald to her frazzled state when he had just calmed her down. Once the woman was gone again, he returned to “Lavellan” and pressed the mug into her hands, ordering her to drink.

“It has a calming and sedative effect, and will leave you dreamless. It loses its efficiency after consecutive uses, but you only need one night of rest. Tomorrow, you and I will… excuse ourselves, and I shall try to help you remember how to use magic.”

Teach her how to use magic. Not that he realized the colossal task ahead of him.

But the idea of drugging herself and not being aware for a few hours was too tempting to ignore, and she drank everything in the mug down, scalding her tongue but not particularly caring when, not long after, she was able to lay down and curl up as a dreamless, deep sleep took her.

 


 

She could only scream so long, cry so long, hide in her cabin for so many nights and flee to the outskirts of Haven for so many days before she couldn’t anymore, and was called upon to play her part.

And, before she just didn’t have the energy to be in denial anymore.

The person who emerged from that, though, was not the person she had been before this. She learned not to make efforts to talk. She came when she was summoned, did as she was asked, and she vanished when she was not needed.

Solas’ lessons to help her “remember” how to use magic were hard, sometimes impossible, and his frustrations at having to simplify, simplify, and further simplify concepts he thought she should know were obvious, but she always went with him, and never tried to duck out of them. No matter how much his obvious disappointment and irritation cut her deeper into depression. Even if her efforts were hollow, she still made them.

Eventually, they received results.

She felt nothing when they did.

The first spell was a barrier, and as it formed around herself, and she saw the triumph on Solas’ face, she knew it was her own, and that she had succeeded in doing something. But she felt no triumph of her own, no pride.

She didn’t view it as a success. It was simply something that was. The soul, or whatever she was now, that inhabited this body might not belong, might not know how to do these things, but the body was familiar with them. Even the brain was not hers - it would be wired to know how to do these things. Eventually, she would have succeeded. There was no other option.

She tried not to, but still found herself sometimes dwelling on the impossibilities of herself still existing in the body, in the brain of someone who was not her. Unless Lavellan’s brain had somehow been switched with hers, then this was still Lavellan’s body in its entirety. How was she thinking and remembering these things when the grey matter was not her own? When the synapses and pathways, when the years of Lavellan’s growth shaped this brain into her own, did not belong to her?

Possession would explain it. Magic would. Science didn’t. Not the science she knew, at least.

But that was magic. A force that altered reality. Worked both with, and still inexorably outside of the limits of science.

But, if her soul was bound here by magic, then why was she running into the psychological disconnect when she tried to speak? That, ultimately, resided in a physical and/or chemical deformity in the brain.

Had her foreign soul possessing Lavellan’s body damaged the brain somehow…?

Ultimately, she had to give up on thinking about it. There was absolutely nothing she could do to try to explain it.

And when she emerged from her hysteria, she was far too tired.

She wished she was mad. She honestly wished she had lost her mind during the weeks she spent breaking down and trying to cope with this new reality around her. It was something that should have driven her crazy, right?

But, maybe she was, a little. She had noticed that, sometimes, things that startled her pulled too strong of a reaction out of her- Like someone tapping her shoulder resulting in her jumping and screaming and blacking out for several moments, only for her to come back hunched over in a corner, still screaming and clawing at her face while some tried to calm her down, and others just stood back and stared at her as if she were about to explode.

Maybe she had snapped a bit.

Or maybe this was just her new reality. One where she would be constantly paranoid and easily terrified.

She wasn’t herself anymore.

She doubted she would ever be herself again.

At a point, she thought that it might be easier to… not be herself.

She was in the body of Lethlares Lavellan. That was who everyone around her saw. That was who the world recognized her as. And, already, she was finding it easier and easier to respond when someone called her Lavellan. Lethlares. Herald. Maybe, with time, she could just… become Lethlares. And forget herself. It would make everything around her… easier.

But she couldn’t deny her own memories. Or the fact that she had none of the memories of the owner of this body.

And she hardly had time to dwell on it when she was called for again.

“I can’t agree that it’s a good idea.” Cullen frowned deeply, resting his hands on the pommel of his sword, “It might even be detrimental, depending on how Mother Giselle takes it, never mind any who witness her acting… well…” He trailed off, then glanced at her.

Lavellan lowered her eyes, staring at the map spread out and nailed to the war table mutely.

It was hard, she was sure, trying to sell her as the Herald of Andraste when there were whispers in Haven, itself, that she was mad.

“Your concern is valid, but that will not be an issue with Mother Giselle.” Leliana spoke up, cocking her head slightly, “From what I know of her, she is a kind, gentle soul, and most sympathizing. Like many sisters and mothers, she has been with the Chantry for much of her life, and will not judge based on shortcomings.”

“Shortcoming” was overly kind.

“The Herald does not need to go.” Cassandra spoke up, sounding quite determined, “I can easily go and speak with-”

“She has asked for the Herald, specifically.” Leliana cut in, “She likely wishes to see what kind of person the one who has been chosen by Andraste is. Hiding Lavellan will do us more harm than good.”

“This is true.” Now it was Josephine, lifting her dip pen pointedly, “While the Herald’s… issues could understandably sow doubt among the people, she is far from what the rumors say, and we must show this-”

“Rumors?” Cassandra cut in, frowning deeply, “I have heard of no rumors. What do they say?”

“Nothing flattering.” The diplomat started after a moment, pursing her lips and looking back down at her board, under the pretense of reading but likely to avoid eye contact. She quickly looked back up, brow furrowed and eyes determined, “But they are extremely misinformed, something we can only fix by allowing the people to actually see the Herald in person. We cannot ask for or expect support if we are too afraid to put her to work. As it is, she might as well not even exist, which does not help our cause.”

All through this, Lavellan did not react, still staring at the map on the war table.

What was there to say? Cassandra had been playing the part of the Inquisition’s figurehead for weeks now, making decisions at the table for what little preliminary work they could do, going out among the troops and dispensing orders, spreading the word of the Inquisition’s cause- All while the people were still clamoring to see if the rumors were true. If the Herald of Andraste was among them, sent by Andraste with the power to close the rifts and bring order, to set things right.

But she had been hiding. And, when she was not actively hiding, she was being kept hidden. In a world where humorism was still the prevailing system of medicine, madness was not well received. Moments of clarity or not, she was marked as an invalid, and her inability to speak and prove she was coherent hardly helped. In fact, in most instances, it was the most damning part of the issue.

“What she went through was horrible.” Leliana’s voice brought her back out of her thoughts, and when she looked up, the spymaster was now looking directly at her. And when their eyes met, Leliana kept them locked. “That she survived was a miracle. Scars are to be expected. But we cannot falter, and we cannot stop. She agreed to help us. You agreed to help us, Lavellan. Did you not? We can only go so far on our own. You might only be one person, but you bear the mark. You are the Herald of Andraste. The people want to see you. They need to see you. It is much to ask of any one person, but we have no choice. You must rise to the occasion. Now.”

…Meeting Mother Giselle. Far from… the worst thing she would have to do, in the months ahead. A few days ride from Haven on what few horses they had to the Hinterlands and…

“…Herald.”

Lavellan turned to Cassandra, and it was as if she was looking at the woman for the first time. She wasn’t sure why - they had spoken before, she had seen her face many times, but standing here, now, after what had been said, what had gone through her thoughts… Some sort of shift had occurred within her.

She was still tired. But this… was not impossible.

“Will you go see Mother Giselle?”

After a moment, Lavellan nodded.

Chapter Text

She had ridden before, but not for hours on end. Not for days, back to back.

Lethlares Lavellan, on the other hand, obviously had. The pain in her thighs and back by the time they reached the Hinterlands was not unbearable. Of course, it wasn’t the first time she’d noticed a disconnect between her personal perceptions and what the body she was now in could actually do. Like all elves of the modern day Thedas, Lethlares was short and willowy, but extremely toned and quite strong for her size.

In some ways, the differences were welcome, like they were now - when she finally dismounted at the first Inquisition camp, she wasn’t hunched over in pain like she would have been if it had been her own body.

In other ways, it was… disturbing.

With no time to dwell on it, she approached Lace Harding as she knew she should, for a status report on the various situations in the Hinterlands. Cassandra had to ask for her, though.

Everything was as it should be. Dennet’s status was unknown, and Giselle was healing the wounded while Vale and Inquisition soldiers tried to keep the people of the Crossroads below safe.

A task, by the sounds of it, they were finding difficult.

Cassandra was already storming off as Harding finished her report, the woman drawing her sword and shield, and as they hurried to catch up with her, Solas stayed next to Lavellan.

“This will be your first battle against others. Do you remember your stances and your breathing?”

Her hands were shaking as she reached back to remove her staff from the sling that kept it there. It caught briefly as she jerked too hard, but she still nodded, managing to free it after a few more tries.

“Remember to stay back. Allow Cassandra to manage the front, and focus on any who come at her from the sides. If any come at you, defend.”

It was easy enough to talk about these things, to draw out basic strategies on paper or in the snow, to practice the same moves over and over again until you didn’t have to think about how to move into the next position- But there would be a big difference between practice and actually doing it. Actually killing another person.

She knew that. And it was what was catching her up already.

The first attack came from someone jumping down on her from a ledge or a rock above where the path emptied from the small passage into the grove that was the Crossroads. She didn’t have time to scream - she was so used to being silent at this point that the urge to scream didn’t even come up - and instead she startled badly, fire exploding from the air around her and engulfing her and the attacker.

Fortunately, the attacker was only wearing basic cloth and leather armor, and the cotton of his clothes immediately caught on fire and had him screaming and flailing.

She, on the other hand, remained unharmed, her staff absorbing most of the fire back into it - Solas had instructed her to carry a staff with the runes and magical sigils for fire carved into it, since fire was the most responsive of the magics and would likely be the first to lash out if she found herself in a dangerous situation.

He had read her rather well.

Without a thought, she stiffened up and started beating her attacker with her staff, the first blow glancing off of his arm and hardly doing anything, but the next one hitting his temple and making him stumble and drop his sword. After that, it was easy enough for her to throw herself at him and grab his head with her free hand, smashing his skull into the rock wall behind him.

She didn’t even notice the short arrow until there was a whizzing in her ear and blood spurted from his temple, dropping him to the ground limp and twitching.

“Still more to your right!”

After that, everything blurred out.

Sounds were distant and echoed slightly, her breathing more prominent in her ears as she moved her hands and her feet stiffly through the moves Solas had drilled into her. Spells came from her unbidden, with not even a fraction of the concentration she’d required during her practice sessions with the other mage.

Her head floated, but that didn’t stop her from seeing. Seeing what she was doing. Seeing the fire leap from the arcs she drew in the air with her staff, the blood that sprayed as Cassandra swung her sword at the screaming and panicked people she had set on fire.

It didn’t stop her from smelling the hair and flesh as they burned-

She came back to when it was over. Still on her feet, the butt of her staff buried firmly in the ground, both of her hands wrapped around the shaft tightly as she stood there, muscles locked up and eyes staring ahead blankly.

“Lethlares?”

She didn’t realize how tightly her jaw was locked until her teeth ached as she turned her head and met Solas’ eyes.

He looked back at her calmly, “We have claimed the Crossroads. It is done.”

Lavellan simply stood there, her mind empty of any thoughts.

“…I need to check your shoulder.” He slipped his own staff back into the sling on his back, stepping over and raising his hands as they started to glow, “I saw a templar charge you with his shield - do you remember?”

…No. She didn’t remember that at all. But as he set his hands on her, she hissed and cringed, letting out a broken noise as she tried to pull away from him- And, immediately, aches and pains sprang up all over her body, and her head hurt horribly-

A templar charging her with a shield… Had she been bowled over and knocked to the ground, like in the…?

“You did good, kid.” Varric had a sympathetic, tired smirk on his face as he walked over, “Rolled right back onto your feet and threw a bolt of lightning on him. All of that metal must’ve really made that one smart.”

…Oh. Well. She… vaguely remembered that now… Mostly the smell-

Lavellan closed her eyes tightly and turned her head away, pressing her forehead against her staff and clenching her teeth as her mouth flooded with saliva.

“…Sorry about that.” Varric set a hand on her back, “Probably not the best time.”

“Perhaps we should now look for Mother Giselle.” Solas suggested, changing the topic as he finished healing her shoulder and stepping back to glance around, “Once we find the Seeker, that is…”

“I am here.” The three looked over to see Cassandra approaching, a couple of Inquisition soldiers behind her erecting a banner proclaiming the Crossroads under the protection of the Inquisition. “Our scouts say she can be found up there, directing healers and attending to the wounded.”

She gestured behind them, and Lavellan turned to look up the stairs of the elevated house she remembered well enough from the game - the one she thought she remembered Giselle had claimed for her, the sisters under her, and their patients.

The woman in question was near a line of cots under a couple of trees, addressing a soldier, with a mage not far behind her-

A shudder that had her scalp itching and her shoulders and head jerking oddly crept up Lavellan’s spine, and she did her best to ignore it as she inhaled deeply and walked forward. The creepy feeling, she knew, was going to become a regular thing in the days to come as she was faced with more and more of this… extremely uncomfortable reality.

The feeling got worse as she reached the top of the steps and made her way to Giselle, and slowly was able to hear her words, her accent, listen to her speak words she’d heard several times before-

She forced herself to focus, doing her best to detach her emotions from the situation. This was her reality now and she needed to participate in it.

“-t let them touch me, Mother. Their magic is-” The soldier on the cot shuddered and grimaced, his face white with pain from a wound Lavellan couldn’t see, because she was too busy staring at Giselle’s profile.

“Turned to noble purpose.” Giselle interrupted gently, soothing and maternal and gently firm, “Their magic is surely no more evil than your blade.”

“…but…” He opened his eyes and looked up at her, torn between what was very much an instinctive fear for many Thedosians of magic and an equally instinctive, built-in trust for a higher ranking member of the Chantry.

“Hush, dear boy.” Giselle’s expression softened as he lost the energy to fight and collapsed back onto the cot, “Allow them to ease your suffering.” With that, she glanced back at the young mage behind her and nodded, then looked over at Levallan and stood, stepping over to her. “Hello. I am Mother Giselle, and you must be the one they are calling the ‘Herald of Andraste.’”

Lavellan twitched slightly - she was Lavellan, she was Lavellan to these people, so yes, that was her title - then ducked her chin slightly as Cassandra strode forward in a way she was becoming accustomed to, the older woman making to take charge of the exchange in place of their mute Herald and leaving said Herald to press the butt of the staff she hadn’t put away into the ground. She grasped it with both hands and leaned some of her weight on it.

“Mother Giselle, I am Cassandra Pentaghast of the Inquisition. We were told you wished to speak with us-”

“I wished, Seeker, to speak with your Herald.” Giselle cut in in a placatory tone, “This is her, is it not?”

Cassandra paused, then pressed on. “She is, Mother. However…” Like Lavellan, Cassandra was getting used to being her “voice” and taking charge, and everyone at Haven was starting to accept that. It wasn’t as if Lavellan could actually be conversed with.

“I have heard the rumors.” Giselle nodded, seemingly unbothered and unaffected as she looked back at the elf, “However, it is possible to have a conversation without many words being exchanged. Before I meet more of your Inquisition, I would very much like to get to know your Herald, first. If I may.”

That made the Seeker give pause, before she, too, turned back to look at Lavellan. The look on her face told Lavellan much - being unable to speak and having little to do other than collect herbs and watch others, she was becoming rather accustomed to reading facial expressions.

Cassandra had gotten so used to speaking for her, to making decisions for her, in the last weeks that she likely hadn’t given much thought to what Lavellan would really want. She knew Lavellan was terrified and weak, and she knew that she was okay with being their figurehead, and Lavellan had so easily accepted the Seeker speaking on her behalf that…

But now, someone outside of their circle was very much asking for Lavellan’s input.

She wondered if either Solas or Varric or anyone, really, had realized that she would very much prefer to have Cassandra continue taking the reins-

Lavellan nodded, gripping her staff tightly and scraping the butt along the ground slightly before picking it up and following Giselle as the woman gestured for her to step aside with her.

“Given your expressions earlier, I see you are not very… fond, shall we say, of being viewed as the Herald of Andraste, are you?” Lavellan looked over, and she could only guess the kind of expression she must have had for Giselle to give her such a sympathetic look, even as her lips curled a little as she chuckled, “We seldom have much say in our fate, I’m sad to say.” They stopped walking at the edge of the raised yard around the house, which gave a good enough view of this section of the Crossroads and the people now milling about, putting things back in order. “I don’t presume to know the Maker’s intentions, for any of us. But this discussion is not why I asked you to come here.”

As the woman turned to face her, Lavellan did the same, honestly wishing that Giselle would say more about her being the “Herald.” Not that Giselle would have much power to do anything about it either way, but Lavellan was really looking for anyone to take her out of the picture on this one. Even knowing the mark on her hand permanently prevented that.

“I know of the Chantry’s denouncement, and I am familiar with those behind it.” She paused, then sighed, shaking her head slightly, “I won’t lie to you: some of them are grandstanding, ‘oping to increase their chances of becoming the new Divine. Some are simply terrified. So many good people, senselessly taken from us… And, in their fear and sorrow, they align with those who would simply add to and take advantage of the chaos. As you are the one at the center of this, whether you believe you are the Herald of Andraste or not, it would be your presence, and the voices of those speaking for you in your presence that would cut to the issue the quickest. Tell me, do your desires match those that your Inquisition banner flies under? Do you wish to see this chaos end?”

It was what the Inquisitor was meant to do. It was why the character she was playing existed. At one side of the issue or the other, she was supposed to be the blade that cut through all of this and defined the path ahead.

So, terrified or not, feeling truly up to the task or not, Lavellan set her jaw and nodded.

She was Lavellan.

It was what she needed to do.

Something Giselle said in her following advice confirmed this for her. She’d heard the words before, but hearing them now that she was standing in front of the woman, in person, they were more poignant.

“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.”

She wasn’t sure how long she could keep this up before she broke. But trying was something she needed to do.

 


 

There were other things Lavellan needed to do.

Things that needed to be done before they left the Hinterlands. Things that could not wait.

Some things? Could be put off for a later date.

But there were things that, she knew, would cost lives, would become unsalvageable if she waited. And, when Cassandra started walking them back to the initial Inquisition camp, Lavellan started frantically trying to remember as many as she could.

As she did, she reached forward and grabbed Cassandra’s sleeve, stopping her before she could lead them out of the Crossroads.

“Herald?” The woman stopped and blinked, turning to face her, “Do you need something?”

At that moment, she could feel Solas and Varric staring at her, as well, and it made her tense. It wasn’t often - if ever, really - that she openly sought anyone's attention and-

And she had no way to vocalize her intentions.

She opened and closed her mouth uselessly, then wrung her hands and looked around, trying to find an easy way to get her point across, trying to ignore the curious, slow blink Solas gave her as she looked back over the Crossroads behind him.

“Privy, Herald?” Her eyes snapped down to Varric and she flushed darkly at the amused grin on his face, shaking her head, “No? Shopping? Drop something? Need to talk to someone?” And it was his turn to look startled when she pointed at him and nodded. “…You know someone here at the Crossroads?”

Lavellan shook her head, then started looking around. Vale. There as a Corporal Vale who was in charge of the people at the Hinterlands - he would make the suggestions to-

“Herald.” Cassandra interrupted with a heavy sigh, making the smaller woman look back at her and shrink a bit, “We have much we need to do, and very little time in which to properly organize our schedule. If it is not important-” The Seeker jerked back slightly when Lavellan stepped forward, gesturing helplessly with her hands and opening her mouth and choking a bit. This was important-

“Easy, kid.” It was Varric who took her shoulder, gently turning her to face him and gesturing to his chest as he breathed in and out of his open mouth slowly, “Deep breaths. Calm down. Now, really, Seeker, surely we have a few minutes. What if it’s someone from her clan? I know we sent a message to them, but it could take a runner weeks to reach the Free Marches. Let’s just give our Herald the benefit of the doubt and see what it is she needs, hmm? Now, kid, who do you need to talk to?”

Taking advantage of the opening Varric provided, Lavellan started walking towards the hill she had spotted that she was sure she recognized as being the one Vale had pitched his tent on. And, hearing the footsteps behind her, it occurred to her that she was the one leading this time, and it made her lightheaded-

She had to dissociate from the moment, like she’d done before, to keep herself under control. To keep herself from just hunching down and giving up.

And when she brought herself back again, Vale was, indeed, in front of them.

“Can I-” He started as he turned to them, only to stop and immediately salute, “Seeker Pentaghast!”

“Ah. Corporal Vale. One of Cullen’s men.” Cassandra came up next to Lavellan as she stopped, nodding, “You are here directing the soldiers protecting the villagers, are you not?”

“Trying to, at least.” He nodded and relaxed his stance, “We’re finding ourselves… ill-prepared for the real task ahead of us.”

“Ill-prepared? Have your men not been properly outfitted?”

“It’s not that as much as…” The soldier paused.

This was what she needed. For the conversation to naturally direct itself where she wanted it to. Which heavily relied on Vale being desperate enough for help. And for her companions to go along with it.

“You may speak freely, Corporal.” Cassandra nodded, “I had intended on sending someone to ascertain your needs, anyway.”

“…Well… If you’re sure, Seeker…”

With that, the beginnings of several “quests” lined up. One man to talk to about blankets, another about food, a search for a healer, mages and templars to quell, Dennet-

And then there were two who Vale wouldn’t know about. The woman having an asthma attack, the Enchanter who could be brought back to Haven as a healer. And…

Once Vale had said all he needed to, Lavellan moved on, not noticing the odd looks she was getting from the three behind her.

Recruit Whittle was closest, then Ellendra - but Ellendra wouldn’t be approachable until they’d found Mattrin and recovered her phylactery. The hunter who wanted ram meat, Hyndel’s father…

And…

And…

“Lavellan.”

She stopped when, at one point during her fast walking around the Crossroads, Cassandra spoke up in an odd tone. And when she turned to face the woman, she noticed that all three of her companions were giving her odd looks, and she quailed slightly. Suddenly feeling very nervous and self-conscious. She’d gotten so wrapped up in going from person to person that she’d just…

“…I admit I find myself… perplexed.” Cassandra started slowly after a moment. She didn’t sound angry, Lavellan noticed, but rather… intrigued and… Something else? “You shy from battle and discussion, let others make decisions for you, and while you know what the Inquisition seeks to do, you have not particularly… participated up until this point. I had supposed it simply not in your character to pursue the aggressive tactics we find necessary to get things done, but seeing you like this is…”

Lavellan wasn’t really feeling any better about this. Where was Cassandra going with this…

“Really, Seeker, don’t put her on the spot.” Varric chuckled, shaking his head when Cassandra scowled at him a little, “It looks like our Herald is simply a very helpful individual, is all. Which, I think, is to be expected of a First, isn’t it? Someone in line to be a Keeper would be trained to take interest into the welfare of others. Granted, I’ve only known one First before this, myself, but…”

“I was not putting her on the spot!” Cassandra huffed at Varric, indignant, “I was just surprised to see her being… proactive!” When the dwarf raised his hands in mock surrender, she gave him a brief, scathing look, then turned her attention back to Lavellan. “Forgive me. I was simply surprised. Still, this does bring this back to my original topic of us needing to plan our schedule - now that we’re more aware of what needs to be done, we must consult our maps to plan the most effective route. Without horses, we are truly pressed for time, and there is much to be done.”

That, Lavellan agreed with, and she nodded. And then almost had a small heart attack when Cassandra smiled at her, looking… pleased.

And then looking her over as if she she were… regarded Lavellan in a new light.

Which, when she thought about it, wasn’t particularly surprising… So far, all Lavellan had done was hide and gather herbs.

But here, in the Hinterlands, there were things that needed to be done. Small, simple things - gathering blankets, fetching a potion, hunting a few rams… Things she could do.

She would still be expected to fight, to close rifts, and the thought terrified her, but if she focused on the small things-

Things she could do, in between the big things. Finding boxes with blankets and clothes. Directing Inquisition soldiers and scouts to shoot and skin a few rams. Fetch a potion for a woman having an asthma attack.

Those things, she could do.

She was determined to.

 


 

The first time she closed a rift - that she could remember, at least, since she barely remembered the trip up to the Temple of Sacred Ashes - sent her into a panic attack.

She had no idea how any Inquisitor could handle the pain of closing a rift-

Well, really, the pain wasn’t terrible. And honestly, once the initial stage had passed, she really did have good pain tolerance.

It was the shock.

The sensation.

It was jarring and terrifying, and once she started breathing funny, she couldn’t calm herself down enough to stop and it started a vicious cycle that got worse and worse and-

And then she was waking up, Solas leaning over her with a heavily furrowed brow.

Following his instructions, she closed her eyes and stayed on her back on the ground a bit longer, breathing slowly and working on calming down.

When Cassandra brought up taking her back to the camp and continuing with the others without her, Lavellan shook her head and sat up, then slowly got to her feet, despite their protests.

She was not, however, being brave.

Leaving now would mean they would simply map out locations with rifts that needed to be closed. And then they would take her back out, and she would have to do them all, anyway. It was just something that would need to be done. Something she needed to get out of the way. Something she couldn’t get out of.

If this was really the game, she’d just want to be a completionist.

But she was here. And she wanted to get it over with.

The first stop was the southeast valley. Hyndel’s mother needed the potion now. The refugees needed food and blankets by tonight. Ritts would get attacked, if it wasn’t already in process. 

Then, after that valley, north to Redcliffe (where they wouldn’t be let inside, anyway, but the others didn't know that), then west to Dennet.

Fuck the northeast. There was a dragon over there.

Fuck the southwest. There was a shitton of bears down there. (And two rifts, but fuck those rifts, too. She couldn’t even count how many times those rifts had killed her.)

And… was she missing anything? Lavellan wasn’t sure, so she took out the map Cassandra had given to her and studied it again, wracking her brain. She’d played the game so many times that she was sure she hadn’t forgotten anything major, and that even if she had she’d remember it when she saw it- But the thought that she would miss something was a little terrifying. What if someone died because she forgot? She had no Internet to refer to, no one to ask- And no real time to sit down and work on making a list of everything.

On top of that, her working out what order to do things in had reminded her that, after Val Royeaux, she would need to go and meet and try to recruit all of her companions- Which was one thing in the game, but instant travelling was not a thing now and everything would need to be planned carefully so she could utilize the time travelling from place to place as well as she could-

Iron Bull at the Storm Coast.

Sera in Val Royeaux.

Vivienne at her chateau in Orlais.

Blackwall in the Hinterlands.

At least Cole and Dorian would show up on their own… And it would be really nice if Blackwall was just already in the Hinterlands, since she was here now, but Leliana hadn’t brought him up and that could mean that he wasn’t yet.

And then there was deciding which was less horrifying - going to the future or confronting “Lucius”-

She was getting ahead of herself.

She had to stop and breathe.

Lavellan did just that, closing her eyes as she did, before opening them again and continuing to walk.

She was so busy studying her map and planning, so deep in her own thoughts - which had become her norm with no voice to word her thoughts and no way to engage others - that she didn’t realize she was being scrutinized or approached until-

“Hey, Herald. You ever heard of sign language?”

Still not very used to being addressed when the situation didn’t call for it, Lavellan got lightheaded and almost tripped, then had to spend a few moments getting herself back under control before she finally looked down at Varric. She rolled the question around in her dizzy thoughts for a moment before shaking her head.

Reasoning: She was Lethlares Lavellan, not Morgan Chambers. As far as she knew, elves hadn’t really made any accommodations for the deaf or mute, and had limited contact with humans, dwarves or Qunari (who had all, from what she remembered, dabbled in different kinds of sign to some extent or another).

But that was something Morgan knew.

Not something Lethlares knew.

She almost missed Varric continuing as she mentally and frantically tried to make sure that “no” was the most feasible answer for her-

“It’s this sort of… language, but with hands.” He lifted his hands and flexed his fingers, “Well, not really one set language. Everyone who’s tried to make up one has their own version. The one that comes to mind for me is the one used by the Silent Sisters of Orzammar - crazy devoted female warriors who cut out their tongues to honor a paragon. They’ve got a whole working alphabet and language they speak fluently with their hands. I was thinking something like that might be helpful for you, but the more I think about it…” He stopped, then looked ahead and scratched his stubble, brow furrowing as he hummed contemplatively, “Your muteness is conditional, and it’s something you might recover from. And I don’t know anyone who actually knows the Silent Sisters’ language - not really something they teach to anyone outside of their House, never mind to surfacers. You do write really well, so we’d just have to teach you Common, but carrying around parchment and writing utensils isn’t exactly…”

And he went on. And on.

It was odd, really. He was… having a conversation with her. A one-sided one, maybe, but no one ever really… tried to talk to her. To really engage her.

Common topics with her were how she was feeling, if she needed anything, if she could come to a meeting- And that was about it. She wasn’t ever really asked for her opinion, even.

But this wasn’t any of that.

This was just an honest conversation about almost nothing. And a conversation that actually related to her on a more personal level.

And it- It was upsetting.

Not really in a bad way, but it got her worked up, made her emotional, because goddamnit he was a fictional character but he was also fucking real, and beneath his wisecrack and humor he was a genuinely good person who was caught in a situation he didn’t want to be in but continued to stay in it because he was too good a person to walk away, and now he was trying to reach out to her and-

And she made a decision.

She’d been hoping to just ignore it because demons were terrifying and she wanted to avoid them as much as possible but- She wanted to do something for him. Anything.

And the obvious thing to do was walk over to the mine when she saw it.

The others followed quickly, Cassandra calling out to her about not wandering off, but she walked over, anyway, and stopped just short of the mine entrance, removing her staff from her back and considering it carefully.

There was a barrier that needed to be removed. Like in the game, it was light blue and just visible, rippling slightly and giving off a faint hum. And it was… smoking slightly.

No, not smoking, she realized as she leaned in to get a closer look. It was fog. And not water vapor fog, but more like… dry ice fog.

Right. It was magic and needed to be dealt damage by an opposing element.

Fortunately, at least, the opposing element in this case was one she had an affinity for when she was terrified.

And it is quite easy to be terrified when a rage demon suddenly leaps at you from the shadows, clashing against an ice barrier and making the whole thing light up.

Lavellan screamed and jumped back, and in the ensuing explosion of fire around her, the barrier shattered and the demons trapped behind it lunged forward.

It was worth it to make Varric happy, it was worth it to make Varric happy, it was worth it to make Varric happy worth it worth it worth it-

She was unable to convince herself until it was over, when she lifted her head from her knees after the fighting had stopped. Varric, who it seemed had taken a protective stance in front of her when she had given up and blocked everything out, looked down at her as he slid Bianca back into the holster on his back, offering his hand and pulling her to her feet when she took it.

“You all right, kid?”

She shuddered and nodded, then cringed and hunched a little when Cassandra looked up from the demon corpse breaking down into nothing at her feet, the Seeker sliding her sword back into its sheath loudly and storming over. She was already raising her voice and shouting, and Lavellan closed her eyes tightly, disconnecting from the situation as much as she could - which didn’t stop the anxiety from burning in her stomach, pressing down on her chest and making her breathing shallow.

Even knowing demons were behind the barrier, she hadn’t really been prepared, and she’d led them there without them knowing what would happen and also knowing that she wouldn’t be able to handle the fight and-

She hadn’t thought. And had endangered them, as a result, because of course they would put their lives on the line to protect her. She was Lethlares Lavellan, and they needed her alive more than anyone else.

Getting herself so focused on the small missions had led to her getting ahead of herself.

“Well, it’s too late to take it all back now, Seeker.” Varric started calmly once Cassandra was done with her lecture. “And some mage must have put that barrier up for a reason. Since the danger’s been taken care of, why don’t we just take a look inside.”

“Do not shield her, Varric.” Cassandra growled at him, narrowing her eyes, “And do not forget that we are not here to explore. We have scouts for that. We have missions to carry out, and she should know better than to wander off. She is not a child, and she is not an invalid.”

“I wasn’t suggesting she was, Seeker. But I think getting the shit scared out of her by a demon is more than enough. You don’t need to yell.”

“I believe it has been said that we are pressed for time.” Solas cut in calmly, looking somewhat disconnected and disinterested as he always did, and also slightly irritated. “We can talk about teamwork when we set up camp tonight. For now, we should press on. And what Varric suggested does have merit. If a barrier was put up here, there might well be something inside. We should investigate, briefly, and make note to come back if we need to.”

Cassandra breathed heavily through her nose, then turned to Lavellan. “From now on, you stay at least one step behind me at all times. Is that clear?”

Lavellan kept her eyes on the ground as she nodded, and when the Seeker turned and stormed into the mine, Lavellan was immediately right behind her. She heard Varric sigh behind them before following, but didn’t look back at him. Too ashamed of herself.

They found crates with supplies for the coming cold weather, including a good supply of blankets. Lavellan took out her map and marked the location of the mine, her eyes occasionally straying over to the corner to her right that would lead to the red lyrium deposit…

The others were busy for the moment, so after some back and forthing with herself, she slipped over to Varric and hesitantly tapped his shoulder. He looked up from shaking his head and chuckling at a bottle of wine he’d found in the box.

“Hmm? Something wrong, Herald?” When she pointed to the corner, he looked over, “See something over there?” At her nod, he paused, then nodded, himself, and started down that way, “Let’s go take a look, then.”

It was her first time properly seeing red lyrium.

Even from the distance they were at she could feel the warmth in the air, the closed-in nature of the mine sending the heat the lyrium generated slowly outwards. There was a humming in the air, both similar to and very different from the humming the ice barrier had generated, and there was a… metallic smell in the air that she was sure had nothing to do with the corpse of the dwarf in front of the large deposit.

It smelled like blood.

“…Hey, Seeker.” When she didn’t answer immediately, Varric spoke up, “Seeker!”

“What-” Cassandra turned from the documents she was inspecting, which she’d found when she’d opened a crate, and as soon as she saw they had stepped away, she was hurrying over to them, the metal of her armor making rhythmic noises with her steps, “Varric, what did I just-”

“Later, Cassandra.”

When she saw what he was staring at, she immediately forgot her retort.

Solas joined them shortly after, and after a pause, was the first to start to slowly approach the large, crystalline deposit.

“…I’m not liking how much this shit is showing up lately…” Varric muttered before raising his voice, “Chuckles, keep a healthy distance-”

“I’ve no intention of getting any closer, Varric.” Solas was calm as he stopped, leaning in and looking the lyrium over quietly. “…We started with one relatively small idol of this never before seen substance, then the much larger deposits at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, and now this… Quite a ways from Haven, is it not? How long have these deposits been around, and why are we just now finding them…”

“I don’t know, and I don’t want to know.” Varric growled, “I just want all of them to go back to wherever they came from.”

Cassandra was silent and frowning heavily, her brow furrowed as she considered what they were looking at.

“…What shall we do with this?” Solas finally turned back towards them, clasping his hands behind his back, “Shall we have it collected and brought back to Haven for study?”

“No.” Varric’s tone was harsh and strained, “We’re not taking it anywhere near Haven, or anywhere near anyone else.”

“We’ve destroyed the barrier that was keeping it blocked off. We can’t very well leave it.” The elf pointed out with a sigh, “Personal feelings aside, we hardly understand this substance or the threat it poses. It’s something that should be rectified.”

“We don’t need to understand it. It’s bad news. We should just destroy it and bury it so no one else can get their hands on it.”

While the two men argued, Lavellan shifted on her feet, thinking. All the times she’d played, she’d only had to touch the lyrium to destroy it, but she knew it wouldn’t be that easy. She knew there was a version were…

Her eyes wandered over to Cassandra, the heavy armor she wore, and the shield on her back-

Oh, right. Shield Bash.

Would that be enough…?

Nervously, Lavellan stepped over to the Seeker, reaching out and hesitantly poking her shoulder. When the taller woman looked down at her, Lavellan shuddered, then pointed to her shield, before closing one of her hands into a fist and softly punching her palm.

Cassandra blinked, then after a moment, nodded. “Yes. I agree.”

Solas was still trying to persuade Varric with the merits of collecting and studying even some of the red lyrium when Cassandra suddenly ran between both of them, shield raised and braced and-

The matter was solved quite decisively when the lyrium crystal shattered like glass.

Cassandra rolled her shoulders and stretched her arms as some of the shards crushed under her feet, reaching back to slide her shield back into place. “There were some explosives with the rebel mages supplies. We can move the crates to the entrance of the mine, then bury the rest of this. If that plan sounds acceptable to you, Herald?”

When the three looked at her, Lavellan tensed slightly, then nodded.

The way Varric’s face relaxed made it worth it.

 


 

By the time the sun had set and there was no more light to work by, Lavellan was exhausted. 

There was saving Ritts and redirecting her to Leliana for spy work, the several matters that needed to be sorted out at the Winterwatch Tower, including matters with Hyndel (fortunately, Solas had spoken up then about the boy needing to return to his family, meaning they didn’t need to waste another day on that), recruiting Anais and Berand for Josephine, returning to the Crossroads as quickly as possible to make sure Hyndel’s mother got her potion, making sure the Inquisition scouts were making progress on the hunting, turning the map with the marked locations over to Whittle-

She hadn’t thought that it would only take a day to get all of that done. Well, not done, necessarily, but started. The crates still needed to be recovered, as well as the meat, which would also need to be properly prepared and stored… Getting the Crossroads properly prepared for winter would be something that took a couple of weeks.

But, knowing ahead of time what needed to be done helped, and Cassandra had been surprisingly willing to go along with her suggestions (once they had been interpreted).

At the end of the day, Mother Giselle was helping Vale coordinate the resources and changes that had been made in only two handfuls of hours and ushering Lavellan and her companions to the dwelling she was using to rest.

Lavellan felt disgusting. And had no idea how Cassandra could stand it. Or even Solas or Varric, really.

During her weeks in Haven, she’d noticed that people really only saved full baths for when they had time. Or absolutely had to. So that meant, for some, once every few days. Or once a week. Or once every couple of weeks. Once a month. Once a-

Granted, more often than not, she had bigger things to worry about than bathing. More often than not, she was more focused on not having another breakdown than she was on bathing.

But that didn’t mean she could easily shake the habit of wanting to bathe once a day.

The elf who had been assigned to her care in Haven (a young woman named Lani) hadn’t been sure what to do with it. Still wasn’t sure what to do with it. Lavellan was trying to become adjusted to doing things the way Cassandra was doing them now.

The more common daily ritual was to warm a pitcher of water, pour it into a basin on a wash stand, strip down to your undergarments (simple smallclothes in some cases, or Victorian-era like pantaloons and brasiers in others) and use a small bar of soap, the water and a rag to wash your hands, arms, face and neck.

And only that.

Now that she was feeling well enough to think about it, it drove her crazy.

She wanted to scald her body, and use something rough to scour off the dead skin she knew had been accumulating. She wanted to scrub her hair with her nails and a fine comb until her scalp was bleeding and she’d pulled out as many clumps of dead hair as she could. She wanted to stand under a steady stream of just a little too hot for hours.

She felt tacky. Caked with sweat, grime and blood. Her scalp itched. She could smell herself. She did as little as possible with her hair because she couldn’t stand the way it felt.

How did these people do it.

Lavellan didn’t realize she’d been staring at Cassandra so hard, watching her wash her face, her neck, and even her hair a little, until the woman spoke up, her words careful and somewhat halting.

“If you would like, Herald, I can… arrange for some hot water for you, as well…?”

Lavellan blinked at met Cassandra’s eyes, and once she had properly taken in the somewhat embarrassed, very confused look on the woman’s face, her own eyes widened and she felt herself flush, her mouth opening reflexively to apologize and explain but-

Of course, no intelligent words came out. Only choked stutters. Which had her throat and chest seizing up as her muscles jolted, and then she was having an episode and Solas was crossing the room, setting a hand on her back to talk her through breathing again before offering her a cup of something warm and bitter.

And then, once she had calmed, she wasn’t looking at them anymore. Wouldn’t look at them anymore. She just shut down and curled up on the bed she would be using that night, rolling over so she didn’t have to see the looks on their faces.

She was judging herself enough for them, after all.

Crippled. Disabled. Unstable. Invalid. Useless. Helpless. Lost.

She couldn’t do this.

She couldn’t do this. 

She couldn’t do this.

And, with one small, harmless interaction, her progress was coming undone.

 


 

It was a face in the crowd the next day that pulled her back out of it.

The face was expressionless, and the person’s forehead bore a familiar mark.

Embossed scar tissue in the shape of a sun.

A Tranquil.

The Tranquil were- 

With the Circles fallen, many Tranquil were alone because few would take responsibility for them. Most mages wanted nothing to do with them. And there was really no one else. So the Tranquil were left to wander, alone, lost, with no orders and-

And they would just follow anyone who ordered them to, because the Tranquil didn’t want to be alone. They wanted to be useful.

And-

And shit, she’d forgotten about the Tranquil-

Without hesitation or any thought, barely hearing Cassandra’s angry voice behind her as she just walked away, Lavellan practically jogged over to the young woman. The young woman was completely unbothered by an elf she didn’t know running up to her and grabbing her hand.

“Hello. My name is Elise. And you are a member of the Inquisition. I am a Tranquil, and was a Formari before the Circles were dissolved. Do you require the skills of an alchemist? I am very good at making potions, and-” Elise was still talking, even though Lavellan was already nodding hard enough to hurt her neck.

Cassandra and the others had come over, and Elise was still talking when Lavellan started to gesture and mouth helplessly, wanting desperately to get her thoughts across to the young woman because goddamnit, she’d forgotten the Tranquil-

And then, before Cassandra could start lecturing her about running off again, Lavellan was startled by Elise, somehow, understanding what she was trying to say, to ask-

“I have seen other Tranquil, yes. The rebel mages do not care to have us around, and we are being ousted from their numbers. If it would be of use, I can show you where some others might be.” Lavellan was nodding eagerly again. “Thank you. It is good to be of use.”

Now needing Cassandra to understand, Lavellan turned to the other woman and looked up at her, still holding Elise’s hand and meeting her eyes as pleadingly as she could.

Cassandra blinked and balked slightly, appearing startled. Then, she pursed her lips, before looking at the Tranquil. “Are the Tranquil… truly falling to the wayside?”

“Yes. The apostates do not care for us. And we make the rebel mages uncomfortable." 

Lavellan tried as hard as she could to wordlessly get her desires across to Cassandra. Begging, pleading silently, still holding Elise’s hand tightly.

“…This is a situation that must be rectified. I will speak with our scouts. And from now on,” She turned back to Lavellan and glared at her, exasperated and scowling, “Take someone with you if you notice something that needs attention!”

Again, Lavellan found herself nodding hard enough to hurt her neck.

Chapter Text

It took a week to clear the Hinterlands to a level that satisfied her.

The process was something that left her and her companions in various states of exasperated, angry, tired, perplexed, and satisfied. As they focused on the major tasks that had been laid out for them, she was looking around, remembering things, noticing things, grabbing someone’s hand and dragging them off into a battle or a scavenger hunt.

At one point, Cassandra ended up so flustered by the… shenanigans Lavellan managed to unearth for them that she openly expressed her conflicting feelings about either following the Herald to whatever she had noticed or simply smacking her.

Undeniably, they were things that needed to be done. Problems that needed to be resolved.

Many of them were ridiculously tedious.

The Seeker had no idea how Lavellan managed to spot them all. And Lavellan knew she found it infuriating, how she always managed to find something else.

One evening, as they finished their dry ration meal and started to settle down for sleep, Lavellan looked up from studying her map to find Cassandra sitting on a rock and staring at her intently, brow furrowed and hands clasped in front of her mouth.

Wondering what she’d done, she looked around nervously- Her anxiety was not at all eased by the highly amused look on Varric’s face as he polished Bianca, or the fact that Solas seemed to be rather pointedly busying himself with scrawling in a small leather journal.

Squirming a little, Lavellan slowly looked back at the Seeker, then, after hesitating, let out a questioning noise.

“I suppose there will be something else we must do in the morning.” Cassandra didn’t so much ask as state bluntly, her expression unchanging.

Lavellan blinked slowly, opening and closing her mouth.

Cassandra went on. “I received word from a scout earlier that Mother Giselle reached Haven several days ago.”

Lavellan blinked again, then hunched down a little, chewing on her lip. She was still… confused…

“And we have addressed Master Dennet. But you are not yet satisfied, are you. And do not give me that look.” The older woman sat up sharply before Lavellan’s expression could even finish changing, “You are hardly an innocent party in this! How is it we came here to speak with Mother Giselle, and have now found ourselves getting both the apostates and rogue templars under control, preparing the Crossroads for winter, slaying wolves for the Horsemaster’s wife, delivering potions and recovering rings- I suppose we shall next be investigating the rumors of a dragon!”

Lavellan’s eyes widened and she shuddered, hunching down. No, definitely not- When Cassandra’s eyes narrowed at her, she looked away.

“…They are not rumors, are they. There is a dragon.” After some shifting around, Lavellan nodded. “You’ve known this. And you’ve purposefully left it off of the list of problems you’ve decided we will tackle.” Shift, nod. “You are picking and choosing without so much as a word-” Lavellan hunched and hunkered down more, wringing her hands a little as Cassandra got herself puffed up and riled-

Laughter had the Seeker turning and directing some of her anger at the nearby dwarf who’d covered his face.

“You find this funny, Varric?”

“I find it hilarious, Seeker,” Varric chuckled behind his fingers, shaking his head, “That a silent, withdrawn slip of an elf who has everyone in Haven convinced that she’s crazy has clearly planned out at least a week’s worth of a to-do list, seemingly in ascending order of difficulty. And has even been polite enough to grant us moments of reprieve with simple requisition orders.”

…Well, really, the requisitions were more because she sometimes needed to withdraw into herself for a bit and doing things like collecting herbs or rocks required no thought and was soothing.

Not that she could say that.

Lavellan drew her legs up to her chest and hugged them, staring at her feet as her map crinkled between her tunic and leggings.

“Herald, mind if I take a look at your map?” She twitched and stared at Varric’s smiling face for a moment, then hesitantly turned it over. Ignoring Cassandra’s loud, irritated noise, the dwarf slid Bianca back into her holster and spread the map out on his lap, looking it over. “Let’s see… Well, looks like your pain will be over soon, Seeker. Seems we’ve done everything she wants to in the southeast and at the Crossroads… Everything left up in Dennet’s area she’s planning on having the soldiers do - thank you, by the way, I don’t think I’d be particularly good at building forts - and she’s drawn a dragon up in the northeast area, so she clearly doesn’t plan on taking us there, and…” He stopped, blinking slowly, then snorted and chuckled, looking over at Lavellan, “Is the southwest area really full of nothing but bears?” When her eyes widened and she nodded, he covered his face with a hand and started laughing again, holding out the map a little when Solas raised a brow and leaned over to take a look at it, himself.

Varric had started teaching her written Common a few days ago.

With some miming, she’d gotten him to teach her one word in particular earlier that evening.

Before she had noticed Cassandra staring at her, she’d been busy writing the word BEARS over and over again in the area where the mercenary fortress was.

“Well, I suppose that explains why you’ve been having us avoid that area…” Solas said slowly, his brow going up even higher. “But if we haven’t even been down there yet, how do you know?”

“Probably the same way she knew about everything else that apparently needed our attention.” Varric spoke up before Lavellan had to worry about figuring out how to answer that. “Which probably involved quite a bit of eavesdropping on the people at the Crossroads.”

Lavellan wasn’t sure what to do with this.

Over the week, she’d been drawing the attentions of Cassandra, Varric and Solas more and more. Which, while she knew it was inevitable, was uncomfortable and jarring. They were learning that there was a person under the trauma and muteness. They were getting a feel of what kind of person she was. Without her to talk to, they had been talking amongst themselves, sometimes in her presence.

Possibly without her presence, which was a possibility that terrified her.

It was getting to a point where they could read some of her expressions. Varric was teaching her written Common. Soon, they would be able to hold more and more coherent conversations with her.

Where, for weeks, she had been used to things simply being decided for her.

Soon, she would have a proper voice to speak with.

And the closer she got to that, the more terrified she became.

And it was still just the three of them.

Soon, there would also be Blackwall.

Sera.

Vivienne.

Bull.

Dorian.

Cole.

Cole.

The thought of Cole, in particular, terrified her. He didn’t need her to be able to speak or read or write for him to be able to know what she was thinking, what she was feeling-

Bull was an almost equally terrifying prospect. As a Ben-Hassrath, all he needed to understand her thoughts was her face. A shift in the eyes, a frown, wringing hands, shifting stance-

The closer they got to going to Val Royeaux, the more she thought about it, and the more she considered just not recruiting anyone-

But she couldn’t do that.

She was Lethlares Lavellan. Lavellan needed all of the support she could get.

And, if she didn’t go and get them, there was always the possibility they would just show up and-

Bull would be suspicious. Possibly. But with her being mute, and without adequate reason to really interrogate her, he wouldn’t ever know.

Solas was proof that Cole could be persuaded. Cole had no guile. No desire to hurt. At worst, he’d desperately try to help her in private. And if she became frantic enough, he would have no choice but to back down, because he wouldn’t be able to bear causing someone that much emotional turmoil.

And now she was going to that place again. That helpless, cold, terrifying, painful place where she knew she wasn’t going to be able to do this. She was going to fail. Somehow, she had killed Lethlares and had doomed Thedas and she couldn’t do this-

Da’len. Drink this and let me help you to bed.”

Vaguely, she realized she was crying again, hyperventilating again, breaking down again, and once again, Solas was there, making her drink something thick and bitter that would numb her thoughts and make her sleep.

Vaguely, she realized that this was the first time Varric and Cassandra would witness them going through these motions. And that they would likely learn and/or realize that Solas had to do this for her sometimes.

And she was losing the progress she had made. Again.

She was breaking down.

She was going back to being broken and delicate and crazy.

 


 

This was the Fade.

After her first mistake with ‘Flemeth,’ she had never failed to recognize being in the Fade again.

She wasn’t sure if it was because she’d always been a lucid dreamer, or if something was wrong with her because she didn’t belong here, but she always knew when she was in the Fade. It was just a thing now.

Tonight, however, she wasn’t where she usually was. Usually, she was in her dwelling in Haven, or in her tent in the Hinterlands, where she would just curl up in her bed and wait to wake.

Tonight, she was in a forest.

The weather was beautiful - the sky overhung with lovely, heavy clouds that promised rain, the air was the perfect balance of not too warm and not too cold, she could smell water and green, and the ground was soft and spongy with moss and lichens that smelled fresh but were also dry and looked so comfortable and inviting…

She liked this. She would have to remember this for later. Her bed in Haven was nice, but this was… this would be welcome, too.

And then she noticed them. The aravels.

It was enough to make her stop and blink.

The presence of aravels in her dream was… confusing. She’d never seen one in person, after all. She hadn’t even met any Dalish in person.

Were her dreams merging with someone else’s? Certainly not Solas- There would have to be a Dalish clan nearby for this. But this forest didn’t look like Hinterlands forest. The trees were wrong- As were the lichens and the mosses. She’d been camping out enough in the Hinterlands for the last week to recognize that.

A spirit, then?

Approaching was a bad idea.

It would be best to just plant herself where she was and wait to wake up.

But, as she was settling down to do just that, she glanced towards the aravels again and… caught sight of someone. They were moving between the wagons, and she couldn’t make out any features, but that one glimpse was enough to…

She had to go over.

That idea, that urge, overpowered the knowledge that she should stay, and she found herself back on her feet and walking towards the aravels. A little lightheaded and not really thinking.

It was a woman.

An elven woman, dark brown hair, willowy, feet bare, and open, dark green robes brushing her calves as she walked around slowly, aimlessly in the wide circle the aravels made. Supple leather armor clinging to her arms, her legs, bands wrapped around her feet and ankles but leaving her toes and heels bare.

Morgan didn’t understand how elves could go around barefoot. She’d tried it a few times, herself, and while Lavellan’s body was clearly used to it, she just couldn’t…

The thought stopped there when the other woman turned, and Morgan froze up as she met Lethlares’ eyes.

Lethlares Lavellan. The elf in front of her was Lethlares Lavellan.

Demon?

Demon.

It had to be-

“I suppose you’re the spirit who’s taken my body?”

Morgan twitched and remained silent. This again… Was that what it looked like to spirits and demons? That she was just another spirit/demon who had taken possession of Lavellan’s body? ‘Flemeth’ had thought that, as well…

“I can’t really tell what to make of you.” ‘Lethlares’ turned and walked over to her, making Morgan tense and step back. ‘Lethlares’ noticed and stopped approaching, sighing and crossing her arms, “On one hand, I believe I should thank you. I’m quite sure you’re what saved me from whatever happened at the Conclave. On the other, you’ve maintained a very firm grip on my body and left me trapped here… But, from what little I’ve seen, you seem to be offering aid to those people… These aren’t really the acts of any kind of demon I can think of. But spirits who choose to coexist with a mage don’t take control of their body by force.”

…This was… confusing.

A demon would do this, right…? Try to confuse her into thinking it was really Lethlares?

But even the oldest and most experienced demons tended to be more… heavy handed in their persuasions. At least, from what she’d seen. This one was… relatively calm.

“Do you simply not realize what you’ve done?” When Morgan stayed silent, ‘Lethlares’ sighed, “Spirit, I would like very much to keep this dialogue positive. But I am going to need my body back at some point. There is much to be done.” Morgan stayed silent still. “…Spirit, please.”

‘Lethlares’ was pleading now.

Looking pained.

Morgan didn’t know what to do with this.

Demons got angry when you ignored them, right?

They didn’t look heartbroken-

“I’m not a demon.” She finally broke down, shifting back and forth and clenching her hands nervously, getting ready to run, “And I’m not a spirit. This isn’t my body to give. I might not belong in it, but I’m not turning it over to anyone else. Please stop.”

This was the point where a demon would get angry.

Right?

But ‘Lethlares’ didn’t.

She just blinked and stared at her, looking startled.

And they were both silent. Clearly not sure how to take the interaction from there.

“…The body you are controlling is mine.” ‘Lethlares’ started slowly after a bit.

“This body belongs to Lethlares Lavellan.” Morgan responded, trying to stick to the facts. If this was a demon, or a spirit, she needed to keep this interaction from getting personal. Spirits and demons were easier to handle if things were kept impersonal. “I’m not Lethlares Lavellan. I know that. You know that. I know it’s not my body, but I’m also not going to turn it over to someone it doesn’t belong to.”

‘Lethlares’ took a step back and raised one of her hands, covering her mouth with her fingers as her brow furrowed.

But she still didn’t look upset. Only contemplative.

That confused the shit out of Morgan.

“…Yes, we both know you aren’t Lethlares Lavellan. But you wouldn’t be turning the body over to someone it doesn’t belong to. Because I am Lethlares Lavellan. First to Keeper Deshanna Istimaethoriel of the Lavellan Clan of the Free Marches. My parents were Iserhis and Semael, both of them hunters. My mother, Iserhis, was originally of the Ghilain Clan. After meeting my father during Arlathvenn, they begged her Keeper to allow her to join the Lavellan clan so they could be bonded. Their bonding was seen as blessed - she became pregnant with me within the same year.”

Morgan was becoming more and more confused. And more and more upset, and then frantic.

She had simply assumed that, somehow, she had killed Lethlares when she came into her body. But if Lethlares was really dead, then no one beside Deshanna and/or Lethlares’ parents would know this story, and Deshanna would not be possessed so easily and Lethlares’ parents were hunters and would not appeal to a demon-

So how would a demon come across this information?

‘Lethlares’ was trying to convince her. So Morgan was now even more desperate to come to a conclusion-

None of this was game information. It could not be taken from her mind.

Spirits and demons reflected ideas and desires. By their nature alone, that meant that they couldn’t make up anything that the person they were addressing or the people they had been influenced by did not know or had not thought of.

Unless she was messing up somewhere, then this being really was-

“Hush, spirit…” ‘Lethlares’ was approaching her again, reaching out with open hands and a gentle expression on her face, “Ma ane eth. You meant no harm. No wrong has been done. Shhhh…”

Lethlares wrapped her arms around her and held her close, and after fighting with herself about it, Morgan gave in and let it happen, hugging her back tightly, clinging to her, hyperventilating, shaking, franticly scouring her mind, trying to remember if she was wrong somewhere, starting to cry-

She thought she’d killed her-

For weeks, she’d thought she’d killed her-

But this-

This was her-

She had to be her-

She wanted so badly to believe that this was her-

“I’m sorry-” She wailed, clinging to her and trembling, “I don’t know how I- I didn’t mean to- I want to give it back, but I don’t know how- I don’t know what to do-”

Ar’an elana ladana min,” Lethlares - it had to be her - murmured, slowly easing Morgan to the ground and holding her as Morgan became too weak to continue standing on her own, “But you must calm down. Too many uncontrolled emotions cause shifts in the Beyond. It could attract spirits. Or demons. Hush now… We can fix this…”

She was right.

She was very right.

She worked on calming herself down, closing her eyes and curling up against the elf until she’d gotten her sobbing under control. Once she had, Lethlares pulled away slightly and looked at her, curious and confused.

“…You do not emote as a spirit should.” She murmured, more to herself than anything, but still addressing Morgan, “The way you express… You act mortal.”

“I’m not a spirit.” Morgan said again, shuddering a bit as they started to enter territory that concerned her. Would Lethlares become hostile if she knew she was human-

“…What then, if I may ask, are you?” The elf sat back, but continued holding her hands, studying her face, “Do you have a name?”

…She had to tell her.

She had been occupying her body for weeks. It wouldn’t be right to lie.

And Lethlares had been so kind to her…

“…My name is Morgan Chambers.” She started quietly after a pause, looking down at their hands and starting to curl in on herself a little, fearing the backlash, “And before this, I… I was human. Though I don’t know what I would be considered now…”

“…A shemlen…?” Lethlares’ brow furrowed, and she frowned deeply, going quiet and contemplative, “…That… cannot be possible… You possess my body like a spirit or a demon would… Are you a mage? Did some ritual go wrong?”

“No…” She shook her head, shuddering again, “I’m not a mage. I don’t know how this happened. And I don’t know what to do.”

“…A shemlen…” Lethlares was starting to shake her head slowly, her frown deepening, “This cannot-”

A sudden, loud noise startled them, and they both jerked and looked around. It didn’t come from anywhere in particular, but instead everywhere, and-

“You are waking.” Lethlares took Morgan’s face in her hands and made her look her in the eyes, frowning seriously, “Remember this: Tell no one. And come here again when you sleep. We must-”

 


 

There were decisions to make back in Haven, before they left for Val Royeaux. Missions that needed to be done, and decisions about who to have handle them.

Fortunately, they didn’t have to be done one goddamn mission at a time. Since it would take a while to travel to Val Royeaux, they would make bulk decisions now and the advisors would have them executed while they were gone. By the time they got back, a few would be done, and they would be able to see the results.

Cassandra, for some reason, wanted Lavellan to give her input on who she wanted to complete which missions.

This startled the advisors somewhat - though not Leliana so much, since she had apparently received reports about Lavellan’s influence in the Hinterlands…

Since her knowledge of written Common was still a work in progress, Cassandra resolved the issue of communication by pulling up a chair in front of the war table and gathering all of the reports. After they had gone over each one with the advisors, receiving their opinions, Cassandra took three familiar, ornate daggers out of a box-

And stabbed them into the table.

“We have heard our advisors opinions on the issues.” She said, walking to the other side of the table and leaning over, bracing her palms against the top, “As well as their offered approaches to each situation. I would like to observe your decision making skills for a time longer. So, make three stacks.”

Lavellan’s eyes widened, and she looked down at the tabletop.

Cullen had his concerns, as did Josephine, but Cassandra ignored them. Leliana simply watched.

…Well, the Inquisition was still young. And it was early on. None of the missions would be too damaging if she…

This was so much goddamn harder than remembering what to do in the Hinterlands-

But she did it.

She went through the reports again, slowly, rereading each one. Vaguely remembering some from the game. Not remembering others at all. Getting more than a little upset when she reread the message from Keeper Deshanna. At this point, only Cullen would garner a negative reply, but later on, if she didn’t consider things carefully, she could get all of Lethlares’ clan killed-

After going through them all, and considering, she sorted the reports into three piles - one for Josephine, one for Leliana, and one for Cullen. When she was done, she finally looked back up at Cassandra.

Cassandra, who had been watching carefully, nodded, “These are the decisions you would make?”

Lavellan paused, looking back down at the stacks, then looked back up at met Cassandra’s eyes again, nodding.

After a moment, Cassandra nodded, “Thank you for your assistance, Herald. If you would return to your cabin, we will send a scribe by shortly to write a letter on your behalf to your clan.”

A dismissal she was glad to take.

Nodding, Lavellan slipped to her feet and hurried out the door, leaning back against it with a sigh as she closed it. How many of her suggestions would they actually take, she wondered… The one about the Lavellan Clan, at least, they would likely do to her preferences. The rest… Well. Cassandra had been doing right by the Inquisition so far, as far as she could tell.

“Herald? Could I have a word?”

Lavellan looked over and blinked, shuddering a little at the now familiar, uneasy feeling of meeting someone who was actually real-

Minaeve was actually shorter than her, which she wasn’t used to outside of dwarves. Lethlares had a strong body, but she was still small and willowy. Common for an elven female. Minaeve was several inches shorter, and was wearing blue mage's robes that honestly… Lavellan loved. She’d always had a fondness for mage robes (especially the style Hyndel wore), and in reality, Minaeve’s robes were even lovelier than she remembered, and they looked so warm-

“Herald…?”

Lavellan blinked again, then nodded, wilting a little at the uneasy look on Minaeve’s face. But, the smaller woman nodded and led her to the office she shared with Josephine, closing the door once they both were inside.

“I wanted to thank you. On their behalf.” When Minaeve turned and looked up at her, it was with such a sincere expression Lavellan couldn’t even wonder who the other woman was referring to. “The Tranquil, I mean.” Oh… Right. Minaeve liked the Tranquil. Had even saved a few… “You’re Dalish. You don’t have to care about anyone outside of your clan. But when Elise was brought here, she told me about the Hinterlands… and how you got Seeker Pentaghast to get people to start looking for more Tranquil to bring here. You won’t regret it.” He brows furrowed and she nodded seriously, and her tone reminded Lavellan of someone speaking on the behalf of a co-worker to their employer. “They’re quiet, they're smart, polite, they don’t make judgments or betray, and they’re hard workers.”

…Right. Lavellan was Dalish. Though the Lavellan Clan was on good terms with some humans, as a rule Dalish weren’t fond of anyone outside of their clan. Least of all humans. Lethlares Lavellan would have no reason to show Tranquil any love.

But…

They were still people.

And that was a brief enough explanation, and they were alone and in a quiet place, that Lavellan felt that Minaeve would understand if she mouthed it.

And she did.

Her eyes widened, then she nodded seriously. “They are. No matter their race. Or the fact that they’re Tranquil. They’re people.” After a moment, Minaeve lowered her head slightly, speaking in a quieter voice, “Thank you… for seeing that.”

Seized by… emotion, Lavellan reached forward and took Minaeve’s hand. Minaeve jolted a little and looked up her, clearly having some aversion to physical contact. Lavellan squeezed her hand briefly, then let go, smiling and nodding.

After a moment, Minaeve smiled a little in return, and nodded back.

Then they were silent. Until Lavellan suddenly remembered the bag she’d brought to the chantry with her-

Holding up a finger to indicate Minaeve needing to wait for a moment, she ran out of the room and back over to the door into the war room, grabbing the sack she’d forgotten there. When she hurried back and offered it to her, Minaeve stared at her for a moment before taking it and opening it up, looking inside.

The bag contained hundreds of hooves, pieces of horn, tufts of fur, smaller bags of ash, little vials of blood, wispy blue energy, saliva, urine, claws, rags, teeth, all tagged with twine and slips of parchment that had names of the creatures they had come from written on them-

After staring down into the bag for a moment, Minaeve looked back up at her and nodded, smiling a little again. “Thank you. I’ll get to researching these right away.”

Lavellan smiled and nodded back.

Chapter Text

For weeks, she’d been managing to keep largely to herself and decidedly out of the lives of those who lived in Haven. This world was utterly terrifying, seeing people who were supposed to be fictional in front of her, in the flesh, alive and breathing was utterly terrifying, being in the body of someone who was supposed to save the goddamn world was utterly terrifying-

But during her time in the Hinterlands, she’d… woken a little.

