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Where Willows Wail

Chapter Text

Lyna was standing in the river waiting for fish to bite when Tamlen came through the trees at the shoreline. She heard him coming long before he appeared downriver, a brace of rabbits slung over one shoulder and a bag stuffed full of gathered mushrooms, onions, and herbs over the other. He shaded his eyes against the bright afternoon sun and whistled as she watched over her shoulder.

“So this is where you’ve been hiding from Fenarel,” Tamlen said, grinning and picking his way down to the bank. 

Lyna rolled her eyes and twisted her body and attention back to the river. The cold water pushed and waved around her gathered-up trousers, the river rocks under her feet not as uncomfortable as when she first waded in. If any fish had nibbled at her toes, she wasn’t sure she would have felt it.

“Fenarel mistakes our friendship for something it’s not,” she said. There was no tugging at the line she dangled in the water through her gloved hands, and hadn’t been any for a while now. Two fish weren’t going to be enough for herself and Ashalle. She needed at least two more, and she’d been thinking of moving further upstream. Surely hungrier fish waited in the darker pools there.

“Unlike me,” Tamlen said, peering into her basket. “That’s it, lethallan? I thought you were a better hunter than this.”

“Lump,” Lyna replied, showing her teeth. “The fish have no respect for my prowess.”

Tamlen laughed and divested himself of his bag and his rabbits. “So it’s up to me to save you from Ashalle. ‘No, da’len, I’m not hungry. You should eat.’” He balanced on one foot to strip the boot from the other.

Lyna snorted. “I didn’t ask, and are you going to save me from Ashalle’s longing looks at you, too? You know she wants to see us bonded.”

He snorted back, wobbling a little as he stripped off his other boot. “I overheard Mamae and Papae discussing it last night. Be glad they are very traditional, Burr. It will be years before they approach Ashalle.”

“Enough time, I suppose, to find other people,” she said, and sighed. She didn’t want to get bonded, at least not yet. Nineteen felt too young to really consider it, but she and Tamlen had been close from a very young age and most of the clan took it as a sign. Their peers knew better, most of them now looking for their first coupling experience. Fenarel was under the impression that Lyna would be grateful for his attention if it took Ashalle’s away from Tamlen. 

“You know Junar will be wolf-hunting with Ineria tonight, right?” Tamlen waded carefully into the water, hissing at the cold, and dug into a pouch for his fishing lure.

“What of it?” she said, and clucked when she felt her line ripple. “You splash too much, Lump.”

“I know how he looks at you,” Tamlen said, sending a rude gesture her way. “Pretty sure he does more than just think about you, too.”

Well, and Lyna did like Junar’s looks. Lean, graceful, deadly with his bow. No false modesty from him, either, though he did have a pleasing blush when complimented. Bonding was still far from her mind, but as a first coupling…

“You’re just saying that because you want another try at Ineria,” she teased. “I’m not sure she’s forgiven you for disappointing her the first time. You should have used your fingers on her like so,” she continued, and waggled two. She laughed at Tamlen’s offended grimace.

“Now you’ve spoiled it. I don’t want to think about you doing that, ugh,” he said.

“Then find something else to wiggle, or you’ll lose her to Chandar,” Lyna replied with a shrug. She didn’t care to think about Tamlen like that, either, but it was always fun to tweak his nose about it. Besides, the more the two of them spoke about sex, the better prepared they’d be to face Marethari and talk about it without giggling like babes. Lyna wanted her vallaslin before the next Arlathvhen, where she could have her pick of partners if she so liked.

Tamlen grunted and finally tossed in his line. “Quiet, Burr. Let’s catch the rest of your dinner so we can rest for wolf-hunting.”

“You mean cunny-hu–” Lyna said before Tamlen shoved her into the water. She shrieked and dragged him in after her, the both of them splashing water vigorously at each other until an older hunter emerged from the treeline and whistled.

“Stop scaring the game, da’len!”

“Yes, hahren,” they said, chastened and dripping. The warm afternoon sunlight helped dry Lyna’s clothes, but she was still cold enough she gritted her teeth to keep them from chattering. Only her fishing lure went back in the water, along with Tamlen’s, and she thought about Junar’s moonlit eyes and calloused fingers the rest of the way back to camp.

Chapter Text

“Can I tell you something?” Alistair said quietly into the post-coital silence. He lay on his back and Lyna on her side, where she’d slumped afterward. He was still learning but had more than made up for an awkward initial fumbling this evening, leaving them breathing hard but happily.

“Of course, ma vhenan. Anything,” she said, reaching out to run her hand along his side.

“Ooh hoo no, please don’t,” he said with a slight giggle and flinch. “Feeling a bit sensitive, sorry.”

“Really?” She grinned and threatened him with a wiggling finger at his midsection.

“Yes! Maker that’s evil,” Alistair said, flinching again and snatching her hand with a rueful grin. “Look, you, I’m trying to say something.”

“You spoil my sport,” Lyna sniffed, then pulled his hand to her lips and kissed it. “As you wish. I am listening.”

He shifted to lay on his side facing her. “What I did, or was trying to do, earlier…”

“With your tongue, down-”

“Yes,” he said quickly. “That. I know I didn’t do it right. You weren’t supposed to laugh! And I’d like to try again sometime, but…” He trailed off, his mouth curved wistfully.

“You don’t need to, it’s fine,” she said. She curled her hand around his tightly.

“I do! I want to, that is, but that’s not where this is going,” Alistair said. He disentangled his hand from hers and stroked her hair away from her face, fingers combing through the disheveled waves. “When you laughed, it reminded me of when we met.” His eyes focused upon hers.

“How is that?” she said, furrowing her brow. She remembered feeling a little sluggish and feverish from the Blight sickness Marethari had managed to push at bay, trying to find the people Duncan had pointed her toward so she could get the cure he’d promised her. She had gone a little light-headed by the time she’d found Alistair arguing with a mage.

“I said and did some rather foolish things. You weren’t supposed to laugh then, either, just because no one ever had before. But you laughed and called me strange, and I thought, ‘finally, now I won’t be alone.’”

Lyna’s heart twisted, a bittersweet pang of recognition. She pulled closer and pressed her forehead to his. 

“No, you won’t,” she said. “You’ll never be alone.”

Chapter Text

Lyna’s first thought was that she didn’t hear him correctly. Her second and third thoughts involved getting Alistair out of hearing of the rest of the court because if there was even the slimmest chance they understood what he’d said, their lives were about to get incredibly complicated.

If she and Alistair were lucky - and she didn’t believe they were for one moment - no one understood and she could let him know just how much she appreciated the sentiment.

