“If I ever see another Hakkonite, it’ll be too soon,” Adelais groans as they enter camp late one night. She rolls her shoulders up and back before stretching her arms over her head. “I was sure the one with the giant warhammer was going to be the end of Dorian.”
Dorian, so exhausted he’s had to rely on his staff to keep him upright on the trek back, barely musters the energy to roll his eyes. “Haven’t I thanked you enough for valiantly coming to my rescue?”
“I think we can all safely assume that she never gets enough of hearing how great she is,” Varric interjects with a short laugh. Adelais flashes them both a grin, tired but as bright as ever.
Nailah brings up the rear, nodding at one of the guards standing near the gate as she passes by. “I’d take twelve of their mages if it meant I never had to deal with a poisonous spider again.” She shudders visibly and rubs at her arms. “Awful creatures.”
Sitting by the campfire with her knees pulled up to her chest, Scout Harding perks up when she hears their voices. “Rough day, I take it?”
She gets a varied response; Adelais yawns so deeply that she herself is taken off-guard, Dorian grumbles a barely coherent “I am going to bed ” and keeps right on walking, and Varric shrugs and says, “I’ve had worse.”
Nailah comes to a stop by the fire and immediately starts to pull off her boots. “Long story short, we had to hike through a river full of giant spiders that spit poison to fight some Hakkonites. All to rescue a bear for the friendly Avvar of Stone-Bear Hold.”
Harding shakes her head in mild disbelief, but there’s a smile playing on her lips. “It’s never a dull day with the Inquisition. There’s some stew left, if any of you are hungry.” She nudges the hanging bowl over the fire with her foot. “I had them cook extra in case you made it back.”
“Harding, you’re the best ,” Adelais says gratefully, already on the hunt for bowls.
“Asa’ma’lin, your clothes are still wet!” Nailah chastises, in the process of wriggling out of the outer layers of her armor. “You’re going to catch cold if you stay in them much longer.”
Adelais rolls her eyes. “Okay, mother.” She fills her bowl to the brim and disappears into her tent, wishing them all a quick goodnight.
“I’m going to follow Sparkler’s lead and call it a night. If the world starts to fall apart again while I’m asleep, I don’t want to know about it.” He raises his hand in a wave and makes for his tent.
“And then there were two,” Nailah says, spreading out her armor on an empty table nearby to dry. “Mind if I join you? Or were you planning to retire as well?”
Surprise flashes across Harding’s face briefly. “Oh, no, go ahead! I’m a bit of a night owl anyway, I’ll be up for a few more hours. I’d appreciate the company.”
Nailah smiles and takes a seat across the campfire from Harding, bowl of stew in her lap. “How’s Kenric’s research coming? Does he know what to do next?”
“No, unfortunately. He’s been tearing his hair out trying to figure out how to melt that ice wall at the temple.” Harding chuckles. “He actually got so wound up earlier that he threw all of his papers in the air, then had to leave the room to recover.”
“How professional of him,” Nailah laughs. “We’ll go out tomorrow and take a look. Perhaps some fresh eyes would help.”
“I’m sure he’d appreciate it. But, uh, don’t run yourself ragged over it, okay?” The worry creeping into Harding’s voice doesn’t go unheard by Nailah, who continues to quietly eat as Harding rambles. “With everything else going on in the Basin, I know you’ve got your hands full and all. I’m sure we can figure it out. Eventually. I can send out a few more scouts to poke around the Hakkonite camps, there’s bound to be something-”
Nailah finally breaks in with, “Take a breath, Harding. We’ll be alright. You don’t need to worry so much.”
“No offense, Inquisitor, but you do a lot of worrisome stuff.”
Nailah opens her mouth to argue, then thinks of her habit of casting Barrier before jumping from high ledges. “Touch é .”
They fall into a comfortable silence as Nailah finishes her stew and sets aside her bowl, leaning back on her hands and looking up at the night sky between the trees. She doesn’t notice Harding’s eyes on her.
After several minutes, Harding speaks up abruptly. “I nearly forgot! I have something for you!” She climbs to her feet and walks over to Nailah, digging around in her pockets and producing something that glints silver in the firelight. Nailah opens her hands and Harding presses an amulet into her palm; a smooth oval-shaped moonstone is set in a silver backing and there are two spirals at the top connecting it to the chain. “I saw it and thought: “That would be perfect for our Inquisitor.””
Nailah gasps quietly, holding it up by the chain to watch it twirl with sparkling eyes. “Harding, it’s-”
“Oh, pants!” Harding interrupts, reaching forward to wipe something off of the back of it. “There’s a bit of dried blood on the back. Sorry about that.”
Nailah pauses, suddenly very confused, and lowers the hand holding the necklace. “...Why is there blood on my present?”
“Well, you know how it is when you slice open a Gurgut.” With an annoyed pout, she says, “I was so sure I had gotten most of the viscera off.”
Laughter starts to bubble in Nailah’s chest. “Wait, wait. Are you saying that you pulled this out of a dead animal?”
Harding seems to falter, rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly. “Maker, when you put it that way…”
“You saw this lying in a pile of guts, and thought of little old me?” A grin spreads across Nailah’s face. “That’s so sweet.”
Harding giggles, equal parts nervous and relieved, and clasps her hands behind her back, trying to restrain her own smile. “I’m glad you like it. It’s not as fancy as the stuff you could probably get through the Inquisition, but I hoped it was nice enough.”
Nailah slips the amulet over her head. “It’s beautiful , Harding, and it means much more coming from you than some merchant in Skyhold’s courtyard or an Orlesian noble trying to gain a favor. Thank you.”
The genuineness in her voice makes Harding flush, and she looks away awkwardly. “You’re welcome. Um, and at the risk of sounding like a mother, you should probably get some rest. There’s still much to do in the coming days.”
Nailah hums in agreement, rising to her feet. “I suppose you’re right. I’ll see you in the morning then?”
“Of course. Rest well, Inquisitor.”
She clicks her tongue in displeasure. “Honestly, aren’t we past titles?”
Harding looks taken aback, stammering, “Oh, I, uh. I don’t- Are we?”
“We’ve know each other for nearly two years, Harding. You’re lead scout of the Inquisition. You can call me Nailah. In fact, I would rather you did.”
She’s turning red again, which is luckily nearly invisible against the fire. “Okay, then you can call me Lace.”
Nailah’s eyebrows raise. “Lace Harding?”
“My mother was a seamstress, blame her,” Harding all but whines in return.
It’s Nailah’s turn to giggle then.
“Don’t laugh , and don’t tell anyone!”
“But it’s a lovely name!” she protests.
Harding groans, head in her hands. “Oh, just go back to your tent.”
Nailah, smothering further laughter, obliges and turns to leave. “Good night, Lace .”
“Good night, Nailah .” The good humor in Harding’s voice assures her that she’s not truly annoyed with her.
Nailah turns the amulet over and over in her hands when she gets to her tent, examining every inch of it. It’s positively gorgeous, and it makes Nailah’s heart light to think that someone saw it and thought of her. She kisses the moonstone and pulls it back over her head before settling down to sleep.