Now, she couldn’t just flee to her cabin without being more aware of things.

And some deity with an unusually cruel sense of humor seemed to enjoy throwing her into situations that immersed her even more, due to her inability to ignore certain things-

Why else would she end up walking right by one of the elven hands asking a Chantry sister about hearing about how the Chant used to mention an elf-

The way she shut him down made her stop.

She debated. Should she involve herself, shouldn’t she-

She shouldn’t.

She really shouldn’t.

She hadn’t been given the option to in the game, and it was- Goddamnit-

The woman knew she was lying to him, and the Canticle had been stricken because of political bullshit-

Lavellan swayed for a few moments before giving in, turning around and marching over to the two. Getting herself worked up, even though she knew she shouldn’t involve herself-

“Herald-” The sister turned and bowed to her, “Blessings upon you, Herald of Andraste.”

The elf, realizing who was walking over to them, stuttered and stumbled before getting down on his knees.

It made her uncomfortable.

Lavellan stopped and stomped her foot, glaring at the sister darkly.

The taller woman was frozen for several moments, clearly confused and unsure. “May I… be of service to you, Herald…?”

With no way to word her thoughts, Lavellan simply pointed to the elf, pursing her lips and grinding her teeth a little.

It took the sister a moment.

She glanced down at the still kneeling elf, confused. Then, her eyes widened and she inhaled sharply, looking back at Lavellan- Lavellan saw the very moment the sister realized that the elven Herald of Andraste had overheard her firmly denying the existence of the Canticle of Shartan.

Did it really matter that the actual Lethlares Lavellan likely wasn’t even aware of the existence of the Canticle of Shartan?

No.

Because the Lethlares Lavellan that was standing before the Chantry sister did know.

And she couldn’t make herself walk away from it. And if she couldn’t walk away from it, she needed to confront it.

The Chantry sister was silent for a few moments, meeting the Herald’s eyes as she thought. Clearly lost in how to proceed.

Finally, she asked again, “May I be of service to you, Herald?”

…Was she hoping Lavellan was simply going to walk away from this?

(Honestly, Lavellan was still hoping, herself, that she’d be able to muster the strength to just walk away from this- She did not want to be involved, she did not want to be involved, she did not want to be involved-)

No.

There was someone in Haven she needed to take this to. Someone who would need to set the sisters straight.

Lavellan stepped forward and grabbed the sister’s wrist. Then leaned down and grabbed the still kneeling elf’s wrist, as well.

And the two, lost and confused as the previously withdrawn and largely unseen Herald suddenly touched them, were dragged along behind her as she walked them to and into the chantry.

The sister realized what she was going to do once they were inside, and tensed up, but didn’t jerk away.

Mother Giselle, who had been speaking to a Tranquil at the moment, was likely quite confused, herself, when the Herald marched up to her, dragging a tense sister and a terrified elf behind her. As ever, however, Giselle remained poised, and simply thanked the Tranquil she had been speaking to, ending their discussion before turning to face Lavellan.

“Herald. How may I help you?” She glanced at the two Lavellan was pulling, “…Has there been a problem?”

Lavellan looked at the sister pointedly, needing her to speak up.

If the sister knew her aim (which Lavellan had no doubt she did), she feigned otherwise, looking away as if she wasn’t even aware that something was going on.

So Lavellan had to look at the elf, instead. Who, she realized with no small measure of guilt, looked extremely confused and terrified.

“Forgive me-” He said quickly to Mother Giselle, bowing, almost falling to his knees again, “If I’ve offended Andraste’s Herald in some way-”

Lavellan looked back at Giselle and shook her head quickly as the woman glanced at her.

“…Do not worry yourself.” Giselle spoke to the young man soothingly, stepping forward, “That does not seem to be the case. However, it does seem as though Sister Velari and yourself were engaged in some matter or discussion that has caught the Herald’s interest. Perhaps you can help her by enlightening me…?”

“I-I- I don’t-” He stuttered. Lavellan hoped she hadn’t terrified him into forgetting-

“Revered Mother.” The sister, Velari, spoke up suddenly, her voice strained and affronted, “Please assure the Herald that no offensive discussion was taking place. I was simply helping a misinformed convert.”

“Misinformed?” Giselle glanced at the elf again.

“…O-Oh.” The elf flushed, suddenly remembering, “I-I was… I had heard that the Chant… used to have a verse about elves…?”

“Which is not true.”

They both jumped and fell silent when Lavellan lifted and stomped her foot loudly, making a few others in the chantry look over.

“…Ah…” Giselle started slowly, suddenly realizing what was going on. “…I… see…” She met Lavellan’s eyes for a moment, before venturing, “The Herald realizes… I am sure… that Sister Velari is… technically… not incorrect.”

Giselle could be better than this. And Lavellan knew it. She glared at the woman harder.

“…Herald…” The way Giselle was looking at her… made her think she wouldn’t be personally opposed to it. Just… what?

…Likely the problems it would cause with Val Royeaux, which already existed in spades. The Canticle of Shartan was a Dissonant Verse. And Lavellan was very clearly pressing for Mother Giselle to acknowledge it as something that had once been canonical.

Did she really want to push this…?

“...K… K-k-k… Cum- ber- land- ” Fuck, it still hurt to talk-

“…As you wish, Herald.” Giselle bowed to her before turning to the other two, “Sister, I will speak with you and the others about this matter later. Young man, come with me. The Herald wishes for a situation to be rectified.”

As they left and Lavellan was left by herself, she started to… realize the attention she had attracted to herself.

Most of those in Chantry garb looked scandalized. Some simply reserved. Minaeve was peeking out of Josephine’s office and was staring at Lavellan with wide eyes.

And- And shit, the door to the war room was open, and they were looking at her- Lavellan briefly caught the mischievous grin on Leliana’s face before turning to flee.

And there was Solas at the giant front doors, leaning back against them with his arms crossed in an oh so casual way, his face blank- Until she glared at him, flushing darkly, making his casual countenance crack a little as he smirked at her-

“An interesting Herald of Andraste you are turning out to be, da’len. Will you be able to behave yourself when we go to Val Royeaux?”

He was teasing her-

Her shoulders hunched more and she could feel her face getting hotter, and Lavellan hissed at him before opening the doors enough to flee.

 


 

That evening, after successfully banishing her caretaker (which took a great deal of effort, especially without a voice), Lavellan sank down into the bath she had been provided. Apparently, Lani had approached Threnn, and the arrangements had been made for the thing to be made. It was done in the Orlesian middle class’ fashion, made from wood and in the shape of a wide, thigh-high barrel instead of the more common, more fashionable, more expensive claw-footed brass ones, and Lani had apologized profusely before Lavellan had been able to calm her down. Getting a little upset, herself, over how much effort the girl had gone through for her.

She didn’t need anything fancy. That Lani had noticed her discomfort and taken as much time and energy as she had to arrange for even this was more than enough.

And, really, after weeks doing things the hard way, this thing was a godsend.

Hot water that reached her knees while she stood, enough room for her to sit and, if she pressed close to one side, lean back and submerge her head- With a white sheet that was large enough to cover the bottom and drape over the edges, so she could move and scoot around without getting splinters.

It was enough to make her emotional.

She couldn’t soak for long. It wouldn’t take much at all for the water to become filthy and useless for bathing purposes. But she did allow herself a few moments before she took a small hunk of soap and a druffalo hair brush and started to scrub herself.

This would look odd, no doubt.

She was supposed to be Dalish, after all. And she was pretty damn sure that Dalish bathing more involved cold water rivers or well-irrigated lakes. Possibly without soap. But it was difficult, and she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t go weeks without a proper bath. She wasn’t even sure she could go days without a proper bath.

She had a good idea of the energy and processes it took to get a bath of this kind ready. And she was going to do her best to help Lani get it set up whenever she wanted one, because as much as the girl would protest, she wasn’t going to let her set something like this up regularly for her on her own when she knew that, for this world, this time period, she was being odd.

But damn it, she needed a bath. At least once a week.

By the time she knew the water wasn’t usable anymore, she almost wanted to have it drained and refilled. It just… went by too quickly. And she knew she could get herself cleaner-

After going back and forth with herself on it for a bit, however, she managed to calm herself down and get out, quickly going for the towel Lani had left for her so she could dry off.

If she kept up with this regularly, she’d be able to reach a state of cleanliness she could feel comfortable with. Maybe she’d have Lani show her how to set this up so she could take smaller baths throughout the week, and do one big bath once a week- Or she could use the raised basin and strip down to her smalls and do her body, and use the bigger basin the girl had gotten her a while back to do her hair, and also do the once a week big bath-

Yes. There were plenty of ways she could work this.

She doubted she’d ever get to as clean as she could be with full, proper plumbing, but… she could make this work.

(And when they were in Val Royeaux, maybe she could indulge and cry to herself a little- Orlesians seemed like the kind to have running, heated baths-)

Lani came back with two other elves, and when the girl almost got herself upset enough to start crying when Lavellan kept trying to help them clean up the bath, she eventually just sat down and worked on brushing her hair, watching them and trying to learn for later.

And she also thought. About other things.

The callouses on her hands that were still working on properly forming and hardening- Some were still rupturing, but less often now, and they healed faster.

She would never be able to get Lavellan’s hair back up into that tight bun. She’d never been good with buns in the first place, but something that tight and that high up? Would not be happening without help. And she already hated enough how much Lani worked to serve her…

She was overdue for her period. At least, she thought she was. She was pretty sure she was. It had been… more than a month since the Conclave, right…? It was likely stress related. She’d skipped before due to stress. Though she also had to wonder if elf cycles worked differently… She’d have to ask Lethlares, if she was able to meet her again, and the woman hadn’t decided to hate her if she’d accepted that she wasn’t a spirit.

She needed to try to meet Lethlares again. But how? Being a mage was still odd and disturbing, and her dreams had been… almost disconcertingly boring, thus far, aside from that one demon. She had a feeling it should concern her. But she didn’t want to think about it. Like she didn’t want to think about many things. And meeting Lethlares last night hadn’t been due to the elf just waking up - what she’d said made it sound like she’d been aware of her situation for a while, and had been able to witness certain things.

Was that how possession worked…?

From what she could remember, it was. Connor remembered what he’d done from when he’d been possessed, right?

How had this happened-

(She banished those thoughts quickly. There was no more point in thinking about it now than there had been back then- She had no idea how it happened, and trying to figure out how would only lead to her spiraling and breaking down again.)

What had she done last night that had gotten her closer to seeing Lethlares? What could she do tonight to make it happen again?

…The person to ask would be Solas, really. He knew more about the conditions of… making dreams happen as you wanted to than most. If there even was anyone who knew more about the subject than him.

But how to approach it… How to ask, even.

Well… if she presented it convincingly enough, she doubted Solas would be too reserved about answering her questions. Asking him about the Fade and about his adventures during dreams were major points of most conversations with him, after all.

Was it too late to go ask?

Would it ever be too late, if it got her closer to talking to Lethlares and working this out-

The more she thought about it, the more worked up and antsy she got herself, and before long she was slipping on clean clothes and boots and braiding her hair back, hurrying out the door. She might not be able to tie it up into a bun, but she definitely knew there were benefits to keeping long hair bound in some form in this world-

It was late. Definitely late. The sun was gone, it was colder than usual, and more torches had been lit. Most everyone had settled down for the night, and most of the people who were still awake were on guard duty.

She almost turned back several times. Solas liked being asleep. It meant he was able to explore the Fade, and forget what he’d done to his people for a while- He would most likely be asleep.

But… she needed to see Lethlares again.

If only long enough to confirm that she really was alive. That this could still be fixed-

The cabin that Solas was always standing in front of in the game was his, she was sure. She’d seen him go in and out of it several times, and had never really seen anyone else around it at other times. Not that she was ever really outside of her own cabin enough to be overly familiar with Haven in real life, rather than game Haven, but Solas’ cabin was visible if one took the route by the tavern to get to the chantry. And Lavellan had been called to the chantry often enough.

The lights were off. Definitely asleep. She turned around and started to walk back.

Then she slowed and stopped, not even making it five steps.

…Elves could see in the dark, right? She’d read that somewhere-

Wait, that was stupid. She was an elf right now, and she was seeing in the dark. If she thought about it, she was seeing alarmingly well. She’d thought it was because they were just keeping Haven so well lit with the torches, but if she took half a moment to pay attention she could make out things in disturbing detail-

So, yes, elves had excellent night vision.

Maybe Solas still had one candle going, and she just hadn’t looked long enough to be able to tell?

She turned around and hesitantly walked back over, going to peek in through a window-

He’d closed the shutters. And had hung a cloth up over the window from the inside, much like Lani had done for her cabin.

She turned and started walking away again, but this time only made it two steps.

Didn’t that make it more likely he was awake…? He could be up and doing something… magic and… Fade-y, and just didn’t want someone peeking in through his window and seeing it.

Or maybe he wanted to keep out the cold and was asleep.

Lavellan went back and forth like this for what she eventually realized could have easily been half an hour, and finally just planted herself in front of Solas’ door, needing to accept that she hadn’t managed to convince herself enough that she was ready to give up on approaching and asking him. Even at this unreasonable hour.

Maybe his door was locked, she reasoned. If it was locked, she definitely wasn’t going to knock loudly enough to wake him and everyone else in this little cul-de-sac-

Fuck. It was unlocked.

And now she was concerned. Solas was definitely the type who would lock his door at night. Why was it unlocked? Had something happened before he’d been able to before he went to bed? Had he forgotten? Was one of Leliana’s spies inside, snooping around while he was asleep? Was Leliana inside?

She really just needed to accept that she would not be able to make herself just go back to her own cabin for the night. No matter how much she tried to convince herself that doing so might be the better idea.

Shit.

She went back and forth with herself for a bit longer before she slowly, slowly, very slowly, turned the knob.

Pressed against the door.

Opened it just enough to peek inside.

Couldn’t see.

Opened it a bit more to slip her head in-

“If you move any slower, it will be midnight by the time you actually cross the threshold.”

She startled and reflexively tried to shut the door. But forgot to pull her head out of the way and slammed her temples between the door and the jamb.

She heard an extremely amused chuckle and footsteps coming closer as she slumped against the doorway, whimpering, and when Solas took the door from her and opened it all the way, looking down at her with a sympathetic but highly amused smile, she wasn’t sure if the heat in her face was from the trauma or the embarrassment. And she was a little too painful to care.

“Your efforts to remain unobtrusive are commendable - but ultimately unnecessary. You’re a very loud walker, for a Dalish.” Definitely embarrassed. She drooped and lowered her head, really wishing she’d just turned back earlier- “Would you care to come in, since you’ve come this far?”

She might as well. The sting in her head might go away, but the sting to her pride wouldn’t, whether she waited until later to approach him or not.

Sulking, Lavellan nodded and let him step aside and gesture for her to enter. She did her best to get over the fact that he had a chair waiting for her and just sat down in it, waiting for him to take his own seat and face her.

“So, Herald.” He smiled, still obviously amused, “What brings you to my door so late at night?”

After drumming her fingers against her thighs for a few moments, Lavellan reached down to unbuckle and retrieve the journal that was strapped to her belt. Varric had given it to her not long after she’d started learning from him, and she kept notes in it - notes that included the Common alphabet. She was slow and ineffective at stringing letters together to make words, and even slower at making sentences, but if she practiced enough she’d get there-

As she took out a stick of graphite the dwarf had also provided her with, and tore a page out of the back of the book, Solas turned to face his desk, reaching over with one finger to light a candle. Elves might be able to see in the dark, but it was probably just as important for them to avoid straining their eyes as often as they could, she figured.

At his urging, she scooted her chair a bit closer so she could lean over and use a corner of the desk.

 

I need advice.

 

She managed, keeping her journal open so she could reference the page that had the alphabet on it.

Solas leaned over when she turned the paper towards him, raising a brow slightly as he read. “Something that could not wait until morning?”

 

It’s about exploring the Fade.

 

He paused and reread that sentence a few times before looking back at her, meeting her eyes. “And what would make you come to me for that, Lavellan?”

She cringed a bit and withdrew a little. Solas would admit to doing these things if questioned enough, yes, but he’d more than likely learned to be wary about talking about such things in this world and she’d just come out and asked him before he’d admitted doing to such things to her-

Of course he would be wary.

She’d approached this all wrong-

She started and scratched out a few words before settling on.

 

You’re our Fade expert. How else would one become a Fade expert without exploring the Fade?

 

“…You do have a point.” He nodded after a moment. And then he was looking her again, still somewhat skeptical. “Exploring the Fade is not safe for most. Especially with the questionable grip on magic that you have. I trust you still remember your last encounter with a denizen of the Fade, correct? What is it you’re looking for?”

After thinking about this, she decided it was best to go with the truth.

 

I need to meet with someone.

 

“…This is sounding less and less like something you should be doing, Lethlares.” Solas was frowning seriously now, turning to face her, “I cannot condone this without further explanation.”

This answer took a bit longer to formulate. But she made it as truthful as possible.

 

I met someone last night. Someone I think can help me. Someone who seems to want to help me. Someone I want to believe will be able to help me. But I can only meet them in the Fade, and if I had a better idea of how to arrange for the best conditions to meet them, I won’t have to spend weeks fumbling until I get it right. Weeks we might not have.

 

Like the previous answers, the man read over this several times before sitting back to study her.

“…You’re actually quite intelligent, aren’t you?”

She wasn’t really sure how to take that. On one hand, she’d spent weeks alternating between crying and screaming and denying reality. She was also a Dalish First who apparently had lost her control of magic.

On the other, she didn’t think her actions recently had made her come across as that stupid…

Or maybe they had.

 

Intelligence is relative.

 

She sulked a little after writing this, looking away.

“True. It is also dangerous in the hands of someone without guidance. Which it seems I have no choice but to give you, since I do not believe you would give up on this if I told you to. …Tell me about this spirit you wish to meet. Are you completely sure its interests are benign? How, exactly, has it offered to help you? What does it want in return?”

He was trying to make sure she wasn’t dealing with a spirit she had twisted into a demon. He likely dealt with demons a few times, himself, but he had much more experience in handling them. She did not. He would not trust her ability to handle herself if he thought she was dealing with one.

Honestly, she wanted to make sure, as well. So she worked to make her answer as honest as possible.

 

I want to make sure it’s not a demon, myself. But I really don’t think it is. Spirits help or work alongside someone if what that person is doing just naturally aligns with their nature, right? Demons tempt and work to coerce. This one didn’t ask me for anything in return. It didn’t get angry when I tried to refuse or when I asked it to leave, and it seemed to express genuine concern for me. It comforted me. It held me. At no point did I feel unsafe or provoked. I really felt like it wanted to help me like it said it did, just because I was obviously upset.

 

Solas picked up the paper and spent several moments looking at it, tapping his foot a little. “…You have a good enough understanding of the nature of demons and spirits. Some misconceptions, but that could simply be due to wording. It is possible to deal with a demon that seems benign or helpful enough for a while, before it reveals its true nature. But such demons are few and far between, and I’ve yet to notice any of that kind during my own dreams in this area. What you’ve encountered… does, indeed, sound like a spirit. Likely one of Compassion. And, if that is the case, I cannot condone another meeting. Spirits of Compassion are very easy influence in wrong ways, and the damage is very hard to undo.”

Compassion made her think of Cole. Could this be Cole-?

No. It was too early. And Cole was bound to a mortal body.

This was definitely either a demon, or Lethlares.

 

Solas, please. I need this.

 

She needed this to be Lethlares.

She needed Lethlares to be alive.

She needed a way to meet with Lethlares to fix this.

If she could find a way to switch places with her? She would gladly just waste away in the Fade.

But first, she needed to meet with her again. For herself.

The problem was convincing Solas to put a “spirit” in potential danger. Which he would never willingly do without very good cause. Such as trusting the person making the request. And she had hardly spent enough time getting to know him, working to earn his approval, to be able to claim anything like that.

All she could do was beg. And appeal. So she sat there, looking right into his eyes, begging as best she could without words. And, as she did, swallowing got hard, and her eyes started to water.

A large, warm hand settling on top of hers made her stop, and she lowered her head and pulled the other hand away so she could rub her eyes.

Da’len … If you truly want to meet with this spirit again, you must contain yourself. Approaching any spirit in such a fragile emotional state would only end badly. I understand how it feels, to have a spirit as the only one you can turn to. But if you want to maintain contact with this spirit, and keep it as a friend, then you must control yourself, or you’ll only end up hurting both of you.”

Lavellan swallowed thickly and nodded, pulling both of her hands back so she could rub her eyes and try to calm down. Even if this ‘spirit’ was Lethlares, he was still right. If she was too out of control when she went back, any spirits in the area could be drawn in and affected, and that would not end well.

Once she felt calmer, she looked back up at him, biting her lip.

Solas sighed and shook his head. “…I don’t suppose you would agree to letting me meet this spirit, so that I may ascertain the situation for myself?”

She shook her head hard.

Never. She could never let him meet Lethlares. If this was really her, then him knowing could lead to-

“As you wish.” Solas held up his hand, sitting back and turning to his desk so he could lean over and retrieve another, larger piece of parchment, her handwriting having filled up much of the page she’d torn from her small journal. “I understand the feeling of wanting to keep such a friend to yourself. However, I will ask this.” He paused in handing the paper to her, meeting her eyes seriously, “You will adhere to the rules I lay out for you completely. No matter what this spirit does for your mental and emotional health, its safety comes first. This is something you must understand completely, and agree to. Unlike the spirit, if something goes wrong you will not be the one walking away with your form and purpose permanently mangled. Are we in agreement?”

Lavellan was more than able to meet Solas’ eyes as she nodded seriously.

Lethlares or not, she definitely did not want to cause any lasting damage. She needed this.

Chapter Text

Solas’ first instructions were simple.

Proper Fade exploration required a good setup - she needed to turn her cabin, specifically her bed, into somewhere she could lay down and feel perfectly safe and comfortable. She would not be able to visit her friend that night, he cautioned, because teaching her and her making sure she was truly prepared would take time. A couple of days, at least.

When she got back to her cabin, she started with making sure the shutters were firmly latched, then hung heavier cloths over the windows. Even as a human, she’d much preferred her room to be darker and more closed in. Not to mention, it would retain heat better. (Though not by much, given that the cabin walls had no insulation whatsoever.)

Once that was done, she moved around the cabin to make smaller adjustments - moving some things from one area to another, stacking all of the things she definitely wasn’t using and wouldn’t need neatly into the front area and adjusting the furniture into an arrangement she was more comfortable with.

The bed would need heavier blankets, as well. She could ask, and they would probably be given, but it would be because she was the Herald of Andraste, and she did not want to abuse that. If she took from Threnn’s stores, eventually someone would go without, and she was not okay with being the person who did that. Maybe she could review the lesson Varric had given her on money again and she could work on buying some furs from Seggrit…

There were also certain meditation practices, specific ways of laying in bed, a few potions and magics that could be used before going to bed- All to better facilitate waking in the Fade where you wanted to.

He also tasked her with getting outside and exploring Haven more.

In order to find interesting things in the Fade, he pointed out, one had to be interesting, which included going to new locations and seeing new things.

And while she knew that (having heard him say it many times in the game), it didn't really occur to her until he suggested that the reason she’d met this ‘spirit’ when she hadn’t before was likely because she had done something that day in Haven that she hadn’t done before. Which she wasn’t able to narrow down to one particular instance, because most everything that had needed to be done after returning from the Hinterlands that day had been new. Perhaps, as she went out to more places and then returned, it would be easier to see Lethlares again.

Everything he had told her, pointed out to her and offered eventually made her realize that Lethlares was likely tied to Haven. Or, more specifically, some point near the Breach.

And, eventually, they would have to abandon Haven.

And if she didn’t find a way to bind Lethlares to herself, she could lose her-

And she was spiraling again.

Her hands shook as she fumbled through the box she had been using to store potions and tinctures. Pulling out the one that promoted sleep - but was doing less and less to keep her dreamless, as Solas had warned her it would - she quickly uncorked and swallowed the bitter concoction, then crawled into her bed.

She needed to not think for a little bit.

 


 

“Exploring Haven” ultimately translated to doing small, menial tasks here and there and wandering around awkwardly and aimlessly.

Groundwork had begun on the trebuchets, more people had started arriving at Haven as a result of the Inquisition’s influence in the Hinterlands and Mother Giselle’s own move to Haven, cabins were being built, tents were pitched, more and more people were joining the army and more materials were needed for weapons, clothes, armor, potions and elixirs-

And then, while the advisors were still working on summoning the clerics for a meeting in Val Royeaux, Dennet showed up with a veritable cavalry.

It was sudden and rather startling for most- The horses that had been used by the Inquisition up until that point, for the most part, weren’t saddlebred. They were farm animals, cart and plough pullers. The only ones who had mounts that were actually bred and trained for heavy duty riding and war were those like Cassandra - actual soldiers who had been trained to ride and had earned their horse while still serving the Chantry or the Templar Order.

Then Dennet rode in with several dozen stablehands on horseback, guiding a herd of some of the largest, most magnificent horses Lavellan had ever seen in her life- The more common Quarter Horses she’d seen back home were nothing compared to these beasts- She’d seen draft horses that would have a hard time competing with Dennet’s herd-

But Dennet’s horses weren’t draft bred. No, they had a few draft horses in the Inquisition stables already, and these horses were nothing like them.

Averaging sixteen hands, some easily reaching nineteen, which meant the stallions could also easily reach twelve thousand pounds- Thick necks, muscular shoulders and thighs, long, well-built legs-

There was no question about what animals of this size and stature were built for. These were war horses, no doubt in her mind.

Though, she did have eyes few others around her would… As Morgan, she had grown up around horses. As Morgan, she’d lived in California and worked at a veterinary clinic where they had provided services to ranches with horses this large and magnificently bred - Friesians, Andalusians. Not used for war during her time, maybe, but still from lines that had once been bred for war. It made them large, heavy, strong, and gave them powerful, demanding personalities.

She couldn’t remember what she had been doing at the time, but when Dennet rode up, Lavellan was completely enthralled, dizzy and staring at the massive herd of powerful animals in front of her. She barely noticed when Cassandra and Cullen hurried over.

“-sked for horses, didn’t you?”

“We did, but this- Horsemaster Dennet, we are not prepared to handle this many-”

“Cassandra, we can make room, surely-”

“Cullen-”

Dennet grunted at them and left them to argue with each other, and then Lavellan had a man who, like his horses, was large and had an imposing stance in front of her, making her sway a little.

“Inquisition.” He nodded, crossing his arms, “As we agreed. You served me, and now the best of Ferelden is here to serve you. Show me where I can have my boys start to set up corrals and a proper stable, and I’ll pick the best of my herd for you.”

Dennet was… difficult for her to deal with, with her weak spine and submissive personality. Tough, no nonsense, blunt, not at all thrown by the fact that she couldn’t speak back to him. But, at the same time, it also made him easy to work with. He laid things out for her simply, worded things so she could stick with yes or no, and he wouldn’t dance around what he wanted or needed.

This time around, it helped that she’d already thought about the best place to put Dennet and his horses.

The fact that Cullen and Cassandra were still arguing about how best to handle the sudden arrival made her pause and wring her hands a little, but then she just nodded to the horsemaster and showed him to the area she’d had in mind.

The empty cabin where Taigen’s notes had been could serve well for Dennet and his stablehands. And, on the other side of the gate, the wide area where wild druffalo could occasionally be spotted…

When she presented the area to him, Dennet considered it, then nodded seriously, calling one of his older workers over and starting to get down to business. Trees needed to be cut down and wood prepared for fences and building, snow would need to be cleared, and wagons would be arriving not far behind them with supplies that would hold them over until Threnn could start organizing for things to be brought up regularly-

Since Dennet seemed to have it under control, Lavellan slipped away and ran back to Cullen and Cassandra, carefully breaking them up and guiding them over to show them where she’d gotten Dennet and his men set up.

Cullen nodded readily. “This will do just fine. I’ll send some men over to add to Master Dennet’s numbers and help them get settled. I trust this is agreeable to you, Cassandra?”

Cassandra sighed heavily and rubbed her forehead, “It can… be made to work, Commander. Though some forewarning still would have been appreciated… Leliana and Josephine will need to be told, as will the quartermaster.”

Things were being worked out. And, the nice thing about being small and quiet? Lavellan was able to run off before anyone could remember her.

The arrival of Dennet made things louder and busier for a few days. With so many new people around and so many new things that needed to be done, it was much easier for her to go around without people immediately realizing that the Herald of Andraste was quietly slipping around them, trying not to draw attention.

Opinions of her started to change as word got back from the Hinterlands, and news circulated that she had played a major hand in bringing in Horsemaster Dennet and his war horses- When she was recognized, people bowed to her, kneeled to her. “Herald of Andraste” was whispered more easily than it had been when she’d been… having her breakdowns. She was still mute and flighty, but she was “obviously” planning something, with the silent way she went around arranging for this and that.

The Herald’s reclusive behavior started to be interpreted as her secluding herself to pray to Andraste for help and guidance.

It made her uncomfortable.

She wasn’t speaking to any gods or praying, she wasn’t a religious figurehead- She was just… trying to make sure that the things she knew needed to happen would.

“Exploring Haven” turned into withdrawing to go back to gathering elfroot and locating iron nodes for mining.

And killing nugs.

And, once she had worked up to it, rams. With all of the horses, she figured they would need a lot more leather soon to make saddles and bridles and harnesses…

During the downtime of waiting for the clerics to assemble at Val Royeaux, Lavellan tried to work on her magic. With her usual practicing spot taken over by Dennet’s horses, she went the opposite way, towards the now sectioned-off valley that led up to the Breach. On the bridge, she would go through the stances Solas had taught her, practice summoning fire and ice and electricity on small scale, work up to larger scales, then force herself to work back down to small. Trying to gain some semblance of comfort in her control.

But she wasn’t comfortable with this. Not really.

The body knew what it was doing. The magic came to her easily. And, often, she would feel like it was getting ahead of her, and then her control would slip and she would end up destroying something, or hurting herself as the magic fired too early and exploded right in front of her.

And ultimately, it all went back to none of it feeling natural. She wasn’t comfortable with using this kind of power- No, not even that. She was simply never more aware of the fact that this wasn’t her body than she was when she was channeling magic. And she had run into a brick wall in her attempts to overcome the dysphoria.

On that front, Dennet’s arrival had made things worse for her.

Seeing his horses… being reminded of her home, her job, her life…

She’d been trying to forget. Had managed for weeks. She was Lavellan now. She needed to be Lavellan. She had gotten herself in the mindset of playing the role, and had managed to forget about everything she had lost and- Would probably never see again.

Would she die, once she had figured out how to give Lethlares her body back?

Would she be cast into the Fade to wander like a spirit or demon?

How had this… How could she…

Her magic didn’t work right when she was depressed. And she did not want to become the kind of person who turned to killing things when she needed to take her mind off of her problems. Having worked at a veterinary clinic, it already bothered her enough that she needed to kill animals out of necessity. And there was nothing for her to do back in Haven, and it was getting harder and harder to find elfroot with how often she was out in the snow, searching for it to avoid the reality within the wooden gates…

Which was how she ended up in Harritt’s workshop. She had been wandering aimlessly along the road, had seen the piles of leather that had been skinned from the bodies of nugs and rams (they wouldn’t be as pressed for food, at least) that she had brought back, had seen one of Harritt’s workers sitting at the table where armor was made and…

She’d known how to sew back home. By hand or with a machine. And they’d only ever been with patterns, but she had made a few things…

She’d even worked with leather a few times. She knew it would be much harder than just sewing cloth on cloth.

But if it was something to do, and something she wouldn’t need to be taught from scratch…

It was one of the few instances where she wasn’t overly bothered using the fact that no one would really tell the Herald of Andraste no. With some gesturing and nodding at correct guesses, Harritt turned her over to his leather and cloth workers, who started her with simple tasks and gave her small things to do.

And she had been right. Saddles and other tack needed to be made. As did armor. Armor always needed to be made… As did, it turned out, a special set for her.

She had been admiring a coat one of the more skilled craftsmen had been working on when the man had hesitantly asked if she wouldn’t mind trying it on.

“‘s for you, ya see. Sister Leliana said we would need to have something new and clean prepared for you for when ya go to Val Royeaux. And the measurements I’ve gotten are second hand, and it’d be best to make sure ‘fore I get too far along…”

After staring at him for a moment, Lavellan nodded, feeling a little overwhelmed.

The feeling didn’t lessen any as the man helped her shrug the layers on. Thick cloth, some chainmail, heavy, thick leather. Tall, heavy boots. A familiar long coat made from dark brown leather. Dark green accents. No serious metal armor pieces yet, because it was still too early on. Schematics hadn’t been bought for that.

For as heavy as it felt while she was wearing it, her figure still looked small and willowy. It fit her perfectly, and the smell of new leather and oil aside, it was warm and she felt… protected. And while she knew little about armor, from the feel alone, she could tell money had gone into having this made. Good resources had gone into having this made.

Leliana wanted her to both look good, and be as protected as they could have her.

And it just reminded her of how serious her position was and-

She managed to keep herself together. And she was proud of herself for it. No shaking, no crouching, no crying or screaming, no running away. She managed to stand there as he got her outfitted, then helped him by shrugging it off once he was done. And after taking a moment to just stare at him as he sat back down and got back to work, she returned to her own work.

She had to do this. She had to be okay. She had to keep it together.

She had to.

 


 

As much as they had terrified her upon first seeing them, Lavellan quickly became attached to the horse Dennet gave her. Chosen for her good temperament and sure footedness, she was ten years old, and had given birth to and raised two equally smart and healthy colts in her life. Dennet said she’d broken easily, was perfectly at ease on flat ground or in the hills and mountains, and had never thrown a rider once in her life.

His only problem with her was that, if allowed to, she would become lazy too easily. Not a trait he liked in Fereldan Forders.

That didn’t bother Lavellan at all.

After spending some time with the horse, “introducing” herself, in a way, she had her face pressed into the mare’s neck and was leaning against her, breathing in the familiar, comforting smell of horse and hay as the horse gently nibbled on the back of her coat.

She hadn’t realized until just then how much she’d missed having an animal companion. Slow, quiet, gentle, not needing words to communicate, willing to trust if trusted, willing to care if cared for, and so very warm…

Much of her time after that was spent with her horse. Brushing, cleaning and maintaining hooves, checking for parasites, slowly and gently pushing boundaries so the mare would become more and more comfortable with her checking on things that needed to be checked on - in her mouth to keep an eye on her teeth, under her tail to make sure loose manure wasn’t staying caked around her vulva, in her ears and between her legs to make sure there weren’t any ticks-

It was monotonous. Soothing. Required little thought. And afterwards, she could cuddle with a creature that would cuddle back. Which she hadn’t realized she’d needed so desperately until the horse gave it to her, and once she had, she knew she’d never be able to let it go again-

Simply put, she would close the Breach because she knew she needed to. She was the only one who could.

But she would die to protect her horse. No hesitation whatsoever.

She named her Sorcha. For no particular reason, other than it was the first name that came to mind (and she had a tendency to get stuck on the first name that came to mind that she actually liked) and she found it to be a very pretty name. She immediately took on most of her daily care (which she could tell surprised Dennet, but after observing her and occasionally stopping her to correct this or that, the man said nothing against it), and could often be found either with the horse in her stall, or off somewhere else with her.

Going for a leisurely ride. Practicing her magic near her so the horse could get used to it and learn that magic that came from her wasn’t dangerous. (Which doubled over as providing more incentive to learn to use magic properly, because if she ever betrayed Sorcha’s trust, she would never forgive herself.)

Going for long, hard rides that exhausted them both so that, for a while, she could forget.

Curled up in her stall on a pile of uneaten but dry hay, with the horse standing a little closer to her each time. (Which was dangerous. But gods, she needed it-)

She knew how obvious it must be, how emotionally dependent she became on the horse. And she knew that the fact that it happened so quickly was a problem. It said nothing good about her mental or emotional stability.

But she could not make herself care. She needed it. And, after only a few days, she could readily say with complete confidence that she loved Sorcha. And it felt so good to have something to love again-

Fortunately, from what she’d managed to pick up, people close enough to her to observe her were writing it off as a Dalish thing.

Seeing her doing horse care work seemed to… throw some, a bit. They were used to her collecting herbs, not mucking stalls and cleaning hooves. But Dalish were known to be protective of and provide excellent care for their animals. The Herald had simply managed to find a friend that spoke to some primal Dalish side of her, and if it kept her happy and her mind occupied then it wasn’t an issue.

And, when it came to the last part, she agreed.

Chapter Text

The visit to Val Royeaux was a mixed blessing.

On one hand, there was a very good chance she was going to be able to enjoy a thorough, heated bath for the first time in what had to be a few months. (She wasn’t very good with measuring the passage of time on the best of days, and she had no idea how much time she’d spent drawn in on herself having an extended mental breakdown/panic attack.)

On the other, things were actually getting serious now. Vivienne, Sera, Blackwall and Bull would need to be recruited, she would have to choose between the mages and the templars, which would mean either being flung into the goddamn future and trying to survive or-

Actually, she’d never tried to recruit the templars before. So she had no idea. But, knowing Dragon Age and what she knew about Lord Seeker “Lucius,” it would be horrible and there would be lots of demons.

And then closing the Breach and the attack on Haven and she still hadn’t managed to contact Lethlares again and-

But… heated baths.

Yes. Heated baths. That was what she chose to focus on. Since there was absolutely no way to get out of moving events along, she just had to keep herself occupied with better things. Like heated baths. And shampoo. And maybe decent undergarments because what the Dalish wore under their clothes was- No. And the other options in Haven weren’t much better.

She’d been working on her sewing, however, and things were not only starting to come back, but being forced to find ways to make certain stitches she knew but didn’t know how to do work was actually making her feel like, maybe, she could make her own undergarments… Underwear would be easy enough, and without underwire… Maybe some kind of sports bra? Though she’d need to find stretchy material or something to act as an elastic band…

Their journey to Val Royeaux started off much the same as travelling to anywhere else (well, mostly the Hinterlands since they hadn’t gone anywhere else), but when they stopped to make camp one evening, Varric broke the routine-

“You know, Herald, it’d probably be a good idea of you and the Seeker actually worked out some sort of dialogue.”

Lavellan looked up from practicing letters and numbers in her journal jerkily, still not used to being addressed, and Cassandra looked up from sharpening her sword, the latter giving Varric a narrow look that left the impression she was expecting the dwarf to spout nonsense she wouldn’t agree with-

Which, when it came to Cassandra and Varric, was usually the case.

Instead of addressing Cassandra, though, Varric looked right at Lavellan and met her eyes seriously, making her hands shake a little and her shoulders hunched as she curled in on herself a bit. Nothing good ever came from someone addressing her directly-

“Look, kid, I get it. I really do. This is some crazy shit we’re facing, and what happened at the Conclave has left you a little messed up. But you’re not crazy. And, from what I’ve seen, you actually have a good head on your shoulders. Over the last few weeks, you’ve seen and pointed out things that few others have noticed, and you’ve set a number of things in motion that have actually paid off really well for the Inquisition- And don’t give me that look, you might be able to throw most off with your jumpy behavior, but I’ve been watching you and I have seen you doing things.”

Shit-

“And we’re getting to the point where you’re going to have to start actively participating. Which means, we’re going to need you to talk to us about what’s going on in your head. And there’s plenty going on in there - you can’t bullshit a rogue.” He gave her a good natured smirk, but there was also a grim tone to his expression.

Twitching, Lavellan glanced at Cassandra, but the look on the woman’s face quickly made her look away again- It was a look that left her with the impression that, while the Seeker might not be as aware as Varric, she had noticed things.

Accidentally meeting Solas’ eyes made her feel like vomiting and she quickly looked back down at her journal. Solas was even worse.

“So yes. I know. From what I can tell, so does Chuckles. And I’m pretty sure our Seeker’s caught on, as well. And given what we’re about to walk into, I think it’s about time we all sat down and had a serious discussion about what’s going to be said to the Chantry.”

She hated him. She really did. (No she didn’t.)

In just a few minutes, Varric had stripped away all of her plans to remain as unobtrusive and submissive as possible, and there was no taking it back. And it was her fault. She hadn’t been unobtrusive enough. She hadn’t been submissive enough. She’d made suggestions and given hints in the Hinterlands, she’d drawn attention to the Tranquil, she’d made arrangements for Dennet, she’d upset the sisters and brothers in the Haven chantry by making Giselle talk about the Canticle of Shartan to the elven workers-

“…I agree with Varric.” Cassandra’s voice suddenly cut through her thoughts, and Lavellan threw up in her mouth a little. “After going over the suggestions you made in the war room, Leliana and I decided that all of your decisions were sound and likely for the best. And so far, the results of following your suggestions have worked out in the Inquisition’s favor. You might not be able to talk, but the last few weeks have shown that we have not given you the credit you deserve. You are more than capable of playing a positive role in the Inquisition. And since it is your voice the clerics will need to hear from, we do need to discuss what you will want me to communicate on your behalf.”

Fuck-

She couldn’t do this.

A portal to Hell needed to open up and swallow her, because she could not do this.

She could not be a person they actually turned to when it came to making decisions-

She could not actually make major contributions-

Because then, when they named her the Inquisitor, it wouldn’t be as a figurehead, they would actually mean it, and then it wouldn’t matter if she got Lethlares back into her body or not because it would be her they would want to turn to, not Lethlares- They would want Morgan’s opinions, not Lavellan’s-

She slid her sleeve up as much as she could (which wasn’t much, given it was a leather coat) and bit down into her wrist bone harshly, needing to feel pain to cancel out all of the noise in her head.

Needing to not think for a moment.

Once her breathing and her heart had calmed, she realized there were no voices of protest. Slowly, she looked up, feeling a bone-deep weariness settle into her very being at the guarded but calm expressions on her companions’ faces.

They weren’t overly worried about breaking her anymore. They knew there was someone in there they could seriously talk to, and they were going to wait for her to speak up.

There was no getting out of this.

Lavellan closed her eyes and slumped forward heavily, chest pressing against her legs tight enough to constrict her breathing a little and her journal crinkling under her breasts.

After a moment, she sat back up enough to look down at her journal, turning to an empty page in the back and starting to write. When she was done, she tore out the page and leaned over, offering it to Cassandra.

The Seeker blinked, then took the paper and stared at it for a moment. The only ones Lavellan had really communicated with like this were Varric and Solas, so this would be a first for the older woman.

“…‘I do not claim to be the Herald of Andraste. I have had no divine visions, and I will not claim to have a holy purpose. What I do have is a means to close the rifts, and in helping the Inquisition do this, I am also helping to restore order to Thedas. Nowhere in this does dismantling the Chantry come into play. These things are going to need to be emphasized to them’…” Cassandra paused, then looked up and met Lavellan’s eyes. “If you do not believe in Andraste, then what do you believe happened at the Conclave?”

Lavellan made a face and snatched the paper back from her, scribbling quickly before giving it to Varric, next. If they were actually going to have this sort of debate, she needed her answers read in full, which she doubted Cassandra would be able to do between her own arguments.

Varric raised a brow at her, then looked down and took over reading. “‘That’s neither here nor there. I really don’t feel like getting into a debate about the differences between historical accounts of real people and religious accounts of divine figureheads. I do not speak to or for Andraste. I can use some sort of magical brand to close tears in the Veil. That is what needs to be emphasized to them.’”

Cassandra pursed her lips. “…That is hardly enough. Whatever you believe, the people believe you have a divine purpose, and that is all the clerics will see. Saying that alone does not matter.”

“‘I’m not going to try convince them or force them to agree with me.” Varric read after Lavellan had finished with her response. “‘That only opens the way for a much larger and longer debate than we have time for. The Inquisition wants to close the Breach. It would welcome the Chantry’s support. That’s all.’”

“That is not-”

“That-” Lavellan cut in, startling Cassandra silent as she used her voice. “Is- All-” There was silence as she rubbed her throat and swallowed. Then, she took out a new page and wrote a little before handing it to Varric.

“‘The only way to come out ahead is to keep it simple. Kill them with kindness. Let them argue over the rest amongst themselves and the unified voice will fall apart.’ You know, there’s actually a good deal of merit in that, Seeker.” Varric added as he looked up, rubbing his chin a little, “The simpler you make things in a complicated situation, the more you make everyone else trip over themselves.”

“It can be a very effective tactic.” Solas agreed, “In the right situations, and when utilized in the right way. The theological debate that all of this is stirring up does not need to be something that we directly involve ourselves in. Nor is it something we have time for. We should focus on our immediate goals, and leave interpreting our purpose to others. At a later date.”

Cassandra furrowed her brow deeply, then turned her attention back to her sword, taking the whetstone to the edge again.

Knowing she wouldn’t be getting out of this that easily, Lavellan waited, rubbing her lips together and, not for the first time, enjoying how soft they were. She was so used to her lips being chapped and impossible, but Lethlares’ were always so smooth. Was it an elf thing?

“…Very well.” Lavellan blinked and turned her attention back to Cassandra, the Seeker meeting her eyes seriously and nodding. “You do not claim to be a messenger from Andraste. The people may interpret what happened at the Conclave as they will. You are, however, more than willing to step forward and be an instrument of peace for Thedas, and your primary focus is the sealing of rifts and the closing of the Breach. And you will do what you can to help in between. And you - as would all in the Inquisition - would welcome the Chantry’s support. Now is the time for all peoples of Thedas to unite for a common cause.”

Relaxing a little, Lavellan nodded, relieved. And she would have been more than happy to leave it at that, but Cassandra was not done-

“You should know something, however.” Cassandra sat up straight and met Lavellan’s eyes, proud and serious, “Whether or not you believe in yourself, I believe in you. We were put on this path for a reason. No matter the truth behind all of this, the Maker has chosen you for something. And I would stay by your side and help you carry out His will. Which, I believe you are doing.”

As the older woman went back to sharpening her sword, something occurred to Lavellan. Something horrific.

Even if she could get Lethlares back in control of her body… would she be able to do this? If she wasn’t around to hear these things being said to her, to be presented with what was going on and make the decisions to act or not, would she turn into the kind of Inquisitor who could lead the Inquisition down the right path?

And, even if Lavellan didn’t consider these things, the idea that Cassandra believed in her this strongly was more than enough to make her feel just as sick.

 


 

Things happened as they should, so their first thirty minutes in Val Royeaux felt like something of a dream. Though not in a good way. More in the… feeling drugged/sick and lightheaded sort of way.

Things with the clerics’ chosen speaker went as well as could be expected, until “Lucius” appeared and one of his soldiers punched her in the side of the head. Seeing that rattled Cassandra badly enough that the Seeker was struck silent, and when she could speak again, she’d lost her nerve.

“Lord Seeker Lucius-?!”

“You will not address me.” He stopped long enough to glare at Cassandra, then stepped forward and down from the platform, “Her claim to authority is an insult, much like your own. Creating a heretical movement, raising a puppet as Andraste’s prophet - you should be ashamed.” As he said those words, he stepped up in front of Cassandra and leaned in slightly, his tone dropping low as he growled.

Lavellan wasn’t expecting that- He hadn’t made it nearly as personal in the game, so when Cassandra stepped back, eyes wide, she didn’t know how to react.

Instead, Lucius raised his voice again to speak to the crowd, “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’d leash our righteous swords with doubt and fear. If you came to appeal to the Chantry, you are too late. The only destiny here that demands respect is mine.”

Collecting herself, Cassandra stepped forward, speaking up, her tone a little desperate, “Lord Seeker Lucius, we seek only to seal the Breach and restore order. If the templars would but lend us their power-”

“Oh, the Breach is indeed a threat.” He cut her off, narrowing his eyes and seething a little, “But you certainly have no power to do anything about it.”

“But… Lord Seeker,” One of the templars she didn’t remember the name of stepped forward, glancing between Lavellan and Cassandra before looking back to Lucius, “What if she really was sent by the Maker? What if-”

“You are called to a higher purpose.” The soldier who had punched the cleric sneered at him, “Do not question.”

Nodding slightly, Lucius looked back towards the crowd, specifically the templars who had gathered and were watching. “I will make the Templar Order a power that stands alone against the Void. We deserve recognition. Independence. You have shown me nothing.” Here, he looked back at Cassandra pointedly, “And the Inquisition? Less than nothing. Templars! Val Royeaux is unworthy of our protection. We march.”

After a brief pause, the templars in the gathering followed the Lord Seeker as he turned and walked to the gates, leaving the citizens of Val Royeaux aghast and silent in horror.

A horror Cassandra shared, as she stood there and stared after them in shock.

“Well.” Varric started as he stepped over, he and Solas rejoining them. “Charming fellow, isn’t he?”

Cassandra said nothing.

That wasn’t supposed to happen.

After a moment, Lavellan stepped over and hesitantly took Cassandra’s hand. Not sure what else to do.

Cassandra jolted slightly and looked at her, blinking several times, then furrowed her brow and looked back after Lucius. Though she didn’t make Lavellan let go of her hand. “…Has Lord Seeker Lucius gone mad…? He was… always a decent man, never given to ambition and grandstanding… This is very bizarre.”

“Guess that means we won’t be going to the templars, then?” Varric suggested, scratching his stubble and looking after the templars, himself.

“I wouldn’t write the templars off so quickly.” Cassandra frowned deeply and shook her head, “There must be those in the Order who see what he’s become.”

“And there must also be those who agree with him.” Solas pointed out pragmatically, clasping his hands behind his back, “To the point where we would likely be attacked if we followed.”

“I will not give up on them.” She looked at him sharply, then sighed, “Either way, we should first return to Haven and inform the others.”

With Cassandra sounding like she should again, Lavellan let go of her hand and started glancing around warily. As soon as they took a step, there would be-

And right then, Cassandra was crying out, her hand going for her sword as something thunked very solidly into the ground right in front of her.

“Is that- An arrow?!”

Aaaand there it was.

While the others looked around, tense and preparing to be ambushed (making the already uneasy Orlesians nearby edge away from them), Lavellan stepped over and crouched down, removing the note from the arrow so she could read it.

…So she could pretend to read it. Sera’s handwriting was awful.

And really, it didn’t matter. She remembered where they needed to go look for the red things- Though she couldn’t remember what they were, exactly.

Standing back up, she handed the note to Cassandra, who furrowed her brow yet again and scowled. “Red Jenny… Augh, I have heard of this group. While they have brought previously unknown issues to light, to try to get our attention in this way…” She huffed, then looked at Lavellan. “Are we to take this seriously?”

Lavellan rocked back and forth on her heels, pretending to consider for a few moments before nodding.

“…If we must.” Cassandra sighed, then passed the note to Varric, allowing him to read it. Varric then passed it to Solas.

As they searched Val Royeaux for the mentioned clues, Lavellan took the opportunity to wander close to a vendor she was sure she recognized…

Yes. The woman turned out to be Belle, who Cassandra directed to Haven - the Inquisition was already sorely in need of more merchants and supplies, so this would be greatly appreciated.

The three clues strung together turned out to indicate a particular door, in a particular area, during a particular time at night - who was involved was a complete mystery, but these people were clearly planning something very unpleasant for Lavellan. And when their forces were still so small, that was more than enough for Cassandra to agree that they would have to stay in Val Royeaux for a short time, until the threat was dealt with.

Which meant a room at an inn.

And yes. Even the cheaper inns had baths with heated water.

Lavellan found herself getting rather worked up as she was able to strip down and sink into heated, running water, and she wasn’t quite sure if she would actually start crying or not until she did. The inn being on the cheaper end meant that the baths were communal, but that didn’t matter- She had hot, running water, a large hunk of soap, and shampoo. Never mind that she was pretty sure soaps and shampoos were made from fat- They were scented, and they made suds.

Cassandra, who had decided to join her for a more in-depth cleansing than Haven facilities allowed, stared at her oddly, but Lavellan pointedly ignored it as she spent a good deal of time in the water, immersing herself several times, draining and refilling the bath several times, scrubbing and scratching until she was raw and bleeding in some places-

Until one of the maids came and complained very loudly about her using so much water. It took time to have that much water heated and filtered in, and that much water was expensive- She was kicked out sooner than she would have gotten out on her own, but by that point, she was more than satisfied with how clean she was. Anything further would have just been because she wanted to languish.

Back in the room they had to share with Varric and Solas because it was cheaper that way, the dwarf took one look at her and snorted loudly, his eyes widening at how red Lavellan's skin was.

“What happened, Herald? Did you not realize how hot Orlesian baths get?”

“Actually…” Cassandra started slowly as Lavellan shrugged and sat down in front of the vanity mirror in the room, watching her as she took one of the complimentary, wooden combs and started dragging it through her hair hard enough to simply tear out the knots she didn’t care enough to do anything about. “What you see is the result of repeated submersions in scalding water. Along with very rigorous cleansing techniques… Herald, you are going to want to apply a potion to some of those wounds.”

Cassandra had a point, probably. Lavellan pointedly ignored her as she brushed her hair until there were no more knots, ran her hands through her hair until she was sure all of the loose strands were gone, then closed her eyes and braided her hair very tightly. Braids were much better than ponytails for keeping hair orderly once you actually got it orderly.

“…I did not realize the Dalish were so… stringent about their appearances.”

Lavellan hunched a little, opening her eyes and glancing at Cassandra through the mirror.

“…I don’t think what you’re seeing is vanity, Seeker.” Varric was raising a brow when she glanced at him, next, “This is sounding more like someone who really appreciates bathing. Which… still isn’t something you usually attribute to the Dalish.”

This was too unusual for them to be teasing her about it. They were genuinely confused. And a bit appalled.

Lavellan tried to make herself care. Because attracting this much attention was a problem.

But she had just taken a hot bath for the first time in months and she couldn’t. She just couldn’t. She was clean and she didn’t care.

Instead, she turned her attention to Cassandra’s suggestion that she tend do some of her self-inflicted injuries and went and sat down on the bed she’d been assigned, digging a vial of thick, red liquid out of one of the pouches on her belt. After sliding up the sleeves and legs of her cloth clothes enough that she could reach some of the particularly bad scratches she remembered giving herself, she wet one of her fingers just enough to apply a thin layer.

The mixture in this particular vial was a topical. The most common mixtures were orals, but this was one she kept on her frequently, not necessarily for big injuries, but for the small ones like cuts and splinters and the like - things that couldn’t really be bandaged effectively and would kill not because of blood loss, but because of bacteria.

Not that she got many such injuries. Aside from being extremely careful, she also remained extremely covered at all times, from her neck all the way down, and also wore thick gloves to keep her hands safe. Amoxicillin wasn’t a thing here, and with no chemical cleaning and drug protocols, she was constantly surrounded by fomites…

All she could do was make sure she washed herself frequently, and washed her clothes frequently. And aside from her leathers and armor, she made it a point to have her clothes be in solid colors, so that it wouldn’t matter so much when she boiled and lyed the color right out of them. Though it did mean that her clothes tended to not last long, with how harsh lye was on fabrics.

Often, though, she had to pause and think about whether or not she was compromising Lethlares’ immune system… If she was in her own body? Maintaining her health here would be a serious issue. She hadn’t been exposed to any of whatever was living in the environment here.

Lethlares, however, had grown up in it, in arguably far more exposed conditions than some. It wasn’t like Lavellan was actually at a much higher risk of catching something than anyone else.

Still, she just couldn’t… not want to be clean. Thinking about all of the filth around her made her paranoid, and with her anxiety, the urge to purge her personal surroundings could get overwhelming…

She was thinking too much about things she couldn’t change again. And she knew that was part of the reason she continued having so many issues with anxiety and paranoia and depression.

Forcing herself to shake it off, she corked the vial again and put it away, fixing her sleeves and her pants and laying down without addressing the odd looks her companions gave her. It wasn’t like giving them a reason wouldn’t be a hassle, with her communication needing to be written, and eventually, they would just brush it off as her being odd and accept it as part of her character. Though the issues that would create when Lethlares regained control of her body…

Lavellan closed her eyes and forced herself to stop thinking about it.

Chapter Text

She didn’t know how she’d done it, but Lavellan had completely managed to forget about Fiona until the woman showed up at their room. After thinking about it, she had to blame the bath.

About an hour after she’d managed to nod off, there was a knock on the door, which she tried to ignore until she overheard Cassandra speaking to the maid about someone wishing to speak to the Herald of Andraste, and then hearing Fiona’s voice.

At that, Lavellan’s eyes snapped open and she sat up quickly, watching the former Grand Enchanter walk into the room.

Cassandra was tense, and waited until she had closed the door on the maid before turning and looking at the elven mage. “…Grand Enchanter Fiona.”

“Leader of the mage rebellion.” Solas blinked from his place in a chair at the small table by the window in the room, sitting up and closing the book he had been reading. “Is it not dangerous for you to be here?”

“I had heard of your meeting with the clerics today…” Fiona started slowly, looking over each of them before her eyes finally settled on Lavellan, “And I wanted to see the fabled Herald of Andraste with my own eyes. …I heard your discussion with Lord Seeker Lucius, and I came to say… that if it is help with the Breach you seek, perhaps you should look among your fellow mages.”

Lavellan swallowed slowly, then slid her legs over the edge of the bed and stood, straightening herself out before sitting down at the chair in front of the vanity. This was a talk it would be very rude for her to be in bed for.

…Though, wouldn’t sitting when Fiona couldn't also be rude? She quickly stood back up, looking around before pulling over the chair she had been sitting in and offering it to her.

Fiona blinked at her, and Lavellan couldn’t read her face. After a moment, the mage shook her head and politely declined, her expression relaxing slightly, “Thank you, but no. I do not intend to take up much of your time.”

Lavellan nodded and put the chair back, a little embarrassed.

“…So, all of the niceties aside…” Varric started slowly, not standing from where he was sitting on the edge of his bed, Bianca leaning against his leg, “How is the leader of the mage rebellion here and not… y’know… dead, like everyone else at the Conclave?”

“…Yes.” Cassandra agreed, crossing her arms, “You were supposed to be there, and yet somehow, you avoided death.”

Lavellan could understand why she was upset. Justinia had taken the Conclave very seriously and had gone herself, and had died for it, while the instigators of this war were still alive.

“As did the Lord Seeker, you will note.” Fiona pointed out, blinking at Cassandra slowly and not at all fazed by her tone. “Both of us sent negotiators in our stead in case it was a trap. …I won’t pretend I’m not glad to live. I lost many dear friends that day.” Briefly, her expression turned mournful, before it hardened, her eyes narrowing, “It disgusts met to think the templars will get away with it. I’m hoping you won’t let them.” At that, she looked back at Lavellan seriously.

Cassandra’s jaw tensed slightly, clearly taking offense to the idea that the Order was responsible for the explosion. “You would accuse the templars of what happened? …Yes, why wouldn’t you.”

Fiona tensed slightly, herself, breathing loudly through her nose before stepping to the side and turning slightly to face the Seeker. “Lucius hardly seems broken up over his losses, if he’s concerned about them at all! You heard him. You think he wouldn’t happily kill the Divine to turn people against us? So yes. I think he did it.” She looked at Lavellan again, “More than I think you did, at any rate. I did, however, come here to talk to you, Herald. Not to have you stand idly by while your companions accuse me of murder.” Fiona no longer seemed to be imploring, and her expression said she was regretting approaching at all.

It made Lavellan flinch. She wasn’t capable of playing her role properly-

“I- ap- o- lo- Sor- ee-” She closed her mouth forcefully and shuddered, rubbing her neck and her temple as her head hurt.

“…You will have to forgive the Herald for her silence, Grand Enchanter. She received an injury during the explosion that has rendered her incapable of communicating.” Setting his book aside, Solas stood and crossed the room, briefly touching glowing green fingers to Lavellan’s temple to ease the ache before encouraging her to tip her head back so he could examine her neck.

Lavellan made a bit of a face and briefly let him, then sighed and shook her head, stepping back. Knowing there was nothing he could do. When she looked back at Fiona, the woman’s expression had changed, and as they met eyes, Fiona paused before inclining her head.

“Forgive me, Herald. I did not realize. …If you were to come to Redcliffe, we have healers who might be able to help you. We could also discuss the possibility of the mages assisting in your endeavor. But I have imposed on you for long enough. Consider this an invitation to Redcliffe for proper talks to be had. Au revoir.” She inclined her head again, then turned, and after Cassandra had moved, left the room quickly.

Once she was gone, Cassandra bolted the door roughly, grunting and going over to her bags to frustratedly organize her things.

Solas sighed, and returned to his chair and his book. Though he didn’t open it. “At least the mages are willing to talk.”

“As long as it might benefit their cause.” Cassandra looked up sharply, narrowing her eyes, “The Order might be acting on their own, but their actions align with what most of southern Thedas wishes for - the mages to be leashed. The mage’s cause is the weaker one, as is the Inquisition’s. She is counting on us to be desperate enough that negotiations for assistance will turn in her favor.”

“Is that not how anyone would negotiate?” Solas raised a brow, then shrugged when Cassandra let out a noise of disgust. “At this point, the templar goal is not to leash the mages, Seeker. The Lord Seeker would see all of them slaughtered. And that, may I remind you, would include Lethlares and myself.”

Cassandra frowned and stood, turning to face him. “Not all templars feel that way, Solas. Commander Cullen and his men would see peace returned. As would many of those under Lord Seeker Lucius’ command, I am sure. They need only be given the opportunity, and their efforts to be recognized.”

“‘Peace’ by their definition, Cassandra, would return the mages to a life of permanent confinement. It would be the peace of the majority. Not the peace of all.”

It was a circular argument that would always end the same way. And there was no truly right answer. Only countless wrong ones. Each one worse than the last. And some worse than death.

Lavellan returned to her bed, hoping she could get back to sleep quickly.

 


 

“Just say ‘what.’”

“What is the-”

An arrow sliced through the air and right into his mouth, at the ideal angle so that, when it came out the other side, Lavellan was almost completely sure it had severed his brain stem. Whether or not she was aware of what her accuracy had her arrowhead cutting through didn’t matter - Sera had disturbingly medical precision, when she wanted to.

“Eugh!” The blonde’s nose scrunched up and she walked over to the body, “Squishy one, but you heard me, right? ‘Just say what!’” Sera paused and looked up at Lavellan briefly, grinning, then pressed her foot to the unknown man’s chest and grabbed her arrow, “Rich tits always try for more than they deserve. Blah blah-” She jerked back sharply and pulled her arrow out with a sickening noise that made Lavellan cringe, even though she was still caught up in appreciating seeing Sera’s accuracy in person, “Blah! ‘Obey me, arrow in my face!’ So, you followed the notes well enough. Glad to see you’re…”

And here was the part where Sera took a proper look at her for the first time and saw her vallaslin and her ears (though probably just the ears, given she didn’t think Sera could recognize vallaslin for what they were, even if she knew of the concept).

“Aaaaand you’re an elf.” Her nose wrinkled and she sighed, looking away and cringing before looking back at Lavellan, “Well… hope you’re not… too elfy. …I mean, it’s all good, innit?! The important thing is, you glow. You’re the Herald thingy!” Which was enough to make the disgust leave her face and light it back up, and Lavellan knew she was thinking about the possibilities - of joining the Inquisition, helping fix the world, and getting things right again.

With Lavellan unable to speak, it naturally fell to Cassandra to get indignant about Sera killing the man before they could learn his identity and his plot. Which Sera, naturally, brushed off as being unimportant now because he was dead so the plot wasn’t going anywhere.

“Look, my people said the Inquisition would want him dead, so… He’s dead!”

“Your people.” Cassandra scoffed, crossing her arms, “The Friends of Red Jenny. An anarchist group that plays childish pranks on nobles.”

“Nobs who deserve it.” Sera corrected, scowling right back at her, “Which’s usually all of them. This prig definitely deserved it. Had a personal arse-wiper - no one who needs an arse-wiper is good. Plus, he was after the Herald, so arrows. So I helped you, didn’t I?”

“…Augh.” Cassandra pinched the bridge of her nose, looking very much like she had a headache coming on, “Yes, your efforts did lend assistance. Thank you. Now, if you will excuse us…”

“Wait!” Sera jumped around her and hurried right over to Lavellan, grinning, “Look, Herald, I wanna join.”

“Join?!” Cassandra barked, “You, join the Inquisition?! We don’t even know who you or your group are, let alone your motives-”

“Auuuuuugh, d’you hafta put that much thought into it? Name’s Sera, and I’m a Jenny. Friends tip Jennies off on bad things going ‘round, Jennies call on other friends to set things up, and Jennies do their stuff to make sure the nobs pay for their shit. Nobs learn? Good. Nobs don’t learn? Nobs pay. Either way, little people’s lives get a little easier, and people who help out? Profit.”