“It’s not a good idea to say such things,” she said as she cut her food.

“I know,” Alistair said with slight grimace. “But it’s so hard to find time alone, and I thought you needed to hear it as much as I needed to say it. I thought perhaps it might be safe, since -”

“I’m sorry, what?” She coughed. “You needed to say it?“

“You know I did, and I still do,” he replied, risking a smile. “Shall I say it again? I would a thousand times, you know.”

“Alistair,” Lyna said, trying to keep her face from flushing, “Now is not the time. Tell me again when I’m…indisposed.”

“One day I’ll stand on a table and say it, just you wait,” he grinned into his vegetables.

“And on that day I had best be actually nude,” she nearly hissed, looking about to be sure no one heard her.

Alistair’s fork clattered onto his plate and he snatched up his napkin to cough into it. Lyna used the momentary silence to get herself back under control, exchanging polite nods and smiles with those who glanced their way.

Why in the Maker’s name would you say that?” he eventually managed.

“You started it! Honestly…”

“No I didn’t! I only said ‘I lo-’ …oh.”

“’Oh’? Is there more to this ‘oh’?” There had been the beginning of a familiar phrase in that sentence, something equally dangerous to say in public but perhaps more easily passed off in some ways. But the glaring discrepancy between it and what he’d actually said did not fit.

“I may have asked Zevran how to tell you something rather important, and he may have decided to use it to embarrass us.” Alistair sighed and reached for his wine.

“You’re the one wanting to stand on tables and talk about it.” Lyna couldn’t help grinning.

“Oh ha ha. Kick the man without pants on,” he said ruefully. He’d become a thoughtful ruler, but he’d never let go his joke.

“Kicking’s not what I had in mind,” Lyna said, and repeated Zevran’s linguistic gift.

Alistair only managed to keep from spitting his wine by drinking a lot more than he’d intended.

Chapter Text

For long stretches, buried in books, fetching ingredients, hunting obscure things in mouldering ruins, Lyna is occupied. She is not “fine,” that bland expression of equilibrium and passive acceptance of a daily state of affairs, but she has focus and purpose. So long as she is thinking, there is no room for feeling. She fills her uneven days, now unmoored to any regular circadian rhythm, with texts and notes and plans and just one more until she exhausts herself, collapsing unwilling into the slumber of the desperate.

But there are days she must emerge, blinking, into the jewel-bright light. There’s the cries of gulls, the slap of ships against docks, the harsh gutterals of dwarven voices, and the steaming heat of a far northern port city that gets rain or fog but never thunder. It’s never cold, there is never a damp chill to creep into your bones, just unrelenting heat and sweat and light reflecting off the western sea.

She is surrounded by strangeness and strangers, and is reminded that there are people and places she does indeed call home. And it has been too long since she was last in that bittersweet and beloved embrace.

Chapter Text

Alistair grieved when the music couldn’t be ignored any longer. No Lyna going with him. She disappeared in the Deep Roads several years before with his hope for a cure.

He wished Zevran hadn’t come. “She would have wished me to,” Zevran had said, eyes glistening with his own grief, and clasped Alistair tightly.

But as they stood with the Legion before the shriek broodmother, a tarnished gold earring in one and a still-shining silverite earring in the other of its misshapen ears, Alistair’s last thought was that Zevran shouldn’t have to see him kill their wife.

Chapter Text

The sun is warm on his face and the orange trees are blossoming again. Strong fingers are gently pulling a comb through his hair, readying it for braiding, and he has always loved this. He hears children shrieking with laughter and the splash of water, and he smiles broadly, indulgently.

“Lyna, I think Merana has made our serious Junar laugh,” Zevran says. Merana may be Alistair’s daughter, but Zevran has always held a father’s fondness for her as well. Merana’s love for her half-brother has been steadfast since Junar held her and sang to her with his little three-year-old body.

There is a pause in the braiding, a little hitch, but he doesn’t mind. Lyna’s fingers aren’t as nimble as they used to be, all her sacrifices taking their toll on her body, but she always combs and braids his hair. It is their little ritual left over from the dark days. It’s how she loves him.

“It’s me, Papa. It’s Junar,” says a man’s voice behind and over Zevran. It has the resonance of a young Ferelden, only mildly accented in Antivan, and it is worn and tired around the edges. Zevran blinks, confused, as the fingers finish their braiding and carefully lay a white, thick plait over his shoulder.

“I - I am sorry, Junar. I have forgotten again,” he says, craning his head up to look at his son. Sunlight blinds him, but not before he sees the sun lay a halo on the crown of Junar’s thick black hair, so like his mother’s. “Where is your mother?” Lyna always braided his hair, but if she is still in Ferelden with Alistair, talking armies and treaties, then all is well. Alistair keeps her warm and safe in that accursed country until she can return.

The children’s laughter turns shrill and a woman’s voice cuts through. “Antony, Adaia. You disturb your grandfather.”

“It’s alright, Asha. He likes it,” Junar says to his wife. Zevran does not remember when his son married, he only remembers that Lyna did not like Asha at first, derisively calling her “woman” when discussing family before sleep. But Asha could make Junar smile, and she won Lyna’s respect.

“Where is Lyna?” Zevran repeats, the smell of orange blossoms strong in his nose. “We should send some orange trees to Ferelden,” he says. Oranges may not grow in that cold country, but she would love them in her wild cottage garden. They might still drop fragrant blossoms for her as she wears out her knees, grubbing in that rocky soil. His Dalish wife, who has never found a patch of dirt she did not like, reveling in the one that was her very own. Da'arlathan, she calls it.

“Papa, we did send some trees.” A young, strong hand clasps his shoulder tightly. The grip relents. Junar is stroking his hair. “Three of them. Two died.”

“Oh,” Zevran says. The sun is warm on his face, but his eyes are wet. “But there is one left. That is something.”

“Yes, Papa. That is something.”

The branches of the orange trees wave, and a deep longing fills him. “I miss her. I want her to come home.”

“She is home, Papa.” Junar’s voice sounds more tired. His children must be keeping him busy. Zevran hopes Asha keeps making him smile.

“Is she with Alistair? He should be keeping her warm. Her bones trouble her so when it is cold.” He can feel her hands on his hair again, her lips pressing against his head when she was done with her braiding.

“She is, Papa. We can see her soon, if you like. Both of them. Merana will be there.” Junar, Zevran realizes, has gone quiet.

“Junar?”

“Yes, Papa?”

Zevran breathes in the smell of oranges. He remembers dirt, black lotus, brandy, the rank smell of darkspawn blood, the way she smelled after a bath. Those things, he will never forget. She is always warm in his memory, never the small, cold body he and Alistair placed beneath her beloved trees.

“I want to go home, now. I want my Lyna.”

“As you wish, Papa. I will tell Asha.” The sun shone, the water splashed, and Junar retreated.

“Soon, Lyna. Soon, amico.” Zevran closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Chapter Text

A.K.A. oh shit, my thoughts on an AU where Lyna Mahariel, HoF, does not stay way out west looking for that cure.

It starts with letters from Leliana. They had established a means to communicate through the Chantry, using Chantry seals Leliana herself had obtained and given Lyna originally to communicate discreetly with Alistair/King of Ferelden. Lyna would write a letter and seal it, and direct a messenger to take it to Leliana or the King. Leliana would find out who the messenger was and send letters back that way - Lyna was never in the same place, sometimes.

For a stretch during the Mage-Templar war, when she and Cassandra were looking for her and Hawke so they could have their Inquisitor, Leliana couldn’t get word from Lyna. She sent letter after letter with no reply.

“I know your feelings on the Chantry. Justinia is also well aware, and remembers you with a great deal of respect. As someone neither mage nor templar, and respected by both, you could help us bring them together. Please. Fiona would listen to you. Cassandra swears the Lord Seeker is a fair man as well and would not hold the events at the Aeonar against you.”

Leliana has no idea where she is beyond the last place Lyna had sent a letter: Laysh, some small town on the shores of the Volca Sea in the Anderfels. Leliana would have given her up for dead - and nearly did several times - were it not for the odd dreams.

So after three years, the Breach at Haven, the rise of Inquisitor Lavellan, recruiting the mages to seal the Breach, Corypheus’s attack at Haven, and establishing the Inquisition’s seat of power at Skyhold, Leliana is immensely relieved and a little upset to finally receive a cryptic reply.

“Keep the king in Ferelden. The music is wrong. I’m on my way - I need your access and resources, no questions asked. You owe me. - Lyna”

Vhenaste Lavellan is intensely curious, Fiona is intensely worried, Iron Bull finds out and turns into an utter fanboy when talking with the Inquisitor, Stroud speaks about her in equal measures of irritation and respect, and Dierdre Hawke scratches out a hurried message to Merrill in Kirkwall, with a loving postscript for Fenris, because Hawke knows what the HoF means to Merrill.

When Lyna arrives, exhausted, the whole place is turned upside down with the news. She goes to her room and sleeps for a day, and still no one but Leliana and the Inquisitor sees her. She emerges the day after that, and that’s when things get messy… Hilarious… Complicated… Or weird. Skyhold becomes an utter mess, to Lavellan’s dismay.

---------

A few of said conversations:

Leliana: *reading* “Keep the king in Ferelden”?
Lyna: I saw Stroud. Did he tell you about the Calling?
Leliana: He told the Inquisitor, but yes.
Lyna: Everyone but me forgets. *sigh* Alistair is still a Warden, Leliana.
Leliana: Oh, sweet Maker.
Lyna: Yes, “oh.” I heard what happened in Redcliffe. I’m glad Lavellan took care of the problem, but Fiona… Well. She’s luckier than she knows. She met him during a very bad year.
Leliana: So, this Calling… are you…?
Lyna: Unfortunately. And you called me away from my work ending it. 
Leliana: I am so sorry.
Lyna: Why? This is why you’re giving me resources. And a drink.

Iron Bull: So, you’re the Hero of Ferelden. Goddamn.
Lyna: I’m sorry, could you say that louder? I can still hear the minstrel.
Iron Bull: Hehe, sorry about that. Just wanted to meet the badass who fought with the Arishok.
Dierdre Hawke: Hey.
Iron Bull: Sorry kid, I meant the new one.
Lyna: Well I didn’t kill him, so, you’re welcome? *takes a drink* 
Hawke: HEY, he fucking started it.
Lyna: Hmm, yeah. Didn’t bake him any cookies, did you?
Iron Bull: …
Hawke: Sorry, I missed the “welcome to Kirkwall” cookie recipe while running from Lothering.
Lyna: Sugar cookies. He likes sugar cookies.
Iron Bull: Are you fucking kidding me.
Lyna: Do I look like I’m kidding? He called me kadan, okay?
Hawke: Is that anything like basalit-an?
Iron Bull: Not. Even. Close. And I need more to drink.
Lyna: Don’t we all.

Lyna: “Blackwall,” is it? I’m told you’re a Warden.
Blackwall: Yes.
Lyna: *steps closer* You haven’t been Joined.
Blackwall: I joined…
Lyna: No you didn’t.
Blackwall: Shit.
Lyna: I’d offer to fix that, but that’s not a good idea right now. Or ever. But you and I are going to have a long chat about how to better blend in.
Blackwall: As you say, my lady.

More conversations!

Lyna: *walks into Cullen’s office* We need to talk.
Cullen: I was afraid of that.
Lyna: *pulls up a chair* How are the nightmares?
Cullen: I… I beg your pardon?
Lyna: Your nightmares, Cullen. Because I wake up screaming.
Cullen: I… look, this is really quite awkward…
Lyna: Not as awkward as it will be if I call in Hawke. I was there. I heard what you said, and I heard what you did. You and I are going to talk nightmares. Leliana trusts you because she’s got your leash. I want to know if you can be trusted off of it.
Cullen: You come in here and bark at me as if I were 19 again? Get out.
Lyna: I see. When you’re ready to talk, I’m easy to find. Screaming.

Lyna: You’re telling me this Corypheus… a darkspawn magister Hawke claims she killed…
Hawke: Hmm, no, he was quite dead. He left behind a rather nasty corpse.
Lyna: …has a Dalish artifact?
Solas: Ancient elven.
Lyna: Yes?
Solas: Not the same.
Vhenaste Lavellan: Yes, the orb he has is one of ours.
Lyna: Banalhan fenedhis.
Solas: I beg your pardon?
Lyna: You know what I said.
Lavellan: Can we focus, please?
Lyna: Tell that to the hahren.
Solas: Ir abelas, da’len.
Lyna: Spare me your shitty apology. Hawke let loose a darkspawn magister from a Grey Warden prison, and no thanks to Stroud for letting Warden Carver go help his sister, and this Corypheus also has one of our artifacts. I was cursed by an eluvian, was jumped by guardians of another artifact so I could find another fucking eluvian to find Morrigan, and now another thing that belongs to my people is causing chaos and destruction. So say one more thing. Please.
Lavellan: Solas…
Lyna: Right. I will be with… Sera, was it? At least she has cause to hate me.
Hawke: Well. This became awkward.