“Ah. Yes. That does explain it.” Cassandra gave Sera a flat look, “A vigilante wishes to join the Inquisition.”

“Y’say that like it’s a bad thing.” Sera scowled and crossed her arms, “Ain’t that what some people call you? Virgil-aunties? Bad things should happen to bad people. ‘nd I’m considering not warning you about the attack that’s comin’.”

“Attack?”

“Oh, frig-”

She’d forgotten about the second assault- Lavellan ducked behind Sera’s “cover” just in time, and once she’d gathered herself, she started throwing spells at their attackers- Unfortunately, the spells she threw at the archers at the top of the stairs hit the railing more often than not. She was seriously considering learning to use a physical weapon. She did know some archery…

When the fight was over, Sera and Cassandra went right back to arguing, but enough time had passed that Lavellan was okay with stepping over and tugging on Cassandra’s sleeve. When the woman looked at her, she nodded.

Cassandra stopped and stared at her. “…You… want her to join us.” When Lavellan nodded again, Cassandra’s brow twitched and she sighed heavily, “Why am I not surprised.”

“Yes!” Sera grinned widely, “Get in good before you're too big to like! That’ll keep your breeches where they should be. Plus, extra breeches, because I have all of these… You guys have merchants, yeah? There’s got to be someone who’ll buy all this pish… Anyway, Haven, right? See you there, Herald. This will be grand.” The blonde elf grinned at them again, then turned and ran off, looking very much like an excited child about to go off on an adventure.

…And leaving them to figure out how to get half a dozen sacks of breeches to Haven. Because, really, Sera did have a point… Someone would buy them.

 


 

Recruiting Vivienne was… intimidating.

Cassandra attempted to attend the salon with her (not understanding why they needed to go in the first place, but willing to allow it when Lavellan pressed the issue), but was turned away at the door, the guards insisting that the invitation had been for Lavellan alone.

“If First Enchanter Vivienne wishes to speak to the Herald, it is necessary that she be accompanied.” The Seeker frowned, refusing to budge, “She-”

“Madame de Fer is quite aware of Lady Lavellan’s condition.” The guard informed them, sounding quite formal and prim for a man in such heavy armor, “And has prepared special accommodations for her with it in mind. She wishes to speak to Lady Lavellan, only.”

Cassandra scowled, “Inform the First Enchanter that the Herald is being accompanied by-”

“Madame de Fer is quite familiar with you, Lady Pentaghast.” The guard bowed, “And is very sorry that she does not have time for a meeting with you, as well. She wishes to assure you that she will have time for you in the future - for now, however, matters with Lady Lavellan require more of her attention.”

“Of all the-” When Lavellan touched the back of her hand, Cassandra looked down at her, studying her face and frowning, “…You are sure?”

Lavellan shifted a little and shook her head, then sighed and nodded.

“…You really do not have to go. We have pressing matters in-” When Lavellan shook her head again, Cassandra sighed heavily, “Very well. I shall wait out here. Please try to make it brief.”

Lavellan nodded, and after that was allowed inside. When her name was announced and eyes briefly turned to her, she hunched, really wishing she could just not do this and return to Haven- Having someone point a sword at her was almost preferable to this.

That thought might have come too soon, however, when as she started looking around for Vivienne, she caught sight of a familiar figure descending one of the flights of stairs in the room, a sword at his waist.

It wasn’t really possible to participate in the Game if one couldn’t speak, so she wasn’t really prepared to exchange verbal barbs with him- Her thoughts stopped short as the man drew his sword.

“The Herald of Andraste… A pretender claiming to carry out the will of the Maker. A knife-eared heathen apostate, commanding an army of heretics… You’re quite bold to come here alone. Or perhaps you’re just as mad as they say. Why don’t we step outside and test your claims of holiness- Can Andraste even hear you if you cannot scream?”

He already knew she couldn’t talk-

When he raised his sword at her, her hands scrambled for her staff, and she realized too late that she didn’t have it on her- And not remembering that cost her seconds she didn’t-

Before the man could strike, the temperature of the room dropped considerably, and the air around him condensed and then clung to him as ice appeared around him, growing up his arms and his chest and expanding rapidly until he was encased. Frozen. In seconds, his lips were blue.

“My dear Marquis…” She enunciated perfectly and was clearly heard, even without raising her voice, and Vivienne descended the stairs slowly, her face unreadable behind her silver mask. “How unkind of you to use such language in my house… to my guest.” Everyone in the room was silent and watching closely as she gracefully walked over, her eyes distant as she stepped around him and sighed heavily, tipping her head, “You know such rudeness is… intolerable.”

“Madame Vivienne-” In moments, the man’s tone had changed, and he sounded terrified, “I humbly beg your pardon-”

“You should.” Vivienne said simply, coming to a stop right in front of him, “Whatever am I going to do with you, my dear?” When the marquis said nothing, Vivienne turned and met Lavellan’s eyes calmly, “My lady, you’re the wounded party in this unfortunate affair. What would you have me do with this foolish, foolish man?”

…The guard had said that Vivienne had made accommodations for the fact that she couldn’t speak, and Lavellan wasn’t seeing them. She didn’t want to see this man die, and if Vivienne interpreted her intentions incorrectly-

Lavellan shuddered and shook her head quickly, praying that the woman would understand-

Vivienne smiled at her gently, then turned and grabbed the man’s chin roughly, “By the grace of Andraste, you have your life, my dear.”

As Vivienne snapped her fingers and the man rapidly defrosted, Lavellan shuddered again and got a little lightheaded, her legs feeling watery.

“Do be more careful with it.” The taller woman turned away from the man before he had even recovered and stepped over, smiling at Lavellan professionally, “I’m delighted you could attend this little gathering, I’ve so wanted to meet you. Shall we go and sit down, my dear? You’re looking a tad overwhelmed.” When Lavellan nodded, Vivienne stepped over next to her and briefly touched her fingers to her back, “Back straight, my dear. Everyone is still watching.”

She managed to keep herself together long enough for Vivienne to walk them somewhere secluded, where she sat down as soon as the other woman gestured to a chaise.

As if oblivious to Lavellan’s obvious weakness, Vivienne sat down, herself, and gave her a gracious smile, speaking like nothing had happened, “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Vivienne, First Enchanter to Montsimmard and Enchantress to the Imperial Court.”

Unable to speak, Lavellan simply smiled as best she could and bowed slightly. Which seemed to be enough for Vivienne, who bowed slightly in return.

“Ah, but I didn’t invite you to the chateau for pleasantries. 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.”

Which… was a bit of a stretch. It hadn’t quite gotten to that point yet. But Vivienne was being gracious and flattering- And she knew a winning horse when she saw one. Even if it wasn’t true now, it would be soon.

“As the leader of the last loyal mages of Thedas, I feel it only right that I lend my assistance to your cause. Do you understand what I mean by loyal, my dear?” She did, and Lavellan nodded, making Vivienne smile, “Good. We have not forgotten the commandment that magic exists to serve man. And I would support any effort that exists to restore such order. I am well-versed in the politics of the Orlesian Empire, I know every member of the Imperial Court personally, I have all the resources remaining to the Circle at my disposal, and I’m a mage of no small talent. I do not think it immodest, my dear, to say that I have much to offer, if you will have me.”

At that point, it occurred to Lavellan that she hadn’t really needed to struggle to speak at all. While little had been said, Vivienne had made her opportunities to answer simple. She’d needed to ask no questions, or work to convey any ideas. The accommodations that had been mentioned were simply the fact that Vivienne knew how to work with her.

And not that she would have said no to Vivienne, either way, but it would make working with her in the future simpler.

Smiling slightly, Lavellan nodded, and bowed again.

Taking that as her permission, Vivienne smiled back, nodding smartly, “Great things are beginning, my dear, I can promise you that.”

 


 

When they rejoined their companions and Lavellan explained that Vivienne would be joining their cause, the look Cassandra gave her made her smile sheepishly and rub the back of her neck.

“First a Jenny, and now the Enchantress of the Orlesian Imperial Court.” Varric chuckled, shaking his head, “This is turning into quite the story, isn’t it?”

And she realized that this would be… a very odd situation for them. When she had… essentially been playing god, all information was a given. If you wanted to know and didn’t mind spoiling things for yourself? You could just look it up on the Internet. And with how many playthroughs she’d done…

But for them, this would be the first time. The only time. (And for her, the last time.) It was all new and odd and startling, and they would have to reconcile things with themselves and continue working towards their goal-

She thought she’d gotten over shocking herself with realizing that these were actually people. But she was wrong. The reality and the humanity rattled her, and she had to go tend to Sorcha for a while before she was able to calm back down. And even after that, she was quiet and withdrawn on the way back to Haven.

“Y’know, you do that a lot, and I’ve never heard that tune before.” Varric spoke up suddenly at one point, startling her out of her depressive thoughts and making her look at him. He was a little more at level than usual, with all of them riding on horseback, so she didn’t have to search for his eye level and met it right away. His tone was conversational, but something in the way he was looking at her made her think he was doing it on purpose. Trying to keep her from becoming withdrawn again…? She was reminded of their conversation the other night. “Or any of the songs you hum, really. They have lyrics?”

…Lavellan hadn’t realized she had developed a habit of humming. When had that started? What songs had she been humming?

It was to be expected, perhaps. She’d been too emotionally rattled in the beginning to really feel the loss, but this place had no television, no Internet, no radio or YouTube, just- No electronics.

Usually, she was too wrapped up in her thoughts to realize. But, thinking about it or not, silence always got to her. Which was a pretty common problem among her generation and probably a couple before and most after her, she figured. In some way or another, they were always being stimulated.

Riding on horseback through the mountains, though, or even along main thoroughfares, could get very quiet.

Unsettlingly so.

What song had she even been humming-

As she kept staring at him with a blank expression, Varric slowly got more and more amused. “You didn’t even realize you were doing it, did you?” She huffed and shook her head, and he chuckled. “Woulda figured a Dalish would be more accustomed to the quiet.”

She really was a very bad Dalish. Which would be a huge problem if they ever met any real Dalish.

Something that was only proven by the fact that, now that Varric had gotten her thinking about music, the only song that came to mind “Miss New Booty,” and that once she’d gotten the lyrics stuck in her head she literally could not make herself think of any other song. Oh, she could think of a line or two of lyrics to other songs, but her thoughts just ended up bleeding right back into “Miss New Booty” and-

And she didn’t have any YouTube or iTunes to drown it out with.

Goddamnit…

“Kid… Hey, kid. You’re doing it again.”

Lavellan jerked a little and looked over at Varric, wincing guiltily when she realized he’d been talking to her and she had just totally zoned out again. …Like she did with a number of people.

“Anyway, as I was saying,” Varric went on, getting comfortable in his saddle and crossing his arms over his chest as his horse was content to just continue walking alongside Lavellan’s and after Cassandra’s obediently, “You like music?”

…He was still trying to strike up a conversation with her. That made her-

Fuck, she was doing it again. Focus on the conversation.

She nodded, though ‘like’ might not be as close as ‘addiction’ was. She listened to plenty of music she didn’t particularly like, but listened to, anyway, because the rhythms were catchy.

But saying she liked music was much simpler.

“You should come by the Singing Maiden, then.” Varric grinned a little, “During the evenings, a lot of us gather for Wicked Grace, cheap ale and to listen to the new bard, Maryden, sing. Ah, but she’s not an Orlesian bard, mind you- Just the musical kind. So no worries there. You play any card games?”

Did Old Maid count?

…Actually, she didn’t even remember how to play Old Maid. She’d been good at it as a child, but hadn’t played it in years. Well, shit. …Go Fish? Did she still remember how to play that one?

She shook her head sheepishly.

“None? Aww, come on now, Herald, you must play something!”

At the prying, teasing look on Varric’s face, Lavellan flustered and looked ahead, scratching her jaw a little as she thought. What games did she remember that were actually somewhat compatible with Thedosian games…

Wait, there was dialogue between Bull and Solas… And a cutscene between Dorian and Cullen…

She didn’t think the boards or the name of the game were the same, but they probably still had the same basic rules, so she looked back at Varric and mimed picking up a piece and moving it across an invisible board.

Varric blinked at her, then chuckled and shook his head, “Chess? Really? That’s a noble’s game-”

Lavellan huffed at him hard, then pointed to Cassandra- Specifically her sword.

“Fine, fine, it’s also a soldier’s game, I guess. Though more of an officer’s game, and officers are usually nobles. And none of them are Dalish. You are a bad Dalish, aren’t you?”

Lavellan huffed harder, needing to do something about them pointing how how bad she was at being Dalish. They didn’t need to be getting into the habit of saying that, especially not in front of others, and what did they know about being Dalish, anyway- Grumbling at him, she pointed to her staff.

Varric blinked, thinking about it, “Mage… Oh, Dalish mages are leaders- So, you’re a bad Dalish because you’re your clan’s First?” He snorted and laughed, grinning a little, “And how does that work out for your people, exactly? Though, I guess the last First I knew was a pretty bad one, too. Related to all of that stuff about needing to know about the world around you to protect your clan from it?”

She made a sulky noise and lifted her hand, teetering it back and forth a little. It was good enough to pass as an excuse for now, right…? Besides, the Lavellan clan had a tendency of being closer to humans than most other clans, and traded with them freely. If she did things right, it would even get to the point where Keeper Deshanna would become a leader in Wycome.

It was to be expected that the Lavellan First would be a little odd. Probably why the gamemakers had created the clan to begin with. Give the Dalish Inquisitor a reason to have something of an easier time working with humans than most would expect.

“Well, if that’s the only game you know how to play, we’re definitely going to need to fix that.” Varric went on, making her look back at him and blink. The dwarf just smirked a little in this way that made Lavellan worry for herself a bit- “Wicked Grace is a must among anyone. I know kids who play it.”

“Children who also probably drink and gamble.” Solas spoke up from behind him, his tone a little humorous when Varric glanced back at him, “Is that really the sort of thing you should be teaching the Herald of Andraste?”

“Hey, those Lowtown kids are as innocent as any Chantry mother, every last one of them.” Varric pointed at Solas, even as he was grinning, “Besides, I haven’t seen our Herald lift a mug on anything stronger than water since we met her, and that can’t be good for a person. Everyone has to drink and loosen up sometime.”

…Shit, that was another problem she hadn’t thought about before-

She didn’t drink.

Which, back home wouldn’t be a problem, but here, there weren’t exactly a wide variety of beverages available- Alcohol was practically a staple, and in most cases largely because the processes for making alcoholic drinks made them safer to drink than water. Or was that a myth…

But she did not drink, and it wasn’t a habit she wanted to start-

Fumbling a little, she quickly dropped the reins and lifted her hands to wave while shaking her head.

Varric paused in his talking long enough to look at her and blink, “…What? You really don’t drink?” When she shook her head again, he leaned towards her a little, “Are you actually a Chantry sister?”

“I believe that would be ten coppers you owe me, Master Tethras.” The smug tone in Solas’ voice made her look back at him and blink, and she felt her face turning red as she quickly looked back at Varric. Ten coppers- What-

“Did you tell him at some point that you didn’t drink? Refuse a glass of fancy elven wine or something?” Varric huffed, though he reached into a pouch and took out a few coins even before Lavellan could shake her head. “I’ll be a nug’s uncle, I was sure there had to be something…”

“Like I told you, Varric.” Solas’ horse pressed forward between theirs suddenly, the elf reaching out with a smirk to accept his handful of coins, “The Herald really is quite innocent.”

“Chuckles, there’s innocent, and then there’s raised in a chantry cellar. Come on, Herald, there’s got to be something you do or that you’ve done.”

They… had made bets on… on what… how straitlaced she was-? How had this even become a thing-

“I agree with Solas, Varric.” Cassandra suddenly spoke up with a grunt, glancing back at them, “The Maker would not choose someone of common vices as the Herald of Andraste.”

“Andraste has nothing to do with it, Seeker.” Solas rolled his shoulders back a little as his horse slowed and fell behind a little again, still looking quite satisfied with himself, “It is simply the kind of person Lethlares is. Polite, unable to lie, incapable of turning her back on a person in need, self-sacrificing to a fault- And, as I predicted, a teetotaler.”

“Chuckles, the kind of person you’re describing is a unicorn - they don’t exist. Even Hawke-” Varric suddenly cut himself off and frowned, looking ahead again with a furrowed brow.

After that, things got silent and awkward, and Lavellan was confused and felt… guilty for some reason she couldn’t explain.

What had that conversation been? Why had it come up? Why had it ended that way?

Was that really how they saw her?

They were wrong- The teetotaler part was right, perhaps, though she’d completely forgotten that that word was a thing-

Morgan Chambers had a filthy mouth and a horrible personality. She swore, hated socializing, had a dry, sometimes vicious sense of humor, was whiny and selfish and often took the road of least resistance because she didn’t like confrontation-

And she often turned her back on people in need. Like, real people in need. Pretended not to see beggars, changed the channel when commercials for Salvation Army and other charities came on, stayed home and avoided doing something useful like going outside to volunteer her time or services-

She just didn’t do that here because-

…Why was there a difference between here and back home? Because she knew how to make things here turn out right? Because she had god-tier level knowledge of the next several months/years, where as compared to back home she was just as clueless and herd-minded as everyone else?

What kind of person did that make her?

Asking herself why Varric would find that conversation so uncomfortable completely slipped out of her mind. She drew back into herself, and went back to something she was good at - hating the person she was.

Instead of doing something like…

Chapter Text

She hardly remembered recruiting Blackwall. As usual, Cassandra had handled most of that. Which, she figured, didn’t make much of a difference, since the man was more than willing to offer himself to a cause he found worthy. And, was also seeking atonement.

Bull was another story entirely. An uncomfortable, honestly terrifying one.

The Storm Coast was, as it likely is nine times out of ten, dreary, cold and wet, the clouds overhead thick and dark and heavy. The showers were sporadic, and changed from heavy and straight down to slanted and stinging, depending on whether or not the wind coming in from the Waking Sea was blowing at the moment.

The Bull’s Chargers were just below the cliff Lace Harding had established the initial camp at, in the middle of a battle - as they should be.

With a rather firm order to Lavellan to stay where she was, for reasons Lavellan wasn’t quite sure of but wasn’t about to argue because of who gave it, Cassandra drew her sword and led Solas and Varric down into the fray.

Lavellan crouched down and covered her knees with her hands, watching, Harding standing nearby with her bow in hand in case the Herald needed a defender.

No amount of HD could ever do the Iron Bull justice.

He was massive, bulging, scarred, and quite possibly a force of nature, and-

Gods, she hadn’t realized just how sickening a massive, two-handed weapon could be in real life.

When he wasn’t cleaving his opponents nearly in two with the axe edge, she could hear bones breaking as the spiked, hammer-like side was swung through the air with all the strength he could muster, throwing men around like rag dolls- She had no idea how they could even keep throwing themselves at him when it was obvious it would only take one blow to cripple them for life, if not kill them outright.

And Bull. He was just grinning savagely the whole time, roaring when he wasn’t, and not holding back even once. He didn’t charge at any who hadn’t charged at him, first, but once they did-

She shuddered and had to close her eyes and cover her ears with her hands. Making a note to never give him a hammer unless he would only be going for blows to the head. Many of the people they would be fighting would definitely deserve death, yes, but that didn’t mean the majority had to suffer slow deaths- Lungs filling with blood, spines crushed, abdomens distending and organs ruptured-

It was so much easier to just press buttons…

After she didn’t know how long her shoulder was nudged, and she looked up at Harding, then down below, where the fighting had stopped and Cassandra was speaking to Bull. When the woman pointed in her direction and the Qunari looked up at her, Lavellan hunkered a bit more before waving. Then, she got to her feet and brushed herself off, looking around before just stepping forward and sliding down the sharp incline.

The way Cassandra closed her eyes and rubbed her face told her immediately that the woman would be having words with her-

But it was the quickest way down and she was actually really good at balancing during things like this-

As if to prove that, she stayed on her feet the whole time, arms lifted slightly, and jumped a little at the last few feet so she didn’t stumble. She even managed to stick her landing-!

Lavellan blinked at Cassandra and tipped her head innocently, smiling cautiously and giving the woman two thumbs up in a… questioning way. Hoping to soften it a little.

Didn’t work. “Herald…” The older woman growled at her, then shook her head and waved her hand a bit, as if trying to brush away her irritation. “Iron Bull, this is Lethlares Lavellan, the Herald of Andraste. Herald, Iron Bull, leader of the Bull’s Chargers.”

And she had to look at him now. And meet his eyes. Eye. Fuck, she wasn’t prepared for this. Just what was he going to be able to read in her face with just one glance-

Trying to keep a poker face would be worse than showing how anxious she was.

Keeping that in mind, she hunkered a little and slowly looked up to meet his eyes, twisting her fingers a little and nodding her head.

He just gave her a lazy grin and nodded his head back, “Glad you could make it. Why don’t we have a seat? Drinks will be coming in a moment.” Nothing in his face gave any hint to what he was thinking about her entrance, but the more she thought about it, the more she realized how ridiculous her actions were-

Lavellan nodded again and trotted after him as he led her away from the others, anxiety bubbling in her stomach and very much making her wish she had some water to dilute the acid with. Being anxious all of the time was… frankly, giving her a lot of diarrhea, and it was getting to be very, very unpleasant. She was starting to think about carrying elfroot leaves around to chew on. Elfroot was supposed to be something of a basic cure-all, wasn’t it…?

When he found a large boulder to sit on, she found a smaller, flat rock to sit down in across from him, close enough to the ground that she folded her legs, and grateful for her coat being treated to be somewhat water resistant because, well… it was the Storm Coast. Everything was wet.

“I assume you remember Cremisius Aclassi, my lieutenant.” As the man walked up as Bull gestured to him, Lavellan nodded, then bowed her head slightly to Krem, who smiled and bowed slightly in return.

“Good to see you again. Throatcutters are done, chief.” He looked at Bull, who grunted.

“Already? Have ‘em check again. I don’t want any of those Tevinter bastards getting away. No offense, Krem.” The way that just flowed together with his previous sentence and the smirk that curled on his lips gave away that he very well knew what he was saying before he said it.

Krem, of course, was quite used to all of this, and simply lifted a brow at him, “None taken. At least a bastard knows who his mother was. Puts him one up on you Qunari, right?” With a smirk of his own, he turned and walked away.

Bull snorted and grinned after him, then looked back at Lavellan. “So, you’ve seen us fight. We’re expensive, but we’re worth it… Heh, and I’m sure the Inquisition can afford us.”

Well, really, that was a matter of opinion. And, given Bull was supposed to be close to keep an eye on her, the cost of hiring them would probably be more negotiable than he was letting off.

But that didn’t really matter. Lavellan was already planning on making recruiting all of the companions work. Somehow, Josephine would just have to find a way. So, with a smile, she nodded. Maybe, it occurred to her, she could use her entrance to her favor. If she just made Bull think she was an idiot-

“The Chargers are an excellent company, but you’re not just getting the boys.” Bull’s tone suddenly turned more serious as he leaned in, resting his elbows on his legs and looking down at her, “You’re getting me. Which, from what I’ve heard, you need. And, from what I can tell, you realize. You need a frontline bodyguard, and I’m your man. Whatever it is - demons? Dragons? The bigger, the better.”

Wait, from what he could tell- How had he already-

“And there’s one other thing.” Bull continued, giving her very little time to get herself worked up. “Might be useful, might piss you off. Ever hear of the Ben-Hassrath?”

Lavellan tried to stick with simply nodding after a pause. Trying to judge just how clearly he was able to read her and-

Getting nothing. She, after all, wasn’t Ben-Hassrath.

“It’s a Qunari order. They handle information, loyalty, security… All of it. Spies, basically. Or, well… We’re spies.” Instead of going on, like he was definitely supposed to, Bull stopped and studied her face. Goddamnit- “…You’re not the least bit surprised.”

Lying was the worst possible thing she could do. Lavellan simply shook her head. Then, a little desperate to try to salvage this in some way, she held up one finger and looked down, working to unstrap the journal from her belt. Turning to one of the back pages, she started writing- Almost trying to speed up a few times and nearly lapsing into English. Which made her force herself to slow down and do her characters carefully. Once she was done, she handed the book to him.

 

I would be more surprised if the Qunari didn’t try to find some way into the Inquisition.

 

Bull took the journal, his eye flickering over the line once before he looked back at her. Christ, his thought processing abilities were fucking terrifying, and that made this all the more difficult-

“Well. That makes this easier, at least.” His face was totally unreadable, and she couldn’t guess what he was thinking at all. She was totally fucked. “I’ve been ordered to join the Inquisition, get close to the people in charge, and send reports on what’s happening- Nothing big. Just enough to keep my superiors happy. But, I also get reports from Ben-Hassrath agents all over Orlais. Enemy movements, information, interesting rumors. You sign me on? I’ll share them with your people.”

The biggest mistake one could make with Bull was sacrificing the Chargers. As long as she didn’t do that, ideally, everything else would work out on its own.

But she was fucked. Having him in front of her confirmed that.

He already suspected something. She knew he did.

If she earned enough of his trust? He would approach her about it.

She was definitely, totally, irreparably fucked.

But Lethlares. When Lethlares got her body back, she would need all of the allies she could get.

Fuck-

She nodded.

Bull watched her for a moment, which he wasn’t supposed to do. Goddamnit-

“Hey.” He leaned forward, lowering his voice, “I don’t know what has you so scared, but if you’re unsure about this, don’t do it.”

Lavellan shook her head, and leaned forward to take the journal from him, writing down and handing it back to him.

 

I’m not unsure about you joining.

 

After reading that, he looked at her face again. Whatever he saw, he must have believed her about that much, at least, because he nodded and stood.

“Krem! Tell the men to finish drinking on the road. The Chargers just got hired.”

Krem blinked and looked over from his tankard, shouting back, “What about the casks, chief?! We just opened them up! With axes!”

Bull snorted loudly and rolled his eyes, “Find some way to seal them. You’re Tevinter, right? Try blood magic.” He suggested that part with a smirk, “Take the boys to Haven. I’ll be joining these guys for their business on the Coast.”

…Fuck.

 


 

The Storm Coast was, quite possibly, the worst place for Bull to decide he wanted to join them- Presumably, Lavellan guessed, because he wanted to gauge just how difficult the Herald would be for him to protect.

The answer to that would be “Very.”

And their first run in with giant spiders was a very good example of why.

She’d been trying to mentally prepare herself for weeks. She really had. Bears were one thing - they were fucking huge and muscular and anyone in their right mind would be terrified of a bear charging them. Spiders, size regardless, were squishy.

She was bad with insects, though. Spiders, mostly. Really, really bad.

And one crucial difference between the game rendition of the giant spiders and the in-person version of the giant spiders was the fact that the spiders, like normal spiders at home, tended to not make any noises upon approach.

So while she had been expecting to hear skittering and some hissing, there was none. They were just walking into the cave and she was straining her elven ears and then suddenly long branches were reaching around her from behind and motherfuck those weren’t long branches-

Lavellan might not be able to talk, but she could scream. And she did. Loudly. Running straight into Cassandra’s back as she did so and wrapping her arms around the woman frantically, jerking them around and making the Seeker face the giant spider and-

And the screaming did not stop for she didn’t know how long. She only knew that, suddenly, the spiders were everywhere, the screaming got louder, and she wasn’t thinking about fighting at all, just running-

A sudden, harsh jerk at her back pulled her clothes tightly around her and suddenly she was off of her feet and the air was leaving her body quite abruptly, winding her. Then she was straddling something and something rough and solid was scraping against her side, under her arm, and it took her a moment to register what she was looking down at was the top of Bull’s head. Once she did, she closed her eyes tightly and wrapped her arms around his horns awkwardly, clinging to his shoulder with her thighs like she would on a horse and waiting for the movement and the shouts and explosions to stop.

When she finally opened her eyes again, it was because the darkness of the cave had turned to light again - dimmed light, perhaps, but light nonetheless - and there was rain splattering against her face.

She wasn’t screaming anymore, but she could feel the effects of how long and how hard she had been screaming. Her throat was burning, she faintly tasted copper, and she was panting heavily and lightheaded. Nothing she was seeing made much sense, aside from the view of the ground below. Far below…

And then, not so far.

A grunt and a gentle smack on her leg made her blink and shake her head a little, and she realized that Bull was crouching. Arms stiff and painful from clenching and legs weak and heavy, she slid off of his shoulder and fell gracelessly to the ground, her legs crumpling and her hands getting scraped by sharp stones, even through her gloves.

If any words were spoken, Lavellan didn’t hear or remember them. She just stared down at the rocks for a while, watching the rain fall, listening to the nearby waves, then shakily pushed herself back to her feet and waited for… someone to lead on.

Eventually, someone did.

She didn’t look up to see who.

By this point, she had fought demons.

Killed people.

Killed several people. When, back home, one person alone would have been much more than most had killed. Because killing others- It wasn’t a thing. At least, not where she was from. Not in her life.

But spiders. Spiders were what made her scream and run. When she had actually almost started to get used to fighting and killing people and demons.

(Her mind flashed back to those branch-like arms entering her field of vision slowly, to the moment when she had realized that branches weren’t hairy and that there shouldn’t even be branches nearby, and after that it was just blind terror and-)

Spiders.

She couldn’t do this. She was going back to “She couldn’t do this.” She was going back to the dark place “She couldn’t do this” took her to.

“Herald.”

Lavellan jumped and looked up, then quickly, shamefully looked down again after briefly meeting Cassandra’s eyes.

The woman stepped over to her, and Lavellan watched stones shift under her armored boots as she came to a stop right in front of her. “Return to the forward camp with Solas. Or Varric. The rest of us will look into the matter of the missing scouts.”

…The scouts were missing because of the Blades of Hessarian.

If no one knew to look, they might miss the note. If she wasn’t there, they might not reach the initiative on their own to make the Mercy’s Crest. Then, all of militia would be killed, instead of just the asshole leading them, and the remaining men couldn’t be recruited as agents.

And the Inquisition needed agents…

There were also… other things to look for. Grey Warden papers for Blackwall. Rifts that needed closing. Camps to be established. Rare herbs- Black lotus, Prophet’s Laurel. An abundance of spindleweed, which wasn’t rare, but was much more plentiful here than anywhere else-

She needed to pull herself together.

She could hate herself later, back at Haven, or even when they set up tents for the night, but right now, she needed to be here, to see things that might be missed.

Lavellan closed her eyes and breathed deeply, then stood a little straighter and lifted her face, meeting Cassandra’s eyes and shaking her head.

Cassandra’s brows furrowed and for a moment she was silent, studying Lavellan’s face. “…You are sure?” When Lavellan nodded, the woman paused before nodding once, her expression turning serious. “Very well. I am sure you already realize, but it must be said: Do not do that again. You compromise the entire party when you lose control like that. If you had tapped your magic at that moment…” She trailed off, leaving it at that.

She felt the urge to look down, but didn’t, simply keeping her eyes locked with Cassandra’s as she nodded again. Cassandra was right, after all. And she knew it.

“Very good, then. Now, we should-” Before the Seeker could turn away, Lavellan stepped after her, reaching out and grabbing her sleeve, making her stop and blink at her, “Is something wrong?”

She knew how this was going to go over, once the others - save Bull - figured out what she was going to do. They’d done it for a week in the Hinterlands, and she was going to do it again here and- It had Lavellan shuffling a little and rubbing her neck before holding up a finger and reaching back, removing the odd metal container that hung from the back of her belt. The one she’d always seen on the screen and had always wondered at the purpose of-

Cassandra narrowed her eyes suspiciously when Lavellan opened it and pulled out the map she’d requested from Harding - the map of the Storm Coast.

“Herald, are you-” Lavellan stepped away a little and found a rock to perch on, crouching and hunkering over the paper so it didn’t get too wet as she took out the stick of lead that was also in the container and started looking the map over, doing her best to avoid the Seeker’s eyes- “Augh, you cannot be serious- We must do this here, as well?! You cannot have even heard any substantial rumors-”

And, yet, Cassandra wasn’t going to fight her on it, and that tickled her a little. Lavellan bit down on the inside of her cheek, trying not to grin as she started marking points and making notes.

“You- You find this funny-” Biting the inside of her cheek was not enough and she ended up grinning and laughing silently. And then Varric was chuckling, as well, and- “Augh, do not encourage her!”

“What, Seeker? She seemed to work out a good idea of what we needed to do last time. Let’s just give her the benefit of the doubt.”

“I-” Cassandra cut off, then simply let out another loud noise of exasperation, and then Solas was chuckling, as well.

Lavellan spent a few moments marking up her map and making notes before getting back to her feet, rolling it back up and putting it away. The only major quest here now, really, was dealing with the Blades of Hessarian. Then there were the standard camp placements and rift closings. More things would come later, but that was a somewhat distant future.

For now, they had to head up the hill ahead of them and go into the broken shack at the top, where they would find notes about the Mercy’s Crest. And there was also… Blackwall didn’t really have to be there for the notes, right? She could just give them to him when they got back to Haven. Of course, he hadn’t asked about them yet, but if they found papers with Grey Warden information, what else would they do but give them to their new comrade?

And along the way, they would probably stumble across plenty of… And she would need- Ah-!

The cave they had ended up entering had been the one just behind where Bull and the Chargers had been fighting, so as they started going back up the coast in the other direction, they passed the area again, and Lavellan spotted something she would definitely need- One of the dead Tevinter men was wearing a pack.

Trotting over, she crouched and went through the slightly uncomfortable process of freeing it from the dead body. She’d been around dead bodies before, but they were always euthanized or dead animals- A human body was somewhat similar, but also… very, very different.

But not too horrible.

Once she freed the pack, she emptied it on the ground, quickly went through to make sure she wasn’t abandoning anything that might be of interest, then ran right over to the first patch she spotted-

“Lavellan, what are you-”

She turned around and made it a point of showing the handful of spindleweed before she stuffed it into the bag.

Cassandra stared at her. “…Are you serious. Herb gathering, again- Lethlares, spindleweed is hardly rare herb-”

“Though it does grow more abundantly next to water.” Varric spoke up with a bit of a grin, “And, given where we are, we’re probably be going to see a lot of it. Adan’ll be grateful, I’m sure, given he can’t really find it in Haven. Good job, kid.”

Lavellan grinned, then pointed before moving on once the others started walking, Cassandra rubbing her face, Varric chuckling and Solas shaking his head.

She made it a point not to look at Bull. Going back to the thought that it would be best if he thought she was an idiot. (Which, granted, she probably was.)

 


 

Lavellan was extremely grateful that the concept of levels did not exist in real life. If it had, the Blades that they ran across would have been stronger than anything they’d faced in the Hinterlands.

As it was, they were just as easy to kill as anything/anyone else.

Though, along the same vein, she was no more confident with her battle abilities than before. Maybe, in that regard, being able to level up wouldn’t be such a bad thing…

Having Bull with them was a blessing, even if a mixed one. While she was utterly terrified and constantly felt like she had Ben-Hassrath eyes boring into her, he was another weapon to add to their numbers when she was essentially useless. Which was good, given the steady stream of Blades that was waiting to meet them at the top of the hill.

He and Cassandra tore through them as Varric and Solas picked off archers, and Lavellan stayed back to avoid getting in the way, doing her best to provide shields and healing, making a mental note to approach Solas later about him tutoring her in healing because maybe she could make her focus be that, and-

Dogs. She’d forgotten the dogs.

It was one thing to have a dog charging at you out of fear or misplaced aggression. That, at least, she was used to, and trained in how to handle and respond to.

It was quite another to have a trained war hound charge at you.

(Though, she figured, it was probably a lot like having a police dog charge you.)

Lavellan faltered. For years, she’d worked to heal and provide care for animals, and outside of humane euthanasia, killing a dog was not something it was in her nature to ever jump to-

But- Shit, it was coming right at her-

Fumbling her staff, Lavellan shifted her grip on it and swung the top end around, just managing to give the dog a hard blow upside the head once it came into range.

The mabari stumbled, but quickly recovered, lifting its lips in a snarl beneath its armor and walking towards her at a slower pace as she turned her staff again and aimed the bladed end at it.

Lavellan’s mind frantically scrambled for a way out of this.

It was going to attack. She could see it in its posture, in the lines all over its face- There was no hesitation. It was going to continue advancing, and then attack. Like it had been trained and ordered to do.

And this was a mabari, not a regular dog. It was smart. And it would not relent.

And she had no way to try to talk to it. Reason with it.

“NO-”

The mabari growled loudly and continued walking towards her, making her step back.

That didn’t work. She hadn’t expected it to, but it had still come out.

“SIT-”

Fuck, she needed to kill it. She knew that, she knew that- But she was still hesitating because it was a dog- Some dogs had bad personalities, but when they were trained, it was always the owner’s fault, never theirs- He wasn’t a bad dog- He was obeying orders and fighting next to his human-

He was just doing what he thought was right-

The mabari lunged and she had no choice.

Using her knowledge of canine anatomy in a way she had never imagined she would, she tightened her grip of her staff and shifted to the side, swinging hard and cutting open a jugular vein- Then, when it was landing and stumbling, starting to circle to reposition, blood pouring down its chest, she aimed right behind the front leg, towards the lower part of the chest, between slightly protruding ribs-

Right into the heart.

The noise the dog let out immediately brought tears to her eyes.

It was a pitiful noise, a painful yelp, a sharp cry, followed by a whimper of fear and submission and-

And then gurgling and coughing blood. Blade gone right through the lung on its way to the heart. Probably into the other lung. Both lungs filling, heart frantically pumping and, in doing so, spilling out all of the body’s blood that much faster-

It probably would have attacked again.

But it was a mabari, and being in battle, its blood pressure was high. With a lacerated jugular, pierced lungs and heart, it bled out that much faster, the lungs filled that much quicker, and after a few steps it stumbled and fell over.

Shaking hard, knowing that, even as injured as the dog was, it would take a while for the brain to die, Lavellan raised her hand and reached out, willing the magic to-

A bolt of electricity struck and the dog’s head exploded, and it was over. It wasn’t suffering anymore. The messiest goddamned euthanasia she’d ever performed and-

She turned and leaned over, vomiting.

There were no more clashing blades, no more angered shouts, so the fight was over. That meant she could step away from her pile of vomit and sit down on her heels, drop her staff and roughly press the heels of her hands into her eyes. Breathe heavily and try to calm herself down.

She didn’t cry. She’d euthanized plenty of dogs. It was sad, but it wasn’t something that had made her cry in a long time.

But this wasn’t a euthanasia. It hadn’t even been hunting.

This had been a battle, and she’d killed it because it was necessary. It wouldn’t have stopped unless its handler had told it to, and its handler never would have done that. Probably hadn’t even been alive at that point.

But the dog hadn’t deserved it. Not like the humans around him had. Mabari or not, the dog was a dog, had only been doing what he’d been trained to do, had been trying to protect his handler, he was being a good boy-

“Hey, kid. You okay?”

She shuddered and hunkered down more, not mentally or emotionally ready to deal with the Iron Bull. But he was right there, and when he grunted and said “Here,” she reached for the hand she’d felt him offer and let him pull her to her feet.

Lavellan still couldn’t read his face at all. He just looked somewhat concerned and searching, which she knew was just how he wanted to come off. She had no idea what he was seeing in her face, what was going on his head, how he was feeling about it.

“…He came at you.” Bull eventually said, meeting her eyes unfalteringly, “You gave him a choice. He made it necessary.”

…Cole would say something like that eventually. About Bull never charging at anyone, but making them charge him, so that killing them was necessary. So that it was their fault. He wanted to defend. Not kill.

…She had given the mabari a choice. He might have been a dog, but he was a mabari. He understood words. He had come at her, knowing there was a possibility he might die.

Perhaps it had been on orders. Perhaps he had been a good boy.

But she had tried to save him. She hadn’t just senselessly killed him.

…And that did help. A little.

She closed her eyes, breathing in, breathing out, then nodded a little, opening her eyes again and leaning over to grab her staff. The Blades had other dogs. She needed to push onward and just be prepared.

Lavellan was even more aware than before of Bull watching her. It was a… somewhat appreciated distraction.

 


 

She found a Mercy’s Crest on one of the dead Blades while looking for the note that mentioned said crest.

At least, Lavellan was pretty sure it was the crest. It was a necklace with a leather band and a circular, decoratively but roughly burned piece of leather that had a polished turquoise-like stone sewn into a dip in the center. And she was pretty sure the ingredients for the crest had been deepstalker leather and serpentstone… The deepstalker leather, at least, she was sure about, given how long it had taken to farm and how irritated she had gotten over it.

After finding the note, as well, Lavellan walked over to Cassandra, who had been scouting the area after the bodies of the Inquisition soldiers had been found to make sure nothing was missed.

The Seeker frowned as she read the note, her brows furrowing, “…So, if we wish to talk to these… Blades of Hessarian, we will need this crest? And that will allow us to enter their camp?”

“Sounds useful.” Bull crossed his arms as Varric and Solas stepped over to listen, “What’s the catch?”

“It… does not say.” Cassandra turned the paper over to glance at the back before reading it again, “All it details is that they have orders to attack on sight. If we are in possession of this crest, however, they will grant us an audience… But how can we be sure?”

“Fanatics with rules are easier to deal with than just crazy fanatics.” Varric held out his hand to her and Lavellan handed him the Mercy’s Crest, allowing him to look it over. “Won’t know unless we try, right? What do you think, Herald?”

Lavellan only shifted for a moment, staring at the necklace and thinking. Ideally, Bull or Cassandra would challenge the Hessarian leader. But if they did that, the Blades would be bound to them, not her, and ultimately, not Lethlares.

But there was really no way to justify having the mute Lavellan approach and try to sway the religious zealots…

After some thought, Lavellan slipped the necklace of the crest over her head, looking down to make sure the stone was displayed properly before looking up at Cassandra with a serious frown and nodding.

Cassandra blinked at her, her brows lifting, “Herald… You do not-”

Lavellan shook her head, swallowing hard several times before speaking very slowly, “Leader… ordered… our men… dead… Needs… to pay… Just… killing them all… not… enough-” It was the most she’d spoken in weeks, and it had her panting heavily and dropping her staff, digging her palms into her temples and closing her eyes tightly as a sharp spike of pain assaulted her brain. Her throat hurt, as well, but it always did that when she tried to talk, and it was tolerable, but a headache this bad-

Remembering what someone had once told her about pressure points, Lavellan removed her hands from her head and, instead, pinched the soft area above her thumb, right above the spot where the bone met the rest of her hand.

The pain faded within moments, though she wasn’t sure if it was thanks to the pressure point or not. Once she’d opened her eyes again, she saw Varric standing there, offering her a canteen. Which had her flustering a little, because usually it was Solas and-

Where Cassandra and Varric starting to pick up on this…?

Feeling a little flushed, she nodded and gingerly took the canteen from him, drinking a little before handing it back. Then, she looked back at Cassandra, who had given her a moment.

The Seeker was now frowning seriously, her brows furrowed. When Lavellan looked back at her, she sighed, but nodded. “Very well. We will do things your way.”

Lavellan smiled at her, then leaned over to grab her staff.

“Hold it right there, Boss.”

She jerked a little as she straightened back up, looking over at Bull confusedly and watching him as he walked over to one of the downed Blades, leaning over to root for something on the body.

When he stood back up and walked over to her, he was offering her… what was either a long dagger or a short sword, she couldn’t tell which.

Still very confused, she looked up at him.

Bull raised a brow at her, flipping the blade over and offering it to her by the grip. “If you’re planning on challenging someone to single combat, don’t use your magic. You’re stiff and inexperienced, and it obviously scares the shit out of you. You do, however, know how to stab things. So, defend with the staff, and stab the bleedy parts. I trust you know what the bleediest parts on humanoids are?”

Lavellan stared at him for a moment, once again finding herself startled and uncomfortable under his scrutiny. She did, however, eventually provide an answer, putting her staff back in its sling before pointing to the two veins on either side of her neck, the general direction of her heart - the part that wasn’t semi-protected by the sternum, at least - where she was pretty sure her liver was, and the insides of her thighs, where she knew the femoral artery was.

He was just starting to open his mouth when she also pressed her finger up into the soft skin under her chin, feeling the way it pushed her tongue up to the roof of her mouth.

Bull paused, then nodded, “That’s right. Angle a knife up just right in that direction, and it goes right into the brain. Oh, but your liver is more up here.” He reached out and poked his finger into her abdomen, right below where her sternum ended.

Immediately, Lavellan was jumping away and choking on a shrill giggle, then covering her face in mortification as she felt herself turn a dark red.

Bull snorted loudly, then took her hand and pressed the grip of the sword/dagger into it, making her shudder but take it.

“You sure you can do this?”

She looked up into his eye as her mind went blank.

No. Not at all.

She nodded.

 


 

She was tense and anxious as they walked into the Hessarian camp, feeling the eyes of the Blades boring into her and the other four from the sidelines and from the shadows of small buildings and tents.

At the head of the camp, completely soaked in rainwater and still just standing there stoically like he didn’t notice it at all, was the Hessarian leader. He grinned a little, savagely, as they walked over to him, his eyes locked on the crest over her chest.

“So, you would challenge the Blades of Hessarian?”

“Hessarian’s blade is supposed to represent mercy, not random slaughter.” Cassandra spoke up clearly from behind Lavellan, her voice biting and sharp, “You ordered the deaths of our men for no reason. Calling yourselves by such a name is an insult to Andraste.”

The man’s eyes locked on Cassandra and widened, a… terrifying look overcoming his face before he looked back at Lavellan, “You wear the crest, so you came to challenge by our laws. You and I, in single combat. Now. If you want justice? Claim it.”

Lavellan reached back with one hand to draw her staff, the other going to the blade on her belt, but before the leader even drew his axe-

Something heavy slammed into Lavellan’s side and knocked her from her feet, winding her as it took her to the ground, and it was only adrenalin, tenseness, instincts that had her jerking her hips sharply and rolling before the dog could latch down on her throat-

Dogs- She’d forgotten about the dogs-

Scrambling, losing the sword and latching onto her staff, instead, because her staff was what she had been clinging to for weeks now and her immediate instinct at this point was to keep it close, she rolled back to her feet, only to dive back to the ground when the second dog went for her face-

She could hear voices, angered shouts- Some of the words were coming from Cassandra, but Lavellan couldn’t make it out. The only voice she heard clearly was the man’s as he laughed and taunted.

“Nevarran bitch! Mabari are a Fereldan’s weapons!”

Lavellan had just managed to get back on her feet and looked up just in time to see one of the dogs lunging at her again, and this time she didn’t have the energy to-

In a spray of blood that warmed her face, a massive axe came crashing down and cut the dog’s head clean off, and Lavellan felt the rain stop falling on her briefly as an enormous form leaned over her. Right next to her ear, there was a growl, and Bull spoke in a low, rumbling voice.

“Well then, by your logic- Woof.”

After that, it was like the force of Bull’s ferocity was moving her forward, her own thoughts taking a seat in the back as she moved.

Another stroke from the Qunari’s axe took care of the other dog with no trouble, and when the Hessarian leader threw himself at Bull, roaring, Lavellan’s hand reached out, a green sphere briefly flickering to life around Bull- Just long enough for the human’s single-handed axe to bounce off of it.

With a roar of his own, this one more bestial than the one the human had let out, Bull spun around and swung his axe, the blunt end slamming into the man’s face, instantly bloodying it as the spikes crushed the bones in his cheek, his temple and around his eye.

As he went down, she stepped over with a kind of clarity that would leave her undisturbed for several moments- Just long enough to grip her staff in both hands and raise it, before slamming the bladed end down into his chest. Her hands slipped a little and her arms rattled as it skimmed bone, but it still sank in, making the man cough blood and gasp before he stopped moving.

Then, a few moments later, stopped breathing.

…Once he had, Lavellan’s moment of clarity ended.

Her eyes widened, and she tensed and froze up, unable to breathe. She got lightheaded, her vision tunneled, and-

“Well, all right then. It’s done. Anyone got a problem with that?”

“None whatsoever.” Lavellan looked over dazedly as a new, crisp, almost proper voice spoke up, and all she could do was stare as a man in a blue shirt and leather vest walked over to her and crossed one arm over his chest, briefly lowering himself to one knee. “Your Worship. The Blades of Hessarian are at your service. If you want eyes on the Coast, here we are.”

“…What, just like that?” Varric spoke up, disbelieving.

“Of course.” He stood back up, crossing his arms and glancing over at Varric calmly, “She came wearing Mercy’s Crest, issuing a clear challenge for the right to lead. She bested him, so now we serve her.”

“So, we kill one guy, and you guys serve the Inquisition, no questions asked.” Varric crossed his own arms, now sounding and appearing a tinge amused.

“Technically, we serve her. Though I suppose it amounts to the same thing. And besides…” He glanced over at the dead body of their former leader, sneering slightly, “The man was a bastard. You’re not the first to stand up to him. You’re just the first to win. And we’re happy with that. We would sooner swear our lives and our service to the Herald of Andraste.”

As the talking around her went on, the lightheadedness faded, and Lavellan settled more and more into her body.

Realizing her staff blade was still stuck in… a corpse, she pulled, working at it a little until it came free. Once it had, she quickly looked away from the gore and walked over to Cassandra, tugging on her sleeve a little and glancing at the man who had been speaking to them before looking back at her.

Cassandra frowned, then nodded, turning to the man and speaking up. “You and your men will cease all aggressions against any the Inquisition does not recognize as enemies. If you see or hear of anything, report it to our scouts."

“Is that your will, Your Worship?” He simply looked right at Lavellan, hardly sparing any extra attention to Cassandra, which made the Seeker tense.

Lavellan tugged on her sleeve a little, then nodded to the man.

“As you wish.” He crossed his arm over his chest again and inclined his head, “We shall keep watch and wait for further orders. Safe journeys, Your Worship.”

Lavellan shuddered and nodded back. Very grateful that, at this point, there was almost nothing else to do on the Storm Coast. Two rifts to close, and a few Grey Warden things Blackwall would be interested in - all of them, fortunately, clustered somewhat close together.

She really wanted nothing more than to go back to Haven and sleep for a week…

 


 

She had forgotten.

How could she have forgotten.

Really, she was starting to realize that she was forgetting… many things. She still remembered her life before this. She still remembered the game. The important parts. The ending. But the details of it all were becoming… fuzzier as the months passed.

But this-

She had thought the Iron Bull impressive when she’d first seen him. And he was. But the scene that was before them, when they walked out of a long tunnel, rendered her first impression of Bull in a much more realistic light.

As they stepped back out into the fresh air, there was a strong wind, pushing heavy mist and low clouds aside, and there it was- Rearing back on hind legs, wings spread as it bore down on on a large, tusked humanoid-

Vinsomer.

Lavellan remembered that, before that moment, she had thought she would be utterly terrified upon first seeing a dragon. But when she froze up and stared, what she was feeling wasn’t fear of any kind.

Long, agile and graceful for its size, so heavy she felt the ground tremble, even from their distance, body glistening with rain and bright, colorful markings flashing and glowing as it gathered magic and spat electricity- Graceful, proud lines of purple and white and gold, muscles in the throat rippling as lightning magic was charged-

Gods-

It was beautiful. She was beautiful.

And she wasn’t close enough- Nowhere near-

Suddenly so very sure and confident that she remembered that it would fly off instead of engage (when she had just been realizing that she was forgetting more and more as each day passed), Lavellan dropped her staff and broke away from the group without a thought, running forward with sure-footedness and excitement she hadn’t felt since… since her childhood, when her grandparents had first taken her to the mountains, and she had immediately run off to climb anything and everything she could find-

Moving quickly, heart pounding, slowing down when it seemed like it might be looking, barely paying attention to where she was putting her hands and feet as she climbed a protrusion of basalt columns that had a perfect stair-like formation. The rock was slick, and she really should have been more concerned about slipping and falling into the sea below, but she just wasn’t-

Not once did she look away from the dragon. And while she had, in reality, only run a few yards away from her companions, by the time she settled to watch the rest of the scene, she felt like it was a hundred times larger and more beautiful than when she’d first seen it. And then it got even better when the dragon vocalized - a screech that sounded like a mountain face had shattered under some terrible assault and was crumbling.

In perfect time with the noise, thunder rolled overhead, and the sky flashed brilliantly as several bolts of lightning streaked down and all struck the giant at the same time.

As, right at the same moment, the dragon lashed out and grabbed it by the neck, the snapping of bones like a boulder breaking.

And then it was over.

As the giant fell, dead, the storm eased somewhat, and the Vinsomer roared again before spreading her wings and pushing off the ground with powerful back legs, sail-sized wings catching a gust blowing in from the sea.

Lavellan stared after her in awe, just… completely shaken to the core.

Of course, when she climbed back down, Cassandra was right there, all righteous indignation and anger- But not even being yelled at could take Lavellan’s mood down.

Instead, she just grabbed Cassandra’s arms and mouthed something that had Solas pinching the bridge of his nose, Varric shaking his head and Bull laughing.

They’re perfect-

Chapter Text

Returning to Haven with Grey Warden artifacts, Lavellan figured, was a good way to make up for the poor first impression she’d likely made. And she could only assume it had been a bad impression, because she didn’t remember the encounter at all.

Cassandra had looked at her oddly after all of her rooting around for things the others couldn’t guess at had resulted in her gathering Grey Warden documents and belongings, but when Lavellan had simply written out that Leliana had wanted her to look into their apparent disappearance, the Seeker had accepted it with a nod.

Back in Haven, most of the papers she had found were given to Leliana - the ones, at least, that had pieced together to form entries from a journal that documented what the Wardens had been doing on the Coast. Leliana was a mixture of pleased and disappointed - disappointed that no Wardens aside from Blackwall had been found, but pleased that they had been active in the area at some point, and that she had a general idea of what to have her agents look for.

The rest - treaties swearing men and equipment and aid to the Grey Wardens, and a heavy metal medallion of some sort with the words ‘Warden Commander Farele’ skillfully etched into the back - she boxed up carefully and neatly and left her quarters with, leaving the walls of Haven and heading to the workshop.

On her way, she passed the tent Bull had claimed as his own, and he looked over from speaking to Krem and nodded.

Lavellan, still very much wishing she could stay well, well below the Qunari’s radar, stumbled a little, then smiled nervously and nodded back before staring ahead and hurrying on.

She found Blackwall standing alone, a little beyond the cabin next to the workshop, staring up at the Breach.

When she got close enough, her footsteps in the snow loud enough for him to hear, he turned and looked at her. Whoever he was expecting, if anyone, it likely wasn’t her, because he stared at her for a moment before shaking his head and looking back up at the Breach.

“…Maker, look at it… So much easier to ignore when it’s far away.” He paused, then turned back to her, fully this time, “And to actually walk out of it… to be that close…”

Lavellan shuddered and closed her eyes, shaking her head. She was very, very glad she didn’t remember actually walking out of the Breach. Being near the rifts was bad enough.

“…I, ah, apologize.” When she looked back up at him, Blackwall was frowning and glancing off to the side, rubbing his neck, “I did not mean to dredge up any unpleasant memories. Anyway, did you need me for something?”

At that, Lavellan offered the small chest she’d brought, unable to really communicate anything else with her hands full.

“What’s this?” Blackwall frowned slightly, hesitating before taking the box from her. Turning, he balanced it on the low stone wall so he could open it and look inside and inspect the items. As he did that, Lavellan took out her journal, starting to write. “…But these are… How did you-”

By the time he had realized what he was inspecting and turned to her, Lavellan had finished, and she tore out the page and offered it to him.

 

Leliana asked me to keep an eye out for anything that might tell us where the Wardens had gone. I gave her the notes that gave clues to what they might be doing, but I thought I would turn the rest over to you, for safekeeping. Things related to Warden history should stay safe in Warden hands.

 

Blackwall reread the paper several times before looking back up and staring at her, silent and looking shocked.

The longer he stared, the more uncomfortable Lavellan became, and after some shifting she glanced down at the ground.

“…I… do not know what to say…” Blackwall sounded as shocked as he had looked, and she really just wanted to walk away. “…I’m sorry.”

That caught her off guard, and she looked back up at him, now startled, herself.

Blackwall looked pained. “I must admit, I allowed rumors to sway my opinion of you. And that was unworthy of me. I thought you addled, and simple, while you were out there spending time doing something thoughtful for someone you didn’t even know.” When she started shaking her head, he held up his hand, “No. I won’t accept it. There are a hundred things that need your attention, and you took the time to protect a history and a cause that isn’t even yours. …You’re an honorable woman. Principled. I’m glad I joined the Inquisition.”

And now she was just flustered and embarrassed.

Taking the paper back from him, she wrote out a sloppy You’re welcome before turning and hurrying away.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough-

“Hey, boss! Come over here for a moment.”

Son of a-

Lavellan faltered, seriously debating just continuing to run back to her cabin, but it was just too rude and she was too spineless- So, after rocking back and forth on her feet, she gave in and turned, sulking over to Bull’s tent.

“Awww, come on. Look a little less like you think I’m going to eat you.” Bull said with a bit of a groan, making Lavellan hunch more and Krem snort loudly.

“What, has this big ass been laying into you or something? Give me the order and I’ll set him straight.”

Bull growled a little, “Watch it, Krem.”

“Yeah, yeah…”

Bull grumbled, then his tone turned serious, “Boss. Something we need to address.” Lavellan shifted, then looked up at him and met his eyes, making him nod. “You’re not all that good at using magic in the heat of battle.”

…Well, he wasn’t wrong. She was getting better at controlling her magic and casting spells, but when they were fighting and she was under pressure… it became a problem.

“You have no combat training.” Bull went on, sitting down on a large cut of a stump that served as a stool for him- Where had they even gotten that for him- He went on, lifting his hand slightly and shaking his head, “You don’t have the right mindset for it at all. You spent some time as some sort of healer, didn’t you?”

…Of a sort…? Though her patients were animals… Lavellan lifted her hand, tipping it back and forth slightly.

“Thought so. And that’s a problem.” He pointed at her, “Difference between medics and healers is, medics are used to being on the field of battle. Healers aren’t. Your ability to respond changes depending on your mental state. Which your inability to talk is affecting negatively. You weren’t born mute, were you? You’re not even fully mute. This was recent.”

Shifting and looking away, she nodded, wishing she had pockets to slip her hands into. Since she didn’t, she crossed her arms, knowing even as she did that it was a horrendously obvious defensive tactic and unable to bring herself to stop.

“No scarring…” He propped his elbow up on his knee and rubbed his chin, “No muscle wasting, and you still have your tongue… Mental trauma?” When she nodded again, he grumbled to himself for a moment. “Had any healers look at it?”

Lavellan nodded, then reached up to draw the rough outline of an animal jawbone against her chest.

“Mmmmm… Mental trauma would be a bit beyond potions and poultices, so magic would be the next route here, wouldn’t it? Solas isn’t the only mage you have anymore. You should have a few others look at you. In the meantime, I’m going to have Krem teach you how to use daggers.” When her eyes widened, Bull went on, “Your stances are rigid and you show no flexibility. You’ve been taught how to control your magic, but not how to use it properly for self-defense or for attack. And you’re uncomfortable with it. A physical weapon would be a better fit, but your body isn’t suited for the heavy stuff. Daggers and short swords would be good. Spears, too. Things made for thrusting and focusing on vital organs.”

“And I was trained as a soldier, before I was a mercenary.” Krem crossed his arms, cocking his head a little, “Basic training for Tevinter soldiers covers all weapon types, with advanced training focusing on what you’re suited for. I can show you the basics of dagger use, and even a little with spears.”

“In the Vint style.” Bull smirked a little, “Which few down here would know. You should also consider approaching Varric, Sera or Leliana, though they’re all bow users. I’ll keep a lookout for a good dagger-using rogue. I have Skinner, but… well…”

Krem snorted and rolled his shoulder, “Skinner isn’t a people person. And she’s not really suited for instructing. Her idea of ‘teaching’ would probably end in you poked full of holes, and that’d be no good.” He gave her a joking, friendly smile.

It was probably meant to ease some of her stress. And it did… a little.

But not entirely.

Already, Bull was stepping in to take charge of her life. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing - actually, if anyone else would do that, she would welcome it. She was a person who functioned much better in a structured environment, and she was fully aware of that.

But with Bull, it was different. And there were several troubling things to take into consideration. He was Ben-Hassrath. Already, he knew the Inquisition needed a leader, and he was looking to shape her into that. He had orders to get close, to keep an eye on things, and if she came off as malleable - which she knew she was - his orders might change to actively molding her. Making her a person capable of being the Inquisitor.

Making her a person the Qunari could use.

But she was in Lavellan’s body. Lethlares Lavellan could not fall to the Qun. She could not become an instrument of the Qun.

And Lavellan could not allow the Iron Bull to see through her.

After he had left the Qun, perhaps…

And then, in a horrifying moment, Lavellan started realizing certain problems that would crop up once Lethlares was back in her body - something she had thought about before, and only grew worse each time she thought about it.

It would be obvious, when Lethlares was herself again. She could use her magic- Probably, at least. No. Definitely. Lavellan had been raised to be First. She was capable with magic. Deadly with magic. She would require no blade.

She needed to speak with her-

“So yeah, Boss,” Bull’s words suddenly pulled her out of her thoughts, and she jerked a little and looked at him, “Plan to make some time in your schedule for us.”

After a moment, Lavellan nodded stiffly and walked off.

The look he had been giving her when he’d said that had made her feel sick.

 


 

When she woke, it was warm. The bedding was soft, and smelled of… green, and pine, and the faint musk of some sort of animal. It was comforting, and she just wanted to curl up and go back to sleep…

“Forgive me, da’len… but we have much to speak about, and very little time.”

Instantly, Lavellan’s- Morgan’s eyes snapped open, and she sat up, looking over. Seeing Lethlares sitting there, all of her emotions welled up, and she leaned over and wrapped her arms around her tightly, without thinking. And cried a little.

Briefly, Lethlares tensed. But, after a moment, she relaxed again, reaching up and rubbing her back.

Realizing that she was hugging someone who might be afraid of her, might hate her, Morgan quickly let go and pulled away, rubbing her eyes with her hands. “I-I’m sorry- I thought I’d done something wrong, that something had happened to you and you were gone-”

“Calm yourself, da’len.” Hands cupped her cheeks, and Morgan moved her own hands so she could meet Lethlares’ eyes, “Remember, unstable emotions can cause changes in the Beyond. Circumstances finally lined up and allowed us to meet again, we cannot risk that.”

Morgan swallowed thickly and nodded, rubbing her eyes again and regulating her breathing until she’d calmed down.

As she did, the elf watched her, sitting back and studying her with an expression Morgan couldn’t read. It didn’t occur to her that she needed to be trying to read it, or that something might be off, until Lethlares started speaking.

“I have been able to… keep an eye on things going on with you and this Inquisition, as I did before. …I have also been privy to some of your thoughts.”

Instantly, Morgan was on edge, tensing up. What did she mean by-

“Morgan. Be still.” Lethlares looked at her seriously, frowning a little. Her face smoothed out again once the human had calmed somewhat. “I can make little sense of this. A human, one who isn’t a mage, is possessing my body like any spirit or demon would. You have no connection to any of this, and you… do not understand this world. Not the details, at least. Your behavior is odd. And you… know what to do. I need these things explained.”

“…I don’t know where to begin…” Was it possible to feel lightheaded in the Fade? Because she did.

“The beginning, Morgan.” Lethlares was calm, but serious, and it was putting Morgan on edge. She didn’t want things between them to be bad- “Your name is Morgan Chambers, but who are you, and how are you tied to what is going on?”

Morgan stared at her for a moment, glad she was sitting down because if she’d been standing, she might have fallen over… Even sitting, she was swaying a little. How did blood pressure even work in the Fade… “I’m twenty-six years old, and I’m a veterinary technician- I help heal animals. And I’m… not really connected to all of this.”

“That cannot be true. Not with how you know what needs to be done.” Lethlares frowned a little again, “Where are you from?”

“…I really… don’t know anymore.” She shuddered, rubbing her face. Much as she’d been trying not to think about this, her thoughts did tend to wander when she was trying to fall asleep, and… “…I think that… from your perspective… I’m from somewhere beyond the Fade. Something happened, and… I don’t know… our souls intersected, right at the moment to explosion happened. Why my soul was out of its body, I couldn’t say, but now I’m in you. And I have no idea how to undo that.”