Fiona: I was wondering when you would come find me.
Lyna: Been worried about it, have you?
Fiona: You know I have. Did you… is there…
Lyna: Not yet. But I am closer to it.
Fiona: Good… good.
Lyna: Release me from my promise.
Fiona: You know I can’t.
Lyna: When? Do not take it to your grave.
Fiona: I need time.
Lyna: You’ve had more than enough. And you need to apologize to him.
Fiona: You think telling him would be an apology?
Lyna: I think it would be a damn good start. Do it before we go to Halamshiral. There’s another person who needs to know, and he’s still young enough to need this.

Chapter Text

Lyna: Hello? I was told there is an arcanist in here…

Dagna: Over here! … Oh my gosh, it’s YOU!

Lyna: DAGNA?? *takes a step forward and slowly sits down*

Dagna: *runs* Oh wow, this is amazing, why are you here? Wait, I didn’t mean it like that, but… I can’t believe you’re here! I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you and I know I thanked you before and can I just…

Lyna: *hugs the dwarf tightly*

Dagna: Oof. Okay, this is good. A little… Having trouble breathing…

Lyna: Ir abelas, falon. I’m just overwhelmed. *lets go and gets up*

Dagna: I know what you mean! So… Really, what brings you here?

Lyna: Dagna, I have the biggest of favors to ask.

Dagna: Really? Just name it!

Lyna: Cure me.

Chapter Text

Josephine: Warden-Commander, I understand you will be accompanying us to Halamshiral?
Lyna: Yes. Ugh.
Vivienne: My dear, if you so dislike the idea, you needn’t come.
Lyna: Yes, actually, I do. You want to stop an assassination? Then send people - like me - who have training as an assassin.
Josephine: You… have training?
Lyna: And experience.
Vivienne: Well, aren’t you a surprise package.
Lyna: Not surprise enough. My court and dancing skills have languished.
Josephine: I would be glad to assist, then.
Vivienne: As would I, but I am curious - why would you help?
Lyna: Because I like having people in high places owe me, and I want to see that court’s faces when they realize two Dalish saved their asses.
Lyna: And I want to see Morrigan in a fancy dress.

(I know it’s only when they get to Halamshiral that it’s revealed that Morrigan is Celene’s arcane advisor. You think Lyna wouldn’t keep her ears out? Keep tabs in some way? Think again.)

Chapter Text

This time I’ve got a rather funny thought about what happens when Lyna (HoF) goes to Skyhold. Specifically involving Sera, who is happy to have the Grey Warden hero but not so thrilled that she’s Dalish.


Sera hears that Josie has a banquet planned, and has asked that Lyna’s favorite foods be served as the main courses: some traditional Dalish recipe, and Ferelden lamb and pea stew. The Ferelden stuff is alright, but she’d rather pinch a few things from the kitchen and skip the banquet.

She’s surprised, then, to see the Dalish hero talking with the cook and overseeing the preparation of some of the food. She realizes, listening, that it’s mainly about the Dalish food. Aside from Inquisitor Vhenaste, there aren’t any Dalish in the Inquisition. Yet, anyway. 

She’s about to grab some apples and cheese when she passes a bowl full of something squirming and she can’t help herself. She yelps in surprise and disgust.

“Here, now, what’s this? You sneaking in my kitchen again? About to swap sugar for salt again? Knew it was you,” the cook says, brandishing a massive spoon-thing at Sera, her already flushed and sweating face getting further mottled and angry.

“There’s things in this bowl!” Sera is unrepentant. She is definitely skipping the banquet.

“The beetle larvae? Of course. That goes in next, by the way,” Lyna says to the cook, unfazed and amused.

“So that’s where that bowl had gone to.” Sera knows the cook has made some weird and fussy Orlesian dishes, but thought even she might balk at this mess. “Listen, you, I don’t have time for your nonsense, so shoo! Out of my kitchen!” Her gaze focused on Sera, she takes two strides forward and shakes that big spoon-thing at her as if she thought it were a sword.

Behind the cook’s back Sera sees Lyna shake something into the stew cauldron. Something from a bag that had been at her belt a moment ago.

Sera’s not one for snitching, normally, but this bug business… “She’s putting something in the –!”

“No more! Go on, out!” the cook says, and the look on her face is enough for Sera. She snatches her apples and cheese and bolts. She wasn’t going to go to the banquet, but something about the grin on the Hero’s face as she was putting stuff in the cauldron now has her curious. Maybe she’ll just tuck herself up in the rafters and toss apple pips and watch the ambassadors try to eat bugs, instead.


Hours later, Lyna’s at the Herald’s Rest and drinking a pint with the Iron Bull and Blackwall when Sera bursts in and makes a beeline for the Hero.

“You! What’d you do? It’s some kind of brilliant! I can’t believe it,” Sera says, taking the stool next to Lyna and grinning from ear to ear.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” Lyna says mildly, taking another pull from her mug.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about. Everyone’s parpin’ everywhere!” Sera crows, and giggles. “You did something, what was it?”

“Everyone?” Lyna says, and nudges Iron Bull and Blackwall. “Sera says everyone’s farting. You having trouble?”

“Mm, no, can’t say I am,” Bull rumbles.

“Me neither, but dunno I’d tell you if I was,” Blackwall says, amused but also taken aback. Not exactly the kind of thing one really talks about openly unless with soldiers, and the tavern’s a bit of a mixed bunch.

“Right, well, not everyone everyone, but the noises comin’ out of that Orlesian… ooooh. You didn’t!” Sera says, eyes wide open. She begins giggling madly. “They didn’t have none of the Dalish food, just the Ferelden mess!”

“Come to think of it, those Orlesians did look a bit squeamish,” Blackwall muses into his mug, the tips of his mustache curling up with his grin. “Had me a bit of both to be polite, at first, but that dish - what’d you call it, Commander?”

“Deep Forest Comfort,” Lyna supplies. “No halla cheese, sadly, but that was the only thing missing. The goat cheese did surprisingly well.”

“Good shit,” Bull says. He’d had two helpings.

“So everyone who ate just the stew… what was in the stew?!” Sera demands, rubbing her hands together.

“Lamb, peas, onions -” Lyna shrugs.

“You know what I’m talkin’ about!” Sera says.

Lyna grins. “Nope, I don’t. But maybe I can make a few guesses later on.” She winks.

“You’re some kind of alright,” Sera says, and waves Corbett over to order a drink.

Chapter Text

A.K.A. An AU where my canon Warden decides to put on hold her quest for the cure and comes to help the Inquisition, in return for their resources to help her.
(I’ve done bits of conversations on this and even a fun bit where Sera witnesses Lyna basically pranking an entire castle with Leliana’s and Josephine’s knowledge.)

Conversation with Vhenaste Lavellan, my canon Inquisitor.

Lyna: I’m curious about your time at Redcliffe. Heh.
Vhenaste: Being funny, are you? That’s supposed to be my job.
Lyna: Pfft, I’m sure you’ll make up for it lethallan. But really - tell me about this future you saw.
Vhenaste: It’s… I don’t know if I can say.
Lyna: You’re the Inquisitor. Of course you can.
Vhenaste: Badly phrased. What I meant to say is that it was so terrible, it’s difficult to talk about.
Lyna: Mmm. I know something about things like that.
Vhenaste: Of course. I’d nearly forgotten some of the stories they told about you.
Lyna: It’s a mixed blessing, the forgetting. I’m sure you will learn that as well. But please, indulge me? Buy you a drink after.
Vhenaste: I don’t need bribing. But as long as you’re paying… I can’t begin to tell you how terrible it was. There was red lyrium everywhere. You couldn’t escape it. It made strange, whispering echoes, repellent and attractive all at once. It corrupted everything around it. Please don’t tell her, but I’d seen Fiona trapped there, the lyrium growing from her body. The agony on her face…
Lyna: But that’s… that shouldn’t happen.
Vhenaste: No, no one should have that fate.
Lyna: No, you don’t understand. It shouldn’t… Sighs heavily I suppose no one is immune.
Vhenaste: Is this one of those Warden things I’m not supposed to know?
Lyna: Yes and no. It’s not my story to tell. Ask Fiona.
Vhenaste: Oh, I’ve tried. She said that she was kicked out because she’d been stripped of what had made her a Warden.
Lyna: She told you that much? Hmm. Still. The fact she did not tell you everything means she is still honoring her oath, and therefore I must honor mine. Apologies.
Vhenaste: Very well. But if this is to do with this false Calling I’ve been told of…
Lyna: It may, but I do not know. And until I know, I can’t say. But Dagna must absolutely study this red lyrium. If anyone can crack its secrets aside from Dirthamen himself, it would be her.

Conversation with Dierdre Hawke, my canon (and Templar-supporting, Fenris friendmance mage) Hawke.

Hawke: I hear you wanted to talk.You look rather like you’d prefer to yell.
Lyna: Sharp, aren’t you?
Hawke: Can’t survive Kirkwall without being smart.
Lyna: Is that what you call it? Surviving?
Hawke: Actually, yes that’s exactly what I’d call it. It wasn’t all cuddly fun time with demons, you know.
Lyna: No, I rather think it was cuddly times with the Chantry. Fenedhis, what were you thinking?
Hawke: I was thinking that if I didn’t keep on top of things, if I didn’t play nice when I could and make them laugh or grateful for me if I couldn’t, I’d be next at the Gallows with Merrill and Anders right behind me. Oh, and did I mention actual blood mages running about? Meredith wasn’t all crazy, just mostly.
Lyna: “Mostly” was enough to slaughter an entire mage tower, Hawke! How could you?!
Hawke: You weren’t there! She’d already sent for the annulment months ago. Did you think I enjoyed it? Breath hitches I… they could have been me! I see them in my dreams. And Orsino… shudders. That bastard might as well have killed my mother.
Lyna: No, I wasn’t there. But Zevran was, and thank you for saving him by the way. The bodies he had to get through, in the end… was it enough? Orsino had been desperate and careless, but he didn’t kill your mother. And from what Varric tells me, you killed the real killer. Did you kill enough other mages to get your revenge?
Hawke: Damn it all, what do you want from me? An apology? You won’t get it. I did what I had to, I did what I could. I’m sorry I wasn’t some “chosen one.” Just a stupid apostate from Lothering, trying to keep body and soul and family together and nearly lost it all at the last.
Lyna: No. I just need to know you’re aware of what you did and how much you’re willing to set things right. From one “unchosen” Fereldan to another.
Hawke: …Maker forgive me. If I could give my life to save Carver, save the world, I would. Fenris would never forgive me for leaving him behind, but I can only make the choices in front of me.
Lyna: Corypheus was a stupid choice.
Hawke: Bite me.
Lyna: Pulls up a chair and pats at it. That’s fair. I’ve made my own stupid choices. I say we drink to them.

Chapter Text

She walks into his office without knocking, just as before. The Hero of Ferelden has a way of walking into a room as if she’s always kicking down a door - not unlike Cassandra, he supposes, but the Seeker doesn’t dangle a bottle between her fingers. Cassandra also doesn’t stare at him like the Warden does. (When Cullen allows himself to think about it, the Warden’s stare is more like Leliana’s. Harder than the Inquisitor’s, and Maker, Vhenaste Lavellan was not someone you argued with once her considered point had been made.)

“Commander,” he says, the title strange in his mouth as he regards the dark-haired elf.

“Commander,” Lyna Mahariel throws back at him, smirking at the joke they’ve just made.”Do you have a moment?” She doesn’t wait for his answer, already grabbing a chair and seating herself on it.

“Not really, but I’ve a feeling it won’t matter either way.” 

“No, it won’t. Doesn’t.” She tugs at the cork on the bottle.

“Is this a new hobby?” he can’t help asking. One eyebrow arrows up, the curves of her vallaslin wrinkling on her brow, and her gaze pierces him.

“No, it isn’t.” She doesn’t elaborate, just holds his gaze long enough an icy chill runs down his spine. For a brief moment it throws him back inside that barrier when he was a younger man, and suddenly he understands.

“You know I can’t.” He starts sweating, his head begins to pound.

“Then let me,” Warden-Commander Mahariel says. Cork out of the bottle, she doesn’t bother with a glass. She doesn’t offer him any. He thinks of his box in its drawer.

“I was 22 when my best friend died,” she says, and she keeps talking. She doesn’t actually drink much. Just enough to wet her mouth. But he knows.

He’s heard all the stories, of course. Tried to forget his part in one of them. He hasn’t yet told the Inquisitor, although he’s wondered if Leliana did anyway since the bard had been standing right next to the Warden at the time. He remembered that later and his gut burns.

This time, however, Cullen is treated to Commander Mahariel’s point of view on that and everything after, and the clarity of the woman’s fear blows through him like the Frostback wind into his bedchamber at night. He has kept silent as she proceeded to recount face-to-face encounters with demons, werewolves, and Broodmothers.