“And how do you know so much?”

“I… Where I am from, all of this is a… story. Please, I don’t want to- I can’t talk about that more.” Morgan pressed the heels of her hands into her eyes, shuddering, “I’ve tried to make sense of it, I really have, but I- Don’t even know where to begin, and I can’t. If I think about it too much, I’ll break.”

There was silence.

Then, Morgan was being startled by a warm body pressing against her side, arms wrapping around her shoulders and a hand gently pressing her face into Lethlares’ neck.

“Forgive me, da’len… I’ve seen enough of what is going on out there to know that you’re not a bad person. Nor do you have bad intentions. You’re terrified, and I do not blame you. To be alone in the face of this, to know what is to come and feel inadequate to the challenge… Many fates rest on your shoulders, and you’ve had none to talk to. …I am confused and afraid, myself, but it is not my desire to leave you alone in this. I only wish I could be by your side more than this. …Though, having my body back would be nice, as well.”

Morgan laughed weakly, then tensed and tried not to cry.

“…We must work out a way to get me back into my body.” Lethlares pulled back, serious once again. “I do not want to do anything to risk your life. But you have been right… about many things. You are not suited to this task. And the longer I am trapped in here, and the more you must fill the role that was meant for me, the harder the transition will be once we find a way, if we find a way, to undo this. None can know. They would label me an abomination, and you a demon. And the only one who you believe would be able to help us at the moment would be Solas-”

“Who is not an option.” Morgan interrupted, only for Lethlares to nod.

“I might not know why you feel that way… But I have felt enough of your emotions, heard enough of your thoughts to know how strongly you feel about that. It must be for a good reason, and I trust your judgment. Which means,” Lethlares inhaled deeply, then sighed, running a hand through her hair, “We are on our own. My Keeper has taught me much of magic and elven history, but this… is out of my field of knowledge. And from in here, I can only continue to postulate, and wrack my brain. You are the one who is in the better position to research.”

“…I feel like this is working out too well.” Morgan blurted, after just spending a few moments just staring at Lethlares. “You’re taking this… really well, and you want to help, instead of just trying to kill me. Wait, are you actually a demon, did I fuck up again-”

Lethlares blinked at her, then snorted a little and rolled her eyes, “No, da’len, I am no demon, and you have not ‘fucked up.’ Like you, I’ve simply had much time to myself to think about things and work out how I feel about this. You are a good person. And you are doing the best you can. I want to help you. And the best way to do that, would be for us to get me back in control of my body, and try to find yours. And, if you do not have one, then I will simply keep you in mine, and do what can for you.”

Morgan stared at her, “…I know how… elves feel about spirits… And you would…”

“Of course.” Lethlares reached out, cupping her cheek with her hand and giving her a compassionate look, “You must… forgive me if this comes out wrong, but… You are not made for this kind of life. The realities of this world are too harsh for you. But you’re trying. So very hard. To protect my body, and fill my shoes. And the pain I can feel it causing you… If all I can do to provide a safe haven for you is to allow you to continue inhabiting me? I will. We will figure this out. And I will take the burden from you.”

“…You are Lethlares Lavellan… First of the Lavellan clan, and raised to be a leader.” Again, she was trying not to cry, her emotions overwhelming her. Lethlares was actually… on board with this. She was willing to take over. More than that, she wanted to help her- “You can do this, right? You can be the Herald of Andraste, and help the Inquisition fix all of this?”

“With the pains you’re going through to give me the best start you can?” Lethlares smiled gently, pressing their foreheads together, “How could I not… lethellan.”

Chapter Text

Lethlares Lavellan was a much… warmer and motherly person than the game had made the character Lavellan out to be.

Of course, that could be related to the dialogue being nearly the same for any Inquisitor of any race and gender.

So, really… Morgan was meeting her for the first time.

And really… she was grateful for the person Lethlares was. Cassandra tended to fret and boss her around, but those were for different reasons. Lethlares was a tactile and affectionate person, who probably tended to worry about everyone. And Morgan had desperately needed to be hugged for weeks now.

As if sensing that, Lethlares held her the whole time they spoke and theorized. And Morgan welcomed it, leaning against her side and relaxing.

It also seemed to help her think a little more clearly, because as they spoke, something occurred to her.

“…That does sound like it could work.” Lethlares nodded, her tone very contemplative, “If the creation of the Breach was somehow related to this… intersection of our souls, then perhaps closing it would be the opportune time to try to reverse our positions.”

“You’ve mentioned before that I have a ‘firm grip’ on your body.” Morgan looked up at her, “That means you’ve tried to reassume control. If the explosion of power is enough to rattle my placement-”

“That would be when I need to try.” Lethlares nodded again, harder this time, her expression set confidently. “You’re right. For now, I need to conserve my energy. Even if it is unconscious on your part, your soul is locked firmly in place. Even with the help of an explosion that powerful, I will need to put everything I have into trying to displace you.”

“And then you’ll take over.” Morgan pulled away a little, meeting her eyes as Lethlares turned to face her, “As the Herald of Andraste. You’ll go out, close as many rifts as you can. Fight the evils that are to come. Be faced with decisions that will help some, and hurt others.”

And eventually… be named Inquisitor.

“You are doing the hard work for me right now, I would think.” Lethlares smiled a little, “But yes. I will do the best I can for what you’re helping to build, and I’ll see it through to the end.”

“…They’ll notice. I’m… not very good at being Dalish. And I’m an even worse mage.”

“If I manage to regain control after the explosion closing the Breach will trigger? I’ll play it off as a ‘recovery.’ Lead them to believe I really was addled. The change will be shocking, and for a while, they were already convinced you were addled. Most will probably believe it.”

Morgan breathed slowly and, after a moment, nodded. She wanted to be guarded, cautious, but… She was really feeling like they could do this. That this would work. That it it would finally be over, and she could just-

…But no. She couldn’t do that…

“…If this works… If I get you back where you belong, and I survive… I’ll continue doing what I can. I’ll tell you what to do.”

“We can do this, lethellan.” Lethlares smiled warmly, taking her hands and squeezing them, “Together.”

…That moment was the first time Morgan actually felt like she really could do this.

 


 

Suddenly, it seemed like there was more she could do. Things she had missed. Things she needed to make sure were taken care of before the closing of the Breach, so that she could say she really had done all she could. After the Breach was closed, after all, Haven would be lost to them, along with several missions.

When she had woken up from her talk with Lethlares, Lavellan had sat down and started writing. Anything and everything she could remember. She’d done it several times before, but being freshly motivated… lit a fire. And, having that fire lit seemed to illuminate things she’d glazed over.

The Storm Coast was more or less done, but she’d skimmed over a few things in the Hinterlands. Things she’d wanted to avoid that now seemed… less frightening. (Like the bears. Bull was much scarier than bears. …He was not, however, scarier than giant spiders.)

And while they were in the Hinterlands… they might as well go to Redcliffe. After speaking, Lethlares had voiced her own preference of the mages, rather than the templars, and Lavellan was more than happy to go along with that. If things worked out, after all, Lethlares would be taking over after the closing of the Breach.

Which meant she really didn’t need Krem to teach her about daggers- So Lavellan planned to thoroughly avoid leaving the walls of Haven until they left for the Hinterlands. Which kind of sucked, because she’d been enjoying learning how to really make armor…

But that didn’t matter. The sooner she got things squared away in the Hinterlands, the sooner she could go to Redcliffe, get that nightmare over with, and then come back and close the Breach.

So, after making a list and going over it a few times, then burning all of her notes that didn’t relate to how to write in Common or how to do the math conversions for money, Lavellan got herself dressed up in her armor and made her way to Leliana.

She had been totally prepared to just approach Leliana and ask her to call the others to the war room for a meeting.

What she hadn’t been prepared for was to walk in on something she’d completely forgotten about- Something that should have happened weeks ago- Why did things that should have already happened and she’d forgotten about seem to just wait for her to walk right up-

“-illed Farrier… one of my best agents. And he knows where the others are.” Lavellan froze up and stared at Leliana as she looked down briefly, her face hard and a scowl curled on her mouth. Then, she shook her head, and somehow, her expression hardened further into something dark and dangerous and she gave the order- “You know what must be done. Make it clean. Painless, if you can. We were friends once.”

Right at that moment was when the dialogue wheel would appear, and she had to-

Lavellan lunged forward and grabbed Leliana’s arm, her eyes wide.

Leliana jerked her arm away and turned on her, startled, then realized who it was and frowned, “Herald…? Forgive me, but I am busy at the moment. If it’s something important-”

Lavellan shook her head hard, and pointed to the agent she’d just given the order to, mouthing ‘What are you doing?’

The redhead paused, glancing at the agent, then looked back at Lavellan, her expression unreadable and calm. “Nothing that concerns you. I am simply doing my job.”

Shaking her head again, harder, Lavellan stumbled over to Leliana’s table and fumbled to retrieve her journal.

 

Don’t do this

You just said this man used to be your friend, you can’t order the death of a friend that easily it’s not right

 

“Herald, he betrayed us.” Leliana crossed her arms, her scowl coming back, “He murdered my agent.”

 

And you’d kill someone who was once your friend, just like that? No hesitation whatsoever?

 

“Of course I would. For the good of the Inquisition, and the world. You find fault with my decision?”

 

It’s not right

 

Butler’s actions were not right. He murdered one of my men, put our agents in danger, betrayed us- I condemn one man to save dozens!” Leliana paused, breathing heavily. Her voice had been growing louder and louder, putting Lavellan more on edge- But the spymaster stopped herself and closed her eyes, taking a moment to calm herself. Then, she opened her eyes and looked at Lavellan again, calm. And… a little weary. …No, not a little. She looked so tired… “I may not like what I do, Lethlares, but it must be done. I cannot afford the luxury of ideals at a time like this.”

Her hands shaking, Lavellan wrote down what she knew needed to be said- What she knew would speak to the kind girl Leliana had once been-

Once it was written, she picked up the book and turned to face her, holding it open so she could see it.

 

Now is precisely the time for ideals.

 

For a few moments, Leliana was silent and unmoving, her expression blank and her eyes looking… so tired. She didn’t reread the words, just stood there and stared at them blankly.

Setting her journal aside, Lavellan stepped over to her and took her hand, and this time, the spymaster didn’t pull away.

Needing to speak, not write, all she could do was mouth, ‘Leliana, please.’

After staring into her eyes - or maybe just through her - Leliana closed her eyes and sighed heavily. “You feel very strongly about this…” Another pause, then she pulled away and walked over to her table, looking over the papers scattered across it for a moment before turning to the still waiting agent, who had been watching the exchange in shocked, tense silence. “Apprehend Butler, but see that he lives.” Once the man had nodded and left, the spymaster looked back at the Herald, “I will find another way to deal with him. Does that satisfy you?”

Lavellan could only nod.

“Very well.” Leliana nodded, looking back at her notes again, “Then, if there is nothing else?”

Moving to grab her notebook again, Lavellan found a box to sit on, feeling weak and drained. She scratched out what she’d written, then started a new topic.

 

I’m sorry, but there is. I need to go back to the Hinterlands. There are a few things I need to finish there, and I… want to approach the mages.

 

Leliana took the journal when it was offered, blinking slowly as she read and pausing before looking back at Lavellan. “And you are sure? This will not be a popular decision.”

 

I know, but I believe approaching the mages would be our best chance. The templars seem too closed off, and I don’t trust Lord Seeker Lucius’ intentions. They’re the greater risk to take, when we aren’t in a position where we can afford risks.

 

“I agree.” With a nod, Leliana sat down across from her and clasped her hands, resting her elbows on her knees, “But that is not to say the mages are without their own set of risks. While I am… more sympathetic to the mages, I do realize the inherent danger in siding with them. It will turn many against us, and the mages and templars we have now are already at odds. If we make the templars in our ranks feel threatened or unwelcome…”

After a few moments of silence, Lavellan took her time writing down her response. It was the most, really, she'd written in conversation with anyone, even Solas and Varric.

And it wasn't really something she'd spoken to Lethlares about.

It was just… how she felt.

 

This is our chance to show Thedas a different side of mages. A side few beyond the templars would ever see, because most mages are only ever locked in their Circles. Everyone needs the chance to see that mages are people, too. And that, if given the chance, they can be contributing members of society, just like anyone else. Yes, some mages are bad, and want to hurt people, maybe even with blood magic. But, by that same vein, some Thedosians want to make others suffer, be they elves, or someone they happen to be above or below in social standing- Only they won’t use magic. They’ll use a blade. Or poison. You can’t condemn everyone for the sins of the few. The Conclave didn’t end when the temple blew up and Justinia died. It’s still happening. We have a chance, right here and now, to see it through to the end.

 

These words, Leliana did reread. Several times. For many long moments, in complete silence, her face unmoving and her breathing slow- A few times Lavellan wondered if she’d stopped breathing.

The longer the silence elapsed between them, the more on-edge she became, the background noises and clashing metal, the din of murmurs and shouts, the sounds of wood and animals and doors- It all became unnerving. Was being too honest a mistake-

When Leliana finally looked back up at her, she jumped a little.

Something in the spymaster’s expression had… changed. Her eyes were wide, and she had this look on her face. Color in her cheeks. Her breathing was a little fast.

“Go to Redcliffe.” Her voice was strong when she spoke, and she sat upright and nodded seriously, “Speak to the mages. See if they will be amenable to an alliance. I will speak to Josephine and Cullen on your behalf.”

…There was… life in Leliana’s words again. Passion.

She wasn’t sure how long it would last, because there had been other times in the last few weeks when she’d heard the spymaster speak with similar force and verve- But it was here, now. And this time, she had caused it.

And that had Lavellan suddenly feeling a bit more… alive, herself.

She nodded back, and Leliana leaned forward and grabbed her hand, holding out her journal with the other, “When you speak to them, use these words. This is the line of thought that we need- That Justinia wanted. An end to blind fear, and an acceptance of mages as people. If the Herald of Andraste speaks like this, then the people will-” Leliana paused, then rubbed her face and stood, smiling a little, “Forgive me, you should go, before I can no longer stop myself.”

A little flushed, and unable to keep herself from smiling back (not that she really felt like making herself stop), Lavellan nodded and stood, clipping her journal back to her belt and hurrying off. Who would she need-

Solas and Varric. Of the others- Cassandra. Cassandra would disapprove, but Cassandra needed to know how she felt. Needed to understand.

Maybe… there was one good thing about her being Lethlares Lavellan, if only for now.

If she could plant the seeds, before she left… Then maybe…

Chapter Text

This was not the Hinterlands. This was wet, muddy, dreary, and creepy. And it very much doused Lavellan’s fire about speaking to the mages.

On their way to the stables, Lace Harding had seen and hurried over to them, in Haven for only a brief period of time before she had to go back out on duty. She’d only had a few moments before they were to ride out, so she’d looked right at Lavellan and gotten down to it.

Avvar tribesmen had kidnapped several Inquisition soldiers in the Fallow Mire in hopes of luring the Herald of Andraste to them. Why they wanted her, Harding didn’t know - the note written in ink and blood that had been stabbed into the back of a dead scout in one of their camps hadn’t said.

This was another thing Lavellan had completely forgotten about. And when Harding told her, she remembered why she’d forgotten- The Fallow Mire was largely empty and useless, with no major missions aside from this one. It was useful for farming, and some Grey Warden things…? But other than that, nothing else. You went once and never really had to go again, unlike most of the other locations on the map.

But now it was a real thing. And it being a real thing made it an extremely undesirable place to go for other reasons-

It was full of walking corpses.

The Avvar weren’t a problem, no- Yes, they were huge and intimidating and tended to go around with giant mauls, but they were nothing compared to the corpses-

And now there was a mission down there that really only she could do anything about and-

Fuck.

So here they were. In the rain. And the mud. And the dreary. Sticking to half-sunk and crumbling bridges as tightly as they could because if they disturbed the water too much, corpses would rise up out of the water and-

And corpses didn’t care about being frozen. Or electrocuted. Or stabbed. Or shot full of bolts. No, the only thing that really took care of the corpses was setting them on fire. Which was hard to do when it was constantly raining, even with magic-

And this. This right goddamn here was why most funeral rites in Thedas involved cremating the dead. Because Thedas was one of those godforsaken places where, if you weren’t careful, the dead had a tendency to stand back up and shamble after you with bows and swords.

Lavellan stuck close to Solas. Very close to Solas. Cassandra’s sword was essentially useless for protection with the time it took to hack corpses to small enough pieces that couldn’t keep coming after you, and Varric’s crossbow was even more useless because corpses didn’t give a shit. Solas, at least, could set things on fire, and was better at controlling his fire than she was.

Then, at some point during their mindless trudge, Lavellan noticed something.

With no one really alive in the mire to be maintaining the fires, obviously they would have had to have been lit by the temporarily present Avvar tribesmen. And the tribesmen had likely left the fires along the path lit so they could have a safe way to travel from Point A to Point B.

But how did they maintain the fires when they didn’t have someone manning each one and the rain was constantly falling?

A sharp eye noticing some shiny black stuff on the ground, and a quick crouch and inspection answered Lavellan’s ponderings.

Tar. Or something similar to tar. Whatever it was, it was thick, it was black, it smelled horrible, and the piles of wood were soaked in it. Just to make sure, she’d picked up a stick (which was soaked, naturally) and poked one end of it in the substance until it had a nice glob. Then she held it over a flame and-

And a flame immediately fwooshed to life.

Yes. Flammable. Which meant…

Varric already carried bombs and grenades on him. Most of them were useless against corpses because corpses don’t give a shit if you throw acid on them. But Varric’s bombs were useful for other things - like emptying them out so she could fill the delicate canisters with the black shit because she was pretty sure the empty glass vials she kept for refilling with potions were too thick to work properly.

Cassandra, covered in corpse blood and moody and tired and irritated, had snarled a little when she had insisted on stopping, but had given in because, Lavellan figured, she was starting to get used to the seemingly odd and questionable things the Herald did tending to pay off.

Varric had raised a brow when she’d gestured to some of the canisters on his bandolier, but had given them over, “Having a thought?”

Holding up one hand and gesturing like she was pinching something, Lavellan then sat right down in the mud, next to the tar and the fire, and started working out how to open the damn thing without just making it explode in her face. Though maybe, if she got covered in acid, they could just go back to Haven…

“Easy there, kid…” The dwarf stepped over, briefly reaching out, “You do not want to get that all over you.”

Maybe she did. Either way, she was too miserable and grumbly about all of this to care about his warning, so she just waved him off and continued focusing, gently pulling and twisting at this and that. So if that was the mechanism that made it break open, then the area where they would have had to have it open to fill it with the chemicals would be…

Yes. It screwed open. And she could just lean over and pour the contents out. Huh. So two thirds was filled with some powder and the other third was-- Some clear fluid agent. Water? Alcohol? And there was a thin wall between the two to keep them from interacting until you threw it…

Didn’t matter. She didn’t need it. After some feeling around, she just took out her dagger and started using the blade to scoop the tar into the canister.

“Fire bombs?”

She paused long enough to give Varric a thumbs up before she went back to work. She didn’t have time to work out some way to make this work fancier, so she just took out some cloth she was supposed to carry around for bandaging and started cutting it into strips, stuffing the one end into the open canister and then loosely sticking the cap back on so the contents wouldn’t fall out.

If it worked right? She could light the end of the cloth and just throw.

If it didn’t work right? She could just throw a fireball at the damn thing and make it blow up.

“Hmmm… Maybe I could…” Varric crouched down next to her, rubbing his chin and thinking, “Now how do I get some of this shit on the arrowheads without getting Bianca all clogged up…”

Being a rogue, of course, he worked something out. And it became much easier to set the corpses on fire. Though the ideal situation was still to avoid disturbing the water and making them come up in the first place.

If dawn lotus wasn’t so rare and valuable a resource, she almost wouldn’t have cared. But it was, so she had to. She grabbed it whenever she could. (Though she did not take risks with disturbing the water.) Scouts could gather more, later.

Which, if she remembered correctly, would be a lot easier and safer if she would…

The first beacon they came across, she had side-eyed warily. She could hear Solas speculating- But Cassandra did not care, and Varric just shrugged. Lavellan, on the other hand, knew what it would do, and what the result would be if she activated all of the beacons. The path to the abandoned keep and back would be safe to traverse.

But was dawn lotus worth it…

…Even if it wasn’t, eventually, Inquisition soldiers would probably be sent back here for some reason or another. And if she didn’t, and they got themselves eaten…

…Goddamnit…

She played it off as having Solas teach her how to use veilfire. That was something that hadn’t happened in the Hinterlands, and Solas was always happy to teach. And, knowing how to use it would probably come in useful sooner or later. Maybe. She didn’t care too much at the moment. She was wet and miserable and the air smelled like death and plague. And she was about to summon a goddamn swarm of corpses and a terror demon.

She did have to admit, however, that the veilfire really was… very pretty.

So, gentle, flickering blue in hand, Lavellan walked around to the other side of the menhir and looked at the faint glyph that shimmered iridescently in the pale light. She didn’t even have time to read the words before-

Before a scream was being torn from her throat as something grabbed her braid and jerked her down onto her back- And then a ghastly, pale green, vague idea of a face was entering her view of the dark, dreary sky above, with so many tiny, bloodshot eyes, jagged mouth permanently kept open by the lower jaw being fused to the chest, all spindly limbs and clawed fingers and screaming at her-

Cassandra was there in an instant, smashing the thing into the ground with her shield and tearing into it with her sword. Somewhere, she could hear Varric cursing. An arc of fire bloomed above her as Solas moved to stand over her, one foot on either side of her body, his brows furrowed and his expression twisted into a focused scowl as he spun his staff.

She needed to move-

The terror demon- Once it was dead, nothing else would matter-

Lavellan couldn’t remember what terror demons were weak against, so all she could do was roll over, standing once she felt Solas move and pulling her own staff from her back. Breathing deeply, holding it, looking at the demon as Cassandra grappled with it, and then-

It was like something of a dance, really. The moves Solas had taught to her. The positions he had drilled her on until she couldn’t think. Feet moving back and forth, sometimes drawing semi-circles on the ground, sometimes tapping against symbols she was imagining in her head like she was playing Dance Dance Revolution or something- All while she spun the staff between her hands.

She wasn’t sure why, but she was suddenly reminded of a piece of dialogue from the game- Party banter, maybe? She couldn’t remember who had said it- No, no, Cole had said it. He had been describing magic from the view of spirits- Spirits were what allowed a mage to use magic. Mages used their innate access to the Fade, to dreams, to bend reality, and spirits were always present on the other side, clamoring to help a mage change reality.

So she didn’t need to try to make herself control it, really. She just needed to reach out to the spirits for assistance-

Like flipping a switch, a huge explosion of flame suddenly appeared, both around Cassandra and the demon- Though while Cassandra did shout and jump back, she wasn’t burning. Not at all.

Instead, the demon was burning - writhing on the ground and letting out an unnatural, spine-chilling scream before the ground beneath it turned green and it sank down, disappearing from view.

It wasn’t gone- It would be back-

When the ground underneath her flickered, Lavellan tensed and jumped back, calling out a desperate “CASS-” before she turned around and set a corpse that had almost snuck up on her completely on fire. It, too, writhed and tried to flee from the light, waterlogged and green skin boiling and blackening with magic flames that were much harder to put out than normal ones.

A crash behind her made her look, and she turned to see Cassandra smashing her shield into the demon again, bringing her sword down on where its spindly neck joined its body and managing to cut clean through in one stroke.

With that, the demon’s limbs all caved and it collapsed, unmoving.

Next to them, something about the menhir changed, the lit veilfire glowed brighter- And the corpses all collapsed, whisps fleeing their bodies and flickering out like dying flames.

For a while, they all just stood there, breathing heavily, waiting for the next wave. But none came.

Eventually, Solas ventured, “It seems… the beacon possesses some power to drive the dead back. Perhaps… when the Breach opened, the demon was drawn to its power, and consumed it. And now that the demon is dead… that power can be properly rekindled and utilized.”

“…Well…” Varric started after a pause, “If we come across any more, we can just have the Seeker lop their heads off so we can all enjoy a much safer walk back.”

“…Hmph.” Cassandra sheathed her blade, giving Varric a look, “You hope I will make it that easy for you.” With that, she moved on, Varric letting out a short laugh before following her.

Lavellan puffed after them, and made to follow-

“You realized.”

She paused and glanced back at Solas, who was giving her a knowing, amused look. He even seemed a little… proud, maybe? She shuffled, then nodded.

Solas nodded back, “It won’t always be that easy to call on, but this has been a good step for you. Just remember to be careful about who you call out to for help.”

When she nodded again, Solas moved after Cassandra and Varric, with Lavellan trotting a little to make sure she didn’t fall behind.

 


 

They had needed to repeat that process three more goddamn times before reaching the keep where the “Hand of Korth” was keeping their soldiers. By that point, Lavellan was in a dreary and sour mood again. Enough so that she was oddly tickled at how the stupid Avvar chieftain's son had screamed when she had set his clothes on fire- Something corpses didn’t do.

Lavellan inflicts Panicked. It’s super effective.

It probably said nothing good about her mental state, how setting someone on fire made her cackle a little, but she didn’t care.

The idiot was much easier to kill than he had been in the game - while he was on fire, one good thrust from a sword through the eye was enough to take him down. Then they were looking for where the soldiers were being kept, Lavellan took down the Grey Warden banner and bundled it up to take back to Blackwall, and then-

“Who’s-” The mobile soldiers were standing before the injured ones protectively, expecting some sort of fight. The female at the head of the group stopped and stared at Lavellan, her eyes widening, “The Herald of Andraste-?!”

Murmurs broke out in the room as the soldiers all relaxed. Next to Lavellan, Cassandra stood tall, looking around the room, “We have taken care of the Avvar. Is everyone alive?”

“Y-Yes, Lady Seeker.” The soldier saluted, “The injured need some rest, but we can return on our own.”

“That is good to hear, but do not push yourselves.” Cassandra nodded, pointing back the way they had come, “There are beacons along the path - stay close to them and the undead should not trouble you.”

As the Seeker continued speaking to the soldier in charge, Lavellan overheard whispers.

“I can’t believe the Herald came for us-”

“I told you she wouldn’t leave us.”

Lavellan haltingly looked towards the injured soldiers, in the back of the room, then after a moment, stepped over, reaching into a large pouch hanging from her belt and pulling out a few potions. She couldn’t give them all she had, she needed some for herself, and she wasn’t good at healing magic, so this was all she could-

“Lady Herald-” The man tending to the others shook his head, refusing, “Please, keep them for yourself. We can make do-”

Lavellan whined loudly and shook her head, holding out the potions again and putting them right in his hands. Not letting him turn her away.

The soldier paused, then crossed his arm over his chest and bowed to her, “Thank you, Herald. Truly, the Maker must have sent you to us.”

She could hear other things being whispered, but she didn’t stick around long enough to listen. Lavellan just quickly got back to her feet and hurried out of the room, grabbing Varric as she went. Now that they weren’t being attacked by Avvar and undead, there was a locked door she needed him to look at- And, if he was really there, the Skywatcher to recruit. Then, they would be on their way to the Hinterlands…

Chapter Text

Small things to do in the Hinterlands before starting the main event. Things she fiddled around with because, now that she wasn’t sullen about corpses, she was anxious about what was to come next. A griffon feather, maps of the Deep Roads, a bandit fortress to clear out- Yes, she even risked Bear Country.

It was after they had cleared out the bandits that Cassandra had finally spoken up. She’d had nothing to say during the stint to the Fallow Mire, since it involved saving Inquisition soldiers, but afterwards they had gone right to the Hinterlands instead of returning to Haven and-

“Herald, what is it you are planning?”

Lavellan blinked and looked up from slipping the key to Valammar into her pocket, feeling a shiver go up her spine at the look Cassandra was giving her, and the way the Seeker had crossed her arms. When she glanced around nervously, she saw Varric had found somewhere to sit and was- polishing Bianca. Fuck.

And Solas. Solas was standing off to the side, pretending to be looking at something in the distance.

Double fuck.

They only did those things so nonchalantly when they were preparing to let Cassandra lay into her a little.

Swallowing, she looked back at Cassandra, who had narrowed her eyes.

“You gathered us and took us to the stables without explanation. Hearing about the Inquisition soldiers in the Fallow Mire put things on hold, but now we are here, and you are dawdling. What did you bring us to the Hinterlands for? Surely not just to clear out a group of bandits. Cullen’s men could have easily handled this.”

…Well, she did need to tell them… They’d realize once she started moving them towards Redcliffe, so…

Using the desk and the backs of the papers the bandits had left on the terrace, Lavellan picked up a nearby stick of charcoal and wrote out-

 

We’re going to talk to the mages.

 

“We are?” Cassandra narrowed her eyes further, starting to scowl, “And when was this decided?”

 

I spoke to Leliana about it.

 

“Leliana-” As if that explained everything, Cassandra jerked one hand into the air before she started pacing, “Of course you did. And what about the templars? Or the opinions of Cullen and Josephine. Myself. Was none of this taken into consideration?”

Lavellan kept herself hunkered and staring down at her paper as she wrote, but she could still hear Cassandra pacing behind her.

 

The templars are more likely to attack us if we approach them. The mages, at least, invited us to talk. And it’s just talking. Nothing’s been decided yet.

 

With Cassandra too busy pacing, Solas stepped over to read her response aloud.

“Nothing had been agreed upon yet.” Cassandra corrected, coming to a stop. Lavellan could feel the eyes burning into the back of her head. “You and Leliana, however, have already decided upon which course you wish to take.”

Lavellan paused, working her jaw a little, then scowled and wrote out. Yes. We have. Solas said it in an amused tone, rather than the rather firm one she had in mind. It lessened the effect she was hoping for.

“I would hear your explanation, Lavellan.” Cassandra’s words were way too fierce for that line. Like Lavellan, she had already made up her mind.

But Cassandra would listen. She would be unhappy about it, but she would listen. Lavellan had known that, going into this.

So, starting with a fresh piece of paper, she hunkered over the desk and spent several moments writing. There was a tense silence between them as the other three waited, while the world went about its business - the wind blew gently, making a few branches creak, birds sang, and the waterfall below continued crashing in a soothing way.

When she was done, Lavellan handed the paper to Solas, before she turned to face Cassandra head on, meeting her eyes.

After a pause, Solas started reading.

“‘Things need to change. Large incidents, like the Mage-Templar War and the Conclave, do not happen unless change is needed. Yes, some mages have taken things too far, but there are problems with how they are being treated, and with the way that Thedas, as a whole, views magic. Being able to use magic should not mean that a person should live their life under constant house arrest. No one should be condemned from the moment they are born for something about themselves they cannot help. Just like there are different skin colors, different eye and hair colors, different sexualities, right and left-handedness- Some people are born mages. No one is born guilty of anything. Do I think the Circles should be abolished? No. Some form of standardized education is needed to teach mages how to come into their power in the safest way possible, but that safety shouldn’t just be geared towards everyone around them- It should focus on them, too. The lives of mages matter. The lives of everyone matters. And if we want to bring about change, we need to set an example and rework how everything is done. Which is what we, as the Inquisition, can do. And is that not what Justinia wanted?’” Lavellan was rather grateful. Solas had turned all of her many underlines into tasteful verbal emphasis.

For a several long moments, Cassandra just stood there, staring into Lavellan’s eyes. Then, she closed her eyes and rubbed her face with her hand, exhaling slowly. “Maker, you sound like her…”

For a little while longer, there was silence again, though this time, it was not… tense. Lavellan wasn’t sure what, but something had changed. In the way Cassandra stood, in the way Varric was staring down at Bianca, in the way she could feel Solas looking at her…

Eventually, Cassandra lowered her hand and looked at Lavellan seriously. Tiredly, but seriously, “You believe that approaching the mages is the best way to meet this end?”

In answer, Lavellan unstrapped her journal from her waist and opened it to the words she had written for Leliana, then handed it to Solas. She wanted all of them to hear this.

Solas’ eyes scanned the words slowly before he spoke them aloud. As he did, Lavellan watched his face, trying to make out some hint of what he was thinking…

Of course, she got nothing. And while she was staring at him, Solas had finished reciting, and Cassandra was speaking aloud again.

“Very well, Lavellan. While I might… have some problems with your choice… I will stand by you. For now, you have convinced me. However, if, during our talks with the mages, anything happens…”

Lavellan turned towards her and nodded, understanding.

Even though she knew that, once they set foot in Redcliffe and found Fiona, there would be no going back.

 


 

Of course, she dawdled even after they got to Redcliffe. Delivered flowers to a grave, went to find a very odd-looking ram and point it back towards the village, spoke to a healer about going to the Crossroads, cornered and recruited a lyrium smuggling lay sister-

Found the shed with the notes on making oculara. She really wanted to believe that finding the Tranquil when she had had changed things, that she was seeing fewer skulls on the shelves…

And then there were no more things to do in Redcliffe, and they went to the Gull and Lantern. Where a worn, distressed Fiona, who had been sitting at a table with her heads in her hands and a mug of some sort of alcohol in front of her, had no clue she was supposed to be expecting them. And while Cassandra was barking at Fiona, flabbergasted by her not remembering and infuriated with her for signing the mages over to Tevinter-

A door shut loudly behind them, and silence fell over the tavern. Lavellan turned and watched Alexius walk over, Felix trailing quietly behind him. It seemed clawed gauntlets were a thing in Tevinter, if Fenris and Felix were anything to go by… She couldn’t remember anyone else having them…? Either way they were… kind of something she wanted.

“Welcome, my friends.” Alexius smiled genially as he approached, clasping his hands behind his back, “I apologize for not greeting you earlier.”

Her face twisting into a scowl, Fiona spoke haltingly through her anger, “Agents of the Inquisition, allow me to introduce Magister Gereon Alexius.”

Alexius gave something of a bow after coming to a stop in front of Fiona, who subtly moved away from him. “The southern mages are under my command.” He announced simply and calmly, before his eyes moved to lock on Lavellan. Twitching a little, he leaned in slightly, cocking his head, “And you… are the survivor, yes? The one from the Fade? Interesting.”

“Alexius.” Cassandra stepped in front of Lavellan pointedly, not using any titles for him, “I am Cassandra Pentaghast of the Inquisition. It is my duty to ask what you are doing here in Ferelden, and what, exactly, the nature of this agreement with the mages of southern Thedas is.”

“By all means.” He replied calmly, glancing up at her as his face became a mask of reserved and fake smile, “I just happened to be down here on business when I heard of what had happened, and I arrived just in time to save these poor souls from the brutality of the templars, who rushed to attack them after the tragedy of the Conclave. It could only be through divine providence that I arrived when I did.” With a smile, he looked back at Fiona.

Already tense, Fiona’s hands tightened at her sides a little, “It was certainly… very timely.”

Chuckling, Alexius turned back to Cassandra, gesturing vaguely, “While it will take some time, they will become full Tevinter citizens in about… Oh… ten years? After they are properly trained, they will join our legion, where they will be able to work towards citizenship.”

As soon as he said that, Fiona’s face crumpled, and she quickly stepped over to his side, becoming frantic, “You said not all of my people would be military- There are children, elderly- Those not suited for-”

“And one day I am sure they will all be productive citizens of the Imperium.” Alexius cut her off harshly, glaring down at her. “When their debts are paid.”

The look on Fiona’s face was heartbreaking- Her mistakes aside, she very much cared about the mages she was leading. And now her choices were leading to her world crumbling around her, and she was very much aware of how she had doomed her people. Of the elderly and infirm who would likely die in the coming months, of the children who would be brainwashed and trained to kill.

To make matters worse, next to Lavellan, Cassandra was becoming more and more incensed. She needed to do something before the Seeker just pulled out her sword and tried to attack-

At that moment, the young man next to Alexius’ side shifted. Lavellan looked over, meeting Felix’s eyes for a moment before he stepped forward and-

For a moment, Lavellan completely forgot Felix was acting and lunged forward, wrapping her arms around him as he collapsed. A shiver ran down her back and made her scalp prickle as she felt one of his hands slip into her pocket, clawed gauntlets digging into her leg slightly as he groaned and righted himself.

“Felix-” Alexius was next to them in a moment, the smug, conniving look replaced with fear and concern and pain.

“I’m so sorry…” Felix stepped back, slightly hunched and pressing a hand to his chest as he breathed raggedly, his face a little white and bruise-colored circles prominent under his eyes. Lavellan had to wonder just how much was really acting. “Forgive my clumsiness, my lady.”

“Are you all right?” As his son resumed some distance between himself and Lavellan, Alexius stepped in to take Lavellan’s place, taking his son’s face in his hands and looking him over frantically.

“I’m fine, Father.” Felix smiled weakly and reached up, taking Alexius’ wrists and pulling his hands from his face.

Seeming to remember they were in public, Alexius caught himself and glanced back at Lavellan and the others briefly, then turned back to and gestured to his son, “Come, I’ll get your powders. Please excuse me, friends. We will have to continue this another time.” Without sparing them another glance, Alexius quickly made his way to the exit, not even pausing as he muttered at Fiona in passing, “Fiona, I require your assistance back at the castle.”

Clearly used to such requests, a despondent Fiona followed him without hesitation, eyes hollow and mind thousands of miles away.

“I don’t mean to trouble everyone…” Felix sighed as he quickly limped after his father, arm still curled against his middle. Before he followed them out the door, he paused and glanced, meeting Lavellan’s eyes once again before leaving the tavern.

Once they were gone, Cassandra immediately started, “Herald, we should return to Haven at once-”

Varric, however, was not blind, “What did he give you, kid?”

The dwarf actually cutting her off made the Seeker pause, and she furrowed her brow at him before looking back at Lavellan, watching her pull a folded piece of parchment from her pocket, “Who gave you what?”

“Felix.” Solas said simply, stepping closer and turning his head a little to read as Lavellan unfolded the note, “Come to the chantry. You are in danger.”

“From the magister’s son?” Cassandra’s furrowed brow turned into her scowling, “It could be a trap. No, it likely is a trap. We should leave. Now.”

“And let the southern mages fall into Tevinter’s hands?” Varric crossed his arms, “That does not sound like a good idea, Seeker…”

Cassandra turned her scowl on him, speaking in a low but harsh tone, “I do not plan to abandon this situation, Varric, but doing something about what is happening here requires forces we do not currently possess. If there are more Tevinter mages in Redcliffe, which I do not doubt there are, we need templars. And the Herald should be moved to a safe location.”

“The Redcliffe mages have already seen the Herald, Seeker.” Solas clasped his hands behind his back, “If they watch her leave and then see a contingent of templars come marching into the settlement not long after, they will join the Tevinter mages, and the villagers of Redcliffe will be caught in the middle. It would be a bloodbath.”

“Then what do you suggest we do?”

Before anyone else could say anything, Lavellan stepped between the three of them and held up the note, looking at Cassandra.

“…You want us to actually go to the chantry?” Cassandra let out a disapproving, disbelieving noise, “Lavellan, we would be knowingly walking into a trap-”

“Perhaps.” Solas cut in with a nod, “However, it might be the chance we need to gain the upper hand. They’ve not yet had enough time to properly mobilize their forces, and if Tevinter mages are seen attacking us, first, then we could rally the Redcliffe mages to our side.”

Lavellan just nodded. Knowing none of that would happen but needing Cassandra to not march Cullen and his former templar soldiers on the Hinterlands.

“For what it’s worth, I’m with Chuckles and the Herald.” Varric raised his hand a little cheekily, “Driving our mages into Tevinter’s arms does not sound like a good idea. They’re scared and lost, and if we save them now? We’ll definitely win some valuable allies.”

Her brow furrowing again, Cassandra stood there for a moment, her hand clenching around the hilt of her sword over and over.

“…Very well. For now, we will go to the chantry and see what awaits us. After that, we will plan our next move.”

 


 

On their way out they were approached by Clemence, who Lavellan immediately handed a note saying Take any other Tranquil you can find and go to Haven, once he had spoken enough to plead - as much as any Tranquil could beg for their life - to be recruited.

Then they were walking into the chantry, where of course, they met-

Meetings were not quite the focus when the rift crackled and spat demons out at them.

Shuddering, Lavellan did what she usually did and let Cassandra, Varric and Solas draw the majority of attention from the demons before she reached out, letting her hand connect with the rift and stun the demons. It couldn’t be closed while any active demons were in the area, so once they were stunned, she did what she could to help kill them-

And Dorian. Dorian, of course, was an asset- Without hesitation, he already knew each demon’s elemental weakness, and could cast spell after spell without stopping. Having a second mage so capable of casting and so comfortable in battle lifted the burden of performance from Lavellan’s shoulders immensely, and she was able to leave much of the fighting to the others so she could focus on the rift. Four man groups seemed to be the default, without question, but maybe they could up it to five so they always had at least two mages…

Once she couldn’t see any more demons, she reached out again, wincing and closing her eyes as the mark on her hand and the rift connected, which never failed to be unpleasant- The sensation was a lot like having a limb regain feeling after it had fallen asleep in the worst way, like when you sat on your legs for too long and cut off the circulation, leaving you in agony between the muscle pains and the sharp feeling of millions of bites. It started at her palm and quickly spread to her fingers, then started working its way down her wrist. If the demons that had come out were high in rank, it took longer to close. Sometimes the sensations reached all the way down to her elbow, and sometimes she wouldn’t be able to really feel her arm and her hand and her fingers for hours after…

Jumping a little at the loud crack that followed as the rift closed, which was that much louder and more startling in an enclosed space, Lavellan shuddered and waved her hand, snapping her wrist sharply in hopes that faster circulation would help her hand recover sooner. Though it never did.

“Fascinating… How does that work, exactly?” His tone was pure curiosity and far too chipper for someone who had just fought demons, and Lavellan looked up at him with a slow blink. In response, Dorian just chuckled and shook his head, “You don’t even know, do you? You just wiggle your fingers and- Boom! Rift closes.”

“Mind yourself, mage.” Cassandra immediately stepped over to stand between Lavellan and the unknown mage, scowl deeply set on her face and sword still out, “Who are you.”

Brows raising slightly, Dorian stepped back and lifted his hands in mock surrender before twisting them into an elaborate, elegant bow, “Dorian of House Pavus, most recently of Minrathous.” Lifting his head, he gave her a cheeky smile, “How do you do?”

Cassandra’s brow simply furrowed further, and she let out an irritated grunt.

“Suspicious friends you have here.” Dorian looked back at Lavellan with an amused smirk, “Allow me to explain.” Immediately, his expression turned serious, “Magister Alexius was once my mentor, you see, so my assistance should be valuable, as I’m sure you can imagine.”

“Your mentor?” Cassandra still hadn’t put her sword away, though her grip on the hilt did relax slightly. Her expression did not. “That gives me less reason to trust your words, magister.”

Dorian’s brow twitched slightly and he sniffed a little, giving her a look before closing his eyes and shaking his head, “All right, let’s say this once: I am a mage from Tevinter, but not a member of the Magisterium.” Then, the cheeky smirk was back on his face and he shrugged, cocking his head a little, “I know southerners use the terms interchangeably, but that only makes you sound like barbarians.”

Cassandra’s nose wrinkled, “Do not be smart. Where is Felix.”

“I’m sure he’s on his way.” Dorian shrugged, crossing one arm over his abdomen and lifting the other to stroke his moustache a little, “He was to give you the note, then meet us here after ditching his father.”

“So you are the one who sent the message.” After a pause, Cassandra finally sheathed her sword, though she kept her hand on the hilt, “It said that the Herald was in danger.”

“I am the one who sent it.” The mage nodded, his tone turning serious again, “Someone had to warn you, after all. Look. You must know there’s danger. That should be obvious even without the note. Let’s start with Alexius claiming the alliance of the mage rebels out from under you. As if by magic, yes? Which is exactly right. To reach Redcliffe, before the Inquisition, Alexius distorted time itself.”

“That is fascinating, if true.” Solas spoke up, he and Varric stepping closer to listen properly to Dorian’s words, “And almost certainly dangerous.”

“The rift you saw here.” Dorian continued, gesturing to the empty space where the rift had been, “You saw how it twisted time around itself? Sped some things up and slowed others down? Soon, there will be more like it, and they’ll appear further and further away from Redcliffe. The magic Alexius is using is wildly unstable, and it’s unraveling the world.”

“And why should we believe any of this.” Cassandra was scowling again, clearly liking none of what she was hearing.

“I know what I’m talking about.” Dorian scowled right back at her, “I helped develop this magic. When I was still his apprentice, it was pure theory - Alexius could never get it to work. What I don’t understand…” Here, he glanced off to the side, his expression turning a little distant as he shook his head and waved his hand, “Is why he’s doing it. Ripping time to shreds just to gain a few hundred lackeys?”

“He didn’t do it for them.” A familiar voice added, and they all looked over as Felix stepped out of the shadows and walked over, his expression grim.

Immediately, Dorian’s face lit up and he grinned, nodding to him, “Took you long enough~ Is he getting suspicious?”

“No, but I shouldn’t have played the illness card.” Felix sighed heavily and rubbed his face with his hand, shaking his head, “I thought he’d be fussing over me all day.” Turning to face Lavellan and Cassandra, he spoke to both of them - Lavellan as the Herald of Andraste, and Cassandra as the one who seemed to be more in charge of their group. “My father’s joined a cult. Tevinter supremacists. They call themselves ‘Venatori.’ And I can tell you one thing: Whatever he’s done to them, he’s done it to get to you.” He looked right at Lavellan as he said that, making her step behind Cassandra a little-

She’d been expecting that, yes, but having Felix look at her as he said it just reminded her, once again, that she was the Herald of Andraste, and-

No. No, it would be over soon. She would get Lethlares back in her body and it would be over.

Cassandra snorted, shaking her head, “There is no end, it seems, to Tevinter supremacist cults, though this ‘Venatori’ is new to me. But what is it they want with the Herald?”

“They’re obsessed with her, but I don’t know why.” Felix sighed, rubbing his neck, “Perhaps because she survived the Temple of Sacred Ashes?”

“You can close the rifts.” Lavellan looked over, hunching a little when she saw Dorian looking at her, addressing her, wishing he would just follow Felix’s suit and speak to Cassandra- “Maybe there’s a connection, or they see you as a threat.”

“If the Venatori are behind those rifts, or the Breach in the sky, they’re even worse than I thought.” Felix looked grim.

For a moment, as the two mages stopped talking to let the group absorb their words, Cassandra was silent, her eyes going back and forth between the two Tevinters slowly.

“Why are the two of you… working against Alexius?” She ventured after a moment, “He is your mentor, and your father.”

Was my mentor.” Dorian corrected, brows furrowing into a cloudy expression, “Meaning he isn’t any longer.”

“Dorian and I are both doing this for the same reasons.” Felix spoke up, his voice getting stronger as he addressed Cassandra’s question, “I love my father, and my country, but this? Cults? Time magic? What he’s doing now is madness. For his own sake, he has to be stopped.”

“It would also be nice if he didn’t rip a hole in time.” Dorian emphasized, shaking his head, “There’s already a hole in the sky.”

While Lavellan was expecting all of this, Cassandra, it seemed, needed a moment to absorb that two mages from Tevinter were trying to fix something that a Tevinter magister was breaking. For several moments, the Seeker was silent, before she simply turned and looked down at Lavellan.

Lavellan blinked up at her, then looked down and unbuckled her notebook from her belt, turning to a blank page and scribbling a few words down before stepping over to Dorian.

 

What do we do now?

 

Dorian’s eyes skimmed the words before he looked up at her and nodded, “You know you’re his target. Expecting the trap is the first step in turning it to your advantage.” Then, he looked between both her and Felix, speaking to both of them, “I can’t stay in Redcliffe. Alexius doesn’t know I’m here, and I want to keep it that way for now. But whenever you’re ready to deal with him, I want to be there. I’ll be in touch.” With a nod, he turned and started to walk towards the back of the chantry, where there was likely a back exit for clergy use. Then, after a few steps, he seemed to remember something and turned on his heel, clasping his hands and pointing to Felix with a wry smile, “Oh, and Felix? Try not to get yourself killed.”

Felix only snorted and gave him a wry smile of his own, heading towards the chantry entrance, “There are worse things than dying, Dorian.”

Once the two Tevinters were gone, they remained for some time, silently absorbing everything they had been told.

“…Lethlares.”

Lavellan looked up from the pile of rags a demon had left behind, blinking at Cassandra questioningly.

Cassandra met her eyes for a few moments, pausing, before going on, “We cannot walk away from this.”

Setting her jaw, Lavellan nodded seriously.

Chapter Text

Cullen, of course, did not agree. “We don’t have the manpower to take the castle. Either we find another way in, or give up on this nonsense and go and get the templars!”

“Redcliffe is in the hands of a magister, Commander.” Cassandra shook her head, sober and serious, “This cannot be allowed to stand.”

“The letter from Alexius asked for the Herald of Andraste by name.” Josephine spoke up, sounding and looking like she was siding with Cullen in this instance as she briefly glanced at Lavellan before looking back at Cassandra, “It’s an obvious trap.”

“He is waiting for us.” Cassandra set her hand on the top of the war table, looking between them all slowly, “But he will not wait forever.”

“And yet some of us want to sit and do nothing.”

Josephine sighed and closed her eyes as Leliana spoke up, “Not this again…”

Looking over at the spymaster, Cullen’s voice started to get harsh, “Redcliffe Castle is one of the most defensible forces in Ferelden. It has repelled thousands of assaults.” Turning on Lavellan, he leaned over the table and met her eyes directly, making her hunker a bit. “If you go in there, you’ll die, and we’ll lose the only means we have of closing these rifts. I won’t allow it.”

He was trying to guilt her into making the more ‘responsible’ decision - going to the templars and bringing them to cleanse Redcliffe of all threats. It made her withdraw a little, before she stood up and huffed, meeting his gaze seriously.

“And if we don’t even try to meet Alexius, we lose the mages, and leave a hostile foreign power on our doorstep.” Leliana cut to the quick, like always.

“Even if we could assault the keep,” Josephine switched gears slightly, aiming to be the voice of reason and trying to point out the obvious flaws in the plan, “It would be for naught. An ‘Orlesian’ Inquisition’s army marching into Ferelden would provoke a war. Our hands are tied!”

“The magister-”

Cullen cut in, silencing Cassandra forcefully, “Has outplayed us.”

Needing to add her own voice to this argument, Lavellan pulled over the stack of parchment and the quill Josephine had started providing for her use whenever she attended council meetings. More and more, they were wanting to hear her opinion, and it bothered her-

But closing the Breach. Closing the Breach would end her part and it wouldn’t matter anymore.

 

Felix told us that Alexius has joined a Tevinter cult that, for some reason, is obsessed with me. If we don’t take care of them, they’ll become a problem later. If we abandon Redcliffe to them, they’ll have a base of operations that is practically a stone’s throw from here.

 

Lavellan handed the paper to Leliana, who briefly read it before nodding and reading it aloud. After she had finished, she looked at Josephine and Cullen, holding up the paper. “They will remain a threat, and a powerful one, unless we act.”

“We cannot accept defeat. There must be a solution.” Cassandra looked between everyone in the room.

Before Josephine or Cullen could say something again, Lavellan leaned over and reached for the parchment she had handed Leliana. When it was handed to her, she leaned over the table and wrote.

 

There must be some other way into the castle. Sewers, a waterway, underground pathways for servants or merchants - all castles have them, don’t they?

 

After taking the parchment back, Leliana started to read it aloud, then suddenly stopped and stared at it. Her eyes darted up and locked with Lavellan’s, “There is a way.”

Lavellan knew there was. She’d only needed Leliana to remember.

“There is a secret passage into the castle - an escape route for the family. It’s too narrow for our troops, but we could send agents through.”

Cullen actually paused at that, considering it. Then, he shook his head, “Too risky. Those agents will be discovered well before they reached the magister.”

“That’s why we need a distraction.” Leliana nodded to him, as if that should be obvious, “Perhaps the envoy Alexius wants so badly?”

Catching on quickly, Cullen continued verbalizing what the plan would entail, “While they’re focused on Lavellan, we break the magister’s defenses! It could work… but it’s a huge risk.”

At that moment, the door swung itself open, a familiar voice speaking up from behind Lavellan- She was the only one who didn’t jump as Dorian just let himself in. “Fortunately, you’ll have help.”

Amused, Lavellan turned and watched him saunter in, one of Leliana’s agents quickly stepping in behind him and bowing to the spymaster apologetically before addressing Cullen, “This man says he has information about the magister and his methods, Commander.”

Stepping up next to Lavellan, Dorian made himself right at home at the war table, smiling down at her briefly before looking at Cullen, who was eyeing him suspiciously, “Your spies will never get past Alexius’ magic without my help. So if you’re going after him? I’m coming along.”

“And who, exactly, are you?” Cullen frowned.

“You didn’t give me an introduction before my rather dashing entrance?” Dorian looked back down at Lavellan, huffing, “I’m hurt!”

Actually, she had been prepared. Shifting to the back of her stack of parchment, Lavellan took out a particular piece of paper and offered it to Josephine.

Josphine blinked, then leaned forward and took it, looking it over before reading aloud, “Of Minrathous, Altus Dorian of House Pavus.”

“Altus~!” Dorian grinned, his face lighting up, “Well well, someone has been doing their homework! I take back my complaint, though really, you should have had that choreographed with my entrance.”

“Another Tevinter magister-”

Lavellan held up her hand to stop Cullen right there, scrawling something down with her free hand before handing this piece of parchment to Cassandra.

Who rolled her eyes after glancing it over, but still read it, “Magisters are members of the Magisterium, the upper house of the Imperial Senate. Dorian is not a member yet.”

Dorian let out a loud, very amused guffaw, “Yet- As if I want to have a seat!” When Lavellan blinked at him slowly, he rolled his eyes, “Yes, I suppose that I’ll inherit the seat whether I want to or not when my father passes, but I could just abandon it, if I wished. Oh, the scandal it would cause.”

“If we can go back to the matter at hand…” Cullen frowned at Lavellan deeply, “We’re to trust that this man is actually here to help us?”

If she were in a cheeky mood, this would be where Lavellan would stare at Dorian and “seriously” consider the question. But it had been months, really, since she had been truly cheeky, and she was actually… feeling a little good at the moment. Before Dorian had walked into the room, she’d been tense, largely because of what Cullen had said about her dying-

But… at some point after Dorian had stepped in, she’d relaxed. And was now actually smiling a little.

Why? Because she’d always liked Dorian’s character? Because he just had that kind of personality that could make someone feel light and amused?

She wasn’t sure. But at Cullen’s question, she just smiled widely and nodded.

And Cullen stared at her. Possibly because he wasn’t used to seeing her smile? When was the last time she actually smiled- She couldn’t remember.

“…I would like to remind you that this is going to be dangerous.” Cullen paused, then shook his head a little, “That we can still go after the templars, instead of you playing bait for a magister who, for all we know, wants you dead. …But I believe you’ve already made up your mind.”

…He was right. She had. Going forward with this plan would… see her thrown into a horrible, dark future by the power of extremely unstable magic that could just as easily see her torn to shreds if it went wrong-

But she wanted to do this. For the first time since she’d realized she would actually have to live “In Hushed Whispers,” she wasn’t overwhelmed with fear. She was actually feeling a little… optimistic.

Because Dorian was going to be there? It was ridiculous. Befriending a character in a game was nothing like befriending an actual person. Dorian could just as easily end up not liking her at all.

…But the fact that he was going to be there was a comfort. And for the moment, she wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Instead, Lavellan just smiled at Cullen again and nodded.

 


 

“You know, Boss.”

Lavellan jumped and shrieked a little as she walked out of the chantry, tense and immediately wound up as she looked over at Bull with wide eyes. How could someone that big just sneak up on people-

Unaffected, Bull just continued, leaning against the wall of the building, next to the door, “I can’t be a very good bodyguard if you’re avoiding me.”

And the good feelings were gone and she was just tense and on edge again. The look the Qunari gave her as she looked around anxiously did not help.

“And a good bodyguard wouldn’t just let you go into magister territory without them.”

“A Qunari bodyguard?” Dorian spoke up as he stepped over, following Lavellan out of the chantry, “You do keep interesting company. So, a member of the Antaam? A Sten, perhaps?”

Bull growled and leaned in a little, looking the mage up and down, “Ben-Hassrath, Vint.”

“Even more dreadful!” Dorian gave a strained grin, then set his hands on his hips, “Then, as a Ben-Hassrath, you must realize that our dear Herald taking an openly Qunari bodyguard into a castle filled with Tevinter mages is a horrible idea.”

Bull narrowed his eye and growled at him again, speaking to Lavellan as he kept Dorian pinned with a glare, “Careful with this one, Boss. The pretty ones are always trouble.”

“Why, thank you~” Dorian gave a cheeky grin and a bow. “The point still stands.”

“They don’t need to know I’m Qunari. They only need to think I’m Tal-Vashoth. Either way, having a horned bodyguard can be a good idea, depending on the Vint. And I happen to like making Vints uncomfortable.”

“Do you now? I never would have guessed.” He gave the Qunari a dismissive smile, then turned to Lavellan, “He does, of course, have a point. Depending on the person, using a Qunari to make someone from Tevinter uncomfortable can be very effective. Of course, I also have a point, but that’s to be expected. Ultimately, my dear, the decision is yours.”

Intentional or not, Dorian was giving her an out from this situation. Not about to waste it, she nodded, then turned and hurried off, heading straight back to her cabin.

 


 

Cassandra, of course, was necessary. Completely necessary. Lavellan didn’t want her anywhere else other than at her side as she walked into Redcliffe Castle.

Dorian was a given.

The last person… She ultimately chose Varric. A rogue would be needed to open certain doors, and involving Sera in missions that involved mages or magic or demons was never a good idea.

When they arrived at the castle and walked inside, the man acting as seneschal tried to get Lavellan to approach Alexius alone.

That, of course-

“The Herald,” Cassandra took one step forward and stared him down, “Goes nowhere without her escort.”

-ended in Cassandra scaring him so badly he looked like he might soil his pants.

They were, naturally, allowed through, and up the steps to the throne Alexius occupied. At the base of throne waited a low table, with parchment and a quill, along with someone Lavellan assumed was a scribe. Initially, she had expected to see some sort of contract when she walked over-

But the paper was blank.

“Magister Alexius was told of issues with communication.” The man standing next to the low table bowed to her, “I will be offering translation assistance.”

Lavellan blinked, then looked up at Alexius and bowed slightly.

Alexius inclined his head in return, though he once again had that smug smile on his face. “Well then, my friends. It’s so good to see you again. If you would like to begin, I’m sure we can reach an arrangement that is equitable to all parties.”

As he said that, Fiona stepped forward, looking drained and pale but her face set in determination. “Are we mages to have no voice in deciding our fate?”

“Fiona, you would not have turned your followers over to my care if you did not trust me with their lives.” Alexius glanced at her briefly, his tone dismissive, before looking back at Lavellan.

As he was turning back, Lavellan was leaning over her provided, small table and picking up the quill, quickly scribbling down a few words.

Once she was done, her provided translator picked up the parchment, reading aloud, “If Fiona has anything of use to add to the talks, I would like to welcome her to them as a guest of the Inquisition.”

Lavellan looked up as it was read, meeting Alexius’ eyes anxiously. Alexius was frowning, his brow furrowed, but after a moment, he nodded shortly.

“If you wish.”

Nodding back, Lavellan looked over at Fiona and inclined her head slightly.

Fiona blinked and stared at her, then nodded back once, “Thank you.”

Alexius narrowed his eyes, then sat back down in his chair and got comfortable, leaning back and clasping his hands across his lap, “The Inquisition needs mages to close the Breach, and I have them. So, what shall you offer in exchange?”

Lavellan paused, considering. Already, Dorian and Leliana’s agents should be in the castle - it had taken some time for Lavellan to go from the gates into the castle proper, itself, and the whole time, she’d had Venatori eyes on her. If the game was correct, they should be right on time…

And, approaching things this way would definitely keep Alexius’ attention on her. For Dorian, and for Felix, she had to try to reach out to him.

After writing out her words carefully, she looked back up and locked eyes with the magister firmly, ignoring her translator as he stumbled slightly as he read.

“I was hoping we could discuss the- the Venatori-” Next to her, her translator inhaled sharply and took a step back.

Alexius’ eyes widened briefly, then narrowed again, his jaw tensing, “Now, where could you have heard that name…”

“I told her.” Next to Alexius’ throne, Felix stepped forward calmly, completely unfazed by Lavellan going straight for the heart of the issue and simply turning to face his father.

“…Felix…” Alexius’ tone wavered, his hands clenching and unclenching. Not expecting his son to betray him. “What have you done.”

No longer relying on her translator, Lavellan had leaned over and gone back to scrawling out words roughly as father and son stared each other down, turning and offering the paper to Varric as soon as she was one.

“Your son’s worried about you.” Varric spoke after only needing to glance the paper over briefly, “He’s trying to reach out for help to keep you from making a mistake.”

“So speaks the thief.” Alexius snapped, breaking away from Felix’s eyes and glaring down at Lavellan darkly, “Do you think you can turn my son against me?” Here, he stood and stepped forward, arms shaking a bit as his side and face darkened and lined with anger,“You walk into my stronghold with your stolen mark - a gift you don’t even understand - and think you’re in control? You’re nothing but a mistake.”

He had no idea how right he was.

He had no idea how close those words hit to home, the ache in her chest they brought- Even knowing he didn’t know, knowing those words were directed at Lethlares Lavellan and not her, having someone actually look into her eyes, glare at her, call her a mistake-

She felt a sharp, painful lurch in her chest, and it made her hunch and press her hand against it reflexively.

Next to her, Cassandra snarled and stepped forward, hand going to her sword, “You- Who did it?! Who killed the Divine-”

Shaking her head hard, Lavellan threw out her hand and hit Cassandra’s chest with the back of her arm, silencing her, then stepped forward and looked up, meeting Alexius’ eyes again and holding out her left hand for him to see.

Another surge in her chest had the mark crackling briefly, in response to her emotions, she guessed-

‘What is this.’ She mouthed. She knew what it was, of course, but she needed to keep the conversation going.

“It belongs to your betters!” Alexius barked, storming forward a few steps and pointing at her accusingly, “You wouldn’t even begin to understand its purpose!”

“Father listen to yourself-” Felix stepped up behind his father, trying to reach out to him, looking pained, “Do you know what you sound like?”

“He sounds exactly like the sort of villainous cliche everyone expects us to be.” Dorian appeared exactly when he was supposed to, stepping forth from the shadows and calming walking over to stand at Lavellan’s side, moving to stand in front of her slightly. Protective. Already expecting Alexius to try something.

“Dorian.” Alexius’ anger calmed, and steeled, his face becoming hard. As if suddenly what was going on made sense. As if Dorian being there explained everything that was going wrong with his plans. “I gave you the chance to be apart of this - you turned me down. The Elder One has power you would not believe. He will raise the Imperium from its own ashes. He is greater than you can even imagine - soon, he will be a god. He will make the world bow to mages once more.” Alexius’ eyes turned a little distant, and he raised his arms, “We will rule from the Boeric Ocean to the Frozen Seas.”

“You can’t involve my people in this-!” Fiona lunged forward, angry and shocked and horrified and desperate. Finally realizing just what she had signed the mages under her care, who had trusted her, over to.

“Alexius… Gereon.” Dorian was trying just has hard as Felix to reach out to his former master, and his words betrayed the pain he was feeling, “This is exactly what you and I talked about never wanting to happen- Why would you support this?”

A sudden series of snaps and the sound of something heavy dropping to the floor made Lavellan jump and look over. Leliana’s agents were acting now, sneaking up on and killing the white-clad Venatori mages lining the room-

“Father, please, stop this. Give up the Venatori. Let the southern mages fight the Breach, and let’s go home.”

“No, it’s the only way, Felix.” Desperate and turning around, grabbing his son by his shoulders and holding him close, Alexius was unaware of his men dying, “He can save you.”

Save me?!

“There is a way. The Elder One promised.” Turning, Alexius looked at Lavellan, not so much meeting her eyes as just staring at her, as if she was the answer to all of his problems- And, to him, she was. Lavellan knew that. “If I undo the mistake at the Temple…”

“I’m going to die.” Even with his voice raw and full of emotion, Felix still spoke those words firmly. “You need to accept that.” There was no hesitation, no wavering in his voice. Felix had already made his peace with his death. He had allowed his father to fret over him, mother hen him, doctor him, do everything he could because he loved his father, and he was trying to help him accept this-

But Alexius had taken it too far. And Felix wasn’t going to let him continue anymore.