When she pauses before the battle of Denerim to shudder, he finds himself able to really look at her. There’s crow’s feet feathering the edges of her fathomless eyes and a crease between her eyes that comes and goes very easily from its home there.

He extends his hand and she grants him the bottle. One sip and he gives it back.

“Screaming,” she says finally. “I wake up screaming from nightmares, sometimes.” She’s told him this before, but honestly he thought she’d been flippant at the time. Perhaps she was, someone who sometimes found it easier to break herself open on a joke that could be dismissed without anyone suspecting differently. If there was something the Warden shared with the Inquisitor aside from heritage, it was that.

“I…understand,” Cullen says, and he no longer feels shrunken under her gaze.

“Do you?” The interest is not unkind.

“Yes. Apologies, but I am still not telling you.”

“It doesn’t have to be, Cullen. Just make it someone.” Mahariel tilts the bottle once more and sets it down. He can hear the liquid sloshing. It’s still mostly full.

She stands up from her chair. “Find your peace and restitution,” she says. “It helps.” And she walks out of his office again, just like she’s kicking down a door, the bottle left behind.

He thinks about his bottle in his desk. He’ll tell the Inquisitor tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Solas is used to the occasional shouting in the courtyard at Skyhold. There are always sparring drills, messengers, the arrivals of the displaced, the newly recruited, the noble visitors. What he is not used to, here, is shouting in Elvhen.  

Curious. As far as he knows only he and the Inquisitor speak any form of it, and Vhenaste is deliberate in her words, saving them mostly for him when they are alone.

He carefully puts his notes in his book to mark his place and exits the rotunda onto the walkway that connects to the Commander’s tower. Late afternoon heat envelops him and the wind tears it away.

A woman’s voice counts above the general din, a clear and enunciated shout.

One!… Two!… Three!…

Cole perches on the wall nearby, observing the movements in the courtyard.

Sa!...” Solas glances down in time to see the source of the shouting turn and flick her sword in a crisp, precise movement away from the battlement, her call of “two” torn from his hearing. She whirls toward him again, the form executed with the ease of long use.“…Tan!…

“It still speaks to her, hands and knees carrying her with gestures she doesn’t feel,” Cole says to him without looking. The spirit tilts his head. “She doesn’t know that it’s happy.”

“Of whom do you speak, Cole?” He’s not entirely certain yet, but he suspects the woman counting her drilled movements is the Grey Warden Lyna Mahariel. He lets his gaze wander and realizes the Inquisitor, her specialist instructor, Vivienne de Fer, and one of the Inquisition’s agents have been drilling with her.

“Mahariel,” Cole confirms. 

The drilling stops for a moment and Vivienne confers with the Warden. Both women regard each other carefully, respectfully. The Circle mage turns slightly and summons her mage blade, a different shape than the practice piece she has been snapping, and repeats a variation of the last form. Solas watches as, unfazed, Mahariel nods to Vivienne and adjusts the mage’s grip. The Warden brings up her own hand in front of her face, presumably to show her calluses. Vivienne tuts with mild distaste and the Warden grins.

Was the Grey Warden actually trying to teach magic to mages? The presumption as well as the unsettling knowledge that Commander Mahariel somehow knows anything about this particular ancient form irritates him. Mahariel has made her dislike of him plain, though admittedly it had come on the heels of one of his less than tactful moments. Still: a Dalish tainted with the Blight and stumbling her ignorant way through what should have been her heritage as well as Vhenaste’s–

Solas realizes he’s been staring when Mahariel looks straight up at him, shading her eyes. He nods his head with a half bow; he can at least acknowledge her physical skill. Mahariel smirks, waves, and lowers her hand. He’s grateful as Vhenaste reaches the Warden’s side and looks up at him as well, the intense focus he admires softening into an expression that unsettles him in an entirely different way.

“How different they are,” Solas says.

“Not in what matters,” Cole says, coming down from his perch. ”She cannot see the path, and yet love lights her way.” He shifts from foot to foot, swaying gently. “Listening, lightened burdens, lethall- oh!” Cullen is striding toward them, clipboard in hand. “Cullen! Have you come to watch?”

Cullen freezes, wariness etched in the tired lines of his face and posture. It’s unlike Cole to announce himself so loudly.

“No, I came to speak with Warden-Commander Mahariel for a moment,” Cullen says. Solas catches Vhenaste moving quickly to the stairs leading up to the battlement. She’s been protective of the spirit. Something else he admires about her.

“She has been drilling in the courtyard,” Solas offers.

Cullen glances over the wall. “I see. I have a letter-”

“Something the matter, Cullen?” Vhenaste says. She’s slightly out of breath from racing up here.

Cole smiles and heads for the doorway to the keep’s interior, his hand gently nudging Solas toward the stairs. Bewildered, Solas still understands there is some purpose to Cole’s actions.

“I will fetch her for you, Commander. Cullen seems fine, Inquisitor, but perhaps you might talk for a while as I do so,” Solas says politely, and takes his leave of the equally befuddled leaders of the Inquisition.

“Remarkable woman,” he hears Cullen say awkwardly as turns away.

“And unavailable,” Vhenaste teases. Solas smiles as Cullen chokes out something incomprehensible.

“I wonder if you might indulge me,” he says to Mahariel as he approaches. Vivienne and the others have left the Warden, who wipes at her face with a wet handkerchief and observes the rest of the activity in the courtyard with undisguised satisfaction. 

“Regarding?”

“Where did you learn this?” His tone is just as clipped, polite, and direct.

“From a spirit’s last memories,” Mahariel tells Solas, slowly turning to focus her full attention on him. “Trapped in a crystal, wanting desperately to die, and needing my help to do so.” She must have been met with disbelief at such stories before. She regards him steadily, chin lifted in defiance.

“It taught you this.”

“Yes. In exchange. Had I known…” Mahariel presses her lips together. “No matter. I passed on all I could to Wynne. Better a spirit healer who could have helped than the witch who would not have cared.”

The name means nothing to Solas, but the rest is clear enough now. She doesn’t know that it’s happy. “You did what you could. I am certain it would be pleased at the use you have put its skills toward.”

Mahariel’s laugh is short and sharp. “You don’t truly believe that. Let us be honest with each other, Solas. You don’t care for Grey Wardens and you don’t particularly care for me.”

It’s Solas’s turn to press his lips together. “It is not entirely true. As short-sighted as I believe the Wardens are, you have done your best.”