“Seize them, Venatori!” Desperate and deaf to his son’s words, Alexius pointed to Lavellan, “The Elder One demands this woman’s life!”

But there was no one to respond. They were already dead. Leliana’s agents stepped out of the shadows, calmly stepping over broken and bloody bodies, and started to close in on them.

Realizing, Alexius’ eyes started darting around, his face going white.

“The Venatori here are gone, Alexius.” Dorian gestured to the nearest body, “Give up, and stop this.”

Alexius stepped back, looking at everyone in the room- Then his eyes settled on Lavellan and narrowed again, his face hardening once more. Reaching into a pocket, he grabbed something, pulling it out and opening his hand with his palm facing up.

“You are a mistake.” He hissed, mana crackling around him in electricity as he summoned magic, “You should never have existed-” A cube-shaped stone that looked like an emerald floated up from his hand, and Lavellan could feel the air around her getting heavy-

NO-

Dorian was at her side, waving his staff, and Alexius was stumbling. The heaviness in the air faltered, but it was too late- Everything turned green and warped and then she felt like she was being crushed and she lost consciousness.

Chapter Text

“Blood of the Elder One!”

“Where’d they come from?!”

She had no idea how she was still standing, but she was. Lavellan blinked slowly, feeling heavy and stiff, and as her vision came back to her, she saw two men in suits of armor running at her, swords drawn. She wouldn’t be able to respond-

Someone threw themselves in front of her, staff swinging forcefully, and at the sound of metal clashing against metal, Lavellan jolted and started moving. Largely driven by muscle memory as she sluggishly moved through the footsteps that had been drilled into her. Numbly, she realized she wasn’t casting very well, and that she really needed to clear her head…

Before she could, however, the two men were disappearing under the surface of the knee-deep water. Dead. Was Dorian a better mage than she’d remembered…? Where those men that weak…? Had she been casting better than she thought-

“Displacement? Interesting… It’s probably not what Alexius intended. The rift must have moved us… To what? The closest confluence of arcane energy? Let’s see… If we’re still in the castle… It isn’t…” Dorian was just mumbling to himself as he waded around the room, nudging the bodies of the two men over with his staff when he found them in the water and leaning over to search them as best he could.

How he could still be so coherent after being flung through a rift and through time, Lavellan had no idea. She could only blink slowly and stare at him foggily as he suddenly stood up with a huge grin on his face, turning to face her.

“Ah, of course! It’s not simply where, it’s when! Alexius used the amulet as a focus - it moved us through time!”

…There was something about that that had always bugged her. Alexius using the amulet to move them through time, of course, made sense. But…

Taking out her notebook, she flipped it open and carefully wrote something down, her hands still shaking a little too much for her words to flow well. Frowning and brow furrowed in confusion, she turned the book around and showed it to Dorian when she was done.

 

Why does Alexius have the power to open rifts in the first place? I thought that power was related to this mark.

 

Dorian blinked several times, temporarily coming down from his high, then pointed to her, “That is an excellent question. One we can ask him about more once we’ve figured out where we are, when we are, and how we can get back. …If we can.”

Her hands were shaking again, and not because she was dizzy. She’d chosen this path because she was familiar with it, she knew how to navigate it, but the threat of failure here was very real- Even more so than usual. If she failed now, Solas and his plans wouldn’t matter- Corypheus had obtained godhood here, and he would reduce the world to red lyrium, and when that ran out and died off - to ash.

But she needed to keep herself together. She needed to keep the conversation going, she needed to-

Lavellan hadn’t realized she’d been trying to write, or just how badly she was shaking, until a hand settled on top of hers and stopped her. When she looked up, Dorian curled his fingers around hers, his expression serious and calm as he nodded.

“Don’t worry, Lavellan. I’m here. I’ll protect you.”

…Those words… they hurt-

Cassandra would protect her, Varric would protect her, Solas would protect her, Bull would protect her, Cullen, Leliana, any of the soldiers or scouts or spies that served the Inquisition-

Because they needed her. As the Herald of Andraste.

Dorian wasn’t saying this to the Herald of Andraste. He was saying this to Lethlares Lavellan. He didn’t know her at all, but he was willing to put his life on the line to protect her - because he believed in the Herald of Andraste, yes, but also because he believed in her.

But that wasn’t what was upsetting.

What was upsetting her so much was the fact that he was the first person who’d looked at her, who’d met her eye and really looked at her as a person, and had promised to protect her.

In the same way the real Lethlares did, someone cared-

The journal fell from her hands and dropped into the water as she covered her face with her hands, crying. When Dorian actually embraced her, she cried even harder.

She was lying to him. She wasn’t Lethlares Lavellan. He cared about a lie. And she was going to have to keep lying to him.

And you can’t be friends with someone you lie to.

She was selfish for thinking that she knew someone she’d never actually met enough to be friends with them, and she was horrible for daring to feel guilty for using him when she knew full well she was going to have to keep using him.

And she hated herself.

 


 

Red lyrium provided a good distraction to the concerned looks Dorian kept giving her. She’d been present for the destruction of several nodes, but none of them were anything like the samples in Redcliffe Castle’s dungeons - these ones were massive, glowed a deeper, richer color, and the red miasma-like air they gave off wasn’t limited to them. It was everywhere.

She wondered just how much radiation poisoning she was getting from the exposure…

As they went along, she did what she knew she needed to do. Looked through papers, grabbed important documents, collected items they would need later-

Did her best to ignore Lysas when they passed him. (She’d never remembered his name before, but now she couldn’t forget it. The boy was real, right there, locked behind bars, deteriorating, humming, his awareness completely gone and his mind just repeating, repeating, repeating-)

She could not do the same for Fiona.

“You’re… alive… how…”

How was she alive was the better question- Her legs were gone, as was her pelvis- The red lyrium crystal had ruptured up through her stomach and the lower part of her chest. One of her arms was gone… And the other one, she was using to rest her forehead against the wall she was all but crushed against. Or had the bone and tendon in that arm just turned to lyrium, and she was permanently stuck that way…

Under the pulse and glow of red, she was pale. White. Her lips were blue. As if her blood, or whatever was left of it, was barely circulating.

Behind her, below her, just- everywhere, the lyrium was pulsing red, almost in time with her breathing. And, in a horrifying moment, Lavellan believed that it was actually in time with her heartbeat-

“I saw you… disappear… into the… rift…”

It had to be taking over her lungs and god, how was she still alive-

No. There was no god. Not like this.

Barely recognizing the broken noise she heard as her own, Lavellan stumbled forward and started struggling with the lock in the cell bars.

“You… You have red lyrium… growing from your body-” Dorian choked out, sounding sick.

Fiona watched Lavellan with empty, lifeless eyes, her skin drawn taut against her bones and no one could possibly be feeding her, how was she alive- “The longer… you’re near it… eventually… you become… this… Then they… mine your corpse… for more…”

“I… Can you tell us the date?” Dorian quickly switched topics, and even in her shaking fumbling, Lavellan could tell he was trying to keep himself calm, “It’s very important.”

“Harvestmere… Nine… forty-two… Dragon…”

“Forty-two… Then we’ve missed an entire year.”

Finally able to get the cell open, Lavellan rushed inside, only to be stopped when Dorian grabbed her arm, frowning down at her.

“Don’t! I understand, I do, but if this substance needs physical contact in order to corrupt living flesh…”

“Listen… to him…” Even before Lavellan could protest, Fiona was speaking again, “Cannot… lose you now… You must… stop this… The Elder One… more powerful… than the Maker… No one… challenges him… and lives… But for you… there might… be a way…”

“Our only hope is to find the amulet that Alexius used to send us here. If it still exists, I can use it to reopen the rift at the exact spot we left… maybe.”

“Good…”

“I said ‘maybe.’” Dorian crossed his arms, “It might also turn us into paste.”

“You… must… try… Your spymaster… Leliana… She is here… Find her… Quickly… Before the Elder One… learns you’re here…” How was she still alive-

“Right.” Dorian nodded, then grabbed Lavellan’s arm again, “Let’s go.”

Lavellan froze up and refused to move. Even if in the next half a day, even if in the next hour this timeline no longer existed, she couldn’t leave Fiona like this-

But the only option would be to…

“…Herald…”

Lavellan blinked and jolted slightly, meeting Fiona’s eyes.

Fiona stared back into her eyes for a moment, panting, “I can see it… in your face… If you… believe you can… I would… appreciate it…”

…There was no sin in putting a suffering creature out of its misery. Walking away and leaving her to die alone like this… would be inhumane.

…Given how weak her pulse was, how little blood she likely had left in her body, Fiona would bleed out quickly, and just slip away.

Lavellan felt oddly calm as she reached back to pull the dagger from her belt, stepping forward and carefully moving so she could get close to Fiona, and still avoid touching the lyrium.

As she approached, Fiona looked up at her, “…You are… far… too kind… This world will… kill that part of you… Slowly… and… painfully…”

…Not too kind. Too soft. The life she had lived before this had come nowhere close to preparing her for the harsh reality of this world.

Refusing to keep distance between herself and a suffering person, Lavellan stepped close and gently curled her arm around Fiona’s shoulders, doing her best to embrace her.

As the blade of the dagger slid right into place, Fiona’s body went limp, her face dropping into the curve of Lavellan’s neck.

 


 

Why had she chosen them-

“Has Andraste given us another chance…? Maker forgive me, I failed you, I failed everyone-”

“You’re here now.”

Any reasons she’d had for choosing them then were pointless now- Because of her, Cassandra and Varric had suffered like Fiona had-

“Where were you? How did you escape?”

“Hey, don’t give me that face - I look damn good for a dead man!”

And they were just thankful to see her- Thankful to the person who’d chosen them, knowing what they would suffer-

It didn’t matter that Cassandra and Varric of her present would be fine. These two had suffered a year of torture and bleeding and corruption and slowly losing their minds and watching the deaths of others because of her-

“Just like old times.” Cassandra joked with Varric.

Lavellan hadn’t been able to stop herself from throwing up.

Instead of going up the stairs after killing the guards, she led them back down. Long enough to kill Lysas, like she had Fiona.

On her way up, she was too frantic to see the looks on their faces as they took in what she’d done- She’d just heard the Chantry woman’s screams and she was too late-

“I’ll die a good Andrastian before I spend a second as one of y-”

The screams- They’d started just before she’d reach the top of the stairs, and she knew she was too late- But she still threw herself against the door and into the room, and right into a battle she wasn’t prepared for.

Unable to even think about using magic, she’d just used her staff as a spear, running the spellcaster she knew had been leading the torture session through his gut.

By the time the others were done saving her, the men were dead, and the already stained floor was slick with more blood. Everything smelled like metal, and she could smell death and rot and there were barely covered, decaying corpses all around the room. And there, on the floor, body twisted in agony and flesh torn from her chest and her face-

“Lethlares!” Like she always did, Cassandra grabbed her by the shoulders and made her meet her eyes, though this Cassandra didn’t have even half the anger the old one did- Only desperation. “You must keep yourself together-”

The attempt failed when more voices echoed down the hall. She couldn’t make out words, but there were people there, and next would be-

Leliana-

Lavellan broke away from Cassandra’s grasp and bolted out of the room and up the stairs, needing to lessen it, needing to save her some pain-

“I will die first.”

Lavellan fell to her hands and knees as she crashed through the door, slipping in blood.

Without any hesitation, Leliana took advantage of her torturer’s distraction and wrapped her legs around his neck, squeezing so hard she lifted him off the ground- Until the bones snapped.

“Or you will.”

Not true to the game in the least, Leliana was not in her usual attire-

She wasn’t in any attire.

She hung from the ceiling by her wrists, her feet not touching the ground as she dropped the Tevinter torturer's body carelessly. Her body was completely naked, and-

And that made it easier to see the way her skin clung to her bones, in the places where she still had skin. In certain places along her frame that seemed to have some methodic planning behind them, in the same way a butcher would take a knife to a carcass, the skin had been peeled from her body in strips. Right down to the muscle. Some spots were still bleeding - most were not. All were oozing, in various stages of infection, necrosis, there were bandages around her ankles and thighs, the cloth under the bands soaked in red-

It brought unwanted memories of codex entries she’d always skimmed over- Notes about taking blood and skin samples to test on others because of Leliana’s amazing resistance to Blight poisoning-

Lavellan found herself lightheaded and panting heavily, her vision swimming. Vaguely, she was aware of Cassandra walking around her quickly and leaning over to roll the dead Tevinter onto his back, searching him quickly before finding a key.

Leliana was freed from her shackles, and somehow the spymaster was able to stay on her feet. How-

“You’re alive…”

Lavellan froze up as Leliana stepped over to her and grabbed her chin, making her look up to meet her eyes. Gods, up close, she was so pale and emaciated, her lips were just white, and her hair- Her hair was turning white, as well.

Seemingly oblivious to Lavellan’s stupor, Leliana grabbed her arm and jerked it up, turning her hand over and looking at the mark. As if making sure it was still there.

After a moment of silence, the spymaster dropped Lavellan’s hand again and walked across the room, uncaring about the state of her body or her nakedness as she opened a chest and started rooting around inside.

The whole time, neither Cassandra nor Varric said a word. Varric just stood at the door, facing out, his arms crossed as he kept watch, and Cassandra pulled Lavellan back to her feet.

It was Dorian who finally broke the silence. “…You… aren’t curious how we got here?”

“No.” Leliana slipped her old clothing and mail, faded and torn and ragged with links missing, over her head and started securing straps.

“…Alexius sent us into the future.” Dorian continued filling the silence, clearly needing to talk, with the tone he had at the moment, “This - his victory, his Elder One - it was never meant to be.”

These lines had… sounded different, in the game.

Now, it just… With the reality of Leliana’s ruined body before them, of the way Varric and Cassandra were swaying on their feet, a faint red mist wafting from their bodies, making their skin seem pale and translucent, their pupils red and their eyes glassy…

If she hadn’t already emptied her stomach, Lavellan would be throwing up again.

As it was, she closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around her stomach, heaving a little.

“We… have to reverse his spell. If we can get back to our present time, we can prevent this future from ever happening.” Dorian continue speaking, though part of it… sounded like he was mostly talking to himself. Reminding himself of what needed to be done.

That was something Lavellan could sympathize with.

“And mages always wonder why people fear them…” Leliana mumbled as she brushed her hair back and pulled her hood over her head. Her body now completely covered, save her face. Lavellan could still see her skinned and bloodied form, the image burned into her mind- “No one should have this power.”

“It’s dangerous and unpredictable. Before the Breach, nothing we did-”

“Enough.” Looking up from picking up a bow, Leliana turned hard, burning eyes on Dorian, approaching him slowly and sneering at him, her voice rough and raw, “This is all pretend to you. Some future you hope will never exist. But whether you were here or not, it did exist. I suffered. The whole world suffered. It was real. Even if you go back and undo this, this is still something that happened here. This world still existed, for a whole year. You want to start making this right? Don’t let it happen again.”

With that, she turned to Cassandra and nodded once, then stormed out the door, Varric stepping aside.

“Come, Herald.” Cassandra glanced at Lavellan briefly before going after Leliana.

…Nothing else mattered to them now but their current goal - sending Lavellan back in time. Nothing else could matter to them.

And there was nothing Lavellan could say or do for them. There was no taking it back or helping them heal. She could only-

Her legs water beneath her, Lavellan hurried after them. Wanting nothing more than for all of this to be over.

 


 

Being Lethlares Lavellan gave her a choice the game had never presented her with - a conditional alliance with the mages.

 

I do believe that the mages deserve much greater freedoms.

 

She had written to Fiona while they attended a very tense meeting with King Alistair and Queen Anora.

 

But that does not mean that I believe that mages should go without structure. All mages, race or social standing regardless, should receive a formalized education that teaches them how to properly and safely control their magic. It is a responsibility all mages are born with. And, to an extent, that education should be mandatory, not elective. At least until a certain age.

To that degree, after what nearly happened here today, and in light of the actions of you and most mages under your direct command to ally yourselves with radical cultists who claim responsibility for the death of Divine Justinia, the alliance I offer you and yours will be probationary. Trust must be earned. Prove to those you’ve wronged, and to all of Thedas, that mages can be more than abominations in the making, that mages can be productive members of society, and the Inquisition will stand with you. Refuse or fail to do so, and you will damn your people right back to involuntary commitment in the type of Circle you fear and hate so much.

 

“And how do I know your promises will be kept?” Fiona frowned deeply, the bags under her eyes and the pallor to her skin speaking to how stressed she was at the moment, “You plan to change how all of Thedas views us? How the Chantry teaches we are to be treated? Or simply use us to your own ends before allowing your templars to shackle us again?”

 

I’m extending to you an ultimatum, Fiona, not an offer. And these are my terms. They are not negotiable. I just had to bail you out of a Tevinter magister’s plan to usurp the Chantry and conquer southern Thedas in the Imperium’s name. None of your options at the moment are going to weigh well in your favor.

 

“She has a point, you know.” Alistair spoke up as the scribe that had been assigned to Lavellan for the meeting finished speaking. Though he still had some boyish lines in his face, the look he gave Fiona was hard, and unsympathetic. “After how you trampled all over everything the Hero worked to earn for mage rights in Ferelden? You’re not exactly going to be finding any better offers.”

Fiona gave Alistair, her son (though he had no idea), a crestfallen look. For a moment, Lavellan almost felt bad.

Almost.

But, in the back of her mind, she was still stuck in that moment when Cassandra and Varric had walked back through the shard door to buy Dorian time.

To buy their Herald time.

She was still replaying that moment when Leliana’s emaciated and broken body had been buried under a swarm of demons and how they’d proceeded to tear at her clothes and her skin and her limbs until-

Fiona agreed, in the end.

Lavellan left the room quickly, avoiding faces and turning corners until she found a study to lock herself in. Where she proceeded to crumple to the ground and cover her mouth with her hands, screaming.

She had almost believed that she had been getting used to all of this. That the horrors that were just everyday life in Thedas were starting to become normal for her.

She’d thought that after four or five playthroughs she would have been able to stomach what would happen better.

But when it was right in front of you, when your senses were actually being assaulted with the smell of blood and decay and sulfur and someone was really in front of you, having their limbs ripped off-

She had no idea when, but at some point, someone had come in, was kneeling on the floor next to her, and then she was being pulled into arms and smashed against hard buckles and she smelled sweat and leather and cologne as a hand pressed her face into a neck and-

Lavellan clung to Dorian even before she realized it was him, too desperate to care as long as someone, anyone was holding her. People in Thedas tended to be so physically and emotionally distant, even among “friends” and “family,” and her mind had been craving the comfort that came with just being really held for months-

“There is a strength, you realize,” Dorian said harshly after a bit, once he’d deemed her actually capable of listening to him, “In not being able to handle something and still making yourself do it.”

Screaming turned into crying and she broke down against him.

Chapter Text

Her head ached. Her eyes were dry. Her face was hot. Her nose was stuffed. Her lips were cracked, and she was parched.

A hand reached over, offering her a glass of something amber.

She didn’t drink alcohol. But she still took it and knocked back as much as she could- At least until the taste really hit her and she choked, coughing and spilling most of it down her front. With a sigh, Dorian patted her back until she’d recovered, then poured more into her glass.

“Try not to drown in the West Hill brandy, yes? Only Orlesians deserve an ending that gauche. And it’s the best thing they have to drink in this castle.”

Gasping and rubbing her eyes, Lavellan tried again, making a face after one swallow as her tongue tried to wilt. Then she took another.

“That’s how you do it.” Dorian sat next to her, sounding both instructive and proud, “Drink too fast and it’ll go straight to your head. You’ll be out before you can even enjoy the stupor of not caring anymore. To truly sulk, you have to let it slowly sink in.” As if in example, he took a rather long drink from his own glass, his throat moving slowly as he took his time swallowing. As soon as he took the glass away from his lips, though, he made a face, “Honestly, the swill these Fereldans call liquor…”

Too low to care, Lavellan continued carefully nursing her glass, gradually taking longer and longer drinks as her tongue gave up. Between them, the bottle was half gone too soon. Most of it in Dorian, because Lavellan took forever to finish the half glasses he was pouring her.

At some point, the floor she was sitting on and the wall she was leaning back against weren’t enough to keep her upright and stable. Her head started feeling so heavy, and as she stared down at the glass in her hands, she slowly realized that her hands didn’t feel… connected to her. And then she realized that neither did her wrists, or her arms, and if her body wasn’t connected to her head then where were either of them going.

She ended up curled up against Dorian’s side, staring ahead dazedly and breathing through her mouth. The glass was gone from her hands, and she had no idea where it went. She almost leaned forward to try to look for it, but her head was just so heavy and she didn’t think she had the strength to lift it.

“Aaah, finally had too much, have you? Good.” It took her a moment to remember she’d been with Dorian. “Let’s get you to bed, then.”

…But she didn’t want to go to bed. Going to bed meant being alone, and…

Before she could formulate a protest, she was in bed. Blankets were being pulled up, but she squirmed and complained until they stopped. She felt far too warm for blankets.

Then he was pulling away and-

Lavellan grabbed at Dorian as he moved to step back, one hand missing and the other only catching onto a corner of fabric briefly, grip far too weak to maintain.

It was enough, though, because then Dorian was stepping back in. She wasn’t sure if he was talking or not, but when she felt a hand slip into hers, she grabbed it.

And then refused to let go.

Her eyes closed at some point - or maybe they’d already been closed - and she just curled around the hand she was clinging to.

When she woke up some time later, Dorian was still there. Sitting on a chair next to her bed, face propped up in his free hand, asleep.

And she hated herself. She couldn’t be a real friend to him. Friends don’t lie.

But she was too weak to let go of his hand.

 


 

“We need more concrete and formalized restrictions for the mages. We have plenty of experienced former templars who-”

“The Herald does not want any templar oversight beyond the bare minimum.” Cassandra spoke up over Cullen, “This is to be a chance for the mages to prove themselves, not a gradual return the former state. While they are to be regarded carefully, they are still to be seen and treated as allies.”

“This is not a matter for debate.” Cullen scowled, his brow furrowing heavily and his hands clenching, “There will be abominations among the mages and we must be prepared.”

“If we rescind the offer of an alliance, it makes the Inquisition look incompetent at best, tyrannical at worst.” Josephine frowned back at him.

With two of the Inquisition’s key players against him, Cullen turned on Lavellan, snapping, “What were you thinking, turning mages loose with no oversight?! The Veil is torn open-”

Oddly, having Cullen mad at her didn’t have Lavellan cowering as much as it once had. Instead, she was just tired and unbothered, sighing as she wrote a note and passed it directly to him across the war table.

 

Cullen, you once told the mages and templars already here in Haven that you weren’t a Knight-Captain anymore, and that the templars here were no longer to treat mages as they once had. You need to make up your mind about whether you’re here as a templar or as the commanding officer of the Inquisition’s forces.

 

As he read, Cullen recoiled slightly as if he’d been struck, and the glare he turned on Lavellan was raw and pained. “I am a templar no longer, but that does not mean I can turn a blind eye to the dangers you’re unleashing on our people!”

“Cullen.” Cassandra stepped closer to Lavellan’s side, scowling at him, “Enough. I might not agree fully with her views, but the sole purpose of the Herald’s mission was to secure the mages’ aid, and that was accomplished. With the power of the mages, we can now close the Breach.”

“Precisely.” Leliana finally spoke, nodding, “With that sorted out, we have greater troubles to turn our attentions to, like this dark future the Herald witnessed during her time in Redcliffe. The assassination of Empress Celene? A demon army?”

Giving up on the problems with the mages for now, Cullen sighed heavily and shook his head. “One battle at a time. We still need to organize our troops and the mage recruits and prepare to seal the Breach. Maker willing, this will be enough…”

After that, the tension dissolved slightly and they turned their attentions to, once again, reorganizing Haven slightly to make room for the hundreds of mages who would need their own spaces for tents, lodgings and supplies.

With little energy and no mental capacity to add anything to the finer details, Lavellan excused herself… but didn’t leave the room before, once again, stepping over and hugging Leliana tightly. Something she’d done several times since returning to Haven, and something Leliana had been more than startled by and hadn’t really understood until Lavellan had given them a detailed, written report on what had happened.

After reading that, the spymaster had loosened up a little. This time, she even hugged back briefly.

Lavellan had done the same to Cassandra and Varric, but they had been there right after she’d returned from the future, so she’d had more time to reassure herself that they really were fine. And she hadn’t seen them dismembered…

“All done being yelled at, then?”

Lavellan blinked and looked up as the door to the war room closed behind her, then relaxed and nodded a little to Dorian, who snorted and chuckled.

“Typical, yes? It’s so easy for others who weren’t even there to pass judgment. Hindsight and all of that. Never mind that they can’t seem to make decisions on their own and are always turning to you for an opinion. So, do you regret your decision?”

Lavellan shrugged, then shook her head. Dorian knew she didn’t regret anything about how she’d handled having the mages join.

“You might, someday.” Gesturing to her, he held out his arm, and when she stepped over and took it he started walking her to the large doors of the chantry. “You have rather liberal views, you realize. Your way of doing things would see mages gradually enjoying freedoms again, perhaps even to the point where they’re… well… more like mages back home.”

She shrugged again. It was a possibility, yes, but one that would take a great deal of time. In Tevinter, selective breeding was a thing, and the population of mages there was probably much higher than it was in the rest of Thedas, where mages were readily killed. Besides, given the future with Solas… Well… Eventually, everyone would have greater problems to deal with.

As they stepped outside, Lavellan stopped, looking over and up at the Breach. Dorian followed suit, and for a moment, they were silent.

“…I’ve decided to stay, if you’ll have me.” When she blinked at him, Dorian looked back at her, smirking in amusement, “What, didn’t I tell you? The south is so charming and rustic. I adore it to little pieces.”

Lavellan snorted hard at him, and rolled her eyes dramatically.

“Such a lady you are.” Dorian huffed, before his expression turned serious, “Will you, though? Have me, that is.”

That one required no thought. Lavellan nodded.

“…What, that easily? No skepticism or concern or hammering out any boundaries or rules whatsoever? Perfectly content with having a rather dashing Altus from a well-bred Imperium family doing as he will in your little war camp?” He smirked and raised a brow, and when she just blinked and nodded at him again, Dorian laughed, “That eager to give them something else to yell at you about? Well, by all means.”

Even as he spoke, though, Dorian led her off to the side, walking them behind the rock and into the shadows of the cabin next to Adan’s workshop. It was something Lavellan didn’t miss. Joking aside, Dorian was well aware of how others would feel, and was going out of his way to assure that as few people as possible saw them together.

“Ah, moving right along, I have a gift for you.” Letting go of her arm, Dorian reached down to unstrap a book from his belt - much in the same way she’d kept her journal at her side at all times, before she’d dropped it in the water in the dungeons of future Redcliffe Castle.

When he offered her the book, Lavellan paused and blinked at him.

Dorian just gave her a charming smile. “It’s my understanding you’ve been keeping a journal close at hand, both for making notes about how to write in Common and for writing messages to others, to make up for your lack of ability to speak. I believe you lost your last journal during our little adventure, yes? So, here’s a new one.”

Lavellan blinked at him again, then gingerly reached out and took the book, opening it and flipping through the pages. It was of much higher quality than her last one, and had at least a hundred more pages in it.

And he was…

Swallowing, she reached back and took out her writing stick, carefully penning out a Thank you before turning and showing him the page.

“…Oh my.” Dorian blinked down at the words slowly, “…Is that your handwriting? I had heard that an author of some repute had been teaching you your letters, but did he really not- Oh, no, this will not do at all.”

And, with that, Dorian took her arm once more and marched her into the cabin they were standing in the shade of, where he-

…Well, basically proceeded to teach her how to write from scratch.

 


 

…my point is, it doesn’t matter if some people currently living in slavery enjoy a more comfortable standard of living than those who live in poverty in countries where slavery is illegal. Owning people to any extent is not right. Just like people living in utter destitution isn’t right. The caste system exists for a reason. The nobility exists to serve the people, and every ruling party in every country in Thedas is failing to do that. Education should be available to everyone. And everyone should have the right to a basic standard of living that doesn’t see them in conditions where a paper cut or splinter might end in them needing to lose an arm. Every country on this continent is a mess.

 

Dorian just sat back and laughed, shaking his head, “Well, isn’t someone the idealist~! I do wish you the best of luck in that crusade you’re on.” At the look she gave him, Dorian crossed his arms, “Yes yes, and good luck to me ending blood magic in the Imperium, I suppose. My dear, I do concede your point, but there is such a thing as picking your battles. Public education? Equal rights? A basic standard of living? You might as well approach the Archon and the Arishok and suggest they discuss their differences over tea and little Orlesian cakes.”

(Actually, if Sten was the Arishok, he might like some little Orlesian cakes.)

 

Thedas being a long way off from achieving these things is no excuse for not making efforts to start the groundwork. If someone doesn’t start lobbying for these things, no one will. Which is why things end in revolts, coups and, let’s see, maybe the Mage-Templar War?

 

“Are all Dalish as conscientious as you?” He smirked and raised a brow.

Lavellan hunched a little and sulked at him.

 

I’ve never been a very good Dalish.

 

“What a surprise.” Dorian chuckled, crossing his legs primly and sitting back, “Well, at least your writing is improving. And in only a few days~ I must commend you for your efforts.”

 

How could I not improve with the help of a veritable paragon of proper form?

 

The look she gave him was sardonic.

Dorian just ignored it and fluffed a little, brushing invisible dust off the back of his hand, “That, my dear, is a given. Though you forgot to mention how handsome and dashing said paragon is.”

The creaking of wood and a loud boom made Lavellan jerk a little and glance out the window, the top of a trebuchet visible over the large wooden fence as the last of the beams were being hammered into place. Behind it, the Breach loomed.

Dorian hummed as he glanced, as well. “Any day now. Are you ready?”

 

Do you suppose Andraste was ready when her executioner opened the door of her cell to lead her to the stake?

 

“Depends on who you ask, I suppose. The Chantry would probably say she held her head high and accepted it with grace, but how did the woman herself fare? Anyone else in her shoes would have been rather terrified.” He glanced back at her, “Getting more comfortable with everyone equating you to Andraste, then?”

She shuddered.

 

Never. But it’s hard not to feel the weight.

 

“…I would imagine so.” At the tone in his voice, Lavellan looked over at him- Just in time for Dorian to move to her side and wrap an arm around her, “It’s just another spell to be cast, that’s all. There will be much pomp and ceremony, yes, but if you ignore all of that, it’s just another rift you need to wiggle your fingers at. And we will be with you the whole time. I will be with you.”

Not for the first time, she turned into his chest and hid. She knew she should feel like a monster for accepting his comfort so easily, but she needed it. She hadn’t been able to talk to Lethlares in over two weeks now, and every hour they got closer to marching on the Breach, she felt more and more alone.

Dorian helped with that. Readily.

Besides… soon it wouldn’t matter. Soon, she wouldn’t have to do this anymore.

Soon, she could relax.

Or maybe she would just die.

It wasn’t good, how calm she was about that thought, and she was well aware of that. But she’d long accepted that there was nothing she could do about her mental state. It was what it was. All she had to do was keep moving towards the goals she knew she needed to.

Because soon, it wouldn’t matter.

“…I do have one request of you.” When she looked up at him, Dorian grabbed her chin, meeting her eyes seriously, “Try not to get yourself killed. If you feel like it isn’t working, step back. We can always get more mages. Templars, even. Closing a rift isn’t worth your life.”

Looking away from him, Lavellan reached over and grabbed her writing stick.

 

Yes it is.

 

“No.” He grabbed her face again and turned her back towards him, “It is not.” When she simply wrote the same three words, refusing to look at him, Dorian sighed angrily, “After this matter is taken care of, you and I are going to have a serious talk about your self-worth.”

After the Breach was closed, Lethlares would be taking over, and Morgan Chambers’ self-worth wouldn’t matter anymore. Dorian could talk at Lethlares all he wanted. And he wouldn’t be any wiser.

Setting her writing stick down again, Lavellan just closed her eyes and turned back into his chest, relaxing.

She’d accepted it. She was fine with it. As long as everything was okay in the end, she’d be fine with whatever happened to her.

By noon, construction on the trebuchets had finished.

That evening, when Cassandra and the advisors had their final meeting of the day in the war room, Lavellan knocked on the door and let herself in.

 

If the preparations are done, I was thinking we could approach the Breach tomorrow?

 

The startled looks she received didn’t bother her, and she clasped her hands and rocked on her heels a little as Josephine and Cullen looked through their reports.

“The last of the lyrium supplies have arrived-”

“And the soldiers and mages have gone through their drills plenty of times, I suppose…” Cullen looked up at her, frowning, “Are you sure you’re ready? You’re the one who will be most at risk. If things are ready on our end, then you would be the one we’re waiting on, yes, but if you need time…”

Lavellan simply shook her head and wrote a few brief words before stepping back and smiling at them all calmly.

 

I am ready.

 

The time she’d spent with Dorian over the last few days - time spent with someone who openly cared about her well-being and was more than willing to provide the physical comfort she’d so desperately needed over the last months - had brought her peace.

No matter what happened to her, she was ready.

“…If you are sure, then…” Cullen paused, then looked around to the others, “I will send runners to inform the best of the mages. Tomorrow at noon, we’ll march.”

When no one could think of any reason not to, Lavellan bowed to them all before turning on her heel and leaving the room.

Tomorrow.

Chapter Text

She could honestly say she’d never felt more aware of and in tune with the magic in the body she was occupying. It was like breathing, like a breeze flowing over her skin, making her prickle.

Of course, it would be now that she was suddenly so aware of, and so comfortable with magic, Lavellan thought to herself with a bit of a smile. Now that she stood in the crater that had once been the Temple of Sacred Ashes, with the smaller rift that connected to the massive Breach overhead directly before her.

On the march up to this point, the mark on her hand had slowly become more and more energetic.

Now, it was crackling and sparking constantly, green mist just oozing out and spilling to the ground in globs, where it swirled for moments before dissipating like fog. Already, her fingers were numb. As if it was blood leaking out of her palm, and her hand was slowly losing circulation.

Footsteps next to her had her lifting her head and looking over, and she smiled calmly at Cassandra and Solas, nodding.

Cassandra’s brow furrowed, and she looked troubled, but she said nothing.

Solas simply regarded her for a moment before Lavellan stepped away from them, walking towards the rift.

“Mages, at attention!” Cassandra called behind her.

“Focus passed the Herald.” Solas spoke up after her, directing Fiona and the other First Enchanter and Enchanter-ranked mages that had joined them. Among them, she knew, stood Dorian, and even Vivienne. “Let her will draw from you - give her complete access to everything you have to offer!”

As she stepped closer to the smaller rift that connect to the Breach overhead, gravity seemed to increase- To the point where, after one particular step, Lavellan’s legs almost buckled completely. The numbness had spread from her fingers and passed her wrist, and even as the seconds passed, she could feel her elbow starting to tingle-

Closing her eyes and breathing deeply, she clenched the fingers of her right hand tightly and stood as straight as she could. As she did, she felt a sudden surge, and the mark on her hand crackled and snapped loudly- Behind her, several voices rang out in force and concentration.

She could actually feel the mages energizing her, she realized-

Looking up, she stood her ground and waited, her shoulders and knees shaking as she struggled to keep herself upright. She needed to wait until the right moment, when she had the most mana-

That moment came with a sudden, sharp pain in her hand, followed by a moment of exhilaration, like a rush of adrenalin, and the effects of the increased gravity around her instantly vanished.

Grasping that moment before it passed, Lavellan lifted her hand and aimed it at the rift, green energy lashing out from her palm and the rift and connecting.

At the same time, she closed her eyes and relaxed, clearing her mind and letting go.

Doing everything she could to give Lethlares all the room she needed to take over.

Accepting whatever was to-

 

White. Complete white.

 

 

Numbness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then black.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

“-earld- HERALD-”

“Lethlares- Breathe!”

…no…

No… gods, please… no…

Green eyes opened to the sky overhead. The sky where clouds still swirled like a hurricane, like a maelstrom-

But a sky that was now white and blue, instead of green. The clouds were still tinged with green, ever so faintly, but…

Blue. A blue sky, and white clouds.

“She’s alive!”

Shouts and screams of triumph. Someone breaking down into tears. Cassandra’s face coming into view, the woman kneeling next to her and taking her face in her hands, eyes bright.

“You did it-”

The Breach was closed.

 

But she had failed.

 

Morgan Chambers… was still in the body of Lethlares Lavellan.

Chapter Text

She couldn’t seclude herself. It wouldn’t be good for morale if the Herald of Andraste wasn’t seen somewhere while all of Haven celebrated.

So she went to where she knew she needed to be and sat down on the bale of… whatever it was. Her mind completely blank as she watched Seggrit dance with Minaeve, Adan laugh and drink and kiss a random woman, Bull catch Krem in a headlock and ruffle his hair.

“Solas confirms the heavens are scared, but calm. The Breach is sealed. We’ve reports of lingering…”

Even while everyone else in Haven laughed and drank and celebrated, Cassandra was still working. Of course.

Lavellan could barely listen to her. She had moved passed the point of devastation and was completely numb, simply sitting there and staring ahead in complete emotional shock.

It hadn’t worked.

She wasn’t a mage, or a demon, had no experience with possession or how to resist it- Lethlares was the experienced mage, and this was her body, she should have some sort of… what… natural inclination to claim it-

But it hadn’t worked. Even with Lavellan completely willing to give it up, and her mind and senses completely overwhelmed by a massive explosion of magic, somehow, her… soul or whatever was completely cemented where it was.

Firmly lodged where it shouldn’t be.

A bell ringing cut through her stupor. She blinked and watched as torches appeared on the side of the mountain directly across from Haven.

People were no longer singing and laughing - everyone had frozen in place and was looking around in tense, fearful confusion as Cullen and his soldiers ran about, trying to assess the situation.

Other soldiers were herding everyone who wasn’t a soldier into Haven’s walls. To the limited safety that was offered.

The ringing of a sword being drawn made her look over, and Cassandra was scowling, glaring towards the lights of the approaching forces. “We must get to the gates.”

So Lavellan followed her. Her mind still blank and her eyes simply staring ahead as she jogged after the Seeker.

“Cullen?!”

“One watch guard reporting - it’s a massive force, the bulk over the mountain.”

“Under what banner?”

“…None.”

“None?!”

Just then, someone “knocked” on Haven’s massive gates. “I can’t come in unless you open!”

Lavellan stood there for a moment, then walked down the steps. A soldier opened one side of the gates for her, and she stepped out to find Cole standing in the middle of a ring of Venatori corpses, his daggers drawn.

His head tipped up, pale blue eyes meeting hers from under the brim of his hat. “I’m Cole. I came to warn you- To help. People are coming to hurt you-” He abruptly stopped and stared at her. “…No, wait… You already know…”

“Stand back!” Cullen stepped between Lavellan and Cole, his sword drawn, “Identify yourself!”

Cole looked at him and frowned, “I already said - I’m Cole! I came to tell you the templars are coming to kill you!”

“Templars?!” Cullen took a step back, his shoulders tensing, “Is this the Order’s response to our talks with the mages?! Attacking blindly?!”

“The Red Templars went to the Elder One! You know him, yes?” Cole looked at Lavellan, “He knows you, too! You took his mages-” Suddenly Cole stopped and pointed, “There-”

They all looked over to the top of a nearby hill, where a tall, dark figure and a man in armor suddenly stepped into view.

“…I know that man…” Cullen’s brow furrowed as he stared, trying to make out the man’s features in the semi-dark, “But-”

And then the tall figure stepped into torchlight, and even Lavellan could make out the scowling, red lyrium-marred face of Corypheus.

Cole shuddered and stepped back, “He’s very angry that you took his mages…”

There was a pause that couldn’t last longer than a second, because every second the soldiers were marching closer-

“Haven is no fortress.” Cullen started muttering to himself, “If we’re to have any chance against this monster, we must control the battle… We need… The trebuchets-” Cullen turned, looking between Cassandra, Lavellan, and the others who had gathered, “The trebuchets must be fired to slow the forces while our men fall into rank and file- If we can slow the forces enough, we might have time to cut down a good number before they overwhelm us. Mages… Mages!” Cullen raised his voice, “These are templars marching against us - you have sanction to engage them with everything you have! That is Samson - he will cut you down as easily as he will the rest of us! Inquisition - with the Herald! For your lives! For all of us!”

…Shock was no longer a luxury she could afford.

She had to move.

The clarity that a blank mind and an emotional stupor brought allowed her to move with little hesitation, once she had gotten herself going. The soldiers in charge of the trebuchet in front of them ran forward and started loading and cranking, and as they did, the first line of Red Templars started running over to cut them down-

Lavellan slammed the nearest one with a fireball, making the creature screech and turn on her with its sword. In an instant, Cassandra was at her side, running forward to engage it in direct combat. And then there was Blackwall and Bull smashing through, and Cole darting forward between bodies, daggers drawing gouts of blood-

Lavellan’s magic was joined by that of Solas, Dorian and Vivienne, and with them on the offense, she switched to the few supportive spells she was actually good at, casting barriers around the soldiers at the trebuchet.

Soon, there was a loud crack and boom, the great arm of the trebuchet swinging forward and launching a hail of skull-sized stones.

Without waiting for whatever was supposed to be said next, Lavellan stopped casting and turned, running off towards the other trebuchet. Footsteps behind her told her she was being followed, and when they arrived to find the trebuchet loaded but unmanned, the soldiers who had been with it slaughtered and surrounded by Venatori mages and templars in armor with red lyrium crystals growing out of them, she threw herself forward and ran the blade of her staff through the back of one of the Venatori, trusting that she was being followed by people who would defend her-

And she was. Of course. When a red templar turned and charged her, Bull was there in an instant, his hulking form standing behind her and one hand swinging a greataxe around while the other grabbed her and swung her around behind him. Dorian was there, as was Cassandra, Solas, Cole-

She stopped looking for faces - Inquisition soldiers were running by, and they needed to be covered so the trebuchet could be fired.

Stepping out from behind Bull, Lavellan grabbed her staff with both hands, breathing in and out deeply and focusing-

It was easier to call on when everything around her was so cold. When every deep breath she took of the frigid mountain air made her feel like crystals were forming in her lungs.

Fire came to her without trouble, but when she really thought about it, when she really focused, she could call a blizzard- And as she stood there, reaching out for help from those she knew were clamoring to use her to reach through and change this side, the winds started to pick up, the air got even colder, and-

When one of the templars who happened to be in front of her, crossing swords with Cassandra, started to seize up, first his legs, then his torso stopping in place, ice forming on his armor and spreading rapidly across his body, Lavellan heard an enraged curse.

“The elf! Stop her from casting-”

A sharp sound, followed by a thunk and a gurgle, and Sera was standing in front of her, bow drawn once again.

“Just keep that away from me and we’re good!” She glanced at Lavellan briefly before firing, spitting out a curse of her own.

A crack and a boom, and the familiar sight of the arm of a trebuchet swinging forward, this one launching a massive boulder that soared through the sky and struck the mountain across from Haven-

Triggering an avalanche that swept across the lower hills and through the valley the Venatori and templar soldiers were marching on them through. In an instant, the thousands of torches were snuffed out by a blast of icy wind and a blanket of white, and after several moments, when everything had calmed down, the Inquisition forces paused when they realized they could no longer hear advancing soldiers.

Lavellan looked around, but there were no more enemies in their area, either.

When the soldiers realized this, cries of victory started ringing out-

Which were instantly drown out by a massive gust of air and a shadow swooping over them, something large closing in and-

And a ball of fire smashing into the trebuchet, blowing it to pieces, making the ground shake- Another gust from the dragon’s wings threw Lavellan off of her feet, and one moment she was airborne before the next moment came and her shoulder was being slammed into the ground, the wind knocked out of her and the side of her face getting torn up by frozen dirt and rubble-

“Oh, shit-!”

That was Bull’s voice.

A shadow fell over her again, and a massive hand grabbed her by the back of her leather coat, jerking her to her feet.

“Everyone, fall back to the gates!” Cassandra’s commanding voice rang out, right before the dragon roared, the sound crashing in the narrow valley and echoing into the night.

And then they were running.

Bull looped his arm around her waist and jerked her up under his armpit, turning and running with her, and Lavellan was left staring down at the ground as it blurred by, her hands still wrapped around her staff desperately.

Remembering suddenly- Lavellan looked up, and saw Harritt struggling with the collapsed boxes in front of the door of his cabin-

She struggled and pointed.

“Auuuuuugh, come on-” Bull roared, but still stopped and dropped her, Lavellan barely managing to let go of her staff so she could catch herself on her hands and knees- A crashing sound made her look over in time to see Bull kicking the worst of the crates aside before smashing his axe through the door.

“Thanks-” Harritt darted into the cabin.

Bull didn’t stop to wait for him.

He just stepped back over and grabbed Lavellan by the back of her coat again, hefting her up and going back to running with her.

A tense and frantic Cullen was at the gate, barking and waving for soldiers to hurry inside. Bull ran through still carrying Lavellan, and as soon as the others were in - Harritt included - Cullen grabbed the gate’s large handles and slammed the doors shut, waiting soldiers slamming a wooden beam down to lock them.

“Everyone, fall back to the chantry!” Cullen turned around, shouting orders again, “It’s the only building that might hold up against that- thing!” He stopped and looked at the soldiers who had stopped to look at him, then scowled, “At this point, just make them work for it.”

Which was all they could do.

Even after Bull dropped her back onto her feet, he still slammed his hand against Lavellan’s back, making her lurch and lunge and run up the steps.

Something out of the corner of her eye made her look, and- “Cass!” She pointed to the female templar she couldn’t remember the name of, who was fighting several red templars on her own.

Without hesitation, Cassandra took off, with Blackwall not far behind her.

Bull, however, continued pushing Lavellan onwards, towards the chantry.

But she remembered.

She couldn’t just run.

There were people who-

When they reached the top of the second set of stairs, Lavellan broke away from Bull and grabbed the ladder of the nearby scaffold, swinging herself around and climbing it. Ignoring the angered, confused shouts that followed her and focusing on the voice she could faintly hear screaming and calling for help inside of the burning building nearby.

Without giving herself time to think, she jumped from the scaffold to the pile of logs, then jumped from them as they started to slide and fall and threw herself through the opening in the roof of the cabin-

Where she fell several feet before slamming hard into a pile of wood left by the collapsed roof. Feeling no pain, she stumbled back to her feet, looking down at the startled and frozen Seggrit staring at her, his leg stuck under a collapsed beam.

With strength she didn’t know she had, Lavellan darted forward and grabbed the beam, hissing and struggling to lift it and the massive pile of splintered and fractured wood on top of it just enough for the merchant to pull his leg free-

Just as he’d pulled himself out, the nearby door slammed open, Bull charging in and looking around with a crazed scowl. With one look, he grabbed Lavellan, and then Seggrit, and pulled them out of the building. He threw the merchant towards the stairs that led up to the chantry, but before he could to the same to her, Lavellan dug her feet into the ground and pointed towards the tavern.

“Others-”

Bull’s narrowed eyes glanced over.

“If we’re going to make sure Haven is completely evacuated, we need to hurry!” Solas’ voice cut in.

“…Lead the way, Boss.” Bull looked back down at her.

Nodding, she took off, only noticing just then that she’d lost her staff at some point. It was something she promptly forgot about when she heard Flissa scream.

As she darted towards the entrance of the tavern, arrows, bolts and a few spells struck the templars that were engaging Inquisition soldiers right in front of it- Lavellan wove through them and slammed herself into the closed door, a loud splintering preceding the door swinging open by seconds.

She wasn’t thinking as she ran into the fire. Not at all. Nothing was hurting, despite things happening in the last ten, twenty, thirty minutes that should have her aching, despite the things she might have even broken-

Lavellan just ran in through the fire and jumped, rolling over the top of the bar and falling to the ground, almost crashing into a crouching, terrified Flissa who was covering her head with her hands and sobbing, calling out to the Maker and Andraste for help.

Lavellan barely paid attention to the look on her face as she rolled onto her knees and grabbed Flissa by the wrist, jerking her to her feet and leading her through the fire and outside of the tavern.

Then came-

She let Flissa go, leaving the woman to flee to the chantry on her own as she ran up the steps to the small square where Adan’s workshop was.

Minaeve was laying on the ground, her temple bloodied.

Lavellan rolled her over and slapped her face, shaking her until she woke. Then, she was lurching back to her feet and, once again, slamming her body into a busted door, breaking it open to free the apothecary inside.

Cassandra was pulling Minaeve to her feet as Lavellan took off again, towards the chantry- But not running inside. Because, over by her tent and her requisition table, Threnn was fighting several red templars. Alone. And if Lavellan ran into a fight, someone would be right behind her, because her life was important-

More arrows. More magic. More bolts. More curses.

Threnn was saved, and Lavellan grabbed her arm, pointing towards the chantry.

Shouting something Lavellan wasn’t listening to, Threnn ran off, leaving Lavellan to turn back around and make sure-

Yes. Adan was supporting a still bleeding and stumbling Minaeve, both of them running into the chantry shortly after Threnn.

And there, too, was everyone who had been following her, protecting her: Cassandra and Blackwall holding their shields and swords, looking around tensely, Bull holding his axe in both hands and watching the sky with a scowl, Varric and Sera with their weapons ready, and Dorian and Vivienne and Solas-

And then Cole was right in front of her, grabbing her shoulders.

“It’s okay. You got them all. You didn’t forget anyone.”

She didn’t-? She couldn’t remember-

“You got them all.” Cole nodded.

Overhead, the dragon screeched.

“Then we’re going inside.” Bull snapped, grabbing Lavellan again and pulling.

Roderick was there. Standing at the still open doors, hunched over, hand pressed to his bleeding stomach and waving at them.

“Move- Keep running- The chantry is your shelter-”

And then they were inside, and the doors were slammed shut and barred. Which was when Roderick’s legs gave out, and Cole was there, catching him.

Things were said. Things Lavellan wasn’t listening to as she gasped, her head spinning, her body finally starting to ache. Her legs threatening to give out, and she wanted nothing more than to slump to the ground and lean against a wall.

She already knew where this was going. She didn’t need to listen.

But she still heard.

“The Elder One doesn’t care about the village. He only wants the Herald.”

The chantry was packed with terrified, screaming, sobbing people. Roderick knew a way that would get them out. But they needed time to flee.

It was all so much, so fast. They didn’t have time to stop and think.

Lavellan still wasn’t listening. She knew what she needed to do.

Once her breathing had calmed slightly, she turned and walked back over to the door.

“Lethlares-”

She stopped when an hand grabbed her arm and jerked her back around, Cassandra tense and staring at her.

“What are you going to do?”

“…Yes…” Cole spoke up, and Lavellan looked over and met his gaze as he stared at her with blank, pale blue eyes, “If you went and distracted him… everyone could run…”

“What?!” Cassandra looked between Lavellan and Cole, her eyes wide, before she focused her attention back on Lavellan, “You cannot mean to-”

Lavellan nodded before she could finish. Then, when Cassandra opened her mouth again, Lavellan pointed towards the people in the building. The ones who were gathered around Mother Giselle and her lay sisters, praying.

Cassandra looked at them for a moment, then back at Lavellan before clenching her hands at her sides and looking down at the floor. Those around them were silent, and nothing could be heard save the sounds of crying and frantic praying.

“…Go to the trebuchet.” Cullen stepped forward, and Lavellan turned to face him as he spoke, “Use the wheel on the mount to aim it at the mountain. I’ll send soldiers with you to make sure it’s loaded and primed. Keep the Elder One’s attention until we’re above the tree line. If we are to have a chance - if you are to have a chance-” He stopped.

Let that thing hear you.

Only she didn’t have a voice.

Lavellan nodded, then turned to the door again.

Before she could leave, a hand grabbed her arm, and Dorian was there, glaring down at her. “Don’t do this. Let someone else do it.”

It wouldn’t work if it was someone else, and Dorian knew that. She was the one Corypheus wanted. So she just blinked up at Dorian slowly, waiting.

Dorian’s jaw clenched, “Yes, I know, but-” When she shook her head, he pursed his lips. “...I’m coming with you.”

…She couldn’t deny him that. Lavellan nodded.

“As will I.” Cassandra stepped back over, her face set and determined.

“You,” Lavellan shuddered and hunched a little as Bull stepped over, glaring down at her, “Are going to let me be your bodyguard this time.”

…She didn’t think the Qunari would accept a no.

Once again, before she could turn to the doors, a voice spoke up, and Solas stepped over, removing his staff from his back and offering it to her.

“You will need this.” When she nodded and reached out to grab the shaft, he covered her hand with his own, frowning down at her, “Do not die.”

“…Herald…” Roderick wheezed as Cole helped him to his feet, “If you are made for this… if the Inquisition is made for this… I pray for you.”

No more. She wasn’t going to stop for anything else. Staff in hand, Lavellan turned as the doors were opened for her and ran out into the night.

Chapter Text

The trebuchet was in place.

Bull had just finished cutting down the heavily crystallized behemoth.

And then- Right on time came the sound of wings, the unnatural, shrieking roar. Lavellan turned and started pushing Cassandra towards the chantry, signaling her and the others to run as the dragon swooped down from the clouds overhead, breathing red lyrium miasma-tinged fire-

That exploded on contact with the ground.

Not for the first time that night, Lavellan was thrown from her feet. Only this time, when she went crashing to the ground again, she felt it. Her energy levels were depleted, her adrenaline was gone, and hitting the ground this time was too much. She was suddenly aware of the pains all over her body and gasped and choked, trembling and curling up on her side.

Gods, the left side of her chest was burning- She must have broken something-

On her side, and facing the red lyrium-tinged flames, she was able to make him out through her pain-blurred vision as he approached.

He was massive. She’d known he was going to be tall, but this- Knowing didn’t prepare her for the reality in front of her.

Towering, bare chest a mess of old, darkened skin pulled tight over the red lyrium that had taken over his ribs, unnaturally long arms, hands that ended in claws, crystals erupting from his head-

Eyes full of hatred, locked directly on her as he approached.

With strength she almost didn’t have, Lavellan shakily pushed herself to her feet, arms instinctively curling around her damaged chest as she struggled to breathe. If she wasn’t careful, she could puncture a lung-

The ground beneath her feet shook and she turned without thinking, in time to watch the even more massive, growling, decaying creature approach her, exposed muscle and bone, scale and skin on its face receded to the point it was almost just a skull, body lined with giant pieces of embedded metal and large shards of red lyrium-

As it approached her, she found herself unable to breathe. She was just frozen in place as it got closer, closer, right in front of her, growling lowly, spreading its wings threateningly, neck snaking forward so teeth were right in front of her face as it let out a shrieking roar-

“Enough.”

A powerful gust of wind almost sent Lavellan to her knees, and she hunched her shoulders against it before turning to face Corypheus again, breathing again through her mouth.

“Pretender.” He addressed her, standing tall and proud with eyes full of hatred still locked on her, “You toy with forces beyond your ken. No more.”

Alone.

She was completely alone there, standing between him and the dragon. No one would be there to save her, Lethlares was absent, unable to fulfill her role, and Lavellan-

She couldn’t do this. She’d known that for months. Others had noticed.

But here she was. Alone.

And if she couldn’t trip the wheel-

“Know me.” Corypheus continued, approaching her slowly, the permanent sneer on his face stretching wider as he looked down at her, “Know what you have pretended to be. Exalt, the Elder One - the will that is Corypheus.” Reaching out with one unnaturally long arm, he pointed at her with a clawed finger, “You will kneel.”

Something he expected. As the former Priest of Dumat, as a former owner of slaves, as someone who had been raised to be, who had been the embodiment of everything a magister of the Tevinter Imperium should be.

“Sethius.”

Silence.

Silence broken only by Lavellan’s labored breathing.

“Sethius… Amladaris.” It was the most she’d spoken in… she didn’t know how long without stuttering heavily. And she sounded - she felt - so calm as she said it.

Before she could think about it, Corypheus had closed the distance between them in an instant, and was grabbing her by her neck to lift her several feet off of the ground, and right into his face. Utter fury in every line of skin.

You dare.” He seethed, clenching his fingers and digging his long, pointed nails in, the tips piercing her clothing and boring into her skin, “How do you know that name-”

Even the magisters who had joined him on his assault of the Golden City weren’t supposed to know his true name. And that had been over a thousand years ago.

Having someone know his name off hand must have been rather startling for him.

And for some reason, that had Lavellan relaxing, calming. Even as she couldn’t breathe.

Likely seeing how calm she was, Corypheus ground his teeth and tightened his grip on her neck dangerously- But only briefly, before his expression became a mask and he reached into his skirts with his free hand, pulling out an orb.

“No. It matters not. I am here for the Anchor. The process of removing it begins now.” As the orb was charged with mana, it began to glow a dark, sinister red. With his grip loose enough, Lavellan was able to gasp as the mark on her hand began spitting and crackling, though its energy was green-

That, right there, probably should have tipped Corypheus off.

Instead, he simply continued talking.

“It is your fault, ‘Herald.’” He growled down at her as the hand around her neck started to glow red, making her gasp again and start to struggle because fuck, that energy, that magic, right against her neck- It hurt- Burning like hot coals- “You interrupted a ritual years in the planning, and instead of dying, you stole its purpose. I do not know how you survived, but what marks you as ‘touched,’ what you flail at rifts, I crafted to assault the very heavens. And you used the Anchor to undo my work? The gall.

“That orb-” Lavellan hissed, shuddering and forcing herself to still as she met his eyes again, “It isn’t- even yours- It’s elven-”

He clamped down on her neck tightly again, and Lavellan screamed as his long, dagger-like nails dug fully into her body.

Mouthy rattus.” He spat in her face, grip on the orb tightening, “Know your betters! Before you were even born, before your ancestors were even concepts, I once breached the Fade in the name of another, to serve the Old Gods of the Imperium in person! There, I found only chaos and corruption- Dead whispers! For a thousand years, I was confused- But no more.” Here, he pulled his shoulders back and stood even taller, sneering down at her,“I have gathered the will to return under no name but my own, to champion withered Tevinter and correct this Blighted world. Beg that I succeed, for I have seen the throne of the gods, and it. Was. Empty!

“Unlike- some-” Lavellan gasped out, grinding her teeth and pulling her mouth back into a hard, feral grin, “I don’t need- gods- to val-i-date- my existence-”

An angry roar, and then everything was a blur- Before it all jerked to a sudden stop and pain bloomed along her entire back, making her scream as she slid down whatever she had slammed into and collapsed.

Wood- It was wood-

Good-

Gasping and panting and letting out brief, pained cries, Lavellan shakily pushed herself back to her feet, leaning back against the trebuchet behind her and glaring back at Corypheus as he stormed towards her.

“The Anchor is permanent.” He snarled, “You have spoilt it with your stumbling.”

And there it was. The sword, right where it was supposed to be. Limping forward a step, Lavellan stooped and scooped it up, quickly straightening herself as much as she could again and throwing herself back against the trebuchet for support.

She’d never held a real sword before, and it was so heavy in her hand- She gripped it with both as Corypheus and his dragon approached her.

“So be it. I will begin again - find another way to give this world the nation and god it requires.”

And then she saw it. Over his head, beyond Haven’s walls, a small speck of light flew up into the air, before it fell in a curve and disappeared again.

She had… actually done it…

On her own.

She’d managed to buy them enough time…

She… really had… been able to…

“And you… I will not suffer your continued existence.” Lavellan looked back at Corypheus as he raised his hand towards her, “You will die.”

“…hah…” She grinned at him, and dropped the sword. She didn’t need it. Not when the lever was right next to her, “Maybe… I will… But not… without you… pretender.”

She threw herself to the side. Kicked the locked wheel with enough force to set the mechanism free. Then kept running as the throwing arm of the trebuchet launched into the air.

She wasn’t sure where she was going, just that it would be in front of her- Damn it, she should have looked for it-

The dragon’s screeching roar was drown out by the explosion of the massive boulder hitting the side of the mountain, and then the even louder roar of the avalanche starting-

With that much weight, and the speed it would quickly pick up, it would only take seconds and she hadn’t looked for the spot she was supposed to fall-

The mount of the trebuchet ended suddenly, her eyes too busy searching for the cave she was supposed to fall into, and she stumbled as he stepped into empty air and fell-

The jarring, painful sensation as her knee met the ground was not good-

Eyes blurring with tears, gasping and sobbing, she scrambled on her hands and knees, frantic, feeling the cold rush of the avalanche coming-

Wood, her hand finding empty air as the ground ended suddenly, it felt deep and cold and she had no other choice-

She dragged herself in head first and fell.

Chapter Text

She was dreaming. Still alive, then.

Cold, hard, and alone. Not where Lethlares usually was.

She rolled over and curled up, hugging herself. There were faint pains where she had hurt herself in the real world, but they weren’t as deep as they would be once she woke. She used that to assess herself.

Broken ribs. Possibly broken knee. Puncture wounds in her back. One more along her collarbone. Heavily bruised shoulders, possibly with hairline fractures. But it didn’t hurt to breathe. Had she actually managed to escape a collapsed lung…?

Lethlares’ body was in good enough condition. It was alive, at least.

But the plan hadn’t worked. Morgan was still in control. And the next opportunity to try to change that…

…She couldn’t do this.

The only thing that had been holding her together was the hope that Lethlares would be taking over, and without that…

…Maybe… it was time to give up. After all… the fate of Thedas wouldn’t weigh on her so heavily if she was dead… right?

None of this was even her problem. This wasn’t her world. These weren’t her people. They didn’t even know who she was. To them, Morgan Chambers didn’t exist.

…The only one who knew was Lethlares, and…

…And she just… couldn’t anymore… Not for Lethlares… Not for Dorian… Not for Cassandra… Or Cullen, or Leliana…

If she just stayed right here, and refused to wake up, Lethlares’ body would eventually succumb to hypothermia and she would just… cease to exist.

Just as she thought that, however, a low, plaintive whine sounded right next to her ear, and a cold, wet nose pressed to her cheek.

Frowning, she opened her eyes and looked over.

…Some kind of dog. Mottled grey and black and brown coat, long, narrow face, messy neck ruff, long, gangly limbs-

…A wolfdog, then? True dogs didn’t have the exaggerated limbs or that skull shape, but true wolves didn’t have that coat color.

Her first thought was Solas. But no. This wasn’t Solas. And even if it was, she couldn’t say his name.

When she looked at it, the dog whined again and backed away, laying its ears back and lowering itself to the ground, tail tucked. Submissive and skittish. More inclined to run than anything.

But it didn’t run.

It crawled back over on its belly, whining again, and nosed at her forehead. Then backed away once more, body tense and trembling, like it was ready to bolt.

…What the hell was a dog doing in the Fade. Could animals even enter the Fade? She couldn’t remember. Entering the Fade required the ability to dream, and she knew animals dreamed- At least, by her world’s rules. But in Thedas…

…Someone, or something, had sent this creature, whatever it was, to her. It was the only explanation had made sense. She was having a crisis, and someone watching was intervening.

“If you want Thedas saved…” She mumbled, staring at the wolfdog for a moment before rolling over and curling up, “Then give Lethlares her body back. I’m done.”

A sharp pinch to her backside made her shriek and jump up, and the wolfdog let out a whining howl and jumped back, flattening itself to the ground again and squirming, panting at her. When she glared at it, it scooted back more and let out a long, warbling cry at her.

Like those pouting huskies on Vine and YouTube.

“No.” She growled at it, “That’s not cute, and it isn’t going to work.” And she promptly laid back down.

And then promptly had her ass nipped again.

She rolled over with a snarl and swatted at the animal, and it shrieked and ran away, but only by a few yards before it turned to face here again and dropped back down onto its stomach, ears back flat.

…Whoever had sent this animal after her had been watching her very well. Send a person? She probably would have just shut down.

Send a skittish, whiny dog? She’d end up engaging. It was just how she was with animals. Dogs in particular.

…Goddamnit.