“Dying for the world is far more than our bestharillen.” Her dark blue eyes have gone flinty. He suppresses the urge to grimace at her choice in words. “Perhaps when you and the rest of the world help us, we can actually live for it instead.”

“For what it’s worth, I hope you may,” he says quietly. He glances up at the walkway and sees Cullen and Vhenaste watching. “The Commander wishes to speak with you. He mentioned a letter.”

The transformation is astonishing and swift. 

Zevran,” Mahariel breathes, all hostility gone, and races up the stairs, Solas completely forgotten. He regards the three of them - Mahariel, Vhenaste, and Cullen - now gathering on the walkway. Vhenaste’s worried expression changes back to a sympathetic and happy one, glancing back at Solas as they speak.

Love lights her path. Comforting. But for how long? He finds another way back into the keep and his interrupted studies.

Chapter Text

Cassandra has had a question burning in the pit of her stomach for several weeks now. Since the Warden-Commander arrived (Cassandra has trouble thinking of Lyna Mahariel as the Hero of Ferelden, not least of which because it reminds her of her own unwanted title, something the two women had once bonded over while Justinia was alive), she has tried not to corner Leliana. Part of her had wanted to, although chasing after Varric for his deception had largely burnt out her hurt and disappointment. One did not corner Leliana, however, and Cassandra had also believed there was a core of trust and respect between them.

Her footfalls on the stairs to the rookery sounded louder than usual to her ears.

Leliana and the Warden-Commander sat at the Nightingale’s own little war table, the Dalish woman resting her head on the other woman’s shoulder and speaking quietly. The two seemed close as sisters. Certainly no one else, with the exception of Josephine, ever earned this level of familiarity. Cassandra’s need to ask intensified.

Two pair of blue eyes looked up at Cassandra, one paler and softer, and the other deep and shadowed. The Mahariel sat up, former unguarded expression veiling over as she straightened in her seat. Fabric folds had imprinted over top of her tattooed skin.

“Cassandra. What may I do for you?” Leliana said, resting her hands on the table.

Cassandra glanced over at the Warden. She tried to envision the woman she thought she’d met in Val Royeaux seven years prior - more reserved, ineffably proud - and had difficulty reconciling that image with this one. The years left only a few crow’s feet to mark the physical changes, but a dangerous and foolish, mounting desperation lay under her otherwise seemingly solid presence. Lyna Mahariel may still be a good leader. An Inquisitor, however… 

“I would like to speak privately, if you please,” Cassandra said, stiffly, to the Warden-Commander.

Mahariel’s mouth drew tight for a moment, then twisted into a small smirk.

“Of course. I’ll just take my party elsewhere,” she said, getting up and revealing a bottle still held at the neck. She swayed on her feet, words a little slurred.

“Is that truly necessary?” Leliana said with mild reproval, tilting her head at Cassandra.

“I apologize,” Cassandra said awkwardly to Mahariel, not certain how to explain to her this weight in her stomach, “But yes, it is.”

“Well, falon, I won’t keep you when dragons need slaying,” she replied, stumbling around Cassandra to the stairs.

“Get some sleep,” Leliana said after Mahariel, her eyebrows drawn together. She received a backwards wave.

“We’ll see if I can.” She continued thumping down the stairs.

“Is everything all right?” Cassandra asked, sitting down opposite of Leliana.

“Yes and no,” the spymaster said wistfully. “Zev- she received a letter. Happy news. But the trouble with Corypheus plagues her as well.”

“Ah.” Cassandra still did not quite understand this hold the darkspawn magister had on the Wardens, but she had noted Stroud’s pale and brooding demeanor even before Warden-Commander Mahariel had arrived.

“And you?” Leliana prompted. Downstairs, Cassandra heard a faint greeting from Dorian. The mage had been staring intently at the bookshelf. He must have found what he was looking for and now sat reading it.

“I find myself asking why, Leliana.” She studied the bard’s face, hoping for some forthrightness. “I thought about it - you knew how to contact her. While I am uncertain now if she could have led us, you said yourself that we needed her at the Conclave. I need to know why you told me that you could not find her when you had the means at your disposal.”

“I thought about lying to you, Cassandra, before I sent my letters,” Leliana replied slowly. “You see her now: though we are of similar ages, she is tired.” 

It was difficult for Cassandra to sort through Leliana’s expression, but she could tell at least that Leliana was being mostly honest with her. Perhaps completely so, but Leliana guards herself so well that none, save perhaps Mahariel (now stumbling on a stair near the bottom, and Cassandra spared a moment of pity the Dalish woman would not thank her for if she knew), would be able to tell. So: even this partial honesty will suit.

“Imagine what our fight against this Corypheus could be like if it were drawn out for years and years,” Leliana continued. “We hardly know what exactly he is capable of yet, except for what the Inquisitor has discovered from Redcliffe’s future. Just the passage of one year sowed such chaos, yes? And apparently the Inquisition’s armies faithfully assaulted the keep until they were struck down completely.”

Cassandra listened intently, knowing Leliana had a point but not yet seeing it fully. Of course their armies would have maintained the fight. Cullen would not have let that evil take root if he could help it. Having seen it happen once, he could not let it pass without challenge.

“Lyna has fought against such forces every day since the Blight, and has had her own private battles in addition. She has been looking for a root cause to effect a root cure.” Leliana sighed. “She is not only tired, she is angry. She has come close, over and over again, and had been the closest yet to finding something when my letters finally reached her.”

Understanding began to dawn. “Finally? But you had been writing for two years.”

“Just so. I truly could not reach her through the means I did have at my disposal,” Leliana said with a nod of her head. “Lyna has traveled to some fascinating places and done things I could only have dreamt of when the two of us were younger, and now all she prefers to speak of is home.”

Leliana spread her arms open - not just Skyhold, Cassandra understood with sudden insight, but the Frostbacks. Haven. Ferelden. She did not quite feel as if Nevarra had been her home, but still she sympathized with the Warden-Commander, gone so long on a mission to…

“She did not find this cure you spoke of.”

“No,” Leliana said. She frowned. “We owe her a better chance to find it.”

Snorting laughter drifted up from the bottom of the rotunda. Lyna Mahariel was now verbally sparring with Solas.

“Well aren’t you ever cryptic. I’ve secrets too, you know. I’ll share mine if you share yours,” the Warden-Commander said in a flirtatious tone she clearly did not mean. Not with the Inquisitor two steps away, from the sound of it. Cassandra was certain something had developed between the apostate mage and the Inquisitor, but Cassandra had chosen to keep her own counsel on that for now. Lavellan seemed happier around him, however, and she hoped that was true.