“I can’t do this, all right?” She snapped at the wolfdog with no real anger, just pain and exhaustion and sadness. “I only tried as long as I did because I thought she’d be taking over again. But that clearly isn’t going to happen, is it? I can’t. This world is-” She shuddered, and pressed her palms into her eyes, hard, so she was only seeing nonsensical colors and patterns, instead of reliving the horrors she’d seen. “It’s a fucking constant horror movie. And I don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to spend on that. Not when I don’t have anyone to talk to- And I mean really talk to. I… I can’t stand… being alone…”

She was trying hard not to cry. This was the Fade - if she cried, spirits would come and-

Something heavy and warm draped across her lap. She uncovered her eyes and looked down, meeting the large, fearful eyes of the wolfdog. It whimpered and shifted, rolling onto its side and curling its tail between its legs. Submissive. But not so terrified it wouldn’t approach her.

“…I…” Was anyone even listening…? Could this animal even understand her…?

Exhausted, she slowly, carefully laid down, and the wolfdog moved to curl up against her, nosing into her neck and whimpering.

“…I really… don’t know who I’m trying to kid…”

It pulled back just enough to blink at her.

She shuddered and covered her face with her hands. “I can’t handle this… But… even more than that… I… I can’t abandon them. Even if they don’t know who I am, they need me, and I can’t just leave them because-”

She cared too much.

She had no real attachment to these people, but she’d always ended up caring more about others she didn’t even really know than she should. She didn’t like hurting people. She didn’t like being hated. Or alone.

And no matter how alone she felt when she was traveling with them, they were still there for her somehow- In some way she knew she was just inventing in her mind because that’s the kind of emotionally weak and fragile person she was.

The kind of person who realized all of this and just continued living that way.

She went limp, her energy sapped. “…I need to wake up…” She mumbled, “Lethlares’ body… needs medical attention. I need to get moving before they’re out of reach…”

The wolfdog let out a low huff and sat up, pressing its cold nose to the sensitive skin behind her ear-

 


 

-and then licking and nosing at her face as she moaned and shifted. The sharp pain and the cold told her she was awake, and Lavellan carefully and slowly sat up, looking around.

She’d managed to fall into the cave.

Movement made her look over, and Lavellan took in the wolfdog as it backed away and lowered itself to the ground, looking up at her fearfully and submissively.

…It was probably crawling with fleas. Gross.

Right as she thought that, the wolfdog pressed itself even further into the ground and whined loudly at her.

Keeping in mind that this animal was sent to her by someone, Lavellan was instantly suspicious.

…One of the first matters on the list when we get to Skyhold? You’re getting a flea bath. No matter how many hours you have to spend in the water until I’ve picked them all off.

It whined again, even louder than before, and warbled just like a goddamn husky.

It could read her mind. Wonderful. She scowled and rubbed her face.

Consider yourself lucky I don’t have the means to get you fixed.

Speaking of, she leaned over and reached under the animal’s body, feeling around. Testicles.

The wolfdog yelped and jumped to his feet, dashing away a few feet before stopping and laying back down, looking at her sulkily.

Ignoring him, Lavellan started looking around. Once again, she’d lost her staff, and she was going to need something to support herself with, with as sore as she was. Spotting the pile of wood that had probably fallen through when she had, Lavellan carefully rolled onto her hands and knees and crawled over to it. She just needed to find the one least likely to give her splinters. Which, gloves or not, could very well end up happening, with how much she would need to bear her weight on it, and even now, she was fretting about splinters…

Before she could really start searching the pile, the wolfdog was slowly walking back over to her, and she looked over to find it carrying a staff in her mouth.

And it wasn’t even Solas’ staff. It was the one she’d lost earlier.

Lavellan gave the dog a look, then took the staff from him, using it to carefully push herself back to her feet. As she did, he stepped over and pressed himself against her legs, offering support until she was upright.

…This was… really not good. She was weak, and in pain, and- When she felt around, the potion bottles in her bags were all broken. And when she tried, she didn’t have the strength to use any healing magic. And she was still on the kindest stretch of this long trek. Outside would be snow and winds.

She sighed heavily and started walking - limping, really - the wolfdog staying close to her side.

She distracted herself by trying to think of names for him.

Nothing that involved “Fen” in any way. Overplayed.

So was Barkspawn. Besides, he wasn’t a mabari. And he was a coward.

When the wolfdog whined, she gave him an unimpressed look.

You are.

Lloyd…

Elliot…

Kurt…

Eric…

…Why did she always end up giving animals people names…

There wasn’t a rift for her to close in the tunnels and that… was a small blessing. She didn’t think she would have survived a fight.

…Her fear that she wouldn’t survive the blizzard was only reinforced when they finally stepped out of the tunnel and the wind nearly knocked her off of her feet. The wolfdog whined and quickly ducked around to her other side, leaning against her heavily to keep her upright.

She almost wanted to step back into the tunnel, but that wasn’t an option. They were hoping, praying, but would continue pressing on as if she were dead. If she got left too far behind, she really would be dead.

With the wolfdog’s help, she ducked her head and started trudging. Passively grateful the snow was only calf-deep.

Ulrich…

Ivan…

Christov…

Adrian…

Theodore…

Cold…

Dark…

Snow…

 


 

Gregory…

Victor…

Vladimir…

No… No, all of those names were too strong… And he was a huge wimp…

Frantic whining had her thinking the dog was protesting… But then it was accompanied by frantic licking and she blinked her eyes open and realized she was in the snow.

Oops…

Somehow, they were able to get her back on her feet, and moving. The amount of time that took, though… was dangerous… But her leg was barely functioning now - kneecap was definitely broken. She wasn't able to bend it at all. Just dead weight. Didn't even hurt anymore. And that was really dangerous, too.

At least there were trees now… They were making progress…

…Hamish…

Neil…

Yeah… Those were closer to what she wanted…

Lewis…

Kevin…

Carl…

…Hehe… Carl…

 


 

…Alfred…

…Walter…

…Delbert…

…Irritating, high pitched whining… Tugging… Teeth-

She jerked away from the pain, then struggled against the darkness before realizing… her eyes were closed.

It was so hard to open them… And she didn’t know how long it took… But when she’d managed to, she found herself in the snow. Again…? Or had she never managed to get up the first time…

She couldn’t feel her body. The dog was yelping and crying and struggling and pulling, but she couldn’t.

…Maybe she really would die here…

…But no… Someone… was definitely watching… Because just then, there was a great shadow, and…

…Sorcha…

The horse nosed her over, then knelt, then got down on her side. It took… a lot of training to get a horse to do that… for a rider…

Teeth sank into her leg and tugged, pulling her up over the horse’s back, and then hanging on as the horse rolled upright and-

Lavellan weakly dug her fingers into mane and saddle as Sorcha stood. The wolfdog let go and fell to the ground just when it was looking like his weight would end up pulling her right off of the horse’s back.

…Wimp or not… this was no… ordinary dog…

She watched blearily as he took the horse’s reins and started pulling, and…

And she laughed.

This was just… so fucking ridiculous…

…had to be in the Fade…

She closed her eyes and gave in.

Chapter Text

Cassandra Pentaghast had seen many an unbelievable sight in her life, but this… This went beyond anything she was familiar with.

This was madness.

It was one thing for a horse to suddenly panic and run off. They’d lost several dozen horses during the dragon’s assault on Haven. Several had already come back- They were herd animals, it was in the nature.

But it was quite another for a horse to come back while being led by a wolf.

For several moments, she didn’t believe her eyes. There was no way a wild animal was leading a willing domestic animal by its leash.

But no matter how long she stared, the scene before her refused to change. A bridled and saddled horse being walked along by a wolf holding the loose reins.

When it saw her looking, the wolf froze up and stared right back at her, ears perking up, eyes going wide, tail going out straight and stiff.

The horse was next to notice her, and it snorted loudly and started towards her, forcing the wolf to break its position or be stepped on. The wolf dropped the reins with a yelp and jumped to the side, tucking its tail and laying its ears back.

Still wary, Cassandra stepped out and started to lift her hand, preparing to grab the beast’s reins when-

She noticed the figure on its back.

…She didn’t dare to hope that figure was familiar.

They had all seen what had happened. They had seen what she had been up against. They had all known that, while sharp, and occasionally startlingly determined, the Herald was no warrior.

They had prayed… And no one had said it, but…

…But the figure on the back of the horse was familiar. She knew that hair, that coat, that book- A second sweep with her eyes even had her recognizing that horse as the horse that belonged to-

“Herald… Lethlares!” She started running.

“What-”

“Did she say-”

“Andraste’s ashes… Could that really be-”

“It is- It’s her!”

“Thank the Maker-”

Obediently, the Herald’s horse stopped when Cassandra ran up alongside it, the Seeker reaching up to confirm-

That yes. It was Lethlares Lavellan. And she was breathing.

Andraste had delivered a Herald unto them once more.

 


 

When Lavellan woke again, she was… warm. So very, very warm. …Almost painfully so, actually.

But when warmth was actually painful, it was a good thing. Especially when recovering from potential frostbite. It meant her nerves were still alive. So she stayed under the blankets and furs that had been piled on top of her.

…Though… she really could use some water… Her mouth was so dry…

And that was when she started to become aware of noises nearby. Specifically… arguing.

Of course. The Breach had been closed, so the Inquisition had done what it had set out to do… But now, there was a new threat. Just when their soldiers had been celebrating their victory and been preparing to go home and rejoin their families… the advisors were faced with needing to ask them to stay, to face a monster, a dragon, and an army of red lyrium-tainted templars.

And then there was also the crisis of faith they were likely facing… It was easy enough to call her the Herald of Andraste, yes, but… quite another to see her “rise from the dead.”

…She needed to get up.

After some careful moving to assess her pains, Lavellan felt comfortable enough assuming that the worst had been healed as best it could be at the moment, and slowly pushed herself up on weak, shaking arms.

“Hush now.” Someone moved to her side, and hands provided her with support, “Be still. You need your rest.”

Looking up at Giselle, Lavellan shook her head briefly before looking over at the bickering advisors and Cassandra.

Giselle shook her head in return, easing her into a sitting position and reaching for a canteen for her, “They have the luxury of time to argue amongst themselves, thanks to you. The enemy could not follow, and with time to doubt, we turn to blame. Infighting may threaten as much as this… Corypheus. Add to that that we have nowhere to go… and what we witnessed. We saw you stand for us… and we saw you fall. And now… you have returned to us.”

Already knowing where Giselle was taking this, Lavellan didn’t pay her much mind, focusing, instead, on drinking from the canteen. The first swallow hurt her throat so badly- But after that, she took smaller, slower sips, and it felt so very good. The water had been warmed for her, and her innards appreciated it very, very much.

“The more the enemy is beyond us, the more miraculous your actions appear, and the more our trails seem… ordained. That is hard to accept, no? What we have been called to endure. What we, perhaps, must come to believe.”

…There was, indeed, someone out there with god-like powers. Lavellan knew that much. What she knew of Flemeth and Mythal told her that much.

The Maker, however, was another matter. Andraste might have been a real woman, but Lavellan was highly skeptical of what the Chantry believed. Honestly, she was quite sure the Maker was one of the elven “gods,” and that what lay ahead in the years to come would spiritually destroy most of Thedas.

…But someone was watching her. Someone who wanted her to walk this path as far as she could. Even if she wasn’t capable of it. Whether they knew something she didn’t, or were simply curious to see how things would turn out… They were not about to let her stop.

For now, the idea of the “Maker” was a necessity, for the immediate future of the Inquisition, and for those who were part of it.

…And then, Lavellan remembered something. This was the part where the Inquisitor was supposed to have a crisis of faith, and Giselle was supposed to…

…But would she, if Lavellan couldn’t vocalize any sort of crisis?

She looked up and watched Giselle’s face, still slowly nursing from the warm canteen. Giselle, however, did nothing. Her words had trailed off, and she was staring at the fire with distant eyes.

…Fuck…

How were they supposed to…

…Only one thing came to mind.

She could hum without issue. Since singing accessed a different part of the brain than direct speech did, maybe…

She quietly hummed the tune of the song a few times. Then tried whispering the lyrics into the canteen. When she was just speaking the words, her tongue tied, but when she added the tune to them…

…Goddamnit, she’d never liked singing in public…

Lavellan sat back and inhaled deeply, her face getting hot. When Giselle turned and gave her a questioning look, she capped the canteen and stood, slowly limping over to the edge of the tent.

Cassandra, Cullen, Josephine and Leliana were no longer arguing. They had broken apart and were quietly contemplating, stewing, trying to think of a solution - Josephine with her head in her hands, sitting on a bench, Leliana sitting on the ground next to her, leaning against her legs slightly… Cassandra where she was most comfortable, hovering over their war map, and Cullen pacing and rubbing the back of his head.

Lavellan swallowed thickly and quietly cleared her throat, not wanting any attention just yet and- not wanting her voice to crack.

Fuck, fuck, fuck… Whoever was watching, they had better be really fucking entertained-

 

Shadows fall

And hope has fled

Steel your heart,

The dawn will come

 

Oh, good, her voice didn’t crack- And Lethlares’ body could actually carry a tune. Very well, actually - her singing voice was clear and melodic. Lethlares clearly has experience singing.

But she was not Lethlares. And now she was being stared at. And it was so fucking embarrassing-

Working her heels into the ground a little, Lavellan raised her eyes to the sky and refused to look at anyone, feeling uncomfortably warm.

 

The night is long

And the path is dark,

Look to the sky

For one day soon

The dawn will come…

 

…The shepherd's lost

And his home is far

Keep to the stars

The dawn will come

 

Oh, thank god, Leliana joined- As did Giselle, and a few soldiers who had been walking nearby and overheard-

 

The night is long

And the path is dark

 

And there was Cullen-

And then many others.

Unable to keep her eyes on the sky, Lavellan looked around, clasping her hands tightly and wringing them as more and more people gathered, adding their voices.

All of their eyes on her.

Unable to stop, she continued singing, with all of them.

 

Look to the sky,

For one day soon

The dawn will come

 

And then came the hard part. They were kneeling before her now.

Wringing her hands wasn’t enough. She reached into her coat and dug her nails into her sides, pressing her fingers in until it hurt. Her voice strangling briefly, before she continued.

 

Bare your blade

And raise it high

Stand your ground

The dawn will come

 

The night is long

And the path is dark

Look to the sky

For one day soon

The dawn will come

 

She couldn’t take it. The smiling faces, the bowing, the hands clasped in prayer, the kneeling, the cheers-

She bowed to them all briefly before she turned and fled, ducking and weaving through bodies until she broke through the edge of the camp and was walking out into untrodden snow.

 


 

That was never, never happening again.

She didn’t care if singing allowed her to communicate, it was fucking embarrassing and she would never do it in front of anyone ever again-

(Now, maybe she would do it when she was alone, and probably only when she was destroying song lyrics. She did some of her best work when she was alone and destroying song lyrics.)

She’d marched some distance into the snow before she felt like the air was cold enough to cool down her face. For expediency's sake, she walked out to the familiar torch and started pacing, clapping her hands against her cheeks as she waited for Solas to show up.

“A magnificent performance.”

Lavellan jumped a little when the dead torch suddenly flared to life with blue flames, turning and looking into Solas’ amused face.

“Though I see you didn’t say for an encore.”

Face flushing all over again, Lavellan glared at him and kicked snow in his direction.

Solas chuckled, then turned somber, clasping his hands behind his back as he walked over to stand next to the torch, and stare off into the night. “The humans have not raised one of our people so high for ages beyond counting. The faith is hard won, lethellan, and worthy of pride. Save for one detail… The threat Corypheus wields - the orb… It is ours.” He stopped when she stepped up next to him, looking over and studying her face, “…You are not surprised.”

…She really needed to stop being so easy to read.

Lavellan shrugged briefly, before looking off into the darkness, herself. Largely for the sake of avoiding eye contact.

“…Corypheus used the orb to open the Breach. Unlocking it must have caused the explosion that destroyed the Conclave. We must learn how he survived… And we must prepare for their reaction when they learn the orb is of our people.”

…Honestly, anyone blaming modern day elves for an ancient, crazed darkspawn getting ahold of an even more ancient elven artifact and wreaking havoc with it would be ridiculous. But given how humans tended to be ready to turn on elves for any reason…

“The orb… In the times of ancient Elvhen, such things were Foci, said to channel power from our gods. Some were dedicated to specific members of our pantheon. All that remains are references in ruins and faint visions of memory in the Fade - echoes of a dead empire. But however Corypheus came to it, the orb is elven, and with it, he threatens the heart of human faith.”

…Which wouldn’t be an issue if Solas hadn’t let him find it in the first place. Of course, hindsight could be a real bitch, and even if he was just using her and everyone around them, he was trying to fix it… If only so he could fuck the world over further later.

It was really, really hard, being a fan of Solas but still seeing all of his plans as utter bullshit. …Well, some of his plans, anyway.

“Faith in you is shaping this moment, da’len. But it needs room to grow. By attacking the Inquisition, Corypheus has changed it - changed you. Scout to the north. Be their guide. There is a place that waits for a force to hold it. There is a place where the Inquisition can build… grow. I can tell you how to get there… but you must be the one to lead them.”

So he could keep himself as out of notice as possible.

Because if he was overly noticed… his eventual betrayal would be at risk.

Looking back at him, Lavellan waited a moment before nodding.

What was it Dorian had said…? Expecting the trap is the first step in turning it to your advantage.

She would continue working on trying to get Lethlares back in control of her body. In the meantime, if she was going to be here… she was going to try to change Solas’ mind about Thedas.

Or she was going to start making sure that, when the time came, he could be stopped.

Chapter Text

It happened about three days into their march.

Lavellan had been at the head of the group, leading them onwards through the mountains and the snow and the sparse forest, when she heard some commotion in the back.

Turning around, she saw a soldier that had been leading one of the brontos struggling with a… dog?

Immediately suspecting, Lavellan started running, wanting to get there before someone took a sword or an arrow to the idiot-

When she was close enough to confirm, Lavellan stopped and stomped her foot, snapping, “Milo!”

Immediately, the wolfdog let go of the sack he had been trying to wrest from the soldier’s hands, tucking his tail between his legs, laying his ears back flat against his head, sitting down, turning to her and warbling like a goddamn spoiled husky.

“Is this your animal, Herald?” The huffing soldier hugged the bag close, glaring at the stupid mutt, “I think this is the little sneak that’s been stealing rations for the last three days-!”

As if in protest - no, definitely in protest - the wolfdog started throwing his head back and forth, his warbling getting louder and screechier.

Grinding her teeth, Lavellan stormed over and grabbed the little idiot by his muzzle, holding his mouth shut and leaning down to glare at him.

He gave her his most pitiful look, and if dogs could cry? There would surely be crocodile tears.

You’re supposed to be a wild animal, you furry little pain in my ass, why don’t you try hunting?

…Why had whoever was watching her decided she need a bratty “husky?” Because animals tended to bring a kind of levity to her life that she hadn’t really had in… months? Some effort to kind of repair her delicate psyche?

…She figured that had to be the answer when Sorcha suddenly came trotting over, the horse’s ears laid back and her neck arched and nostrils flared in a threatening posture as she started lifting her front legs high and slamming her hooves down, bearing down on Milo.

With a loud, terrified cry, the wolfdog suddenly broke away from Lavellan and took off, tail tucked between his legs and urine sprinkling everywhere as he just bolted.

Lavellan closed her eyes and rubbed her face, then turned and just resumed walking. Completely ignoring the looks on Cassandra and Cullen’s faces.

 


 

All joking and levity aside, intentionally breeding a wolfdog was actually a horribly cruel thing to do to the resulting animal, largely because of the reasons that the newly dubbed Milo displayed on the journey to Skyhold.

He had no self-confidence and was completely terrified of anything and everything, including noises. Which could be seen as hilarious? Until one realized they were out in the wild and that if anything serious happened to him, there was a good possibility that he just wouldn’t defend himself.

It would be one thing if he was fear aggressive, which was actually a very common problem in dogs.

But he wasn’t. He was just constantly terrified.

He had been fine enough during their walk through the blizzard, but now, in the light of day, when there were many others around, Lavellan could go hours or whole days without seeing him. And while his nature as a spy for whoever was fucking with her life irked her, she still had a huge soft spot for animals.

And if he’d been sent to her… then he was now her responsibility.

If he was stealing rations, was he even eating on his own? Without a pack, could he even hunt? He acted far too domesticated, so did he even know how to hunt?

And what was he doing for water-

Several times, when she had seen him, she’d tried to call him over, wanting to keep him close so she could keep an eye on him- And sometimes, he’d tried to venture close.

Most of those times, someone else would startle him and he would run off with his tail between his legs, urinating everywhere and sometimes even losing his bowels.

Lavellan had almost had a heart attack when he’d actually just jumped off of a small cliff in order to avoid a soldier who had tried to help her by making an attempt to lasso him. When she’d seen him later that day, he hadn’t been using one of his back legs. Something Solas took pity on and managed to heal with a well-aimed spell before the wolfdog had realized what was happening and bolted again.

Eventually, she’d just had to accept that she probably wouldn’t be able to really secure him until they’d arrived at Skyhold. In the meantime, she’d taken to leaving platters of food and bowls of water out whenever they made camp. That, at least, stopped the reports of rations being stolen.

“I see you have made a friend.” Solas commented at one point while they were looking over a map together, “Milo, you called him? I take it he was the wolf Cassandra saw leading your horse back to camp?”

Lavellan immediately wanted to correct him with “wolfdog,” but that was just a habit and no one here would understand the distinction. So she just nodded.

“I sense he is a very… special animal.”

Lavellan paused and glanced at him, taking in the searching expression on his face for a moment before she shrugged and rolled the map up, putting it back in her canister and resuming the march.

She hadn’t really expected it, but when Solas had brought it up, she realized she definitely… did not want anyone with magical inclinations to take a closer look at Milo. If they did, he might be branded a demon and-

No.

He might be a sneaky little spy, and far smarter than the average animal, but he was hers, and he was her responsibility. And she would not see him put in any danger.

Which was… really very similar to how she felt about Sorcha. But Sorcha, at least, wasn’t in danger of being tied up and thrown into a fire.

No. No, for the time being, the safest thing she could do for Milo was ignore him and focus on getting to Skyhold. There, she could lead him up up into the tower that would be her bedroom, and keep him up in the small loft-like area until the renovations were done. He’d probably be a lot happier secluded away from everyone and somewhere dark and quiet, until she could start working with him on his socialization.

 


 

After about a week, they arrived.

With Solas at her side, she climbed, not realizing they had reached the final stretch until-

Until she had reached a spot where she could stand up straight and catch her breath, and there it was, in front of her.

Real.

Squared architecture with towering walls, dark stone that matched the surrounding rock under the snow- Clearly cut from the very mountain around it. Abandoned for she didn’t even know how many years, and still standing sentinel in the cold, desolate peaks.

“Skyhold.” Solas announced next to her, and Lavellan just stood there for several long moments, her breath taken away.

Something that had soft and coarse qualities brushing against her fingers broke her attention, and she looked down at Milo, who looked ready to bolt, as ever, but had actually slunk over to stand at her side. When she looked at him, he cocked his head slightly.

Smiling a little, Lavellan slowly knelt next to him, gently running her fingers through his coat.

We should get there before everyone else does, so we can get you inside before it gets too crowded.

Milo let out a low whine, then padded on ahead when she stood and started looking for a way down.

 


 

She wasn’t Inquisitor, so the tower wasn’t an option. Instead, she and Milo claimed the small room next to the gates, which she didn’t bother to clean beyond making sure the cot provided for her was usable. Because her first order of business… was to lay down and not really wake up for several days. Food and drink were brought for her, and for Milo, but beyond that, no one bothered them.

She was more than fine with that.

Someone had healed her, yes, and during the march to Skyhold she had had several mages reevaluate her and use more healing magic on her, but that didn’t take away from what had happened, and the mental and emotional exhaustion.

Lavellan had made the decision to continue, but she had been stretched thin.

So, for… she didn’t even really know how long, she stayed in bed. Waking when food came, eating, and then laying down and going back to sleep. By the time she woke and actually had the energy to stay awake, she knew it had been several days- Judging by how hard it was to get her body and her joints moving again.

Then, the day after that… it happened.

She had opened her door enough to peek outside and see if it wasn’t so busy that she could arrange for a bath, and she caught sight of the advisors and Cassandra standing not very far away, circled and talking to each other.

When Cassandra caught sight of her, the Seeker smiled and waved her over.

And Lavellan felt the sudden, strong urge to vomit.

It took her several moments before she was able to move, and she was extremely lightheaded and felt so very cold as she approached Cassandra slowly.

Cullen, Leliana and Josephine all stepped aside and left, and Cassandra clasped her hands behind her back in an… unexpectedly girlish move and watched Lavellan cautiously approach with an amused smile and bright eyes.

“They arrive daily from every settlement in the region.” Cassandra started, formal and goal-focused as ever as she looked around at the people moving about the courtyard, working, “Skyhold is become a pilgrimage.” She gave that a moment to sink in, then looked back at Lavellan and smiled a little, stepping back and starting to walk towards the large staircase.

Limbs heavy and legs feeling very, very weak, Lavellan followed her.

“If word has reached these people, it will have reached the Elder One. We have the walls and numbers to put up a fight here, but this threat is far beyond the war we anticipated. But we now know what allowed you to stand against Corypheus - what drew him to you.” As the reach the top of the first flight of stairs, Cassandra stopped, turning to her.

Feeling extremely dizzy, Lavellan played her part and looked down at her hand. She wasn’t wearing her gloves today… Was that a coincidence?

“…Yes. The Anchor does have power, but it is not why you’re still standing here.” Giving her a nod, Cassandra turned and started towards the other flight of stairs.

Lavellan was going to vomit.

“Your decisions let us heal the sky, your determination brought us out of Haven. Your refusal to back down in the face of overwhelming odds and your willingness to press on, despite your obvious fear, united us when we had lost our way. You are the creature’s rival because of what you did, and we know it. All of us.”

At the top of the first landing, Leliana was waiting, a sword balanced across her hands.

Lavellan couldn’t feel her arms.

“The Inquisition requires a leader.”

No.

“The one who has already been leading it.”

No no no no no-

Leliana stepped forward and offered the sword, and from their position, everyone in the courtyard below could see them-

Everyone who was now gathering, and watching.

Looking up at her with those goddamn eyes-

Those eyes that held nothing but-

How?!

“You.”

Lavellan turned to Cassandra, her eyes wide and her terror probably very, very obvious on her face.

Giving her a subtle nod, briefly touching her shoulder, Cassandra stepped back and gestured to Leliana, who stepped forward and offered the sword.

“There would be no Inquisition without you, Lethlares. How it will serve - how you lead - that must be yours to decide. It is what everyone here wants and sees, as clear as day.”

She couldn’t not take the sword. Lethlares Lavellan was supposed to become the Inquisitor.

But, at the same time, they weren’t asking Lethlares Lavellan to become their Inquisitor- They were asking Morgan Chambers.

And they didn’t even fucking know it-

But she had to.

As Lethlares Lavellan, she had to reach out and take the sword, and then turn to face the people down below.

“Wherever you lead us, Herald.” Cassandra spoke lowly to her before she stepped up beside her and called out in ceremony, “Have our people been told?”

“They have!” Josephine called back, smiling widely, “And soon, the world!”

“Commander, will they follow?”

“Inquisition!” Cullen stepped forward and turned, looking at the gathered people behind him, “Will you follow?!”

A chorus of cheers and shouts.

“Will you fight?!”

Another.

“Will we triumph?!”

The loudest one yet-

“Your leader!” He drew his sword and turned, pointing it to Lavellan, “Your Hearld! Your Inquisitor!”

She almost dropped the sword.

Catching herself at the last moment as it swung down, Lavellan stabbed the tip into the stone, both hands tight around the grip. And, unable to think of anything else to do, she stood straight and gave the people below a slow, measured bow.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

The tower bedroom was one of the first areas that was completely restored. While that sort of catering to her bothered her, especially when they had wounded to tend to and people to feed, she hadn’t been able to bring herself to complain about it.

Because she had really, really needed the isolation the tower bedroom brought.

And the first thing she did once she was really alone was devote a good majority of an entire day to giving Milo a flea bath.

What she wouldn’t give for some sort of flea medication- Or even just Dawn. She couldn’t even count how many kittens she’d liberated from fleas with Dawn dish soap baths and flea combs. And while Milo was way too big for a dish soap bath and a flea comb, anything would be better than nothing.

As it was, she was stuck with just hot water and a wooden comb with the closest set teeth she could manage to have brought for her.

They had tried to assign new staff to serve her, but no- No, she had asked for Lani. By name. The young woman had taken care of her for weeks, and Lavellan was… just comfortable with her. She didn’t want anyone else. And aside from asking Lani for help with things she couldn’t do on her own, she much preferred to take care of herself.

Lani had arranged for a new wooden basin to act as a tub, the storage of several wooden casks in the small room next to her bed to act as an immediate water supply for her, a metal cauldron to hang over the fire so she could heat whatever she needed, and many other things.

Then, she’d taught her how to make a bath - several buckets of cold/cool water from the casks, and then boiling water from the cauldron to heat the bath up. With the addition of more or less boiling water to determine the temperature she wanted.

Thus, Milo got the bath Lavellan had promised him. And, armed with the comb Lani had managed to find for her, she set about removing as many fleas as she could.

A process which could take her half an hour or more on kittens with the aid of Dawn and an actual flea comb.

On a full-grown dog with only hot water and a comb with teeth that weren’t really close enough together to snag small, thin fleas?

Hours. Several.

Her back ached. Her neck was stiff. She couldn’t feel her arms. Her knees were bruised.

But it was a simple, monotonous task. One she was very, very familiar with.

The water in the basin was a cloudy, dark red. The bowl of brandy she had next to her knees to put parasites in once she’d fished them out of the comb/plucked them off of Milo was black.

Fleas, ticks, scabs, dirt, bits of stick and plant life-

Milo was infested. And it disgusted her as much as it gave her something to do- What she wouldn't give for chemicals and a shower so she could bomb the room afterwards and scald and scrub herself raw.

She didn’t know how many hours had passed before a quiet little cough made her look up, Lani standing near the staircase with something clasped in her hands.

“Y-Your Worship.” She bowed, “Forgive me, but- On your behalf, I went and spoke to the apothecary, and she said that… That this mixture would help with removing fleas, and this one would help deworm.”

Lavellan stared at her.

…She really should have figured that, with magic and alchemy and potions being a thing, people in Thedas would have figured out how to handle external and internal parasites. Even if they were more just… home remedies than anything.

The problem with home remedies was almost all of them were plant-based. And some plants were flat out toxic to animals.

…Of course, technically, topical and oral treatments prescribed by veterinarians were toxic, as well, if given improperly. They were just formulated by weight class and…

The packages Lani had brought from Adan (or was it the elven woman who would be his replacement?) came with lists of ingredients and instructions, which Lavellan sat down and read.

The one for fleas was a topical that was basically to be treated as a bathing solution and didn’t have anything remarkable in it. She set that one down next to the bath to use it.

The one for deworming was to be given with food, and that one Lavellan had to dry her hands for so she could write a brief note asking for an alternative mixture, explaining that any concentration of garlic ingested by cats and/or dogs could be dangerous and could lead to toxicity problems.

Yeah, sure, garlic could kill parasites, and the dog/cat could shit them out but? In using garlic, you ran the risk of gastroenteritis, which could turn into hemorrhagic gastroenteritis - the lining of his stomach and intestines would become extremely inflamed, would rupture and bleed, and then would be shed over a period of several days to even several weeks in horrible diarrhea. And she couldn’t remember the mechanisms behind why, but garlic toxicity itself caused serious problems with anemia - and anemia on top of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis?

No. She was not about to risk bleeding Milo to death and/or compromising his immune system to get rid of tapeworms. Sure, there were probably plenty of animals out there who ingested garlic and, after some stomach pain and bloody diarrhea, walked away just fine, but on the chance that Milo would react horribly/prove especially susceptible to garlic toxicosis, she wasn’t even going to experiment with it. Never mind the fact that she didn’t have antibiotics that would be necessary to protect his body with, because having your intestines bleeding could be very dangerous.

She made sure to word her note as apologetically as she could, however. She didn’t want to be insulting. And she did feel bad - garlic was likely just a go-to thing.

After sending Lani off, Lavellan had to pause.

That was really the most she’d thought about veterinary medicine in… months. And it startled her a bit how quickly and easily it had come back to her. She’d been a technician, yes, but she’d been trained at the clinic for it - she hadn’t received the education that some of her coworkers had. She remembered all of the times she’d had to stop and ask in the middle of something what she was doing, why she was doing it and how what she was doing helped- Not necessarily always because she didn’t have some idea of why, but because she had a shitty memory and repetition helped pound it in. Especially when she needed to explain things to pet owners.

Lavellan stopped and shook her head, going to sit back down next to the tub so she could open the package and start using the powder inside to wash Milo.

There was no point in thinking about it. Chances were, she’d never be going back home. It was just something she had accepted.

And, as she worked the powder into Milo’s fur, mixing it with the water to make a muddy paste, Lavellan found thinking about that part… didn’t hurt as much as it used to. When Milo turned to face her, licking her cheek, she was even… smiling a bit at him.

Last stage of grieving, right? Acceptance.

The powder worked wonders. Not only did it kill the fleas, it also soothed poor Milo’s raw skin - long baths and lots of picking and combing would do that. The little idiot had put up with so much for the past few hours, and aside from whining and licking at her, he hadn’t tried to stop her, and hadn’t tried to escape.

Laying a sheet out on the floor, she coaxed him out once she was done, then took a towel to him, along with a comb once more- To make sure that all of the fleas, dead or alive, were gone from his coat.

Once he had been picked over completely, she let him go lay by the fire, then bundled up that sheet and threw it on the flames before going about emptying the water in the tub with buckets. The disgusting water was poured out over the edge of the balcony.

Lani returned at some point and joined her, and between the two of them they got the bath empty. The second sheet, which had been spread out under the tub to protect the carpet, joined the first on the fire, and Lani set about cleaning out the tub and preparing it for storage while Lavellan went about cleaning up the mess she’d made in the room in her somewhat obsessive crusade to bathe Milo.

Lani had brought with her another package from the apothecary, and aside from checking the ingredients and instructions, Lavellan pointedly avoided reading the letter that had come back with it, not wanting to see if she’d offended or not- Instead she just followed the instructions and dispensed out the proper amount in a bowl of rice and chicken, before setting it down next to the now sleeping animal.

That was another thing she’d need to work on - figuring out a proper diet for him. She couldn’t just feed him rice and chicken breast forever, that was a sensitive/upset stomach meal. It’d be like her eating nothing but oatmeal for the rest of her life. But at the same time, excessive amounts of red meat wouldn’t work, either…

Fuck, living like this was hard…

Maybe… it would never stop being hard.

What an unpleasant thought.

“Hey, Heral- Ah, Inquisitor? Mind if I speak to you for a moment?”

Lavellan looked up from the flames in the fireplace with a blink, more than a little confused when she saw Varric standing by stairs.

“Pardon me, my lady.” Taking her cue, Lani bowed, then quietly slipped around Varric and disappeared down the steps.

Pushing herself to her feet, Lavellan brushed herself off before awkwardly gesturing for Varric to enter, looking around for a seat to offer him- But all she had was the sofa on one side of the room and the writing desk way on the other side, and-

“Take it easy, kid.” Varric chuckled as she looked back at him, shaking his head, “I’m not some big important guest you need pull out all the stops for. It’s just me.” He sat himself down on the sofa.

Lavellan huffed a little, then after some thought, trotted over to her writing desk, digging around in the drawers. After a moment, she came over with a glass and a decanter of brandy. She didn’t drink, but she could still keep things around for her guests.

Varric shook his head and laughed, then encouraged her to sit down while he took the decanter from her and poured himself a glass. Sitting next to him on the sofa, she watched him toss the drink back, waiting for him to speak.

She became more than a little concerned when he poured himself a second glass and downed that one, as well.

Varric rolled his shoulders, clearing his throat, then set the glass down and busied himself with putting the stopper back in the decanter. “So. Everyone acting all… inspirational jogged my memory, and I managed to get ahold of a friend who… knows some stuff about Corypheus.”

…Oh. This part.

Lavellan relaxed, her expression softening as she watched Varric go out of his way to look at anything but her as he tried to speak. For some time now, easily over a year (probably more, she was bad with time), he had been keeping Hawke’s location hidden. He had been captured and held against his will while he was questioned, and had risked lying to Cassandra, and even torture (which might well be the same thing?) to keep Hawke safe. From the mages, from the templars, from the Chantry, from the Seekers.

From the Inquisition.

And now, he was going to admit that he had been lying. Because he was a good person, and keeping Hawke safe was no longer the priority.

And that decision was… probably incredibly hard for him.

Standing, Lavellan crossed the room and returned to her desk, where she picked up a small stack of parchment and a writing stick and came back over, sitting closer to him than before, so that their legs were touching.

 

I know what you’re going to say. And it’s okay. I don’t blame you for the decision you made.

 

She passed the papers over to him, watching him curl his fingers around them and stare down at the words.

After a few moments, he sighed heavily, his shoulders sagging as he shook his head, “Cassandra is… going to kill me.”

Lavellan reached across his lap to write.

 

No, she won’t. She’ll be pissed, yes, and she’ll want to hit you a few times, but she won’t actually want to kill you. Even if she says she does. Cassandra’s a stone cold bitch with brass balls, but she’s not a bad person. Deep down, she’ll understand.

 

Varric snorted and let out a laugh. And even though it sounded strained, she still smiled a little at it.

“Brass balls, huh?”

 

The biggest. Though they might not actually be brass. It could just be the plating. Under that, they might be Blighted dragonbone or something.

 

And Varric was chuckling again, more freely than before, and he had a smile on his face as he actually looked back up her. The lines around his eyes were more pronounced than usual, but he had definitely relaxed.

Then, he turned serious, and Lavellan sat back a little, waiting.

“We’ve fought him before. And I know most of the story, but Hawke… knows the details a bit more intimately. If anyone can give you a better idea of what we’re dealing with here, it’ll be him.”

Him. So the Hawke in this Thedas was a man.

“I sent out the message the day we arrived in Skyhold, and… he’s here now. Though I’d… rather people not see him.”

Lavellan paused, thinking. The battlements were away from most people, yes, but organizing and heading out to Crestwood… could take days. Depending on what work she would have to do around Skyhold. And they could at least get Hawke set up with a proper room. But one that was away from the others…

Taking the stack of papers from him, Lavellan started writing.

 

There are guest rooms on the balcony above the gardens. The door to them is blocked off by the scaffolding right now, yeah? He can take one of those, and I’ll do my part to make sure no one goes to that balcony for now. I can meet him there later this evening, when fewer people are around, if that works?

 

After a moment, Varric sat back and rubbed his chin, nodding, “Yeah, that could work… I’ll check with him to make sure, but he should be just fine with that. However…” He sighed, “There’s still the matter of what to do about Cassandra…”

 

For now, we don’t tell her. Not until Hawke and I have spoken a bit. Then, we’ll make sure she finds out on the best of terms possible. No matter how she responds, though, Varric, I’m not going to let her hurt you, or take this out on you. In any way.

 

“…Thanks, kid.” He gave her a weak smile, “I appreciate it.”

Chapter Text

Turns out, the door that went to the balcony was inaccessible for more than just story purposes. The scaffolding actually prevented it from being opened properly.

Which made things more than a little difficult when Lavellan walked up to the door while carrying bedding, wine and candles. (And no, not for romantic purposes- The rooms probably hadn’t been properly furnished, Hawke would need light to see by at night, and pretty much everyone here liked to drink in some fashion-)

Being really slender had its advantages.

She was able to open the door just enough to slide the candles and wine through, followed by herself. And, once on the other side, she worked on pulling the blankets and pillows through, more than a little irritated that doing so necessitated the blankets coming unfolded.

On the other side, after she spent a few moments grumbling and reorganizing the items, she headed to the second to last room. The only one that had an intact roof, according to Varric. At the door, Lavellan stopped to consider the things in her arms, trying to work out how best to hold them and knock at the same time- Before finally just settling on kicking the door gently.

As she was looking down to make sure she had everything organized in her arms neatly, the door started to open, and she looked up and-

And in a flash there was something coming right at her face, glowing a blue-white and sharp-

And, as it turned out, over the last few months the only muscle memory her body had picked up from the many battles she’d been in was how to avoid being hit.

Fitting, really.

Even as she realized the blow to her face was going to stop just short, her legs were still giving out on her, her body tipping back and her arms tensing and curling in towards her chest to keep the things she was holding close-

Unfortunately, the walkway they were on was a bit narrow, so as she fell her back, and then her head both hit solidly against the short stone wall behind her, thunking and scraping and instantly she was just in pain and unhappy.

The items all ended up falling from her hands, anyway, as she quickly rolled onto her side and curled up, clutching at her head and letting out a loud, very unhappy whine, vision blurring as her eyes teared and spilled over.

“Damn it, Fenris, no- What did I just say-”

“Ah, shit- Lavellan? You okay, kid?”

Lavellan opened her mouth in a slightly sobbing whine, being just a tad theatrical, perhaps, but only because she couldn’t verbally say something along the lines of how it all fucking hurt-

“Come on, walk it off, kid- Sit up and let me take a look. I think I have a potion-”

“It’s all right, Varric, I’ll get it-”

She was gently helped into a sitting position by large, strong hands. When a body was in front of her, knees wearing heavy, coarse leggings touching the ground on either side of her legs as the person knelt, Lavellan looked up into the eyes of Hawke, face wet with tears, one eye still swimming with unshed fluid and her mouth curled in a very unhappy expression.

Under his black beard, stubble and the blood-colored streak across his face, Hawke gave her a bit of a sheepish grin. “Heya, love. Sorry about that, we’re still working on housebreaking him. Stay still for a sec and I’ll get you fixed up.”

Before she could even think about being flustered at having Hawke just right in her face, one hand was cupping the back of her head and tipping it forward a little, while the other settled on the back of her neck and slowly ran over her shoulders and down her spine. The familiar sensation of healing magic had her shuddering and closing her eyes, relaxing to give the magic more room to work.

Male mage Hawke. Still needed a first name.

“There ya go, love, how’s that feel?”

Much better, and with only a few seconds. As Hawke pulled away, Lavellan sat back upright and shook herself out a little, experimentally stretching her back and prodding at the back of her head. There was some dampness - blood? she sniffed her fingers and detected copper; yes, blood - but, aside from the ache in her brain, her scalp and skull didn’t hurt. Looking back at Hawke, Lavellan nodded.

Then promptly realized that she had an extremely attractive man kind of straddling her legs and leaning in real close to her face.

She managed to keep her expression schooled - barely - but couldn’t stop herself from flushing, if her warm face and the sudden muggy uncomfortableness under her collar were anything to go by.

“Good.” Hawke grinned again, then set his hands on his knees and pushed himself back to his feet, “Now, let’s all get inside before someone sees me and Varric goes into hysterics.”

“Hysterics? Just what are you implying, Hawke.”

“Nothing at all, Mother~” As if he definitely couldn’t see Varric crossing his arms at him in his periphery, Hawke just leaned over and slipped his hands up under Lavellan’s armpits, picking her right up with no effort, and turning and walking back into his room with her.

While Lavellan was startled and flustered and useless as her mind stopped working for the few moments it took for the Champion of Kirkwall to carry her over and set her down on the bed. Behind him, she could see Varric grabbing the bedding and keeping a lookout, while Fenris scooped up the wine and candles, both men quickly hurrying in and closing the door once they’d gotten everything.

With the closing of the door, Hawke turned around with a grin and clapped his hands together, “So! Let’s see what our apparently very thoughtful host decided to gift us with as a housewarming present! Ooooo, is that alcohol-”

Lavellan took the moment attention being elsewhere bought her to just stare. Tall, rugged, bearded, and apparently more “Chuckles” aligned than aggressive. Possibly somewhat diplomatic? Given Fenris was there.

Fenris was there. Standing there in his metal and dark leather-clad, broody glory, grumbling and making a bit of a face as Hawke took the bottle from him and said something with a broad, toothy smile.

Then, Hawke’s eyes were narrowing a little and he was grinning slyly, saying something Lavellan couldn’t hear through the ringing in her ears she hadn’t realized had probably been going on since she’d hit her head. Hawke ruffled Fenris’ hair playfully.

Fenris drew his lip back in a sneer that held no real venom or anger and swatted at the human sharply, Hawke gracefully avoiding being scored by claw-tipped gauntlets that Lavellan had just been convinced a few moments before were going to be buried in her face.

Were they lovers? What other scenario would see Fenris here, with Hawke, instead of off slaying slavers? But even then, Fenris was supposed to have been left behind, for his own safety. But this Hawke had brought him.

And he’d already acted like he was going to stab her in the face.

Awesome…

“If I didn’t know better, Hawke, I’d say you have an admirer~ Look at this - fancy silk Orlesian bedding, brand new candlesticks and imported Tevinter wine~” Varric’s laugh pulled Lavellan out of her thoughts, and without hesitation, she narrowed her eyes at the chuckling dwarf and reached over to grab the musty old pillow she was sitting next to, sharply slinging it around and-

The item flew across the room and smacked the dwarf upside the head with perfect accuracy, sending him stumbling a little. She’d always been rather good at pillow fights.

Which, of course, wasn’t something anyone from here would know about her. Not when she tended to jump and shriek without notice.

Hair a bit of a mess from the blow, Varric looked over at her with wide eyes, his mouth opening slightly in shock.

Lavellan narrowed her eyes at him and promptly lifted her hand, flashing her middle finger at him.

And, after a moment of silence, Varric broke down and started laughing. Hard enough that he had to sit down at the small table in the room, hunching over a little and dropping his face into his hand as his back heaved.

At the looks Hawke and Fenris gave him, the dwarf waved them off, getting close to choking a bit, “If you knew her like I did- You’d get it-”

Lavellan flustered hard and scowled, crossing her arms and looking away.

“Seriously, kid, is this your real personality-?! I love it, keep going-”

…Fuck. No.

No, no, no, the plan was still to get Lethlares in her body and-

And Lavellan immediately shut down, going back to that place that hating herself, that doubting herself, that knowing she didn’t deserve to exist or know these people took her and fuck, her chest hurt-

“…ey. Hey, kid. Lethlares.”

She looked over from trying to press her fingers through her own chest, trying to pierce through her sternum so she could grasp her heart and squeeze it to try to make it stop hurting- Varric was no longer laughing. In an instant, he was no longer amused, just frowning and watching her seriously, gravely, the wrinkles that made him look older back around his eyes.

“Kid, I know we don’t know each other… well enough, really, to be poking around in each other’s business, but… What’s going on with you? What we see of you every day isn’t your real-”

No.

Forgetting why she’d even come here, Lavellan stood and immediately walked to the door. Abort now, get self back together, try again later.

Before she could escape, though, a large, strong hand wrapped around her upper arm, pulling her back and turning her a bit. Hawke was smiling down at her calmly, like nothing had happened. “What say we talk about a big, spooky darkspawn?”

Lavellan stopped, staring at him.

…Right. That was what she was here for. If Hawke was willing to just… ignore it, Varric would follow his lead. If they just moved right on to business, then…

When she nodded, Hawke nodded back, grinning a little, then stepped over and gestured to the desk in the room. It was one of the few things that had really been cleaned, and there was a small stack of parchment, a quill, and Fenris had set up one of the candles.

Nodding again, mostly to herself, Lavellan stepped over and pulled out the chair, sitting down. Moving to angle herself and the papers towards the bed as Hawke sat down on the edge of it that was closest to her.

“All right. Name’s Garrett Hawke, Champion of Kirkwall, vanquisher of the Arishok, purported mastermind of the Mage-Templar War and,” Here, he paused and leaned back a little, smirking and crossing one leg over the other, “Probably the hottest thing on two legs in five leagues, if we’re being honest.”

Fenris scoffed loudly and rolled his eyes hard.

Varric groaned a little and pinched the bridge of his nose, looking pained.

Lavellan… just blinked at him slowly. Then turned a piece of parchment sideways so she could write across the length in large letters.

 

You haven’t seen Cullen recently, have you? I’m pretty sure he could beat you.

 

Garrett stared at the paper for a moment when she held it up, and while he did, Fenris joined Varric in his nose-bridge-pinching. Finally, the human settled on, “I am somewhat insulted and also very intrigued. Has he really-”

“Garrett, no.” Varric growled, snatching the paper from Lavellan so he could set it on fire over the nearby lit candle before pointing at his friend very, very seriously, “Stay on topic and away from the Commander.”

“Oh, come on, Varric, just a little-”

No. Fenris. Keep him in this room.”

Fenris grumbled, “If it’s even possible.”

“Make it possible. Hawke. Corypheus. Now.”

“Oh, fine.” Garrett grumbled and huffed at both of them, then looked back at Lavellan, “About… I dunno… five years ago now? My friends and I all went out on a fishing trip in the Vimmark Mountains-”

“Fishing trip-”

“-where, along the way, we got attacked by this group of rogue Carta dwarves. Of course, they weren’t any match for my might-”

“Mage-” Fenris swiped at the man’s head like he had before, and Garrett dodged as easily as he had earlier with a wide grin and a warm look in his eyes, his gaze never leaving Lavellan’s.

After that, though, Hawke’s teasing tapered off, and his tone turned more and more serious.

By the end of his recollection, Hawke was staring across the room blankly, his mind back in the Warden prison in the Vimmark Mountains with the corpse of a thousand year old darkspawn at his feet.

Lavellan was no longer looking at him, instead properly facing the desk she was sitting at with her hands pressed together in front of her mouth as she frowned at the wall seriously, contemplatively.

What she had been told was nothing she hadn’t already known. But each time she went over the facts again, they called for just as much reflection as they had the first time she’d learned of them. Having Garrett Hawke, as an actual person, recounting the experience for her… only added to the gravity.

“…And I’m afraid that’s all I can really tell you about what I know about Corypheus.” Garrett sighed after a bit and shrugged, scratching along his bearded jaw, “I can tell you about how I first came across him, and the circumstances behind it, but more about the beast, itself? I can’t really help. I’m no Chantry sister or scholar.”

Lavellan sat there for a while longer, briefly tapping her foot, before sighing and picking up the quill again.

 

While it might beggar belief, we have to consider the very real possibility that Corypheus is, indeed, what remains of one of the magisters that walked into the Fade over a thousand years ago.

 

Varric, very much used to reading aloud for her, stepped over and did so without complaint. Though the frown on his face as he finished was very deep.

“Kid, you gotta realize what a scary thought that is.”

She chewed on the inside of her cheek briefly before taking the paper back.

 

It is hard. I understand that. But in order to fully appreciate the situation, so that we can handle it for what it is, the first and most important step is separating the reverence and fear Chantry culture has impounded into you for years, and simply review the facts.

In this world, there is a plague that is known as the Blight.

The Blight taints all living things it comes into contact with and twists their forms, often beyond recognition.

The Blight has been a problem in Thedas for over a thousand years of recorded history.

In parallel with that, there exists a text that documents a group of mages physically entering the Fade, and emerging marred by the experience.

You encountered a darkspawn the Grey Wardens imprisoned a thousand years ago. This darkspawn self-identifies as one of the mages that entered the Fade. This darkspawn seems to hold some sort of sway over Grey Wardens- Much in the same way archdemons can control the darkspawn hive mind.

This darkspawn has also openly admitted to - and observably used power equal to - being able to physically enter the Fade.

I emerged from the Fade.

While it might require extraordinary circumstances, this does prove that the Fade can be physically entered.

This means that the Fade is a tangible phenomena, even if we don’t understand the rules behind the reality of it.

While the facts are incomplete and what it implies is somewhat overwhelming, this does mean that what the Chant says about magisters entering the Fade is entirely possible. And while much of the Chant is used as allegory to teach people how to live and worship the Maker, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the stories told in the Chant do, indeed, have some historical basis. Religious texts often do.

The Chant tells us that the magisters who entered the Fade were Old God priests.

Corypheus claims to have breached the Fade a thousand years ago. If he is, indeed, one of those priests, Tevinter will likely have some documentation somewhere of a name - they guard their bloodlines too closely to not archive texts on family genealogy.

If we looked, we could probably find a name for him. Which, in practice, might not do much for us, but? Knowing the enemy is good for the mind. Corypheus is not some impossible monster of nightmares. He is simply the darkspawn of a very powerful, arrogant man no one even remembers the name of.

 

When she was finally done, her hand was cramping. And this was only the beginning. Rotating her wrist, she handed the paper over to Varric. Varric didn’t read it out loud. Lavellan suspected he couldn’t. But he did spend some time taking in her words, before passing it over to Hawke. After spending some time reading it, himself, Hawke looked up at her and just stared at her silently, his brow furrowed.

Lavellan turned to face the wall again, staring at it, continuing to roll her wrist and massage the palm of her hand. She knew that look - she was very, very bad at being Dalish.

“…I killed him. I know I did.”

She took a moment before writing again.

 

Archdemons can only be killed by Grey Wardens. While history tells us that it is entirely possible for non-Wardens to strike down an archdemon, it also tells us that unless a Grey Warden is the one who does it, it will come back. The fact that permanently slaying an archdemon necessitates a Warden be the one that delivers the finishing blow implies some sort of ritual.

It’s entirely possible, given his age, suspected origins, and the fact that he is separate from the hive mind and has a sense of self, his own goals, and the ability to speak, that permanently defeating Corypheus needs to follow a similar set of rules. Otherwise, like an archdemon, he will simply continue to come back.

 

This was more than an actual Inquisitor would have at this point.

It was not, however, a conclusion that could not be drawn with the information that was available. It just… wasn’t one someone who wasn’t well-read would be able to draw on their own.

(She thought. Right? Right? It was a struggle. She couldn't remember what was or wasn't actually codex-)

After reading this, Hawke was looking at her again.

“…Are you a Warden?” Confusion. Some accusation.

 

No. I’m the First of the Lavellan Clan of the Free Marches.

 

And a very, very bad Dalish.

(Was this too much? Fuck, when was the last time she'd actually sat down in front of a computer-)

“Has your clan taken up studying the Blight?”

 

No. I just read a lot.

 

“About very non-Dalish related things.”

 

The idea that Firsts and Keepers should only worry about educating themselves about Dalish and elven things is a shit one. The Blight doesn’t care what your race is. Nor do many other threats in Thedas.

 

Keeper Deshanna had to feel the same, to some extent. She had sent her First to the Conclave, after all.

(But a Dalish would never have access to this much Chantry and Warden information. Fuck, this was too much-)

“…If killing Corypheus for good requires some special circumstances or steps, you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

 

Not really. It took Thedas one hundred years to figure out that a Grey Warden had to deliver the finishing blow to really kill an archdemon, during the struggle to cut down Dumat. They had their work cut out for them. I just need to find a way to apply what they learned to ancient darkspawn magisters. Like the Old Gods, Corypheus is only one of seven.

 

“…Andraste’s ashes, I hope there aren’t more of them-” His face fell, and Hawke dropped his head into his hands, the papers falling to the ground as he finished reading them.

Varric had stopped reading the notes a few pages back, and was, instead, drinking some of the wine. He would probably reread everything later, but not now.

Silently, Fenris leaned over and picked the papers back up. Lavellan noticed the way his brows furrowed a bit as he read- Or, at least, as his eyes skimmed across the lines. Hawke had taught him to read, she imagined, but she couldn’t know for sure. Even if Fenris did know how to read, there were probably still a few concepts in there somewhere someone new to reading would have to spend some time taking in.

…This was… probably… a bad idea, wasn’t it…? (It was a bad idea. It was it was it was-) These things would eventually be strung together, but doing it all now was probably too soon-

So why wasn’t she panicking about it?

(I am panicking-!)

…If she thought about it long enough, her mind was able to string together a series of ideas that would probably serve well enough for an explanation.

She was stuck as Lethlares Lavellan for the duration of the unforeseeable future. That was just a fact. Sealing the Breach had been their best chance, and that had failed. The next storyline chance wouldn’t be until the Well of Sorrows.

Towards the very end of things.

And now she’d been made Inquisitor. People were going to be looking to her more and more often for thoughts, opinions, ideas, orders.

The last few months had taught her how hard it was to play stupid. Corypheus made this an especially dangerous position to try to play stupid in.

Knowledge was power, the best way to survive, and she had plenty of it. But filtering what she should know and what she logically could know with what she had no business knowing was… difficult. (And she'd already failed.) And that made all of this especially dangerous.

“…If the Wardens have disappeared, they could have fallen under Corypheus’ control again.” Hawke looked up from his hands, pulling Lavellan out of her reflection, “If they have, it is reversible. If plenty of space separates them. …I have a friend in the Wardens. He was looking into something for me, and then… His name is Loghain.”

Lavellan’s thought process froze up, and she almost wasn’t able to listen anymore.

Loghain?

What?

It was supposed to be Stroud- Alistair was king, meaning during the duel Loghain had been killed- It was the only way that worked-

“-pposed to be meeting up with him soon, in Crestwood. We can learn more - both about Corypheus and the disappearance of the Wardens - if we go together.”

Lavellan just stared at him blankly, her mind still on Loghain.

“And, after that… While I don’t want to draw attention to myself, I do want to help you with this.” Hawke’s expression hardened, hands clenching into fists, “Corypheus is my responsibility. Whatever I can do, I’ll not fail a second time.”

Lavellan snapped out of her thoughts at that and stared at him. After a few moments, she turned back towards the desk and started writing.

That, right there, was a problem. One she was going to take care of. Ultimately, she was going to have to sacrifice someone- And while it certainly wasn’t going to be Garrett, and she knew she was, on a level, more prepared to sacrifice the Warden - Loghain - that didn’t mean that, when they got to that point, it was going to be any easier-

But this whole fatalistic, self-sacrificing thing the Hawke character seemed to have when it came to Corypheus?

No. She was not going to tolerate it.

Once she was done writing, she stood and walked over to Varric, shaking his shoulder a little to snap him out of his brooding and the wine before holding out the paper.

Varric’s somewhat glassy eyes cleared up the more he read, and after just a few lines he snatched the paper away from her and set down the bottle of wine, walking towards Garrett as he read.

“Corypheus is a Warden problem, and just because the Warden’s can’t do shit about him and your father was the man they blackmailed and used to lock him away, that does not mean you get to take up this mantle of responsibility on your own. That’s what the Inquisition, as a force, is here to do, and if you’re going to help us, that means you’re under me, and I do not suffer martyrs. You try to die, Garrett Hawke, and I will personally-” Varric paused and snorted, chuckling, “Oh, wow, okay- Anyway, ‘I will personally make an incision in your scrotum, squeeze until your testicles pop out, and then chop them off and preserve them in expensive Nevarran embalming fluid.’ Is that actually a thing-”

Garrett Hawke blinked slowly, then looked over at Lavellan and… after a moment, grinned a little, “I’ve actually received propositions that weren’t nearly as sexy as that line right there, and I am extremely intrigued. Mayhap I can walk you back to your room after this~?”

After finding the pillow she’d chucked at Varric earlier, Lavellan stormed over to the human and started beating him with it. While Varric stood back and laughed quietly, and Fenris stood and stepped aside to avoid the flailing and the whining, rolling his eyes but smirking a bit.

Eventually, curled up on his side and shielding his head, Garrett cried out, “Okay, okay, no martyrdom! We’ll take him out together-”

Lavellan stopped her assault with a grumble, but not before delivering one last, sharp swat to his ass with the thoroughly abused pillow. Walking back over, she took the paper from Varric and went back to the desk so she could scribble an additional line on it, before handing it to Hawke directly.

 

I mean it. You’re not allowed to die. Not when there are plenty of non-sacrificial options.

 

After taking and reading the paper, Garrett looked up at her with a bit of a roguish grin and sat up, getting to his feet and suddenly just- Wrapping an arm around her, scooping Lavellan right up off of her feet and planting a big, wet kiss on her cheek. “Understood, love. No dying.”

And then a hand was groping her ass.

Lavellan swiftly, and without hesitation, planted her knee right in Garrett Hawke’s crotch. And, while he fell to the floor and clutched at himself, rolling around and whining, she straightened herself back out, gracefully gathered all of the papers, gave the laughing Varric and highly amused Fenris a bow, and strode out of the room with her head held high.

Chapter Text

When she got back to her room, Lavellan found that Milo had company.

A familiar figure - one she did not want to see, knew she was going to need to see eventually but was not prepared to see - was crouching next to the wolfdog on the rug near the fire, stroking his fur.

She’d know, even before seeing them, that someone was in her room - she’d heard the voice on the way up the steps. Maybe, if she hadn’t become so tense and uncomfortable upon seeing Cole, she would have been more concerned about Cole talking to the unnaturally smart animal that had been sent to her.

Instead, she was just frozen and staring at the body-clad spirit, wanting nothing more than to run away.

As soon as she set her eyes on him, Cole stopped petting Milo and set his hands on his knees, tapping his fingers and rocking back and forth a little with his head bowed.

“He didn’t like the bath, but he knows why you did it. He promises to stay inside and not get infested again if it means baths won’t happen too often. Rice and chicken are good, but some red meat would be good, too. Sweet, sweet bloody meat, tastes so good on my tongue- Ashamed I can’t hunt on my own, but always happy for meat. I’m not very strong, but I promise to be a good boy and do whatever I can to help.” The brim of his hat tipped up and pale blue eyes met hers, “He’s glad he promised to help you. You can be mean, but it’s because you care, and you’re very gentle with him. He likes the name Milo.”

Was this his attempt at breaking the ice?

No, Cole didn’t make attempts to break the ice. Wouldn’t even understand the metaphor. Took things too literally to understand metaphors. Milo was just the one he’d been interacting with recently, and Milo’s pain touched hers, so Cole spoke of it.

Any moment now, he would stop talking about Milo and-

Cole’s head dropped again and he pressed his hands over his ears, shuddering, “You’re- hard to help. You know, you understand, and that should make it easier, not harder. But it doesn’t. It doesn’t help at all. And you- You untangle your own knots, only to follow the string further down and find it connected to another series of knots- Or you just find a new way to knot it back up. None the same, always changing, so painfully bright in some places, and then so dark in others you make your own demons- I-” He looked back up at her, “I wanted to approach you sooner. Much sooner. But I needed to wait until I didn’t scare you so much. But then you looked at me and now you’re even more scared of me than before. I should make you forget and try again later. But you thought that, maybe, I wouldn’t be able to make you forget, and if you’re right…”

He was doing more than enough talking for both of them. Vocalizing her own concerns and inadequacies, vocalizing his own concerns and inadequacies. Tangling and untangling both of their knots.

There was no easy way to approach this, and there never would be.

“Probably.” Cole nodded. “…I want to help.”

I don’t want you in my emotions.

“But I can-”

No, you can’t- And I’m not natural- Trying to help me might hurt you-

“If it hurts me, I’ll just forget-”

The rules aren’t the same when you have a physical body-

“You hurt so much-”

My hurts don’t matter when the others-

All hurts matter-”

If you want to help me, help me figure out how to get Lethlares back where she should be.

Cole paused.

Lavellan sat down next to the sofa, curling up against the banister and pressing her eyes into her knees. You’re a spirit. You should be able to understand the intricacies behind possession better than I do. Better than I could. What did I do wrong when I tried to give control back to her at the Breach?

“You thought about it like a body. You made it physical. There is no… handing over. No touching, like passing over a present. One thinks, one feels, louder than the other- The loudest feeling is the one that comes out. And your feelings are… always louder than hers. Louder than everyone's.” A soft, repetitive squeak starting up made her imagine he was rocking again. “I don’t think anyone could feel louder than you. Except Solas. But Solas has learned how to muffle himself.” The squeak stopped, “Maybe he could teach you?” Then the squeaking resumed. “But no, you don’t trust him. You’re scared of him. Even though you like him. How do you do both at the same time?”

Something Solas could do, but no one else in Thedas could. Possibly related to his age, or the fact that he existed before the Veil had and everyone born in a world where the Veil existed was naturally muted?

“Probably both. …Is that how you do both?”

…Cole, what can you tell me about why I’m here. About how I’m here.

A moment of silence, before the rocking started again. “There is someone, I think, but… They know how to mute, like Solas does. I can’t… There’s just a nothing there. Black, barren, blocked. What’s that black you know? Vantablack.”

All right. Move on to how.

“…There is a space. On the other side. Others are there. Others you know. They have to be. Your hurts reach out to where they should be, like fingers searching in the dark for what they know is there- But they won’t find their way through this. Not through the Void.”

…Her reality was somewhere on the other side of the Void, then. Or the Abyss, whichever was the proper term.