“Mahariel…,” came Lavellan’s quiet warning.

“Fine, Keeper, I’ll go roam the Fade as well,” Mahariel half-sneered.

Cassandra rose from her seat and looked over the railing. The Warden-Commander looked so small, leaning against the rotunda wall. She knew the woman was drunk, but it was not difficult to imagine the weight of all else upon her. Including the former expectations of a desperate woman and beloved friend now gone.

“Mahariel,” Cassandra called down.

Lyna carefully straightened and craned her neck up with a wince, swaying.

“Wait for me outside. We could talk, if you like.”

Lyna nodded and stepped away from the wall. “Anything.” She muttered, “…too loud…,” and shuffled toward the great hall.

Lavellan looked up at Cassandra and smiled gratefully. Solas, still perturbed, smiled tightly and went back to his work.

Behind Cassandra, Leliana said a quiet, “Thank you,” and retreated to her alcove shrine to meditate.

Caught between old friends and new, Cassandra decided she could embrace both and take on some of their burden. It was most important, after all, that they kept fighting. Fruitlessly or not, it was the act that gave them hope. Cassandra would remind Mahariel of that, she decided, one “Hero” to another, as she left the rookery.

Chapter Text

The last place Warden-Commander Lyna Mahariel wanted to be was back at Weisshaupt, fighting a war against her own brothers and sisters in blood, but she was here regardless. A successful raid on a nearby outpost gained her a few potential informants or soldiers – or hostages, should it come to that. She was soon to find out which.

“You will do as I say.”

The words were scarcely out of her mouth before her memory threw her back fifteen years, standing on a steep road leading toward an isolated village in the Frostbacks. Looking up into Sten’s face had been just like looking up that road, gray and stony and implacable. The difference was the road didn’t talk back. The road didn’t question her judgment or her skill. She’d done enough of that herself, taking on a role she’d been unprepared for but handling all the same because no one else could. Or would.

“Enough of your carping,” she’d said fifteen years ago, worn thin by the Creators-be-damned cold mountain air and Sten’s inexplicable pushing toward simplistic solutions. He was thoughtful and intelligent, if incredibly terse and blunt.

“The Blight is over when the Archdemon is slain, but in case you hadn’t noticed, we need all the help we can get and that means armies. That means Arl Eamon. And that means looking under every ridiculous rock, if we have to, to find Andraste’s ashes to cure him,” she’d said, eyes narrowed, and ignored looks of dismay or worry or faint contempt from the others. She folded her arms across her chest.

“By the time you have collected your rocks, they will be riddled with Blight. You must have a plan that does not include this Arl Eamon,” Sten had said, staring her down.

“When I do, I’ll be sure to tell you. Fenedhis lasa, did you argue like this with your Qun leaders? Get back in line, Sten. That’s an order,” Lyna said, lip curled, and had turned and continued trudging up the path.

“That was rather harsh,” Wynne had remarked about it later.

“Yes it was. I was cold and it’s what he expects from a leader,” Lyna had replied, thoughtfully poking at the fire with a stick. “Leliana wants vision and understanding. Morrigan wants pure pragmatism. Alistair wants…” She’d stuffed down the fluttering in her belly. Either he’d stop flirting and let her be, or he’d finally decide to do something. She’d known what she wanted, had known for over a month. “He wants Duncan back, but next best thing is decisiveness and compassion.”

She hadn’t missed the shrewd, assessing look Wynne leveled at her, the corners of her eyes crinkling.

“I see. Be careful, Grey Warden. There is sometimes a difference between being the leader everyone wants, and the one that everyone needs.”

Fuck you, Wynne. I hate so much that you were right, she thought with an aching pang, the memories receding. Maybe when this infighting was done, she’d go visit Wynne’s memorial. She’d bring Junar, who she hoped was napping and not sneaking away from Zevran or his minders. He was a stubborn and precocious two-year-old. Too much like the both of them. And she deeply resented the necessity that brought her to Weisshaupt to tear down the old Order and rebuild, and away from her son.

Chapter Text

His sword moved like his breath, the obscene leer of decayed faces haloed in fire and smoke falling before him. One parted from its grasping shell and arced away into the chaotic darkness, and another took its place. Alistair stepped and swung in his own terrified rhythm. His vision blurred time to time with sweat and viscera he couldn’t dare wipe away.

He heard the mayor’s last bellow and Sten’s roar. He hadn’t heard the fast sting of arrows for a while, but a flash of red nearby darted through the melee. A sear of lightning crackled so close it nearly blinded him – eldritch. Morrigan.

An undead soldier clawed for his face. Screaming, he hammered it with his shield and it staggered. Fen'falon leaped and brought it down, the mabari snarling as he ripped the thing’s throat out.

He couldn’t remember the last he’d seen Lyna, and prayed she hadn’t joined Redcliffe’s dead. Coming home had been hard enough, and to come to this… The night thick and choking with screams, people dying like Ostagar…

He yanked his sword out of a corpse as a horn sounded. Oh Maker, a retreat? No, not again…

“It’s done, Alistair,” a voice said.

He swung to face it, panting, sword ready. It was Lyna, her tattooed face streaked with blood and oily soot, staring at him. Around her the survivors were staggering, overcome with relief and sorrow, cleaning weapons and gathering the newly dead.

“We won,” she said quietly, stooping to wipe her blades on the rags of the fallen. She watched him as she did, and he wasn’t sure why. Everything felt a little…numb. Off-kilter.

Still crouched, Lyna sheathed her daggers and then ripped a sizable rag from another slain corpse. The sound was ugly; he shuddered. She rose and offered him the cloth. Her dark blue eyes looked like shadowed pits in the flame-lit night.

“Go clean your weapons, Alistair. No one will see your tears. It’s alright,” she said with a sigh he felt straight down to his marrow. “We won this time.”

She reached up and wiped his face; he hadn’t realized until then some of the wetness on his face were definitely tears. It was a strangely tender gesture, shocking in its genuineness. Mothers made those gestures, didn’t they? He’d never known friends could, too.

“We did, didn’t we?” he managed to croak. It could have been a trick of the light, or a weight easing, but suddenly the night was a little less filled with ghosts. “We should… we should make a habit of this.”

Lyna’s teeth flashed with her smile.

“We will. I promise.”

She started unbuckling her armor and shucking everything, and that shock finally set him in motion. He looked down at the sword that needed cleaning right now. Because of her.

“Creators, I need to get clean,” she declared, dropping everything in a pile by his feet as she made for the falls.