Which meant she really was stuck here, forever. In Lethlares’ body - either the forefront or as a tagalong - or, eventually, as a spirit. If she could even exist as a spirit. Maybe she would just-

“It would be, I think.” The squeaking was more frequent, and accompanied by some quiet tapping, “Like a spirit. Not as a spirit, because you aren’t a spirit, but like one.”

…That was… comforting.

“I’m glad.”

…We need to establish a few things.

“All right.” Cole’s tone changed to the one of borderline childlike obedience, and Lavellan finally looked over and met his eyes again.

The cheese brings out the mice, which brings out the cats, and the mint makes the cats dance, which makes the cook laugh, which makes her yell at the scullery maids less. A barrel full of misplaced daggers is a barrel of daggers that didn’t end up cutting into someone in a heated moment. Turnips thrown on a fire makes the air smell like turnip stew, which reminds a soldier of home before he dies. Breadcrumbs on the battlements brings about the birds, which makes another soldier decide it isn’t time to die yet because he won’t die until winter comes. Peeled plums attract flies, which feeds the spiders, and the webs they weave can be used to on injuries to promote healing. A soldier is going to die no matter how much time he is given, and sometimes a quick, gentle dagger is more humane. But only if you know they’re going to die.

Cole stared at her for a moment, “…Thank you.” His hat tipped down, before tipping back up, his eyes meeting hers once more, “You like hugs. I would give you one. But you don’t want my hugs right now. I’ll go get Dorian.”

…It was late, and waking Dorian would be rude. But she did want a hug. And Cole would probably go get Dorian either way.

“You should talk to them. All of them. What happened has them all thinking. A few knots will be pulled loose if you talk to them. I’m going to get Dorian.”

What seemed like too much time later, there were footsteps behind her, along with a familiar voice-

“Lethlares…? What on earth are you doing on the floor?” When Dorian moved to stand in front of her, she looked up and took his offered hands without hesitation, letting him pull her to her feet. As soon as she was upright, he was pulling her into his arms and she closed her eyes and leaned into it, hugging back. “You know, it’s the oddest thing. I just… woke up from a perfectly deep, comfortable sleep and was stricken with the urge to come up here and… well… just do this.”

It was blatant manipulation and she had played a part in it and- She felt bad that she didn’t feel bad for it. She just… didn’t want to be alone. She needed this. The physical touch, the emotional connections, she was-

Tired of feeling so alone.

“This is… going to sound horribly inappropriate and please don’t take this the wrong way, but would you be against my spending the night with you?” Dorian huffed a little, “Maker, I don’t even know why I’m asking this.”

…All right, so Cole had taken things a little further than he had said, but she definitely wasn’t going to protest. Hate herself for taking advantage and probably feel guilty for the rest of her life, but not protest.

Which was how she ended up crawling into bed with Dorian Pavus, Milo following them soon after and making Dorian grumble about animals in the bed. But his grumbling didn’t turn into more than that, and when Milo crawled up behind her and settled down against her back, Dorian followed suit and settled, as well, though not quite as close.

“Hmm… We haven’t had much chance to talk since what happened in Haven, have we?”

Lavellan blinked up at him, a little startled that he wasn’t just going to go to sleep - Cole had woken him, after all - but ended up shaking her head a little.

“Well, we have a few things to catch up on, don’t we? The most obvious one, I assume, would be my congratulations to you on your new station.” Curling on arm under his head, Dorian smiled down at her in his charming way, though there was something in his eyes that… “The next one I find to be a little more important - if you ever make me think I’m watching you die again, I’m bringing you back as an undead and binding you to me for the rest of my life, natural or otherwise.”

She just stopped and stared at him. Knowing that, while he would never do that, the emotion behind those words was very real.

“I believe I told you, before what happened in Haven, that you and I would be having a discussion about your self-worth. Well, this discussion is going to be rather one-sided, because I’m not giving you the chance to find some paper to say anything in return. I don’t know what you did, who told you, or what you went through that resulted in you so honestly feeling like your life is worth less than the lives of those around you, but vishante kaffas.” Dorian’s face turned a little dark, and he grabbed her chin when she tried to look away, “Every life, Lethlares, is precious. Some people simply waste what they have been given, and others have it wasted for them. And I will be damned before I see either apply to you. No matter what happened, who you were before this- Whatever it may be, it no longer applies. You are, without reservation, an amazing, wonderful woman, and nothing I have seen about you would imply that you are any less deserving of life, family, friends and comfort. And two of those, at least, I would be more than happy to offer you. But in order to do so, I need you want to accept it.”

…She needed… to not cry. She knew that. Breaking down, crying, showing weakness had been what had drawn Dorian to her in the first place. He was loud, he was playful, he was charming and outgoing, and in some ways horribly misguided- But he was also soft, and caring. Tevinter culture and his upbringing prevented him from being open about it, but-

Dorian did care.

And somewhere along the line, he had started to care about her.

And Dorian invested himself so deeply in the people he cared about that it hurt.

She was lying to him. She was using him. Dorian absolving her of that in an effort to get her to accept him changed nothing about it. If anything, it displayed a level of confidence and trust in her that had her mouth going sour.

But she… she was weak. And she had tried, so hard, to not. To refrain.

But everyone had a breaking point.

Having comfort and friendship being offered so blatantly was her breaking point.

Crying, just like she didn’t want to, Lavellan pressed her face into Dorian’s chest and clung to his waist, and Doran wrapped his arms around her and held her close. Continued holding her after she stopped crying. Continued holding her as she fell asleep.

When movement woke her before the sun was even up, his arms were still around her waist. They pulled away, but it was followed by him getting out of bed and quietly murmuring something about wanting to leave before others woke.

And she knew, as he slipped away and Milo crawled over to take his spot, that he would be willing to hold her again whenever she needed it.

Chapter Text

“I must commend you, my dear, for being able to recover so smoothly from your episode and returning to your duties so flawlessly.” Vivienne spoke as she poured tea for both of them, before stirring a little cream into her own cup, “You also handled your impromptu inauguration quite well, presenting yourself as humble but willing to serve the people. However, you do realize that your… faltering was not missed.”

Nodding, Lavellan took a polite drink of her tea without adding anything before setting the cup down so she could lean over and write on the neat stack of small papers that had been waiting for her at the table, using the elegant, cloisonné-decorated quill provided.

 

I do. And, if you would be willing, I would ask for your help. I’ve never received any sort of education in etiquette, and I need to start carrying myself better.

 

Vivienne’s eyes flickered over the words briefly, politely, before she looked back at Lavellan, “I would think the Ambassador would be in a better place to see you educated in those areas.”

 

I’ll be approaching her, as well. But you carry the presence of a leader.

 

The former First Enchanter read the words and considered them, then looked back at Lavellan with a smile and… a look in her eyes.

“Never use contractions in a formal setting, my dear. And do uncross your legs."

 


 

I would never ask you to stop improving what the visiting nobles and courtiers see and will judge us by, Josephine. I just don’t want our Commander sleeping in a room with no roof. Or falling a full storey and breaking his legs because his flooring is… questionable at best.

 

“I will see to it that every roof and floor in Skyhold is properly repaired as soon as possible.” Josephine’s lips twitched a little, “Shall I do the same for our guests in the rooms over the garden?”

Lavellan paused. If Josephine knew, so would Cullen and Leliana, though whether or not they knew who it was was still up in the air. Either way, she needed to find Varric. Soon.

 

It would be appreciated. I’ve taken a few things to them, but they could do with having their quarters cleaned and being provided proper bedding, supplies and food. Have Lani do it.

 

Lani wouldn’t gossip.

“As you wish, Inquisitor.”

Lavellan paused again.

 

When it’s just us, Josephine, I would… prefer it if we didn’t use titles. I’m not unreachable. And I… don’t want to become distant from everyone.

 

Josephine’s expression softened a little, and she smiled and nodded, “Of course, Lethlares.”

 


 

Lavellan was already in a hurry when she rushed into the armory, but the sound of a struggle over the clanking of hammers against steel and the nervous glances the workers kept throwing towards the upper level-

“-knew where Hawke was all along!”

“You’re damn right I did!”

“You conniving little-”

Lavellan was running, almost tripping a couple of times as she hurried up the stairs.

“You kidnapped me! You interrogated me, what did you expect?!”

The only thing keeping Cassandra from getting at Varric was the fact that Varric was making an effort to keep the table between them, feinting to one side and then the other whenever the Seeker made an obvious move.

All Cassandra would have to do next was jump over the table, itself, and with her legs-

Lavellan hurried over and physically grabbed Varric, putting herself between them. Varric grabbed her wrist tensely and stayed behind her, and Lavellan stood her ground as Cassandra turned furious eyes on her.

“You’re taking his side?!”

Unable to say anything, Lavellan set her jaw and glared right back at the older woman. She’d promised Varric. She’d promised him she wasn’t going to let Cassandra hurt him. And she’d meant it.

Cassandra snarled and waved her hand sharply, then started pacing. “We needed someone to lead this Inquisition. Hawke was our only hope - he was the Champion of Kirkwall, the mages respected him. And he-” Stopping, she turned and pointed towards Varric accusingly, “And you kept him from us.”

“The Inquisition has a leader.” Varric snapped back, staying behind Lavellan.

“Hawke would have been at the Conclave! If anyone could have saved Most Holy-”

Twisting her wrist and breaking Varric’s hold on her, Lavellan stepped over to Cassandra and, acting on the first impulse that came to mind, grabbed the woman’s face in her hands and made her look her in the eyes as she frowned, shaking her head.

That was a guess, at best. Cassandra looked up to, idolized Hawke. She was putting him on a pedestal and making him out to be superhuman when he was just as mortal as everyone else.

Letting out an angry, hurt noise, Cassandra pushed Lavellan off and went back to pacing, and Lavellan stepped back, standing in front of Varric again.

“So I must accept… what,” Cassandra spat out, her voice raw with hurt and emotion, “That the Maker… wanted all of this to happen-” Her voice caught briefly in something that sounded like a sob, “That He- That He-” She stopped, lowering her head for a moment, before turning and looking back up, her expression hardening, hands clenching at her sides. “Varric is a liar, Inquisitor. A snake. Even after the Conclave, when we needed Hawke most, Varric kept him secret.”

“He’s with us now!” Varric cut in, defensive and angry, “We’re on the same side!”

Sneering, Cassandra stepped back and waved her hands at him dismissively, “We all know whose side you’re on, Varric. It will never be the Inquisition’s.”

Lavellan stomped her foot loudly, glaring at Cassandra when the woman met her eyes. Varric did not deserve that.

After a moment, Cassandra’s shoulders slumped slightly and she turned, stepping over to the banister and staring off into space. “…I must not think of what could have been. We have so much at stake… Go, Varric. Just… go.”

Another moment passed where Cassandra was just silent, and with her assault apparently over, Lavellan turned towards Varric and gestured to the stairs.

He frowned up at her, his expression a mixture of anger, hurt and concern, but when she just shook her head and touched his shoulder briefly, he sighed and nodded, walking away.

“…You know what I think?” Varric paused at the first step, “I think if Hawke had been at the temple… he’d be dead, too.”

He was supposed to have one more line to say. Lavellan knew that. But he didn’t say it. And she was too caught up in the adrenaline to worry much about it.

Instead, she just stepped over and sat down at the loft’s table, pulling over a few pieces of blank parchment Cassandra had sitting next to a copy of the Chant and starting to write.

“…I… believed him.” Cassandra mumbled after a few moments. “He spun his story for me and I swallowed it. If I’d… just explained what was at stake… If I’d just made him understand… But I didn’t, did I? I didn’t explain why we needed Hawke. …I’m such a fool…”

After a pause, Lavellan finished the sentence she’d been working on and stood, stepping over to Cassandra. Taking her hand hesitantly.

When Cassandra didn’t fight or pull away, Lavellan tugged, guiding her away from the banister and over to the table, where she gestured for her to sit down. With a sigh, Cassandra complied. For several moments, the Seeker didn’t look at the paper Lavellan pushed over to her, her eyes blankly locked off into space.

Eventually, however, she did look down and read.

 

You’re upset, Cassandra, and looking for someone to blame. Someone in front of you, someone you can actually punch, who isn’t an ancient darkspawn magister would-be god. But making Varric that person isn’t fair, and it’s unworthy of you.

Justinia’s death wasn’t Varric’s fault.

 

“…If Hawke had been there…” When she trailed off and didn’t continue, Lavellan took that as her cue that she had a moment to write.

 

There is no guarantee that having Hawke there would have changed anything. None whatsoever. There is also no guarantee that, even if you had been able to approach Hawke, he would have agreed to come. Agreed to become the Inquisitor.

It hurts, Cassandra. Losing someone always hurts. And no matter how many times you go through it, it never gets any easier.

But, once something is done, it is done. Whether or not you believe and/or accept that certain things are just meant to be, it doesn’t change the fact that the past cannot be changed. Or that going back and thinking about the dozens of ways you could or would do things differently won’t undo what happened.

You have to allow yourself to grieve, Cassandra. Grieving is the only way you can process this, and move on with your life. Which, from what I know of her, is exactly what Justinia would have wanted you to do.

 

Lavellan had no way of knowing if Cassandra made it all the way through her words before the woman stopped reading and dropped her head into her hands, her breathing ragged and her shoulders shaking. She didn’t think too much about it as she quickly stood and moved around the table, wrapping her arms around the woman’s shoulders and cradling her head gently. And, while Cassandra didn’t turn into the attention, she also didn’t push her away.

“…I want you to know… I have no regrets.” Cassandra started after a while, after enough time had passed that the shadows outside were longer. Her voice was hoarse, her accent thicker than usual, and some of her words cracked, “Maybe, if we had found Hawke… the Maker wouldn’t have needed to send you. But he did. I don’t know what’s to come… but… you are… more than I could have hoped for.”

Lavellen choked up a little and hugged Cassandra’s head closer.

Eventually, they pulled apart, and Lavellan sat back down. They were quiet for a while longer, before Lavellan wrote something else.

 

Varric deserves an apology.

He was afraid, and protecting someone he loved. You wanted to do the same for Justinia. The difference being, she made the decision to go. And Hawke made the decision to let Varric hide him.

That doesn’t make Varric a coward, or any less worthy of being here. When you gave him an out, he chose to stay. To fight alongside us, and bleed with us. He chose to be part of this.

And, when things got to the point where he couldn’t rationalize protecting his family anymore, he chose to make a hard decision and ask Hawke to come here. For the Inquisition. For us.

Even if you would have done things differently, I know you don’t love others in such a different way that you can’t understand where he was coming from.

 

“…I understand what you are saying.” Cassandra sighed and sat back, her face a bit pale and her eyes rimmed with red, her voice a touch huskier than usual, but the rest of her as put together as ever, “But I am not ready to… forgive him yet. And I will not, until I am.”

That was understandable. Completely. And honestly, the best way to handle an apology. Never apologize until you’re ready to.

Standing, Lavellan stepped over and pulled Cassandra into another hug - one the woman was actually put together enough to get stiff and awkward about - before squeezing her shoulder and walking away. Leaving what she’d written behind so that, if Cassandra decided to read it again, she would have something to think about.

 


 

Lavellan really didn’t get why people shied away from giving hugs when, sometimes, a hug was just what you needed.

Then again, she was also emotionally dependent to the extreme, and she knew that.

Still, the look that Varric gave her when she stepped into the hall and approached him was… She couldn’t stop herself from going right to his side and, like she had with Cassandra, wrapping her arms around his shoulders, holding him close. Other people in the hall be damned.

“…I wasn’t… trying to keep secrets, I-”

Lavellan covered Varric’s mouth with her hand to quiet him, then sat down at the table, pulling over some parchment he had there when he nodded, and writing.

 

I don’t need you to explain anything to me, Varric. I already told you that I understood why you made that decision, and I meant it. I’m not upset with you for it. I would have done the same. Many people would have done the same. You have nothing to feel guilty about.

 

Varric chuckled mirthlessly, rubbing his face, “Cassandra-”

She leaned over to jab at the back of his hand with the quill, cutting him off before writing.

 

On a level, Cassandra understands, as well. I know she does. And, after speaking with her, I know she doesn’t really blame you. She is not actually upset with you, she does not hate you. She’s mad at herself. You just happen to be the easiest person to direct all of that anger at.

Cassandra is brash. She acts first, asks questions later, always takes the direct approach, and she is her own worst critic. And the madder she is at herself, the more she critical she is of others.

Varric, no matter how you feel, you do not need to do better. You are fine as you are.

 

After a few moments, Varric sighed, slumping back in his chair. “…Honestly, I would probably feel better if you were mad at me, too. Just a little.”

 

I can’t be. Because I’m not. Shit happens. If it hadn’t happened to us, it would have happened to someone else. All we can do is keep going, and do the best we can with what we’ve been given.

I want you here with us, Varric. I need all of you. You make this easier to handle, easier to bear. I wouldn’t want to have anyone else at my side.

 

Varric breathed in, breathed out, then gave her a lopsided smile, “Thanks, kid. You ever need anyone shot…? You know who to come to.”

Chapter Text

Bull was in the spot he would probably be found most often in in the future - in the back of the tavern, semi-secluded, his head propped up with one hand and a tankard gripped in the other as he just… observed the room with a semi-vacant stare.

Even though anyone who knew what kind of person he was knew he was watching and listening to everything going on around him.

She knew he knew she was approaching. But he didn’t move, even when she was standing close. He didn’t even look at her.

“Can I help you?”

Lavellan tried not to flinch at the “low approval” greeting. She’d been… negligent.

Clasping her hands in front of herself, Lavellan bowed deeply to him. And there was a moment of silence.

Then, something of a chuckle, and a scraping sound. “Have a seat and get it written out.”

Lavellan looked up in time to see him drawing his foot back from a stool he’d pulled over, and she sat down, pulling out her notebook and getting to work. When she offered it to him, he took it in a smooth motion, his eye flickering over the page.

 

I know you know I’ve been avoiding you, and I know you know you scare the shit out of me. I’m sorry. You’ve done nothing to earn that, and I know very well that you’re not a bad person.

I can’t say it has nothing to do with you being Qunari, because it does, but not in the way most would have problems with the Qunari.

I know what the Ben-Hassrath do. And the abilities they train into you to make you better at doing your job. It makes you more than a little intimidating. The idea that you can read subtle cues in my face and in my body as I think about and process things is fucking unsettling. And I have serious problems with paranoia and anxiety. I don’t want you getting the wrong, or even the right ideas, and drawing incorrect and/or correct conclusions. Which is ridiculous, because one way or another, it’s important we get to know each other so we can work together.

I guess my problem is, I want you to get to know me from what I’m willing to disclose, as I’m willing to disclose it. Not from what you can pick out when I’m lying or hiding something.

 

“This isn’t anything new to me, you should know.” Bull eventually spoke, smirking a little and looking at her as he waved the book a bit, “Viddathari get nervous around Ben-Hassrath for all of these reasons and more. The ones that are as paranoid as you are receive a little extra education, until they understand what I’m about to tell you right now.” Closing the book around his finger, marking the page, Bull leaned in close to her face and met her gaze evenly. “We’re liars and spies, but Ben-Hassrath are more trusted than most agents because of that. Everything we do, we do for the Qun.”

Lavellan shuddered a bit, hunching her shoulders.

Sighing, Bull pulled back and rubbed his chin, “Reassuring you would be a lot easier if you were viddathari. If you were, it’d just take more time to get it in your head that, as Qunari, it’s my job to protect you. Even if it means protecting you from yourself. But you’re not viddathari. So I can’t use the Qun as reassurance. So I’m just going to be blunt. You’ve got something you’re not saying, boss. I know that. And you probably know I know that. But I’m not here to pick you apart. It’s not my job to get you loaded up on drugs, isolate you and question you until you’re questioning yourself. It’s not my job to sabotage you. My job is to observe. And, as someone you’ve hired, my job is to protect you. Which I can’t do, if you won’t let me.”

She paused, then held out her hand, taking the journal when Bull handed it to her.

 

Do you trust me?

 

“I trust you know know what you’re doing a lot better than most would guess, than you’re willing to let on. How about you, boss. Do you trust me?”

 

I trust that you’ll keep me safe.

 

Oddly, she didn’t have to hesitate before writing that down. Bull must have found it odd, as well, because after he read her reply, he gave her a blank, long look.

Eventually, he grunted, “We’re gonna get you started on those lessons with Krem about daggers.”

Lavellan nodded, again without hesitation. He was absolutely right.

“Hey, boss.” He called after her as she started to walk away, “Come by later, if you’ve got time. I’ve got something I wanna show you.”

When he dressed her up as a Charger and told her to answer to Grim for a bit, she was relieved.

 


 

“…You cannot be serious.”

Standing there in her nightgown, a hunched and nervous Milo at her side, Lavellan pouted at Dorian as hard as she could, giving him her best kicked puppy look.

Dorian’s brow twitched, and he sighed and rubbed his face before stepping back and opening the door to let her into his room. He grumbled when she and the wolfdog climbed into his bed, but did nothing to make her feel unwelcome.

 


 

…Something was wrong.

Lethlares… Lethlares was keeping distance between them. Had her back to her. Was hunched over. Looked… looked defeated.

“I’m sorry…” Morgan whispered into the dimness, their usual surroundings of forest and aravels replaced with a blank, depressive slate color. “I tried… I really did…”

“...I know you did.” Lethlares started after a long silence, sounding distant and… gravelly, “We both did.” Another long silence, before, “Is… what I’ve been seeing in your… Is it true? About… the Creators?”

…Shit. Lethlares had been able to-?

She… she needed to talk to her. Morgan needed to talk to her and tell her about- Everything. If she just- If she could explain everything to Lethlares, then maybe it would be easier for her to-

Lethlares let out a shuddering sigh, hunching over more, “And Fen’Harel… Solas…” They were both quiet for a moment, before Lethlares’ voice dropped lower, “We must stop him. No matter what, he must be stopped.”

“…I’m sorry… I… I’m so sorry… If I hadn’t… If whatever happened that put me here, hadn’t happened, then you…” This… this was foreign. Unsettling. Terrifying. She had never seen Lethlares look so openly defeated before. So withdrawn before. Hands shaking a little, Morgan reached out to her, wanting to pull her back out. Wanting to fix this and- turn Lethlares back into a pillar of comfort again-

“You were called here for a reason, Morgan.” Lethlares’ tone dropped even lower, her back straightening a little as she rolled her shoulders back, “Someone decided your presence would be helpful for them. If not necessary.”

Helpful? Necessary? How- Lethlares Lavellan could have done this. Morgan knew that. She was the one who didn’t have the strength to- “‘Gods’ aren’t infallible.”

“Perhaps not. But I do not believe your presence is a mistake.”

 


 

It was her first period in this body. And it was horrible, embarrassing, and all over Dorian’s bed.

It was fucking upsetting to wake up to discover that you’d soaked through the bedding, and even more so when you were sharing the bed with someone and had stained their clothes-

Aside from the initial shock, Dorian took it well - he was unsure and awkward and had no idea how to help, but he didn’t want her upsetting herself to the point that she did and kept trying to get her to stop apologizing.

She couldn’t.

She knew she needed to not talk, because she knew what it did to her, but it was just so embarrassing and upsetting and she exhausted herself crying, stuttering, choking and going in and out of respiratory distress for the better part of an hour.

Eventually - and after changing - Dorian left the room to get Lani, who was there almost instantly.

In all actuality, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. She was used to much heavier flows, and with how much bedding Dorian had made up his bed with to keep himself comfortable and warm, the blood didn’t even go deep enough to touch the mattress.

It also wasn’t nearly as dark as she was used to. Elves weren’t exactly the most fertile race.

As they cleaned up and she realized that it could have been much worse, Lavellan started to calm down.

Then Lani had to go and ruin it-

“Mistress, I… I think your Keeper would be very… very upset with you if you ended up carrying Master Pavus’ child instead of a-”

Lavellan walked out of the room.

 


 

Several squares of cotton cloth wrapped around the head of some plant that resembled a bulrush, stitched tight with a string, to act as a tampon.

Lani advised against making them in bulk, because if it dried out too much the plant lost its use for absorbency.

Along with working out proper bra and underwear designs, Lavellan was going to sit down sometime soon and work out how to make proper tampons and applicators.

 


 

In all of the embarrassment and the mess, she forgot about the dream.

 


 

Wanting nothing more than to bury that incident as deep into her mind as she could, Lavellan got back to work. Burying herself very, very, very deeply in her workload.

Movran was judged and “exiled” to Tevinter. Lavellan was very, very upset that she’d apparently missed him throwing goats at Skyhold.

Iron Bull startled her when his presence was announced at the proceedings by him laughing just as loudly as Movran did as Josephine read out the judgment. Him being there made her nervously look around for the others, and she saw Dorian sitting in the back with Varric, both of them chuckling, Solas shaking his head a little with a bit of a smirk as he walked through the hall and into the library, and Vivienne enjoying a cup of tea as she watched from above. It was hard to tell with the brightness from the window behind her, but she thought she saw the woman briefly tip her head in her direction.

Lavellan would apologize to no one for her decision to sentence Alexius to study magic for the Inquisition. Nor would she look at the faces of anyone in the crowd to see who was present. She made it a point to look as calm and unmoving as possible as Josephine delivered her judgment.

After that, she turned herself over to Krem for training.

Krem, predictably, worked her into the ground. She was very grateful he’d chosen to remove all of his armor for it, because being tossed around and pressed into the ground so often would have hurt a lot more if he’d had it on.

The garden was turned over to Adan and his replacement for growing herbs.

The empty tower was repurposed for the mages to use.

Repairs were started on the small, collapsed building next to the tavern to turn it into a clinic. With one stipulation.

 

I do not want humoralism being used in the clinic.

 

Josephine blinked down at the words slowly, then looked back up at Lavellan, openly confused and not quite sure how to take this, “May I… ask the reason for this?”

Lavellan stopped and frowned, considering, before sitting down and starting to write.

 

The study of medicine is, without a doubt, one of the most important in the world. If there’s anything we can to do make sure our people are taken care of, and if there’s any possibility that something might save them or make an experience less painful, I want us to invest in it.

But humoralism is bullshit.

Setting bones? Good.

Stitching wounds? Good.

Using poultices and salves against infection? Good.

Bleeding someone in an effort to ‘balance their humors?' Is fake science.

You will almost never come across a situation in actual medicine where using bloodletting is a good idea. When you bleed someone, you lower their blood pressure, decrease the ability of their major organs to function properly, leave them susceptible to disease, and complicate an already complicated situation when their body has to add producing more blood to the list of things it needs to do in order to get the itself working again.

The woman who’s acting as our medic now? I’m sure she has more than acceptable experience setting bones and closing wounds, and she has the willingness it takes to work in emergency medical situations.

But if I hear anything about her using leeches or cutting someone open to let some blood out because she thinks there’s something wrong with their gallbladder? I will personally escort her out of Skyhold.

 

She was creating a problem here. Humoralism was widely accepted. People would be looking at her funny for being so against it, not accusing a doctor of malpractice because they’d deemed it necessary to cover a colicky child in leeches.

But she could not sit back and just… let it slide by. What she knew about medicine wouldn’t let her.

“You hold… very strong opinions about this, Inquisitor…” Josephine spoke slowly after spending several moments reading the paper over, “…You do understand the process of bloodletting is perfectly acceptable in human society?”

Lavellan clenched and unclenched her hands at her sides.

Yes, make it an elf thing.

…Actually…

 

Excuse me for a moment, Ambassador.

 

Turning on her heel, Lavellan quickly left the room and crossed the building, going into the rotunda and marching right up on-

Grabbing Solas by the shoulder, she steered him over to his desk, finding a blank enough sheet of paper and a writing stick so she could-

 

Humoralism is fake medicine.

 

Solas blinked at the words slowly, “Well, of course it is.”

Lavellan actually thanked the Maker.

Taking Solas’ hand, she pulled him out of the rotunda and marched back to Josephine’s office, arranging him in front of the Ambassador’s desk and reaching over to, after Josephine nodded hesitantly, take the paper she had written on and hand it to him.

With a raised brow, Solas took the paper and read it over. As he did, the corner of his mouth twitched a bit.

And then he snorted.

Lavellan gave him the darkest glare she could muster and hissed at him.

Holding up a hand towards her, Solas turned his head away and chuckled a bit, then looked back at her, trying not to smile, “Forgive me, Inquisitor, I was not laughing at you, I assure you.”

Liar-

“In all seriousness, Lady Montilyet,” Solas turned his attention back to Josephine, holding the paper up, “The Inquisitor’s opinions line up perfectly with the pervading elvhen opinion, which has been the same since ancient times. My studies of ancient elvhen history have taught me that, time and again, the elves of Arlathan-”

Lavellan let Solas take it from there, standing back and crossing her arms a little as she stopped listening. At least part of what he was saying was bullshit, but it helped her immensely that ancient elves didn’t like humoralism any more than she did.

Eventually, the conversation ended with Josephine agreeing to let the medics know that certain humoralist practices were forbidden (Lavellan actually owed Solas quite a bit, because the only one she knew of was bloodletting, but he was able to name a number that were probably just as moronic. What in the hell is cupping?), and Lavellan walked back to the rotunda with Solas, still grumbling to herself.

“Was there anyone else you needed me to debate with on your behalf, da’len?”

He was giving her the most amused look.

She had no idea why she’d even bothered following him.

After giving him a huff and a sour glare, Lavellan stormed out of the room, at first making to head back to her tower, before thinking of something and heading down to the tavern, instead. Where she marched right up to Bull and took out her journal, scrawling something messily as he looked up at her with a raised brow.

Lavellan flipped the book around and showed him the page.

 

Humoralism is fake medicine.

 

Bull’s brow went up higher. “Well, of course it is.”

Letting her arm go loose and fall down to her side, Lavellan leaned in close to his face and mouthed very slowly, ‘Thank you.’

Chapter Text

 

Give me a written list of books we need to add to our library so I can give it to Josephine.

 

Lavellan slipped the note onto the page Dorian was reading from before going over to sit down on the chair in his chosen corner, leaning over and starting to inspect the spines on the books stacked next to the chair to look for something to read.

“And what brought this on?” Dorian asked as he turned to face her, sounding very amused, “As disappointed as I am in this barren mess Skyhold dares to call a library?”

Without looking up, Lavellan pointed to him, then found a title that seemed interesting and gently fished it out of the stack, sitting back and opening the book.

“You do realize most of the books on any list of requests I would give to you would either be banned by the Chantry, from Tevinter, or both?”

At that, Lavellan did look up, turning her eyes on him and slowly raising a brow.

“…And you could not care in the least, could you?” When her brow just went up a bit higher, Dorian snorted and chuckled, shaking his head, “And after you just got done attacking the humoralists. My dear, are you trying to start a civil war in your own organization? There have already been whispers, you realize. …People think we’re lovers, you and I.”

Dorian was no longer smiling. He actually looked quite serious, and was frowning a little.

Frowning back, Lavellan closed the book and set it aside so she could pull out her journal.

 

I attacked humoralism because it’s stupid.

I don’t care if the books are banned or are written by people from Tevinter because, if it’s something you have a good opinion of, it’s probably a book worthy of note that we should have in our library.

People can say whatever they want. We know we’re not lovers. And we know the only reason they say that is because I trust you, and you’ve been there for me when no one else has. There’s no shame in that.

I don’t care what others think. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong, and I’m going to do whatever I can for this organization, and for the people standing by my side.

 

“…Well, what can I even say in response to this?” Dorian sighed dramatically and shook his head, rolling his shoulders and lifting his hands in a helpless gesture, “For someone who’s been so submissive and terrified for so long, when you’ve made up your mind there’s no changing it. I will say, though, that people tend to respond worse to having their beliefs challenged when you simply call them stupid or say they’re wrong. You should try a little delicacy in your approach. Explain why it’s wrong.”

…Problem with that being, she didn’t know how to explain it in a way that would match the knowledge of the time. If she started ranting about bone marrow, PCV/HTC and TP/S readings, red and white blood cells and immunity… She’d lose people. Very quickly.

The easiest way to put it was to simply say they were wrong.

But Dorian was right. People would respond badly to that.

Sighing, she reached over and grabbed the book again, pulling her legs to her chest and starting to read.

“It’s only a suggestion, dear.” Dorian stepped over and ruffled her hair fondly, setting her journal down on the arm of the chair.

Lavellan paused, then grabbed it and her writing sick again.

 

Do you believe in humoralism?

 

At that, Dorian’s face went blank, before his mouth twisted into a rather wicked smirk.

“I believe I’ll leave you guessing on that one~”

 


 

“Hey, Inky.”

Lavellan looked up from the large cloth… thing she had draped over her lap that she was working on with a needle and thread, blinking as Sera slumped over the table in front of her and pinned her with a blank look.

“Got a favor ta ask.”

Blinking again, Lavellan tipped her head a little.

“Need you to have a few soldiers march through a little town called Verchiel. Nothin’ big, just that- Inquisition armor ‘n banners ‘n colors ‘n all, marchin’ through town before movin’ on. You mind?”

The Verchiel March? That’s what quest this was, right? Lavellan shook her head, indicating she didn’t mind at all.

For some reason, Sera blinked at her. “Wot, really?”

…Yes? Lavellan nodded.

“…Huh. Well, a'right then.” Pushing herself back up, Sera grinned a little at her, “I’ll just add it to the stack of important Inquisition missions on the big table then, yeah? Later, Inky.” Spinning around, Sera took off without another word.

Lavellan blinked after her slowly, then went back to repairing the cloth draped across her lap. Trying to work out Sera’s… odd behavior.

 


 

Feeling more than a little proud of herself, Lavellan trotted out towards the barn with a large bunch of heavy fabric neatly folded and draped over her arms. She saw Blackwall before he saw her, leaning over something on the workbench that had no real form yet- Pieces of wood that would probably become the griffon rocking horse.

He looked up when the sound of her feet alerted him to her presence, nodding his head briefly, “Inquisitor. What’s this?”

Lavellan went right up to Blackwall and directed him to hold two ends of the cloth in her arms, reaching into the bundle and feeling around until she found the other ends and then starting to walk backwards and she carefully unfolded and stretched it out.

At full length, it was a dark blue banner with a large, hand-stitched rendering of the Warden heraldry in silver, with two griffons above a Joining chalice. The color of the blue cloth had faded, indicating age, but it was still beautiful and remarkably intact - it had just needed some minor repairing and reinforcing here and there.

“…Well…” Blackwall exhaled after a few moments of staring down at the banner, sounding a bit breathless, “Would you look at that. With double griffons… That makes this something that belonged to a Commander of the Grey, I think. This… is an excellent find, Inquisitor. You have my thanks.”

Smiling at him, Lavellan nodded, then helped him fold the banner back up. With that done, she wanted to use the fact that she was already out here to go and see Sorcha. She hadn’t had much chance to tend to her horse in the last few days, and while she was sure Dennet was handling it, she did still need to spend some time with the horse, herself.

“Inquisitor. If I could have a moment.”

Lavellan stopped and turned back to Blackwall, waiting as he carefully tucked the banner away in a trunk before walking over to her.

“I heard you’re to be heading out sometime soon on a mission to Crestwood to speak to someone about the disappearance of the Wardens?” When she nodded, Blackwall nodded back seriously, his brow furrowing, “I’d like to join you, when you go.”

She had to pause at that, wondering if that was… actually a good idea. At least, from Blackwall’s standpoint. What if the Warden (Loghain, part of her still tripped over) had known the actual Blackwall?

But Blackwall, surely, would have considered that, and was still asking…

After a moment, Lavellan nodded.

“Thank you.” He crossed an arm over his chest and bowed to her slightly, “I need to know more about what’s going on with the Wardens, and I’d… prefer to hear it firsthand.”

And she couldn’t deny him that.

 


 

“Your pardon, Inquisitor.”

Lavellan paused in her walk back to her tower, flustering a little when she looked over to the figure standing partially concealed in the shadows. It was so unfair how so many of these people were far more attractive in person-

Holding his arm up to his waist in a formal gesture, Fenris bowed slightly, “Hawke was wondering if you were available.”

…And, what, so he sent Fenris to avoid people seeing him…? Fenris kinda stood out way more than Garrett did-

Nodding a little, Lavellan stepped into the shadows with Fenris and prepared to head up the stairs. Before she could, however, Fenris stopped her.

“A moment, before we go.” Turning to face her, Fenris shifted a bit, pausing before going on, “I wished to… apologize for our meeting. It was unworthy of me, to attack without provocation, and while magic can heal most ails, I am quite aware it does not always help with the pain. An apology is long overdue, but I am sorry.”

…Hawke had to be diplomatic aligned for his friendship with Fenris to result in this. Fenris was being polite, cordial, and despite probably knowing by now that she was a mage he hadn’t said a thing about it. Wasn’t saying anything about it. And while Lavellan knew Fenris was more than capable of being formal when the situation called for it, he was also the type to sneer and grumble “mage” at the end of everything he said.

But he hadn’t. He wasn’t. He was just standing in front of her, giving that gentlemanly bow again, and when he straightened out of it and met her eyes again-

When she looked into those eyes of his-

She had forgotten. Kind of.

But, at that moment, her brain reminded her: Oh, right. Fenris is hot.

Well. Shit.

Chapter Text

There was nothing to be done about it, Lavellan told herself as she went about performing her duties. Not a single goddamn thing.

It would have happened sooner or later, really, given how Thedas just seemed to be abundant and overflowing with unfairly good-looking men and women- It just hadn’t really occurred to her before because she’d always been too busy… trying not to snap.

So, honestly, from a psychological standpoint, this was a good thing. She was put back together enough and felt comfortable enough to start eyeballing attractive men again.

Another way to look at it, even, was that it was better it was Fenris than someone she actually had to see around and interact with more often. Like Cullen. Or Solas. Or Blackwall. Or Varric. Or Bull (if the idea of Bull didn’t still cause her enough unease that she could look beyond him looking at her with Ben-Hassrath eyes and just see a man who went around largely topless and was just bulging with muscle and other things-).

Because they were all attractive in their ways. And she tended to have varied tastes. (Varied enough that, now that she was apparently becoming aware of people being attractive again, she had to worry about about whether she would eye Cassandra. Or Leliana. Or Josephine. Or Vivienne. Or Cassandra, goddamn-)

The nice thing, at least, about being… “aware”… of Fenris, was that he and Hawke were spending the vast majority of their time in Skyhold sealed away in their “unoccupied” room on the closed-off balcony. So she didn’t have to worry about… any inconvenient staring. Sudden awkwardness. Public humiliation. Things like that.

In fact, after a few days, she’d almost managed to forget it was actually a thing. Out of sight, out of mind. She went right back to forgetting that she was capable of being attracted to people and focused more on… filling the role of Inquisitor properly.

She approached Dennet, to make sure that he, his workers and the horses were all okay. Listened to what he had to say, took out her journal to make a list of things he said he needed, or needed addressed.

She went into the tower that now belonged to the mages in their care, where seeing that things were… a lot more cramped for them than the game had portrayed made her frown. Fiona might not have many charges of the mage rebellion in her care, but she certainly had more than just one tower could accommodate… and many of them were children. And elderly. She took out her journal and made a note to talk to Josephine about finishing repairs on and renovating another one of the towers for them. Most of them were largely abandoned, weren’t they?

She went down into the dungeon. To look for Alexius. Where, after watching her nervously look into all of the cells one by one and frown at finding all of the empty, the guard stationed there redirected her to the undercroft.

Right. Where else would Alexius spend his work hours researching? They wouldn’t very well set him up with a workstation down here-

Lavellan froze at the doors leading into the undercroft, shifting anxiously from foot to foot and clenching and unclenching her hands at her sides as she tried to work up the nerve to open the door and step inside.

She had always put Alexius to work for the Inquisition. He’d made some stupid mistakes, done horrible things, but at the end of the day he was just a father driven to the edge trying to save his son. Felix still loved him dearly, and Dorian had been genuinely hurt by what had happened to him. Where he had ended up. That meant that, once upon a time, he’d been a good person. Was still a good person. It just got… buried under the bad things.

But, while playing the game, that had more or less been the end of it. There were one or two war table missions that involved his research, but that was it. Once set to work for the Inquisition, he couldn’t be encountered again.

And, after she had judged Alexius, she had… not thought about it for a while. Because after seeing that horrible future, and after what had happened in Haven, well…

She hadn’t been… well enough.

…Maybe she still wasn’t. Why was she doing this again? Where would this go? What would it accomplish? What good would come from it?

…No good would come from brushing her hands of it. Not for her, and definitely not for Alexius. His son was dying, was going to die very soon, and he was going to have to live through it and-

And it was none of her goddamn business. Her business with Alexius had stopped at her sentencing him to servitude.

But she was soft. Spineless. Cared too much. Fretted too much over doing things wrong.

She was here now. This was all in front of her. Real. Actually happening. With real people, blood and bone and breath. And… did it hurt, really, to try to help someone? There was a good man in there, under the depression and despair and bad choices. A good man who had lost his wife, and was soon going to lose his son. Who had tried to do something about it, and failed. Had known he would fail, but desperately hoped.

How many parents, over her life, had she heard say they would destroy the world for their child? Not all of them really and truly meaning it, perhaps, but it wasn’t an isolated sentiment.

Just…

Feeling a touch less like a raw, exposed nerve, Lavellan opened the door in front of her and began to descend to the undercroft, staying close to the wall and the small torches that illuminated the stairs.

Harritt was in the undercroft, of course. Doing his own work, silently and stubbornly hammering away at something, like there weren’t three of Leliana’s spies on the other side of the room, keeping a close eye on the shackled form hunched over a workbench. Along with a templar, stationed right by the door-

Who crossed his arm over his chest and bowed as soon as he saw her, “Inquisitor.”

Then, several things happened. The templar barked some words that were probably names, and the three spies came out of their relaxed positions and started to close in on Alexius. Who had started to quickly try to put the things he was working with away-

“Really now-” He protested when one of them grabbed his arm, “If these aren’t properly sealed away before they’re stored, they’ll lose their efficacy-”

What- Why were-

Oh, oh, they thought she needed work done and were trying to take him back to his-

But she actually wanted to-

Almost not noticing the templar reach for her, to the point she didn’t think of it any beyond seeing him lift his hand, Lavellan quickly descended the steps and hurried over, gesturing helplessly. She didn’t want them to take him away-

Then there was a bit of a commotion, the three spies putting themselves between them. One trying to keep Lavellan back, the other two roughly seizing Alexius so they could physically move him, and-

“Oi!” Harritt’s voice cut through the shuffling and protests with a loud bark, “Try not to roughhouse around the potentially dangerous magical ingredients, will ya?! The three of ya, back off.” He inserted himself between the Lavellan and Alexius’ guard, grumbling before crossing his arms and looking down at her, “Got an order? Give ‘em a minute to clear out and we’ll talk about it.”

But the person she wanted to talk to was Alexius- Lavellan gestured towards the former magister helplessly, then reached down to struggle with her journal, her hands shaking a bit as her nerves reared back up.

“…Hold it.” Harritt spoke up again, “I think the Inquisitor has a few words for the magister.”

At that, Lavellan looked up and nodded quickly, making Leliana’s men pause and glance at each other.

“I’m afraid I can’t allow that, Inquisitor.” The templar spoke up as he stepped over, “Commander Cullen’s orders have been very clear - the magister is not allowed any visitors when not in his cell.”

“Pardon me if I’m gettin’ this wrong.” Harritt crossed his arms, scowling, “But I’m pretty sure Commander Cullen answers to the Inquisitor. You trying to say you aren’t in the presence of a superior officer?”

“I- What?” The templar faltered, “Of course not! But if the Commander were to hear that I’d allowed any sort of danger-”

“Well, given it’s the Inquisitor making this request, and her requests trump any orders you get, you’d better go and consult, hadn’t you? I’m sure the Inquisitor can keep a close enough eye on the magister in the meantime. Not like she hasn’t defeated him before.”

Lavellan just stood there and looked back and forth between the two men, feeling small and awkward with the way the templar stuttered and Harritt stared him down, arms crossed and scowling. How had this escalated to this point…? Why was Harritt-

Then, the templar was turning and bowing, apologizing, and Harritt was grumbling and crossing the room again to return to his forge. Lavellan stared after him, startled and confused.

When she looked back, the templar had resumed a guard stance nearby, and Leliana’s men had fallen back, giving her and Alexius some space.

And Alexius was looking at her with a narrowed, irritated expression.

“All of this mess for-” He looked back towards his workbench briefly, then back at her, scowling a bit when she continued to stare at him, “Well, out with it! Or may I return to my research?”

Lavellan jumped a little, flinching when one of Leliana’s men took out a dagger and started playing with it.

“You really want to take that tone with the Inquisitor, magister?”

“As I’ve told you before, I hold a seat in the Magisterium no longer.” Alexius snapped, before grumbling, “Not that any of you southerners ever listen.”

Her hands still shaking a bit, Lavellan unbuckled her journal from her belt and brought it up, flipping to one of the back pages so she could write.

 

I just wanted to talk a bit.

 

When she turned the book and held it out, Alexius looked back at her with a brief, sullen look before he leaned over to read the words. Sniffing a little, he spoke, “About what, pray tell?”

Shifting from foot to foot briefly, she pulled the book back over long enough to write.

 

About how you’ve been doing.

 

That had been the wrong thing to say. Alexius immediately sneered and pulled back, glaring at her, “My plans have been foiled, my country has branded me a traitor and stripped me of all but citizenship, and when I am not being subjected to forced labor I spend my hours wondering if my son is yet dead and the missive informing me simply has not reached me. If you and yours will even deign to let me know.”

…This had… been a bad idea. She should have put more time into planning this, maybe had him informed ahead of time so he could prepare himself- Now she’d made a mess, made everyone tense, and left a bad impression. Goddamnit-

 

Felix is alive and, as far as I know, still in relatively good health. And should that change, you would absolutely be the first to be told.

 

Leaving it at that, Lavellan bowed to him briefly before she quickly hurried to the door and all but fled.

 


 

Fleeing to her tower bedroom and not coming back out until summoned would be a step in the wrong direction. So she forced herself to continue being productive.

Taking her journal, Lavellan went to Josephine and sat down with her, spending some time going over the issues she had noticed with Dennet and with the mages in their care. Some of it came down to issues with the Inquisition needing to earn more money.

 

Couldn’t-

 

Lavellan started at that, trying to remember if this wasn’t something they were already doing and if she would end up making an idiot of herself by not even knowing what her own organization was up to-

 

-we use the soldiers and scouts already out on missions to help with this? Even just simple things like them collecting herbs and materials on their way back, so that we don’t have to rely on purchasing supplies so much…

 

The garden, she knew, she had dedicated to growing herbs for their stocks, but they could sell the surplus, and she suggested as much.

Josephine blinked, then looked up at Lavellan and smiled, nodding, “That is an excellent idea, Lethlares. I’ll suggest to Leliana and Cullen that their men should be taught at least the basics in recognizing herbs and materials of use. If I might suggest, now that the Inquisition’s name is more well-known, that we also look into offering the services of our soldiers and allied mages? Good swords will always have their uses, and with the Circles fallen many are now suffering from the shortages of goods that only mages can supply…”

Right. Potions and such, both regular and specialized. And they also had Tranquil, who provided runes and rune crafting, enchanting. If they could establish something similar to the Formari… With Minaeve stepping away from direct interaction and focusing more on her studies and work, a Formari-like organization could be something she could oversee.

Lavellan sat with Josephine and went back and forth like this with her for some time, and when she finally did walk away, she felt… like she was actually contributing.

 


 

There was someone in her bedroom. Someone and their mabari were standing in front of her fireplace, the person hunched over and-

Lavellan furrowed her brow deeply in confusion as some… fairly slender form crouched in front of the fireplace and scooped the mixture of chicken and rice from the bowl she’d left there for Milo up with their bare hands and into their mouth.

The dogs both noticed her before the person did - Milo poking his head out from under the bed and whining at her loudly and the mabari cocking his head and letting out an inquisitive wuff.

Lavellan was still staring at the slender, feminine back of the person in serious confusion, vaguely recognizing the armor they were wearing but more focused on the fact that they were eating her dog’s food- With their bare hands-

The archetypal female Hawke looked back over her shoulder and blinked at Lavellan, mouth full of food. Dog food. After an awkward pause, she swallowed and grinned sheepishly, dropping the bowl and pushing herself to her feet while she scratched the back of her head, rice still sticking to her fingers-

“Oh, hey, you’re back early.”

Lavellan just narrowed her eyes further.

 

 

 

What the actual fuck-

Chapter Text

“Damn it, Marian, we agreed-”

“Well I didn’t know she was going to be coming back to her room early-”

“How long have you even been here-”

“-just left me out, alone, in the cold snow, not a tent to my name or a body to warm myself with at night-”

“I left Gamlen with you- And you, what do you have to say for yourself, letting her in here? You were supposed to be the responsible one!”

The mabari hung his head, ashamed.

“Don’t you blame Barkspawn for this, he was cold, too!”

“Gamlen.”

“Barkspawn.”

“Gamlen!”

“Barkspawn!”

Lavellan sat on the sofa with her head propped up in her hand, eyes a bit wide as she just took in the scene of Garrett and Marian Hawke shouting back and forth at each other about… currently, it seemed, what the name of the mabari was. Varric was sitting at her desk with his head in his hands, and Fenris was leaning against the hearth, eyes closed as he just tuned everything out.

…Two Hawkes. Male and female. Garrett and Marian.

When people only ever referred to one Hawke. Singular.

What the fuck.

As the… twins, it seemed, continued arguing, Varric spoke up and started explaining. Sounding defeated.

The entity of Hawke was actually represented by two people - the public, male mage everyone knew of, who was the one who had been directly embroiled in the mage/templar tensions. A Hawke to the core, but the more diplomatic of the two. Who worked during the day. The face of Hawke.

-and the invisible female rogue. The one that worked at night, handled the shady business, cut the throats, shook people down. And the one who had actually defeated the Arishok. A secret weapon of sorts.

“Whenever Marian can actually manage to keep herself hidden to maintain that secret, that is.” Fenris opened his eyes and glanced, sardonic.

“Excuse all of you-” Marian cut in, setting her hands on her hips and sneering, “I happen to still be a very well-kept secret! Everyone who knew about me is either dead or too afraid to talk-”

That started up a fresh argument between Garrett and Marian. Fenris just closed his eyes again. Varric pinched the bridge of his nose, like he was trying to stave off a migraine.

Lavellan just slowly turned her still somewhat wide eyes away from the bickering twins and stared out the stained glass panels directly in front of her, dissociating a bit.

This was just… fucking bullshit. Of course, everything that involved the name ‘Hawke’ tended to end up that way, but…

Shit, there was two of them now. Two Hawkes. How in the hell was she supposed to manage this.

After a bit, the bickering trailed off into silence. And not long after the silence began, there was a high-pitched, somewhat warbling whine. And that had Lavellan blinking and looking back over- That was Milo.

From his place, still hunkered and hiding under the bed, the wolfdog had crawled forward a bit and was looking and whining at- Lavellan glanced, twitching a little when she saw Marian had gone back to sitting down in front of the fire and stuffing her face with chicken and rice.

That was…

Removing her journal from her side, she opened to a blank page and wrote a few words, before halfheartedly waving the book to get Garrett’s attention. When he blinked and stepped over, she handed it to him.

He opened to the page and his eyes-

Garrett did a rather poor job of biting back a grin as he snorted a few times through his nose.

Immediately looking over from her sulking, Marian narrowed her eyes at him and spoke through a mouthful of food, “What.”

Garrett turned his head away a bit and snorted out a few chuckles, before looking back over at her with a grin, waving the open journal a bit. “You’re eating dog food.”

Marian blinked. So very slowly. Her chewing halting for a bit. And there was a moment of silence.

Then, the female Hawke just- “Well, then I guess I’m moving in with the Inquisitor, if she feeds her dog better than you feed me-”

That just started up more bickering (was it her imagination that all of this was just playful…?).

Meanwhile, Gamlen/Barkspawn took Marian’s announcement as his invitation to jump up on the bed and flop over onto his side, rolling around on his back. Which had Milo jumping out from under the bed and whirling around to scream and cry and warble in protest.

And Lavellan just… slowly eased herself down onto her side on the sofa, rolling over and curling up.

This was her life now.

Chapter Text

Previously, Lavellan had been kind of hoping to put off going to Crestwood for as long as possible. She’d dealt with more undead than she’d ever wanted to in the Fallow Mire, and that had barely been a subplot - Crestwood and all of its associated bullshit was nothing but undead.

Then Marian Hawke had waltzed into the picture and given her a headache.

Alistair and Anora as king and queen, Loghain as a Warden, and a mage male Hawke and a rogue female Hawke as twins.

No. All of that was just bullshit. Lavellan decided to go to Crestwood and hopefully get herself eaten by a shambling corpse. And maybe make some progress with correcting the whole underwater/cavern rift endlessly creating shambling corpses. But mostly to get herself eaten by a shambling corpse.

With Blackwall a default because of her earlier promise, she decided to take Solas and Cassandra and give Varric a break, both from the heavy travelling and from the tenseness still going on between him and Cassandra.

When they went to mount their horses and head out, however, the two who ended up coming were Cassandra and Varric.

“Sorry if it puts a wrench in your planned dynamic.” The dwarf grinned sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head, “But I was kind of… hoping to catch up with Hawke a little. Like old times. So I asked Chuckles to sit this one out.”

…She really couldn’t deny Varric that.

Though, given the… relatively loose grip the Hawke twins seemed to have on their ‘secret,’ she had to wonder if this really was a good idea. If Cassandra found out about Marian…

“Hawke is to be accompanying us?” Cassandra stood a bit straighter and started looking around, her face coloring a touch.

…Or maybe Garrett’s presence would provide such a good distraction, the Seeker wouldn’t even notice.

“We’re meeting him over there.” Varric glanced towards her, not even bothering to hold back his amused smirk, “Didn’t want to cause too much of a scene by having him openly ride out with us.”

“Oh, I… I-I see.” Cassandra coughed into her hand, “Of course. A sound decision.” Then, as if suddenly remembering who she was talking to, Cassandra’s face hardened into something that was likely intended to be impassive, but was too heavy on the frown and scowling. She swung herself up into her saddle and urged her horse forward.

Leaving Varric to cringe and mutter to himself a bit.

…Lavellan made a mental note to keep an eye out for Cassandra reading Swords & Shields. Any reading of it. Period. She wasn’t sure how long she could watch this…

 


 

Going places/planning to meet up places with Hawke needed to not become a regular thing, because the things the surprises that came with it did to her heart were not goddamn healthy.

And yes, there were surprises. The words Hawke and surprises just seemed to be inseparable.

A couple of days into the journey, when they had managed to leave the chill and snow of the Frostbacks and were starting to return to the rainy hills and woods of Ferelden again, Hawke joined their camp one evening. Just walked right out of the woods and over to their fire, and plopped right down next to Lavellan on the rock she was using for a seat.

The rock that was just big enough for her to sit on. Just.

One moment she was alone, and then there was a large, warm body pressing right up against her, arm slinging around her shoulder and chin resting on top of her head.

Lavellan didn’t even have time to shift into panic before she went right into embarrassment as she registered Hawke’s voice. Not understanding what he said, but recognizing him for who he was.

“-wke, what are you-” Varric started from his place, Bianca still in hand from when he’d leapt to his feet.

“What, is it a problem?” Garrett waved him off, chuckle rumbling against Lavellan’s back, “It seemed silly, travelling alongside but not with you lot. Besides, you have tents. It was pretty easy to talk Fenris into it when I reminded him of that.”

“Bite your tongue, mage.” Lavellan twitched and looked over and, sure enough, that was Fenris, looking soggy and put out as he sulked over and found somewhere close to the fire to sit.

“He’s not overly fond of the rain, you see.” Garrett ‘whispered’ to all of them, but did so right next to Lavellan’s ear. Making her twitch again.

“Y-You plan to travel to Crestwood with us? But, what about staying out of sight-” Cassandra, fretted, even as she sounded giddy and pleased by the prospect-

Lavellan stopped listening. Couldn’t pretend to be able to follow the ensuing but mostly brief protests, words and movement. Because, once again, Garrett Hawke was just right in her space and-

She had complained earlier, at some point, about people in Thedas being distant, both physically and emotionally. Garrett Hawke broke that mold. And she almost wished he didn’t.

There had always been something wonderful about hugs. About being close to someone. About being held. Secure. Compressed. Feeling small and contained. Protected. She loved it. So very much.

The space in Garret Hawke’s arms was not the place she needed to be experiencing any of that, no matter how much she wanted it. Dorian was as far as any of this could go, never mind the fact that she had no right leaning on him, even.

She didn’t need to be doing this. Finding men attractive, feeling a pull towards people, getting settled and comfortable enough that she was being reduced to a blushing schoolgirl over Hawke being Hawke in that easy, familiar, comfortable way that the character of Hawke could be.

This wasn’t her place. This wasn’t her body. She didn’t plan on staying.

They didn’t even know her name.

Emotional whiplash. In the space of a some five, ten, fifteen minutes, Lavellan had gone from quiet and contemplative, to startled and confused, to embarrassed, to introspective, to depressed.

And, even in her depression, she was still in his grasp. Being pulled comfortably into his side. Being held. Feeling secure, and safe.

And hating herself for her weakness.

Collecting the papers she had been looking over, Lavellan pulled and ducked out of Hawke’s grasp, keeping her eyes on the ground as she stumbled to her feet and headed straight for the tent she was sharing with Cassandra.

Needing to get away from this.

 


 

She opened her eyes to familiarity. One she hadn’t really expected, and wasn’t sure she wanted to see.

“Why here?” She glanced over at him as he stepped forward, further into the little hamlet.

“Haven is familiar.” Solas paused when she didn’t immediately follow, glancing back and cocking his head a little as if in question, “It will always be important to you.”

She made a face and looked around, crossing her arms over her chest out of habit. Out of defense. (Puberty had hit her young, and family genetics had resulted in her being overly endowed at a young age. She’d had a reduction years ago, soon after entering high school, but the habit of crossing her arms over her chest when she felt uncomfortable or upset had never really gone away.)

“Haven was a nightmare, from beginning to end. Familiarity doesn’t equal comfort.”

“…My apologies. My intent in bringing you here wasn’t to make you uncomfortable or to leave you feeling vulnerable.” Solas turned back towards her, gesturing, “If you would prefer, we can go somewhere else. Though where would be most suited…”

…He didn’t know. Neither did she, really. Was there any place in Thedas she was comfortable?

After some shifting and thought, she sighed and turned, starting towards the cabin that had been hers. With thin walls, a dirt floor and no actual glass in the windows or insulation to keep the cold out, maybe, but hers.

“We’re already here. You wanted to talk, right?”

His footsteps followed.

In her cabin, the coverings she had put up over the windows were still there, and the furniture was still how she had arranged it. Her bed was still piled with throws and furs. Taking her shoes off next to the bed, out of habit, she crawled onto it and sat down with her legs crossed, pulling heavy blankets over her shoulders and looking towards Solas with a huff.

“Well?”

The corner of his mouth twitched, and he chuckled, finding a place to sit. “I sat beside you while you slept. Studying the Anchor.”

She made a face again, wrinkling her nose. Really, this? “Is that actually what you want to talk about?”

“I will get there.” He snorted, then turned to stare into the fire, “…You were a mystery. You still are. I ran every test I could imagine, searched the Fade, yet found nothing.” He smirked a little, amused by the memories, “Cassandra suspected duplicity. She threatened to have me executed as an apostate if I didn’t produce results.”

Letting out a snort of her own, she rolled her eyes and turned to lean back against the headboard, “Cassandra is like that with everyone.”

Solas chuckled, “Ha, yes.” A few moments of silence, before he sighed, still sounding nostalgic, “You were never going to wake up. How could you? A mortal, sent physically through the Fade. The time when beings were strong enough to survive such journeys had long passed, and no preparations had been made to assure safety. I was frustrated, frightened. The spirits I might have consulted had been driven away by the Breach. Although I wished to help, I had no faith in Cassandra… or she in me. I was ready to flee.”

“To where, exactly?” She looked over at him, raising a brow, “If I never had woken, the Breach would have eventually spread to meet up with the smaller rifts. Everything would have come apart and collapsed, sooner or later.”

“Oh, someplace far away.” Solas sighed, shrugging, “Where I might research a way to repair the Breach before its effects reached me.” When she continued giving him a look, he eventually glanced back at her, amused, “I never said it was a good plan.”

Yes, and you’re rather good at that, aren’t you? Coming up with bad plans. Even though she didn’t say it out loud, she still got a twitch, and a mild glare from him. She shrugged, looking away.

“…Just as I had resigned myself to flee, you woke. It seems you hold the key to our salvation.”

…She still didn’t remember that day. She knew, from passing accounts and whispers, that she had been in shock. Delirious. Deranged. Damaged. Beyond attempts at conversation, interrogation. Unable to defend herself. Needing to be dragged every step of the way. Kicking, and screaming.

In the silence that followed his words, she could hear it now. The familiar, constant din of noise from the swirling green void up in the mountain, sounding like a hurricane.

Or, if she listened long enough, screams.

She shuddered as the building around them creaked, shadows lengthening as she curled in on herself. Clutching at her wrist as her hand ached.

She wasn’t wearing gloves. So she was able to look down at the mark on her hand. The mark that no longer resembled a long, thin scar- but had looping curves, like a fingerprint.

Like the surface of the orb this hand had grabbed, as if the grooves had been burned into the skin permanently. It had stopped spreading with the close of the Breach, but…

“…I can’t do this.”

“…Yes. You have been struggling with this for some time now, haven’t you?”

“I can’t. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t- It’s getting closer to happening- The point where I fail at playing this role, and everyone realizes-”

“-you do make for a very poor Dalish.”

And, with that, the dam broke.

“I tried, all right?! I did-” She was on her feet before she realized, and so was he, grabbing her shoulders to hold her still as she dug her fingers into the front of his shirt, “She could have done this- Fuck, even Hawke on the Hero of Ferelden could have- Leaders! People raised in the right environment- Someone who could actually rise to meet the occasion, who could stand after falling and find their feet- I’m not one of those people! And I can’t keep pretending I am! Not when it’s starting to come out! Not when I’m starting to come back and feel like me again! Not when they’re starting to become accustomed and attached to this-” She jerked away, gesturing at herself wildly, “This failure! This lie! I’m lying! To you, to them, to everyone- I’m not her! I could never be her! And I won’t ever be able to really give this back to her! The days, the months I’ve taken, the life I’ve changed and this image I’ve ruined- The people look at this and see her, not knowing it’s me, and how can I expect her to do this when I can’t even do it myself?! By the time I can get her back in, this- This image won’t be her! They’ll look at this and see, and know me! How?! HOW DO I FIX THIS?!”

He grabbed her again, jerked her closer to him, and she broke down and screamed into his chest, wailing as arms wrapped around her tightly and held her still. Kept her contained. Confined.

Made her feel safe as she cried it out.

At some point, it seeped back in.

That she was talking. That they were in a dream. And that this was really Solas. That he had found her, lured her in, kept her consciousness veiled under a pretense of dream- for the sake of pulling out truth while she wasn’t rational or logical.

When she wouldn’t think to hold her tongue.

And now it was too late to take it back. He was a much better dreamer than she was, and there was no way he would forget.

…The only consolation she could find was that he had broken his hands-off stance, and was actually comforting her right now. So, at least, she was making him acknowledge that people in this Thedas could be viewed as actual people… right?

She was lightheaded. Her limbs felt heavy. She was tired. And she had royally fucked up, in front of the last person she needed to be fucking up in front of. She sagged against him.

“Sit.” Solas took her shoulders when her crying had finally stopped, guiding her backwards and towards her bed, “Calm yourself.”

She sat and dropped her head into her hands, swaying slightly in the silence that followed.

While he stayed in front of her.

…She needed to talk. To say something. When she woke, she would still be on her way to Crestwood, and it would be days, possibly weeks before she would see Solas again.

Somehow, here and now, she needed to try to salvage this-

…But she couldn’t. She didn’t have the energy to. She felt numb, detached, and she just… she just wanted to sleep…

“…I’m tired…”

“…I can guide you into a quiet slumber, if that would help.”

She nodded, and Solas did just that.

Chapter Text

She spent the next couple of days numb and withdrawn. Finally, finally she had had failed and ruined it- and now someone knew. And that person was Solas.

So it was all over now.

And yet, as if the world didn’t know it was all over, the group continued on towards Crestwood, pulling her along with them.

Idiots. Didn’t they realize she had already…

“Hey, kid, you do know that if you brood any harder over there, you might actually dethrone Fenris?”

Lavellan twitched a little and looked up from the hardtack and fruit she hadn’t touched, narrowing her eyes at Varric slightly.

Chuckling, the dwarf raised his hands in surrender before turning back to the journal he was writing in, “Just. Saying, is all.”

If only he knew. Who Solas was, what Solas was planning, how everything Solas had done had all led up to this…

“Varric… does raise a good point, Inquisitor.” And now Lavellan was looking over at Cassandra, who was frowning and looked unsure, “You have… not been yourself, these last days. Is something troubling you?”

Not been herself… Cassandra didn’t even know who she really was. Lavellan went back to staring down at her hardtack and fruit, withdrawing.

A heavy sigh. Silence. And then… “…How do you write as you do, Varric? I… can never find the proper words.”

…Familiar. She knew that line. Lavellan looked back up and glanced over, taking in that… like Varric, Cassandra had some sort of journal open on her lap, and was holding a writing implement.

At the Seeker’s inquiry, Varric looked up from his own writing, eyes widening and glasses sliding down the bridge of his nose slightly as a smirk started to break out on his face, “You…? Write? Really.”

Huffing, defensive, Cassandra straightened her back, “I have needed to describe events in reports.” She paused, then looked back down at her writing, “They always come off as…”

“Ah, dry? Boring? Lifeless? Stale?” Varric droned, almost trying not to smirk- and failing.

Immediately, Cassandra’s eyes narrowed into her usual expression and she grumbled at him, “You are an ass.”

Varric barked out a brief laugh, before he managed to reign it back in and try to excuse himself, “Just- helping you find those words-”

A little more huffing, a little more heckling, a few chuckles, and then a return to a lull. They had taken a break in their riding to rest and eat - something Cassandra had become insistent about months ago, for the sake of the Herald’s health, and had long since become routine. Sometimes there was banter, sometimes there was serious talk and planning-

Often, there was silence. In varying levels of comfort.

Fuck, but did she miss YouTube…

It was hard for her to go back to sulking after being dragged out of it, as much as her mind and thoughts were inclined to. And as she sat there, waiting to end up in her demoralizing thoughts again, she ended up looking at Cassandra.

…The woman was thinking. Hard. Her eyes were narrowed, her brow was furrowed, her mouth was pressed into a thin line…

…Lavellan found herself moving over to sit next to the Seeker without much thought. After so many months of living together, fighting and bleeding together… she couldn’t ignore it. No matter how determined part of her was to be depressed and withdrawn. To have nothing to do with these people.

(‘These people’, who were companions and like family and who was she trying to fool-)

It took Lavellan rereading the sentence Cassandra was on at the moment a few times before she got what the issue was, what word, what portrayal the woman was aiming for. And, once she did, she took out her own journal and opened it to a blank page in the bag, leaning closer to Cassandra and writing a few words.

 

struggle

endeavor

trial

effort

venture

 

“How do you find these words so easily?!”

Twelve years of required education language arts. With the first majority of those years pertaining an emphasis on spelling.

She’d always enjoyed the composition lessons… And she’d been rather good at it, too.

She had wanted to be an author, at one point…

 

Also, you should avoid using the same word over and over again in consecutive sentences. Especially in the same paragraph. Being repetitive is how you lose interest, and make things difficult to read. At the same time, though, you also don’t want to just use large words for the sake of using large words. Pick a tone, and stick with it until you move on to the next idea.

 

With that, Lavellan gently and carefully tore the page out of her journal, and handed it to Cassandra. For reference.

After hesitantly taking it, the Seeker looked at her. Brow furrowed in question. “…I had thought… that the Dalish relied on oral tradition. I did not realize you also wrote.”

…Too soon after the incident in the Fade with Solas.

Twitching and immediately defensive, Lavellan wrote quickly before thrusting her journal into Cassandra’s lap.

 

I am more than my ears, Cassandra. I happen to enjoy writing. I used to write stories on a regular basis.

 

Cassandra jerked a little, choking on a noise, and Lavellan looked down at her knees, quiet but frowning.

“…I apologize, Inqui… Lethlares.”

Lavellan paused, before looking up at her.

Frowning, but not looking angry, Cassandra nodded, “I have been doing that, haven’t I? Reducing your identity as a person based on your origins. It… has kept me, I suspect, from connecting with you properly. And treating you with the respect you deserve. I will make it a point to do that less.”

…Oh.

Oh, that… that felt…

Biting her lip, Lavellan looked down at her knees again, leaning against Cassandra’s side a little. And, while the older woman did get a little tense and awkward, she did not push her off.

“…I would, actually… be interested in reading something you have written. If that would not be too much to ask.”

At that, Lavellan froze up a little.

Shit.

“What’s this? Our dear Inquisitor writes? I might have to get in line behind you to read that, Seeker.”

Double shit.

 


 

It was surprisingly easy to turn to a blank page and… start telling a story.

Something short. Something simple. Minimal backstory. Something that wouldn’t result in the novels she had a tendency to put to paper, when she let an idea just consume her.

She could give them a short story, and that’d be it. Compared to Varric, who was published several times over, anything she came up with - if she made it simple enough - would bore them both. And that would be the end of it.

But it was… easy. So easy.

And she had forgotten. How good it could feel.

 


 

She should have figured there was a reason why Hawke would make it a point to join them on the way to Crestwood.

Just. She never would have figured it was because of something like this-

The smolder was unintentional.

The smolder was intentional.

It was because he was thinking of something.

How many times had she looked over to see it directed right at her.

He was brooding, or something. He had plenty of reason to brood, she was sure. (She knew.)

He just fucking winked at her.

This could not actually be happening.

Oh, it was happening.

Garrett Hawke was an unrepentant flirt. (At least, this him was. The one that was actually in front of her, that she actually had to share a goddamn reality with-)

Why. Why did this Garrett Hawke have to be an unrepentant flirt. (Would she rather he be unnerving and bloodthirsty? No, no not really. But maybe that Hawke wouldn’t fucking smolder at her and leave her wondering what to do with herself-)

It wasn’t like she hadn’t brought Cassandra with her. Why couldn’t he make eyes at her?! After three days, the hero worship was so damn obvious-

Lavellan made it a point to avoid Hawke as much as possible, but that was. Difficult. Especially when they were travelling together.

When she tried to stick to Cassandra, Hawke would just meander over to subtly tease the Seeker. Cassandra, at least, got her (stabbed) copy of The Tale of the Champion signed.

When she tried to stick with Blackwall, somehow the two men ended up swapping liquor, stories and deep, full-bellied laughs.

She didn’t even bother trying with Varric. Then she’d really be caught.

“You do realize running makes it worse.” The goddamn smirk Fenris had given her had first made her seize up, mind broken for a moment, before she ran off and ducked away from camp for a bit. Looking for elfroot to frantically chew on to try to settle the anxiety-induced stomach acid.

“Inquisitor…” Cassandra started slowly one evening, as they all sat around the fire and ate, “Is something… troubling you? Something else, I mean. You’ve been very… flighty. And flushed.”

Lavellan stopped and stared at Cassandra. Hard. Not at all failing to notice how just about everyone else looked goddamn amused.

(You dense motherfucker- Some part of her hissed, judging Cassandra so hard for being so oblivious to her situation.)

“Flushed?” Hawke spoke up from where he sat with Fenris and Varric, “Feeling sick? I might not look it, but I am rather adept at healing. Would you like me to-”

Lavellan snapped her journal shut, loudly, grabbed her staff and stood, storming off into the trees and towards the source of water they’d made it a point to camp near. Clicking her tongue as she went. Over where their mounts were grazing, she heard a brief snort and the sound of stones shifting under hooves.

Her shoulders relaxed. And then relaxed further when Sorcha walked up next to her, nickering softly and bumping her head against her shoulder.

When they reached the water - a section along a river that was somewhere between being part of the river, itself, and standing semi-idle as a narrow lake - Lavellan secured her journal to her belt and turned towards her horse as the mare leaned over to drink.

She was of the mind to check her over for parasites or injuries, but even the light from both moons overhead didn’t provide nearly enough to see by on so fine a scale. She did have a stone on her staff, though, and…

Lavellan paused, glancing at her staff warily.

She’d seen Solas do it. Call light to his hand, or, if his staff of the time happened to have a suitable catalyst, to a stone nestled in the twisting part at the top of the weapon. It wasn’t something they’d ever gone over in their lessons, though. His time teaching her, which was becoming less and less frequent, was usually spent on attack and defense.

She probably should have… made it a point to seek him out for lessons on more practical things.

After some thought and shifting, Lavellan raised her hand to- Then thought better and took a few steps back and away from Sorcha, before raising her hand again. Remember, remember, you trained her to trust you when you use magic… And if you betray that trust and hurt her…

A shake of the head, to cast those thoughts aside. Then, she rolled her shoulders and braced her feet, focusing on her breathing. Something like a fire spell, but not so hot, maybe? Or fire would be okay. Fire was light, yeah? It could just be a torch.

But how to make a fire on such a small scale. She’d only ever made fire for the purpose of attack, and-

She ground her teeth a little and exhaled harshly.

This, right here, was why she did magic as little as possible. Being taught how to do certain things or not, she was still fucking lost. Because Solas thought he was reminding her, not teaching someone who had no idea what they were doing, and… (Well. Maybe he didn’t think that anymore.)

“You’re making it far too complicated.”

Lavellan jumped and bit out a curse, twisting her ankle a little as she slipped on a stone and stumbled back into the water. At her jump, Sorcha jumped, as well, and that only made Lavellan jump again- Before she dropped her staff and reached out with both hands, shushing and soothing as the war horse laid her ears back and rounded around with heavy stomps, tail whipping behind her sharply.

Briefly, she looked towards Hawke to confirm- Yes, yes, just Hawke, she’d placed the voice right. Not a threat.

Then she went back to gently shushing and reaching out, running her fingers over Sorcha’s face and smoothing out her stress as the horse huffed loudly and stepped over to nose at and check her over.

Hawke, at least, had the decency to cringe and look apologetic, but Lavellan paid him little attention beyond that as she kept her focus on her mare, stepping closer once she was calm enough so she could nuzzle her forehead.

If only she could talk right now… She had the urge, the desire, so she could continue trying to soothe her, call her pretty, thank her for being so protective-

But, at the same time, Sorcha wouldn’t even know her voice. So what was the point. Lavellan sighed, depressed and frustrated.

“Sorry about that.” She looked over as Hawke carefully approached, the man leaning over to scoop up her staff. When he was upright again, he gave her a sheepish grin, “Didn’t mean to startle.”

Lavellan huffed, glaring at him a bit. No, but he had meant to follow when she had very obviously sought solitude. So he couldn’t be that sorry.

Hawke chuckled, before cocking his head and rotating her staff a bit, “I could show you how to make a magelight? As an apology.”

…She weighed that.

On one hand, it would be a useful thing to know. Extremely useful. And while she could just have Dorian or Solas teach her when they got back to Skyhold, if she ended up needing it before then…

…On the other, Hawke was being fucking weird.

…And then Lavellan had to pause to consider herself.

This was silly. Running from, avoiding Hawke because he was making eyes at her? Given what she’d seen of him, Hawke could probably make eyes at paintings. Or sculptures. Or Orlesians. He wasn’t necessarily intending to be taken seriously. He was Hawke, after all.

For all she knew, he was doing it because it seemed to fluster her, not because he was serious about it.

Which reminded her of Fenris. ‘You do realize running makes it worse.’

Right, right. This was stupid. And learning how to generate a usable source of light that wasn’t fire would be excessively useful.

Smiling at her as she nodded and stepped over to him, Hawke offered her the staff, then moved to stand next to her as she wrapped her fingers around it, reaching out with his free hand to hold it over the stone at the end of her staff. “Don’t think about it so much. You’re just making it glow is all. Which doesn’t require nearly as much energy as making a fireball. So just. Reach for your magic, and imagine the stone glowing.”

…If this all came down to him just being so good of a mage that he didn’t even have to think about it, she was going to be embarrassed and irritated.

Don’t think about it? Imagine it glowing and poof? The body knew how to use magic, sure, but when she tried to do it-

Ugh. Complaining would get nowhere.

So, Lavellan did as Hawke suggested, and put her attention on the stone. Imagining it glowing, not with heat, but just li-

She jumped a little when the stone suddenly started emitting a soft, but surprisingly clear light.

Sorcha leaned over to inspect, sniffing at the staff before snorting and shaking her head. Leaning back down to take a few more pulls of water.

Lavellan just stood there for a few moments, staring at the light.

“There, see? Knew you could do it.” Hawke leaned over her shoulder with a bit of a grin on his face.

…Fuck. His face was just… right there, and-

Lavellan pulled away from him and stepped towards her horse, looping her arm around the staff to use as a light source as she preoccupied herself with starting to search her for ticks or scratches- Just. Anything to not have to have Hawke right in her space.

“…So. I mighta. Come off a little too strong, eh?”

The back of her neck got hot, and she hunched a little and busied herself picking through mane and- Ew. There actually was a tick in there. And female, given the size- Lavellan wrinkled her nose and moved to hand her staff over to Hawke without pause, needing both of her hands properly freed up. There was never just one tick, and where there were females, there were sure to be males.

How long had this been there-? Did she remember Dennet mentioning whether any of the horses at Skyhold were sick-? What if Sorcha got something tick-borne, how was she supposed to-

Fuck, she needed gloves, hemostats and rubbing alcohol-

At some point, Lavellan vaguely realized that Hawke had just stopped talking and switched over to helping without a word, stepping closer and picking up with maintaining the glow from the staff when her concentration snapped. He held the light just where she needed it, so she could lean in and make sure she she was being careful.

She brought her fingers in from below, rather than above, so she could use the very tips of her nails to pinch the head without squeezing on the body- If she squeezed, she could make the tick push already withdrawn blood back into Sorcha’s body, and if that happened and it was carrying anything dangerous, Sorcha would definitely get sick-

The horse snorted, an instinctive shiver running down her body - to throw off flies - but otherwise remained still as Lavellan pinched and pulled, pulled, pulled- Until the tick popped off.

A quick check to make sure she saw what she was sure was the head between her nails, a quick check to make sure that it didn’t look like anything had been left behind in the small puncture wounds on Sorcha’s neck- And then she looked back at the tick with a wrinkled nose and pinched it, with a tiny bit of fire magic, until she was rubbing ash between her fingers.

And then she looked back to the bite marks.

…When surgical scrub and rubbing alcohol weren’t available, what should she do? Use a small amount of fire magic to cauterize and kill anything infectious that might be growing?

Was that level of trauma really necessary? Isabella had made frequent visits to Anders to be purged of STIs and related things, so magic could be used against viruses and bacteria, right?

But that was healing magic. And healing magic, in general, was largely beyond her, never mind something that specialized- And any alcohol anyone in the party had on them would probably have too many additives in it, rather than the more pure ethanol-based clear spirits-

She really needed to get herself a good stock of something like vodka or everclear when she got back to Skyhold- What were those called? Rectified spirits, right?

“Here, let me show you.”

Hawke’s free hand came into her field of view and covered hers, pressing her palm against the small bite tracts.

And he started to talk. Something about isolating things that didn’t ‘feel’ right, like when healing wounds, only needing to focus it on a much finer scale- Something about Anders being better at explaining about this sorta stuff- His hand getting warm against the back of hers, and then and odd tugging/pushing sensation as his magic tried to guide hers along.

The ringing in her ears and the overwhelming heat in her face kept her from being able to focus too much on what he was saying.

Sorcha, he eventually said, didn’t seem to have anything dangerous in her. And if none had been seen back in Skyhold, the ticks were probably a new thing. They were pretty abundant in forests.

When Hawke’s hand left hers, allowing her to go back to searching, Lavellan went back to picking through mane. Her hands trembling a little.

Needing to hide in the familiarity of a monotonous task, she continued picking the horse over from head to hoof, unable and unwilling to turn back to the Champion of Kirkwall.

Of course, that also meant he stayed close to her the entire time, holding the staff to provide the light and guiding her through healing a few more times after she found a few more ticks-

And then she ran out of horse to search and ticks to pluck and just. Stood there. For the longest time. Staring at horse flank and wishing so desperately that the man would just fucking vanish into the ether-

“…Well, I think I’ll head back, first.” Hawke chuckled warmly after a few moments, reaching around to offer her staff, “Don’t stay out too long, yeah?”

Lavellan shuddered and nodded, reaching up to grab the staff without turning to face him-

-only to have her hand taken and to be spun around, Hawke smirking a little as he took a step back and bowed, kissing her knuckles.

“If you’re ever interested, I’m willing to take things as slow as you need, Lady Lavellan.”

Him letting go of the staff broke the magical connection, and the magelight vanished as Lavellan felt every last ounce of blood in her body go rushing straight to her face.

Chapter Text

The first time she ventured into awareness and found Solas waiting for her, Lavellan turned and promptly walked back into the void-

 


 

The second time, she got the unsettling feeling that he was not going to stop.

 


 

The third time, she was prepared to snap a little and tell him he really needed to leave her alone so she could get some damn sleep, they were almost to Crestwood and-

“Trevelyan.”

Whatever sort of reaction he was expecting, it was not the one she gave him, and he frowned and rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

“No? Not Evelyn Trevelyan? Then perhaps Kaaras Adaar? Though I find that less likely.”

…Those were Inquisitor origins.

What, did he think she was one of the dead origins-

“Not Adaar. Hmm. Now I’m quite curious.” He cocked his head, looking her up and down, “Is the physical form you take in the Fade an actual interpretation of your previous body? I’d not seen or heard of any non-mage guests that match your appearance. I had assumed the violent nature of your coming into possession of Lethlares Lavellan’s body had skewed your sense of identity, but you have proven rather adept at Fade exploration… Perhaps you were a mage, then? Untrained? A servant of the Chantry, hidden in plain sight?”

Lavellan just stared at him for the longest time, her head swimming a little.

“…Solas, we’re not talking about this.”

“No?” Standing straight, he clasped his hands behind his back, “You realize we will have to, at some point. You were quite right when you said you won’t be able to keep this up forever. Before then, you will need allies.”

“No, no I really won’t.” She clenched and unclenched her hands at her sides, “Not if I can get Lethlares back where she needs to be. After that, it won’t matter.”

“Oh? And if she’s apprehended as an abomination?”

“Depending on when it happens? They’ll still need her body and the Anchor. Corypheus still has the Foci, and the smaller rifts are still an issue. Not to mention, in the eyes of Thedas, Lethlares Lavellan is still the Herald of Andraste. They need her. They’ll have a really, really hard time coming to terms with her being an evil abomination.”

“You will be viewed as a demon.”

“Technically, Circle mages are allowed to contract with certain spirits under special circumstances.” Lavellan held up a finger, “Spirit magic is a perfectly acceptable school of magic, even by Chantry regulations. A little more closely monitored, but still acceptable.”

Solas’ brow twitched a little. Then, he lowered his head and looked away, huffing out a short laugh.

“Very well. Should you manage to get Lethlares back in the forefront of her body, you will still need help. What about you?”

“What about me?”

At that, he looked at her, and frowned a little, “…You have no body to return to. And you’ve made no preparations to secure one, as far as I can tell. Surely you don’t intend to continue your existence as a tag-along in hers.”

“It really depends on what it takes to get her back into her body, and what it does to me.”

Solas’ frown deepened, his brows furrowing, “…Not having someone help you figure out how to do this could kill you.”

“And?”

There was a long moment of silence. The longer she just stood there, staring at him calmly, the wider Solas’ eyes got. He actually… looked a bit horrified.

When he opened his mouth, Lavellan held up her hands, and took a step back.

“Before you get loud and angry, take a moment to consider the fact that you don’t even know who I am. No name, no face, no history to connect to anything. The person you know me as is Lethlares Lavellan. She’s the one you should be more concerned about.”

“The person who is a stranger to me is Lethlares Lavellan.” When she paused, he frowned at her deeply, and gestured up and down, “A person is more than a body, a face, a name. What we’ve been over concerning spirits should have taught you that much. These past months, we have-”

“Shut the actual fuck up, Fen’Harel.”

It was like she’d taken a knife to his gut, the way his face went white, his eyes narrowed and turned feral, every muscle in his body clenched and his shoulders hunched defensively.

But she was easily just as defensive as him, her arms crossed tightly over her stomach to hide the shaking in her hands. She’d fucked up again, this time out of pure fear, and she’d been meaning to get him to change his mind about Thedas with the time she had, but listening to him talk about her like she was a person was-

“…What do you know.”

“Does it matter? I know that much. It’s enough. So go ahead. Kill me. While you’re at it, do me a favor and put Lethlares back where she belongs. You still need her body and the Anchor, right?”

The silence seemed to stretch into eternity, and with it, their surroundings changed. The vaguely familiar but largely lackluster and bland space he had likely intentionally conjured to provide her with some sense of comfort assumed the usual dark, oily greens and blacks of the Fade before she fully realized what was going on. All of her attention centered on the man in front of her as she waited for him to act. Waited for him to do something- Maybe turn into a wolf and go for her throat? It sounded suitably dramatic and Fen’Harel-

…What she was not expecting was… for his stance to relax, and his expression to smooth. For him to become calm.

That just made her more tense and defensive.

“…You have known.” When she said nothing, he raised his hand to his chin, tapping his thumb against his mouth, “You have known, and said nothing. To anyone. Nor done anything about it.”

“…What, exactly, would there be to do about it?”

“What, indeed? How would a person handle knowing a god walks among mortals?”

“Gods aren’t infallible.” She gave him a look out of reflex, “Besides, you’re hardly alone. There are others out there, occasionally. Like the Witch of the Wilds, Flemeth. And maybe some of her daughters. Yavana isn’t exactly ‘divine,’ but it’s my understanding she holds some beyond-mortal pull.”

Solas snorted, waving his hand, “Yavana was disappointing. Not without purpose, but disappointing.”

“Flemeth eluding you, then?” When the corner of his mouth twitched downward, she took that as her answer and sighed, rubbing her face, “Goddamnit. She’s who I actually need.”

“What makes you think Flemeth has the power to do anything about this?” Solas cocked his head, “Or, perhaps more pressingly, that she would do anything about this?”

…That was a disturbingly good point. One that had always teased the back of her thoughts, like a mocking, hissing threat. One she’d been doing her damnedest to ignore.

“…We’re not talking about this, Solas.”

“No? And why not?” Clasping his hands behind his back again, Solas began walking towards her slowly. Making Lavellan tense. “Unwilling to confront the errors in your plan? That eager to die? Or perhaps…” Stopping in front of her, he leaned in close to her face, “You are so afraid of being alone, of changing how you view yourself and your place in this world, that you are willing to go any lengths to avoid confronting it?”

…She… she wanted to fucking hit him-

“In this scenario, Fen’Harel-” She hissed up at him, trembling, “Are you the pot? Or the kettle-”

Solas narrowed his eyes down at her darkly. Around them, their surroundings began to crumble.

“We shall speak more when you return to Skyhold.”

Chapter Text

Loghain.

The Warden in front of her was actually Loghain Mac Tir.

Lavellan had to stop and seriously examine her memories of Redcliffe, because she had been so goddamn sure that she had met both Alistair and Anora- But, if that was true, then the Warden in front of her should have been Stroud.

But no. The man in front of her was definitely not Stroud. He was Loghain Mac Tir.

Which meant Anora was queen in her own right and Alistair had stumbled off to become an angry drunk-

But, again, no. While it had taken place long enough ago, the memories of Redcliffe had been sufficiently goddamn scarring enough that Lavellan couldn’t question them. After apprehending Alexius, the Fereldan Royal Guard had arrived, escorting King Alistair and Queen Anora. Together. Married.

And here was the Grey Warden, Loghain Mac Tir. Hair short, face shorn and- sword pointed, right at her face.

Loghain Mac Tir was pointing a sword at her and- Damn, but did he age well-

Wait, what, no, this is not the time for-

“Easy there, Loghain.” Lavellan jumped a little when Hawke swiftly stepped over, holding out his arm and taking part of a step between her and the blade with a cocky grin, “It’s just me.”

“Hawke…” Loghain frowned at him slightly, not lowering his sword but relaxing his stance slightly, “And this?” He looked back to her, making Lavellan shuffle a little, “Surely not…”

“The Inquisitor, yes.” Taking a step back, Hawke looped his arm around Lavellan’s shoulders, grinning a little, “Told you I could do it.”

Loghain almost rolled his eyes. And, with a huff, a sigh, and a shake of his head, he finally sheathed his sword.

It was the sound of another sword being sheathed that made Lavellan pull out of Hawke’s grip enough to glance over her shoulder, and she was a bit stunned to see… Blackwall relaxing his stance as he slid his sword and shield back into place. His stance, but not his shoulders, sharp eyes still trained on Loghain.

When he noticed her looking at him, he paused, then bowed slightly at the waist, “Are you unharmed, Inquisitor?”

Lavellan… flushed a little, nodding. Blackwall had come because he was concerned about the Warden matters, but as soon as someone had pulled a sword on her, he had- Not even hesitating over the fact that the person who had done it was a Warden-

Not the time to be starstruck.

Shaking it off, she turned back to face the reason they’d come to Crestwood to begin with.

When she turned her attention back to him, Loghain inclined his head before bowing slightly at the waist, “My apologies, Lady Inquisitor. I’ve found myself facing enemies more often than I would like, of late… Senior Warden Loghain Mac Tir. If word going around Orlais and Ferelden is to be trusted… Well, I believe we may have a common cause.”

Clasping her hands in front of herself, Lavellan bowed to Loghain in return. And from there, she, Loghain and Hawke went over to the table Loghain was making use of, while Blackwall stood guard next to the slipshod wooden wall and door entrance of the former smuggler’s cave. Cassandra had been left behind, back at camp- To avoid drawing attention to Loghain’s hiding place with too many people going in and out, Hawke had said.

Lavellan wondered if it didn’t also have something to do with the fact that their Warden contact was Loghain Mac Tir.

Varric had stayed behind, as well - likely to avoid making Cassandra too huffy about being the only member of the party left out of the meeting with the Warden. Fenris had followed his lead.

“We encountered some Wardens on our way in.” Hawke started as Loghain shuffled some of his documents, making the older man pause, “They left. Said they were moving on to search elsewhere. But they’re…”

“After me.” Loghain sighed, not looking up, “Yes, I know. …I’ve been branded a traitor.”

“…What, again?”

After an awkward pause and a twitch, Loghain looked up at Hawke slowly. Not impressed.

Hawke just grinned and cocked his hip, “You know you earned that one.”

…Loghain tried. So, so very hard to keep appearing irritated.

But the twitch in the corner of his mouth won out, and then he looked back down at the papers on the desk and shook his head, letting out a brief huff of a laugh.

After that, Loghain and Hawke started to talk seriously, the Warden giving a summary of everything that had happened to him in the past months. How he had been investigating the red lyrium, as Hawke had requested (“My efforts bore little fruit. Any answers you gain, Garrett, will not be from the Warden archives. Not unless something can be found in Weisshaupt.”). How there had been stirrings of something… vile in the Warden ranks.

How all Wardens in Orlais, practically overnight, began to hear the Calling.

As Loghain told them about it, about his suspicions, Hawke went silent and still. Then, Lavellan found him looking at her.

“…With your permission, Inquisitor… I have the papers, still. From our first talk.”

…Oh. Oh shit. He wanted Loghain to read what she’d-

Apparently seeing something in her expression, Hawke frowned, but stepped closer and set a hand on her shoulder, “I won’t, if you don’t wish it. But I… I very much would like Loghain to see.”

Lavellan looked back down at the maps and documents on the table, pointedly doing her best to ignore the questioning look the Warden was regarding her with.

She should say no. She knew that. But having Garrett close like this, hand on her shoulder, speaking in a comforting tone, that trace of… almost begging underneath it…

…She couldn’t deny him.

So, Lavellan nodded.

Hawke exhaled, used the hand on her shoulder to pull her into something like a hug, briefly, before he took out the pages of parchment he’d saved from their initial meeting and discussion. And turned them over to Loghain.

Who was a Senior Warden.

(Maybe she would kill Loghain-)

“…For not being a Warden, you’re rather well informed, Inquisitor Lavellan.” She could almost feel his eyes when he finished reading and addressed her, “I suppose it’s a relief to know that someone drew conclusions similar to my own.”

…His tone was rather neutral. And he didn’t follow it up with accusations or threats.

Shuffling a little, Lavellan glanced up at Loghain, hunching her shoulders a bit when she met his largely placid gaze.

“It also brings forward a rather crucial point - should every Warden in Orlais end up dead we won’t have anyone left to strike him down. Clarel must be stopped, and Corypheus defeated. They’ve taken the bulk of their forces to the Western Approach - an ancient Tevinter ritual tower, south of Griffin Wing Keep. We should…”

From there, Loghain continued talking, and Lavellan sighed and relaxed, zoning out a little.

He had bigger problems. He wasn’t going to pursue her. It was, at least, one less person to scrutinize, question and doubt her. Here, in the cave, if was only him, Hawke and-

Lavellan tensed, her eyes widening as she glanced over and-

Blackwall was still over by the door. Looking towards the entrance of the cave with fixed focus.

Oh, thank god, he hadn’t heard-

Sagging a little where she stood, Lavellan let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding, looking down at her feet as she pinched the bridge of her nose and shuddered.

Sloppy. She was getting so fucking sloppy- It was just one mistake after the other, and she’d been so goddamn emotionally weak and dependent she had actually let her goddamn mistakes become a habit-

And now here she was. With a crush on Garret Hawke, getting dangerously close to letting important allies of the Inquisitor in on the fact that something wasn’t right about her, and calling Solas out on his shit-

Shit. Shit, shit, shit.

Everything was derailing. The work of months, quite possibly a year, was being undone, and she was- ruining Lethlare’s chances of having her life back.

…Acceptance. Was she starting to accept this? Was she starting to get used to the idea that this was her world, her life, her role-? That wasn’t- She couldn’t to that! Wanting to live, wanting connections was one thing, but actually forgetting that she wasn’t just a passenger, a trespasser in this body, that she had no right to try to make a life for herself here-

“Lethlares?”

Taking her face out of her hands, Lavellan looked up and blinked at Hawke slowly, opening her mouth and trying to talk but, of course, only a wispy croak came out.

Frowning down at her, concerned, Hawke pressed his hand to her forehead, “It’s time to meet the others back at the camp. You all right, love?”

She opened and closed her mouth, before stepping back, out of his reach, and looking away. Nodding.

“…If you’re sure. If that changes, though, let me know.” Standing upright, he spoke over her head, “Travel safely, Loghain. We’ll meet you in the Western Approach.”

“Do your best not to get in trouble before then.” Loghain remarked with some amusement, before he started gathering and organizing his documents.

It was over. Good. She really needed to… get back to the camp and isolate herself in a tent. And just spend some time trying to get herself put back together.

Then, when Hawke started to pull her away, a thought hit her, and she hesitated.

Alistair and Anora as king and queen, and Loghain as…

Finally, Lavellan turned around and pulled her journal from her side, leaning over the table to write.

 

I saw Queen Anora in Redcliffe.

 

“…Oh did you now?” Stepping back from his papers for a moment, “And how was she?”

 

Regal.

 

The corner of the older man’s mouth twitched up, a bit of warmth softening his expression. “Of course she was.”

Chapter Text

What was it about Crestwood that made it so much horribly worse than the Fallow Mire? The fact that no one in their right mind should be living in the Fallow Mire in the first place? The fact that the people of Crestwood had been murdered, rather than being the victims of a plague?

The fact that the family and friends of those lost in Crestwood were still alive and mourning?

What Mayor Dedrick had done had been a necessary evil. That was what she had always believed.

It wasn’t like he had singled out the refugees. He had drown everyone who had been showing signs of the Blight, including those from his own village.

He had saved those savable from the horde of Darkspawn that had tried to claim them all.

He had made a horrible, unforgivable decision and lived with the consequences, much as they had plagued him in the following years. Had made himself a murderer, and lived right next to his crime scene, so he could continue doing the best he could for those he had left broken and mourning. Resigned himself to living a life of forever blaming himself.

While the rest of Ferelden had been embroiled in chaos and the monarchy had been too distracted to take care of its people, Gregory Dedrick had made a choice.

Whether it was the right one or not. Whether there could have been a better way to handle it or not. He had done something to save the people he still could. Where many others in his position would have found themselves floundering and struggling until it was too late.

The only real issue she could take with what he’d done… was the fact that he hadn’t later drained the goddamn lake and burned the goddamn corpses-

Again, goddamnit, there was a reason why so many funeral rites in Thedas involved cremation-

The walking corpses they fought their way through to get to the village had names. The people still living in the village knew some of those names.

When she heard a man say he saw his son among those they had-

Fuck it. Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it- They were claiming the keep. They were going to claim the goddamn keep, drain the goddamn lake and seal the rift in the caves, and put an end to this. She couldn’t leave things like this-

By the time they had left the village, Lavellan was more than a touch frantic. Compared to what had been going on over… the last few days, having some horrible wrong she was driven to correct was a welcome change.

Much as she had cringed and shied from it, going back to playing the role of the Herald of Andraste was easier than the rest of this mess she was finding herself in.

(The mess she was fucking creating-)

As soon as they left the gates of the village, she pulled the staff from her back with her left hand, while her right pulled the long dagger from her belt. Cassandra called out behind her as she went from a power walk to a trot.

Straight ahead, then down and to the left- Cross the bridge, fight the undead, then up the slope, and Caer Bronach would be there on the right-

It was the undead that stopped her, corpses rising up on the slip of land beyond the bridge of the makeshift harbor the villagers used.

By the time she had reached that point, her mind was already in the keep, mapping the layout and trying to remember where enemies would be grouped- And it was her lack of diligence to the present that had her reacting too slow.

She had checked out, only absently aware of the rain and the cold and the wet, the sound of waves off to he right, and while she knew she should be expecting undead, they still caught her unprepared-

She had been expecting them to rise up when she had gotten close enough.

What she hadn’t been expecting was for them to already be up and about.

So, Lavellan wasn’t prepared for the spindly, vague shape to her left she had mistook for a dead sapling or a bush to suddenly start moving and lunge and slam into her-

Raindrops splashed into her eyes as she struggled and flailed, blurring her vision and keeping her from really taking in the-

Then, there was a flash of lightning and she could see.

Waterlogged, green skin of varying shades, pale here and then dark there in patterns like bruising- Largely bald scalp, the few patches of hair that were still there long, bleached out tendrils- Unnatural glow in empty eye sockets- No lips, just teeth and bone in a skeletal grin-

It was unnervingly strong for something that was just a corpse.

She kicked, struggled, pressed against its shoulders- Her palms slipping along the slick skin, some of it actually giving way and falling down on her in fetid, necrotic clumps-

The goddamn smell-

A skeletal forearm pressed down along her collarbone. The other reached back, and then arched up overhead.

It had a dagger-

It all ended rather abruptly when a dark form came swooping in, a very much alive body with actual substance and form smashing a shield into the creature and throwing it off of her. Roaring, Cassandra stepped over her and went after it, the blade of her sword flashing.

Struggling for air she hadn’t realized had been denied to her, Lavellan rolled over and pushed herself up onto her elbows, looking around frantically for any other enemies- But then there was another body, with another shield, Blackwall moving to stand in front of her solidly, protectively.

Fenris joined Cassandra in taking the point, greatsword slamming into bodies as harshly as her shield was.

If casting fire magic when it was raining wasn’t as damn difficult as it was, she could-

“No you don’t.” A voice growled at her lowly, a large hand wrapping around her upper arm and jerking her up to her feet, “You stay right next to me.”

Garrett’s staff was still on his back, and he made no efforts to draw it into a ready position. Instead, he picked up the staff that had been knocked from Lavellan’s hands and flipped it around, using the blade on the end to spear and toss aside anything that got close to them. Not that there was much, between Blackwall and Varric, who was several paces back the way they had come from, picking things off with Bianca.

As the fighting petered out, Lavellan went from being tense and waiting for the need to fight, to tense and staring down at her feet, arms crossed tightly over her stomach.

Any minute now, Cassandra would sheathe her sword, turn around and-

And she knew. She understood. It wasn’t the first time, and it probably wouldn’t be the-

Hands grabbing her shoulders made Lavellan cringe, because she recognized those gloves, she recognized the armor right in front of her and-

“In- ... Lethlares.”

…She did not recognize the tone in the other woman’s voice. Not immediately.

When she looked up and saw the… desperate look on Cassandra’s face, she… she wasn’t sure what she was feeling. Just that it made her body from the hips down feel leadened.

“I do not know what is troubling, you, but you- Cannot continue like this. I cannot keep you safe, Lethlares, if you do not share your burden-”

Lavellan was stuck… staring, as the Seeker closed her mouth and lowered her head, still gripping her shoulders.

What could she even think… How could she rationalize this, in a way she hadn’t already thought about a thousand times over?

All of those excuses… that were starting to sound so goddamn hollow.

None of them came forward. Her mind was blank. There was nothing but the rain, hands on her shoulders, and the woman in front of her.

She was ruining everything.

Swallowing thickly, Lavellan stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Cassandra. Pulling her into a hug.

“…I… am… s-s… s-s-sorry…”

 


 

Caer Bronach was taken. The lake was drained, the dragon woken, the rift in the caverns sealed.

Agents were sent after Gregory Dedrick when he fled.

With all of that taken care of, this was where they would head back to Skyhold.

Save one thing.

“What can we do for you, Your Inquisitorialness?” Lavellan looked over as Varric, Hawke and Fenris finally joined her, Cassandra and Blackwall on the tower where they had raised the Inquisition’s flag.

Now that she had all of them in the same spot, Lavellan waved them all closer together, before removing her journal from her belt and turning to a particular page before handing it to Varric.

“Oh, boy.” He chuckled as he took it from her, shaking his head, “Already got something written out, eh? This doesn’t bode well.” Holding the journal open, he started to read, “‘Before we return to Skyhold, there’s one last matter I need to take care of here. I’ll need help for it. Lots of help. But if anyone decides they don’t want to participate, I won’t make them.’ And now, I’m even more nervous.”

“…If it is that perilous, Inquisitor…” Cassandra started slowly, “Would it not be safer to handle it after we have reinforcements from Skyhold? Depending on what it is, you might not need to involve yourself-”

Shaking her head, Lavellan took her journal back and wrote out her response, before giving it back to Varric.

“‘I can’t run the risk that waiting ends badly for anyone or everyone in the area. This needs to be taken care of. Now.’”

Cassandra’s brow furrowed, before her mouth turned down into a hard frown.

Already, Hawke was grinning and crossing his arms, looking insanely pleased. “I love a woman who knows what she wants. All right. Lay it on us.”

Exhaling loudly and giving him a look, Lavellan turned and looked out in the direction she had been staring in earlier.

Where there was the sound of crashing and splitting stone, and screeching roars, as an extremely large creature threw a tantrum.

 


 

It was, somehow, even worse than she had imagined.

She had been lunged at and physically attacked by dogs - even horses, in extreme circumstances - enough that, provided she braced for it, she had long since become relatively good at not being overly terrified when it was happening and she had to respond.

(It saddened her how she was referring more, these days, to her experiences in Thedas, rather than her home-)

But this was something else entirely.

Something soaring through the sky, looking about as large as an eagle or large owl, that turned around and closed in on them, getting bigger and bigger and fucking bigger until her knees tried to lock and-

And then it landed on the ground with enough force to take her down onto her hands and knees, thorns from a briar patch she had been too busy staring at a fucking dragon in sheer horror to notice piercing through her gloves and into her hands. Like hypodermic needles.

Fucking ow.

Yes. Okay. This was actually happening. Following the plan, Lavellan pushed herself back to her knees and bolted towards the remains of the building that had once stood in the area, leaving Cassandra, Blackwall and Fenris to distract it by taking it head on.

Once Hawke had figured out its elemental weakness, he jumped out of his hiding place to join the warriors in their direct assault, chaining magic together with speed that left her dizzy. She’d seen him fight before, but what he was doing, now that they were fighting against a dragon was-

And then Fenris, seeming to switch gears, began to glow, joining Garrett’s assault on the dragon’s back right leg. Right- Fenris’ marks did spirit damage, didn’t they-?

She did her best to stay out of sight behind pillars and crumbling walls - Hawke was all the offensive mage support they needed. Instead, she focused on generating shields- Especially when the creature’s throat rippled and glowed, visible electricity building up in its mouth. Thunder rumbling and crackling overhead in response to the sheer magic the creature was generating.

One hard swing from Fenris saw the leg he and Hawke were working on bleed in earnest, and with a shriek the animal swiftly turned from Cassandra and Blackwall to wheel around and-

And then a volley of bolts cut through a section of wing membrane, making the limb retract immediately as the giant head swung around, instead, to shoot a bolt of lightning just as Varric’s figure vanished and retreated into the shadows of the wall he was taking cover against.

Seeing an opportunity, Lavellan focused on drawing up as much energy as she could, aiming an attack straight at the leg Hawke and Fenris were still working on-

With a slap and snap of air loud enough to hurt, the dragon threw itself into the air to get away from the worst of its assailants.

Ducking down into her covered, safe corner, Lavellan pressed her back against the wall and closed her eyes, taking a moment to breathe and try to still the shaking in her hands.

A dragon.

She was actually fighting a-

A loud noise, and the ground trembled, but something was- It came from closer than she was expecting-

She opened her eyes to the creature standing right there. In front of her. Looking right at her. Throat rippling. Air smelling of ozone. Crackles of light dancing along teeth-

…Gods, she was beautiful…

Mind blank, Lavellan lunged forward, running straight towards its chest.

As she did, the dragon snarled, raising an arm to- She hit the ground, hard, like she never had been able to during baseball in school, sliding underneath it and then rolling out from under it. She tasted dirt.

When she got to her feet, Cassandra was already there, right next to her, driving her blade into the wound Hawke and Fenris had opened and hamstringing the beast-

And as the great body next to them moved, snapping around, there was a screech just right behind her, right at the back of her neck, and Lavellan turned around, braced herself, and thrust her staff forward and up with both hands. Like a spear. Blade flashing before it disappeared into the open jaws-

 


 

Varric slumped down to sit on a rock, dropping his head into his hands.

Cassandra sighed and relaxed, composing herself as she took out a cloth to clean the gore from her sword.

Hawke was ridiculously pleased, jerking Fenris into a one-armed hug and laughing like a kid in a candy store as the elf rolled his eyes so hard and swatted at him.

Blackwall joined Varric and offered him a waterskin of something she suspected was alcoholic.

And Lavellan… just stayed on her knees in front of the dragon she had just helped kill. Panting, sweat dripping from her chin. Wisps of hair stuck to her face, lungs and thighs aching.

Hands trembling.

The dragon had been taken care of. They wouldn’t have to worry about Crestwood when they left.

She… She had really killed a dragon.

And, as she sat back on her feet and gasped for air, the thought crossed her mind, in genuine, for the first time.

I… am the Inquisitor.

 


 

She was the Inquisitor.

And she had made a mistake.

She was the Inquisitor.

And she had failed someone.

This was not how she had imagined their talk would go.

As soon as she had stepped into the halls of Skyhold, she knew something was wrong.

Cullen, Josephine and Leliana were in the main hall. Arguing.

Some of the members of the inner circle were present, as well. Including Dorian. Who tried to walk straight towards her.

Before he could open his mouth, Solas grabbed his shoulder, then stepped over to her, himself, and grabbed her arm.

“A word.”

Vaguely, she heard others calling for them, but she wasn’t listening. She had enough anxiety about Solas already, and him grabbing her and pulling her straight towards the doorway that lead to the Inquisitor’s tower had her ears ringing and static threatening to overtake the corners of her vision.

She knew well enough what passing out was like, but she couldn’t get Solas to slow down enough to tell him he might need to catch her in the near future, if he didn’t let her sit and brace herself for this.

(This couldn’t be about her knowing. He would have waited for a dream. And there wouldn’t have been so many of the others in the main hall. But she couldn’t think of what else it could be-)

As soon as he got her into her room, Solas turned on her very quickly, his face grave.

“Clan Lavellan is dead.”

 

 

…oh…

 

oh-

 

The ringing in her ears got louder. She lost all feeling in her body. There was a roaring in her ears, that part of her knew was her own blood pumping, but- She could swear she heard a woman screaming- And then her vision flickered and gave out as the world tipped sideways.

 


 

She was the Inquisitor. And she had failed.

Chapter Text

Which step had been wrong?

Which step, which step, which fucking step-?!

Her fingers were trembling as she fumbled through the reports on her desk and she- She was aware of how weak her hands were, how close she was to passing out again, but she forced herself to focus on what was in front of her.

She needed to know. She needed to fucking know where she’d gone wrong-

 

Clan Lavellan offers greetings to the Inquisition

 

Contact Clan Lavellan. Only wrong way was to respond with Cullen. She’d chosen Leliana.

 

Da’len,

I would not trouble you normally. You have enough on your shoulders

 

Protect Clan Lavellan. Only wrong way was to respond with Josephine. Duke Antoine of Wycome could not be trusted. Again, Leliana.

And that was it. That was as far as it had gotten. So w-

 

Ambassador Montilyet

 

Lavellan froze, staring down at the next missive in the order.

…Wrong. No. She had chosen Leliana.

 

I regret that my help for your Dalish allies came too late to be of use

 

She had. She had, she had, she fucking had-

 

I understand your Inquisitor must be feeling the loss of her clan-

 

She would fucking kill him-

Letters, reports and notes spilled from her fingers as she made to step around her desk, eyes locking on her staff and dagger. She barely noticed her hip meeting a desk corner harshly, steps too hurried and stumbling. She tripped, palms scoring against the rug as she caught herself, but she quickly pushed herself back to her feet and dashed forward, reaching out to-

A hand with an unnaturally strong grip clamped around her wrist, like a vice, and spun her around.

She was nowhere near right enough in her mind to feel any sort of anxiety or fear when Solas glared down at her.

“And what do you intend to do? March on Wycome?”

And what the fuck else-?!

Barely thinking, she swung forward with her free hand, aiming to claw at his eyes to get herself free-

A snarl twisted his expression and he caught her other wrist faster than she could see-

So she lunged forward. And bit at his face.

In some sort of… hyper-aware state, she could see the way his eyes widened, even as his pupils narrowed, and, briefly, something like black smoke came from his mouth before he gnashed his teeth against it and jerked back, letting her go.

Having thrown her full body into trying to hurt him, Lavellan stumbled forward, almost needing to catch herself with her hands again. Shoulders trembling and knees weak, she looked up at Solas and waved her arms, opening her mouth to scream even with the body she was in still unable to comply with her demands-

And it caught. All of the words, caught in her throat. Right on the back of her tongue. On top of her tongue. At the tip of her tongue, against the back of her front teeth.

Broken syllables rattled around in her mouth and came out, choked and sharp, before her entire throat just- locked up. The air catching in her chest, her lungs swelling and-

And then Solas was there again, frowning down at her and gripping her shoulders. “Stop. Breathe.”

Breathe? Breathe?!

How in the fuck was she supposed to-

Her eyes flashed over to the desk, and she jerked away from him and stumbled over to it. Clawing at papers until she had what she needed before she turned back to him and showed him- SHOWED HIM-

Frowning and brows furrowing, Solas took the documents from her and looked them over.

“…You chose Sister Nightingale to handle this last issue with the clan, but Ambassador Montilyet did. And the Duke of Wycome-” She wasn’t quite sure what sort of face, noise or action she made, but it made Solas narrow his eyes and grab her arm again, “We realize, now, that he is a Venatori agent. Leliana had agents in the area, already, who uncovered it-” Solas suddenly stopped, his eyes going distant. Then, he looked back at her, “…You chose the Spymaster’s suggestion, over the Ambassador’s of calling Wycome for aid. You knew.”

And something had gone wrong.

And… And Clan Lavellan was dead.

They were dead.

Something had gone wrong under her watch, and they were dead.

Oh… Oh god…

The energy immediately drained out of her body and Lavellan stumbled back and away from Solas, starting to breathe through her mouth as she became quickly and worryingly lightheaded. Recognizing what was going on for what it was, Lavellan quickly dropped to the ground, her wrists jarring a little as she caught herself with her hands but- It was better than responding too late and passing out on her feet.

Again.

Though, Solas would probably catch her again.

…He had caught her the first time, right? She had assumed he had, but she’d also been too frantic to really think about it and…

Oh, god, Lethlares’ family was dead…

It wasn’t just a Dalish clan - it was Lethlares’ family. Her parents, her siblings, her cousins- Nieces, nephews, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles- Her Keeper, her teacher, her mentor-

Her best friends-

Her lovers-

The people she’d grown up with, the people who had watched her grow up- That she’d lived with, shared roofs and food and shed blood with-

They were dead.

Oh god…

If… If that had been her family… she didn’t know what she would…

Except… she did kind of know what that was like, didn’t she? It had been months, about a year now- Since she’d last seen her own family. Since her own life had ended. Since whatever had happened, had happened, and upended everything, and-

And she’d stolen someone else’s life, and had inherited the duty of protecting their loved ones, since it actually became in issue during the role she was supposed to be filling-

And she’d failed. She’d done everything right, but she’d still failed. Something had grone wrong, and she’d failed.

A low, plaintive whine distracted her from her circling, dark, dizzying thoughts, and she blinked the static out of her eyes as Milo crawled forward and put his head on her lap. Trembling and panting and stressed.

As she was pulled back into reality, Lavellan realized how heavily she was breathing. No, not even breathing. She was panting, herself. Hyperventilating. Still sitting upright, legs crossed, elbows on her knees, head in her hands.

Her forehead felt clammy and slimy against her palms. Cold.

And she had no energy. And she was getting weaker by the second.

With a weak push, Milo pulled back long enough for her to slump onto her side and curl up on the carpet- Which was when he pushed right back up against her, nosing into the space between her legs and her arms and pressing his nose into her stomach.

“…You had been trying to keep them alive and safe. For her.”

Blinking slowly, Lavellan looked over at Solas. Who had sat on the ground and was watching her, fingers steepled in front of his mouth and brow furrowed.

“You… had honestly been planning to… preserve all of this as best you could. And return her to it.”

…And she had failed. Lethlares’ family was gone, and nothing could undo that.

They… They were dead. They had died horrible, bloody, painful deaths, all of them- The men, the women, the children, the elderly-

And she… she was going to have to tell Lethlares that.

She was… going to have to get Lethlares back into her body and make her live with that.

…She wasn’t… ever going to be able to get out of this… was she…?

Lavellan wasn’t sure when it started, but at some point… she realized she was crying.

(Since she had woken up from passing out, there had been tears. She would later find the documents on her desk littered with small spots where dried ink had gotten wet and had warped and run.)

At another point, she realized Dorian was there. Arguing with Solas about… something. She didn’t know what. She wasn’t listening. She just… sat up and reached out for him. Some sort of pitiful noise coming from her chest, her throat. Getting caught behind her teeth as her jaw remained locked.

When Dorian sat next to her, reaching out, talking to her, Lavellan just- pressed into his chest and hid.

Blocked the world out.

Waited to wake up from this nightmare-

Or for all of this to just end.

 


 

This was the Fade.

It was still a dream, but it wasn’t pretending to be a dream- This was the Fade. Rocky, barren surroundings, some dull and grainy and harsh like asphalt, some slick and smooth and angular with dangerous, glassy edges like obsidian. Eerie green sky, giant hunks of floating rock.

The Black City in the distance. Always directly in front of her, no matter if she turned her eyes or her head. Which was disorienting. Made her dysphoric.

Made her feel ill.

Though not nearly as ill as seeing the figure in front of her made her.

Lethlares was facing away from her again. Completely still and silent, not even breathing. Which, even with this being the Fade, was creepy.

“...Lethlares?”

No movement. No response.

Feeling ill, she tried to approach the elven woman slowly.

“I… I’m so… so sorry. I tried, I really did- But… But that’s not an excuse. I… I could have done more- Should have done more-”

“You did this.”

She froze as her mind drew a blank. Then, reached out with a trembling hand. Wanting so badly to comfort her- “I’m sorry… I’m so sorry… That doesn’t help, I kno-”

“You ruined my life.”

She froze again, a cold feeling slipping into her chest.

“I-”

“YOU DID THIS.” Lethlares’ body started trembling violently, “If you- If you had never appeared, I would have been able to escape the Conclave. And gone home. To them. If you had never come here, I would STILL HAVE THEM-”

Her feet. She realized that her feet were bound to the ground- And then, that she had no control over her body from the hips down. And that it was starting to spread up and towards her arms.

“Lethlar-”

In an instant, the woman was in front of her. Wrapping her hands around her neck and screaming in her face-

With cold, dead, white eyes.

Her immediate reaction was to open her mouth, as if to scream, but the noise caught in her throat and her chest stuttered, now numb from the shoulders down- The cold feeling in her chest was now completely icy, and the hands wrapped around her neck were freezing- She could see her breath-

“If you… if you… if you, if you, IF YOU-” Then, abruptly, Lethares stopped. Staring down at her with unseeing, milky eyes, going completely stiff and still again. Dark lines of blue started to creep into her unnaturally pale skin, “…If I get rid of you, I can have my life back.”

Now gasping for air, and unable to breathe in deeply enough, her legs starting to give out. While Lethlare’s hands continued holding her upright, cold and stiff and hard as marble.

“If I get rid of you, I can…” Her hands twitched, and tightened. Tightened more. Even more. She could no longer breathe. She clawed at the hands around her neck and- “If I get rid of you-”

“Not going to happen, demon.”

Then, the hands around her neck were gone and she dropped to the ground on her hands and knees, gasping again while there were shouts, screams, the sounds of magic being cast-

A hand wrapped around her upper arm and pulled her to her feet, and she looked up into Dorian’s tense face.

“We need to get out of here. Now.”

And then Lavellan woke up.

Chapter Text

This was a dream.

She’d had this dream hundreds of times, and she knew it for what it was.

Even so, it was… insanely comforting in its familiarity.

The surroundings were hazy, with nothing well defined, but- She knew it by the color. The lighting. The feel of the bed against her back. The air of familiarity. She was in her grandparents’ bed. School was over for the week, and her mother had taken her and her sister to the town thirty minutes over so she could spend the rest of Friday, Saturday and Sunday with her grandparents.

If they were lucky, maybe they could talk Grandma into taking them to school Monday morning and stay an extra night…

She… loved her mother, but… She didn’t like living there…

Was it Sunday already…? Was she going to have to go home, and then wake up tomorrow to go back to-

Wait. Wait. She was an adult.

That meant she was living with her grandparents now. She didn’t need to go back to her mother’s house.

Oh, that was… that was nice. Things were so much more relaxed here, and…

Wait, was she still in college…? What day of the week was it… What classes did she have today? The sun was up, was she late-

Wait. Wait. She was working full-time at the clinic.

That meant she’d dropped out of school a few years ago. When it had come to choosing between school and work, she’d chosen work because… How was she going to pay for school if she didn’t work? It would only be a few years, surely…

And if she was working full-time and it was daytime, then… She could sleep. She worked swing and graveyard shifts. The patterns of the sun looked to be early morning. She had time… More than enough time to just…

Relax and enjoy the dream.

Damn, though… It was annoying, how even so many years later she could still become lucid during a dream and immediately think she was late for school.

Honestly, school wasn’t supposed to be a scarring experience like that… She remembered more about the anxiety of being late than she did about everything she’d studied.

Why couldn’t she have retained more math, instead of this…

…Well… She wouldn’t trade this image for anything.

Her grandparents’ bedroom… Their bed… The light from the sun, softened by the tree outside… This feeling of being so at ease…

…Why did it feel like she hadn’t been able to enjoy this… in a… while…?

“Because you ruined my life.”

Her eyes went wide and she tensed, immediately freezing cold. She tried to roll over and run, but- But she couldn’t move- Her limbs were heavy and- And breathing was hard-

From the doorway, a tall, dark figure with no distinguishing features crossed the room- Without making any movements, like was just floating or gliding or-

Then, in less time it took to blink, Lethlares Lavellan was leaning over her - hands braced on either side of her shoulders and knees at her hips as she straddled her.

Stared down at her.

With wide, unseeing, milky eyes.

And then hands were around her neck-

“If I get rid of you-”

A burst of pain in her arm, and then up to her shoulder as she was jerked to the side and fell off of the bed. Milo was crouching, trembling, and cried at her loudly before turning and bolting out the door.

Lavellan scrambled to her feet and followed as icy claws tore at her clothes-

 


 

The obvious solution was to not sleep. For a while. Until she got this situation back under control.

Which wouldn’t be all that hard, since she had experience with that sort of thing, right-? She’d stayed up for three days once.

In a row.

Seventy-two solid hours without sleeping.

Sure, it had left her messed up for about a week afterwards, but she was much older than she had been then- What, she’d been twelve? Thirteen? Fourteen? Somewhere in there?

She was twenty-six- No, no. Twenty-seven. She was definitely twenty-seven by now. She was older. And could use magic (poorly). And she had legitimate things to keep herself busy with. Surely staying awake for a few days, or a week or something was something she could do-

Just until she figured this out.

Figured out a way to fix Lethlares.

“Lethlares.” Dorian grabbed her shoulders, staring down at her with wide, frightened eyes, “You are the host of a demon right now. Fasta vass, we have to get rid of it before you lose yourself-”

Not happening. Absolutely not happening- That- That was a demon, yes, but that was still Lethlares- She’d just been- contaminated, or something- Like Anders, right? Right?!

She could fix it. She could fix it, she could fix it, she could fix it-

Lavellan walked away from Dorian. Quickly. Determined to keep herself busy - and awake - until she had a way to resolve this.

Solas had vanished. She couldn’t find him anywhere- Cowardly son of a-

Fine. Whatever. He would come back. He he would have to come back. They weren’t even close to a point where he could pack his shit up and check out. His inclinations and desires and plans and “responsibilities” would demand that he come back.

And the moment he did, she would demand she help her with whatever goddamn ritual it was she needed.

In the meantime, who could she-

…Cole.

Cole? Cole.

No. Wait. Not Cole. He was still vulnerable. And impressionable. And if her own personal failings and crisis broke him, that would just be one more goddamn thing she would never forgive herself for-

Thinking about Cole, however, did remind her of something. A personal quest of his. To find an amulet to keep Venatori mages from binding him.

Maybe there would also be talismans to… keep a demon/demon-like entity from… becoming too strong, or something.

She needed to find one. Or look into similar magics. Cole’s amulet would be from Rivain, and going to Rivain wasn’t really… an option.

…Val Royeaux, then.

Her mind made up, Lavellan made her way back upstairs from the musty, hidden library alcove next to the kitchens - making a mental note to clean out the cobwebs later, because she had a feeling that wouldn’t be her last time using it as a place to hide. Hell, it wasn’t even the first.

She could have just… gone through the kitchen, and down to the stables, but… she would need someone to take with her to Val Royeaux. It was just a question of… who. Dorian was the obvious choice - and about the only choice, given what she would be looking for and the fact she would need help locating something like that in the first place - but she had… kind of just run away from him.

After he had told her Lethlares was a demon trying to possess her body and that she needed to get rid of it.

He probably wouldn’t like that she was just… planning on finding something to make sure she couldn’t be possessed. Instead of getting rid of the “demon.”

But, really, people in Tevinter probably did that all the time. Right? He might even know of some spells or runes she could-

She was still fretting over it when she walked into Skyhold’s main hall, and a servant ran over to her. It pulled her out of her thoughts, and made her blink, and then lock her jaw and nod a little as a message was relayed to her. Her advisors wanted to speak to her.

As the servant ran off, fur brushed the tips of her fingers, and Lavellan looked down at Milo as he whimpered up at her. How long had he been…?

…You should go back to the tower. I’m going to be… busy for a bit.

When he just hunched a little, pressing against her side, she took that as a… refusal, and made her way to the war room.

As she walked through Josephine’s office, she saw movement at the ambassador’s desk as the woman got to her feet, but kept her eyes straight forward as she walked through the second set of doors, and on to the third set.

After a brief pause and some… thought, she walked over to the side of the table the advisors usually stood on, and faced the door. Fishing a few pieces of parchment and some writing utensils from the box kept on the table for her.

And she waited.

It wasn’t long before she was joined by the advisors, and Cassandra. Things were tense, and silent as they walked in.

Josephine looked ashen. Cullen wouldn’t look at her. Cassandra and Leliana’s expressions were grim, and set. Hard.

Once she had them all gathered, things were… silent, for a bit.

Eventually, Lavellan leaned over the table and started writing.

“…Inquisitor Lavellan, I take full responsibility with the happenings in Wycome, and would understand completely if you chose to-”

“Josie, if anyone should bear the blame, it is me. Not only did I fail to put together the pieces my scouts were handing to me, I allowed a spy close enough to us that our orders were compromised-”

“You’ve singled out the individual, then?”

“I have, Commander. Too late to stop them from doing damage, but I can assure you I will personally handle-”

She didn’t have much to say. Her desires were simple. But she took her time penning the letters carefully, and then gave them a bit more time to talk amongst one another before she glanced at Cassandra and down at the paper in front of her.

Brow furrowing, Cassandra walked around the table and picked it up, looking it over slowly.

“…‘I want the head of Duke Antoine of Wycome.’”

Immediately, Josephine opened her mouth to protest- before catching herself and lowering her head.

Leliana glanced at her, before speaking up. “Inquisitor. If we march on Wycome, we would be declaring war on the Free Marches.”

Lavellan briefly held up her hand, before taking the parchment back from Cassandra for a few moments.

“…‘It is not my desire to march on Wycome, or any city-state of the Free Marches. I want Antoine brought before me for judgment. And I want him executed. Leliana, have your agents step up their investigations of the happenings in Wycome. Once we have sufficient evidence into whatever he is doing, send full reports to the leaders of all of the Free Marches' city states. Twelve hours after Leliana has dispatched her agents to do that, Commander Cullen, you are to send forces to apprehend Antoine. Leliana’s agents will assure that he does not flee. Wycome is not to be sacked, her people are not to be killed, injured or even threatened. Simply, and cleanly, I want our forces to arrest him. And then bring him back to Skyhold, so that I might publically announce is crimes, and then cut off his head.”

Cassandra was not like Varric, or Solas. She did nothing other than pause and twitch her lips down whenever she came across the underlines Lavellan put to paper.

But she also did not say anything in protest.

“…And if the Free Marches takes issue, Inquisitor?” Leliana looked at her from under her hood.

After taking the parchment from Cassandra again, Lavellan wrote down a few simple lines, before looking directly at Josephine as the Seeker read them.

“‘That is where our ambassador will come in. I am more than confident in her abilities to use our influence to make sure this is carried out as bloodlessly as possible.’”

Josephine stared at her in shock for a few moments, before she bit her lip and bowed, “Of course, Inquisitor. …Thank you.”

 


 

The meeting in the war room seemed to sap all of the hysteria and despair from Lavellan, and left her feeling heavy and numb. With Dorian at her side, still muttering protests and begging her to let him help her purge her body of the demon, she walked towards the stables on leaden feet. Milo pressed close to her other side and glancing up at her frequently.

The letter Mother Giselle had given her on her way out of the castle irritated her skin as it rubbed against her under her clothes, against her breast.

“Lethlares, please, reconsider-”

She wouldn’t. She couldn’t. Even after all of this months, she still wasn’t ready to accept that she was never going to be able to fix Lethlares. Not without trying her hardest and burning horribly when she failed.

“Hey, Boss?”

Lavellan paused as she sat down in her saddle of Sorcha’s back, blinking down at the Iron Bull and feeling just… blank and dead.

“Mind if I join you and the pretty boy for wherever it is you’re going?” Please. He knew where she was going. Probably not the why, but the where, for sure. “Letting two mages leave Skyhold with no muscle to back them up sounds like a pretty bad idea.”

…She didn’t have the energy to refuse.

Chapter Text

 

My excuse is I am one horribly unmotivated person.

This is why I can go for a year or two at a time without writing anything.

(I refuse to let this go on for that long, though. I'm actually proud of this thing. For now.)

I am trying. I mean, I've actually managed to edit this, at least, so I am working on it.

Just. Desires and actual energy do not always match up.

But I think I'm getting there.