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Sorry For Now

“So I’ll be sorry for now
That I couldn’t be around.
Sometimes things refuse to go the way we planned.
Oh I’ll be sorry for now
That I couldn’t be around.
There will be a day when you will understand.”
~”Sorry For Now” by LINKIN PARK

26 August 9:19 Dragon

“Mia! Mia! Mia!” Cullen exclaimed  to his older sister while trying to catch his breath. The Rutherford children had spent much of their time outside. Even if they were not helping their mother or father with the farm they were still typically outdoors this time of the year. Taking advantage of the warm sunny days before they turned bitter and cold with winter. Mia was sitting on the stairs of the deck to their family home when he came running up. His blond curls all messed up from the wind they caught in his haste. He had been at the Chantry spending nearly all day talking to the Templars. Well, more like begging them to train him rather than actually talking to them.

“What is it, Cullen?” Mia replied as she rose to her feet. Even being two years older, she was slightly taller than Cullen but she knew that wouldn’t last much longer. Body still soft with childhood, the signs of becoming a woman had begun to take shape. Her blonde hair matched her brothers but was bone straight and fell long down her back. Her green eyes staring in wonder at her first sibling’s excitement. 

“Mia I want to become a Templar!” Cullen shouted with the biggest smile he was sure he ever donned. “The Knight-Commander was training his men outside today. You should’ve seen it! The way they use their swords and shields. I was nearly shaking I wanted to join them so badly. They get to help people too. I want to do that. I have to be a Templar!”

By now, they’re two younger siblings, Branson and Rosalie had come over to them and they joined Mia in her giggles.

“Maker, a Templar? Why would you want to do such a thing? We’re meant to stay here and tend to the farm once mother and father are no longer able.” Branson stated. Branson looked much like Cullen in many ways. Even at the age of six years he was tall and broad somehow. His eyes matched that of his brothers but his hair was dark brown opposed to the blonde of his older sister and brother. Some form of efficiency their mother had accomplished, baring them each two years in stride with the next, he was the next youngest of the Rutherford siblings leaving Rosalie to be the youngest at the age of only four years. Unlike her older brothers and sister, she was very slender. Though even given this unique trait, there was no denying that she was one of the Rutherfords.

Rosalie was next to Cullen now tugging lightly on his arm. Sadness evident on her face, “But Cull if you become a Templar then you will have to leave!”

Cullen quickly scooped up his baby sister in his arms holding her tightly, “I know my dearest Rose but can you imagine your big brother in full armor, standing proud, helping and protecting people.”

They all could. Of the four of them Cullen was the most chivalrous. He always went out of his way to ensure others were all right and taken care of. He was the mediator of the family and often brought the others to see reason and apologize when feelings were hurt.

“What in Thedas will mother say Cullen? She is not going to let you run off to be a Templar!” Mia said firmly, signs of her elderliness showing through.

“Then I’ll just have to convince her. What could possibly happen to me when I’m with the Templars? They are our greatest protectors. I want to do that too.” Cullen repeated.

Cullen had the curse of stubbornness more than the others. Each off them giving him incredulous looks combined with sighs and crossed arms. Mia and Branson bantered back and forth about their brother’s revelation while Rosalie’s grip on his arm tightened.

After a defiant shout of ‘It doesn’t matter because he’s not going anywhere’ coming from Mia, a burst of adrenaline burst his confidence to take the matter to their parents. Cullen turned to head into the house with Mia at his flank. He unsure if she was there to support him or be ready to rub his nose in it by the smirk she carried. Journeying to the living room of their farmhouse, their parents sat together on the little sofa there. 

Stan and Gail Rutherford were not people of good wealth and fortune but were very proud. They made do with their farm, trading with local townsfolk to keep them well off. They also raised children known to be quite well behaved which went farther than one might imagine. It was no small feat since there are four of them. They were often the family those in need came too and they were always willing to help others when they could.

“Ma, Pa, can I talk to you?” Cullen’s voice was much smaller now. Preparing himself for the answer he knew was coming but hoping all the same. Losing his confidence more and more as they raised their eyes to him. 

“Of course my darling, what is it?” his mother replied. Gail Rutherford was a strong woman in body and mind. She tended to the gardens on their families small estate as well as making knitted goods to sell for extra income. Cullen got his blonde curls from her though the girls seemed to have received her piercing green eyes.

“Well, it’s just… ummm…. there’s something…. that is too say….” Cullen began as his hand found its way to the back of his neck.

“My son, is something wrong?” his father inquired. Stan Rutherford was a broad and tall man something he undoubtedly passed onto his sons. Many years of tending to the animals and farm giving him definition in his arms and chest. Cullen’s mother always made notice of it though he had no idea why. Cullen and Branson both aspired to be just like their father. He was a very proud man, tough and firm when necessary. But he never resorted to any type of violence. Always trying to find a different path, a better way. He treated his mother like she was the Queen of Fereldan herself and that always seemed to please her in such a way. Stan was quite tall standing just under six and a half feet. His dark hair given to his two youngest children while his smoldering brown eyes were passed on to both his boys.

“No! Of course not. It is just… Well you see I was at the Chantry and…” he was beginning to sweat and his face was turning red.

“Ma, Pa, Cull wants to be a Templar! You can’t let him! I don’t want him to leave!” Rose blurted out, holding a death grip on his arm and her face buried in his sleeve soaking through the fabric as she sobbed.

Stan and Gail’s brows raised in surprise. His father almost looked proud but his mother looked absolutely terrified.

“Absolutely not. I will not have you taken away from me to waste your life away in a Circle or Maker knows where else! You belong here with us.” Gail stated.

“Now my love, don’t be so quick to dismiss his wishes. Templars are well respected and I know our boy will work his way up to Knight-Commander in no time!” Stan beamed, winking at his son. This pleased Cullen greatly but seemed to be a slap in the face for his mother and siblings.

“He is only eight years of age Stan! Maker’s breath, I will not allow it!”

Stan seemed to not hear Gail’s pleading, “I am so very proud of you for coming to us with such a noble request! Let us discuss this on our own for a time.” His fathers words were final.

“C’mon Cullen, let’s go play chess for a while,” Mia grabbed his arm and tugged him toward the outside deck of their home. She would inevitably allow him to win and would be entirely too obvious about it. He welcomed the distraction anyway as they could hear his parents talking as they walked away. Deciding his fate with each hurried and hushed word.

As the four of them sat together around the little table, Mia began to set the board. Disappointment radiating from Cullen as they waited.

“That could have been worse.” Branson said suddenly.

“I suppose so.” Cullen replied.

Rose snuggled up close to Cullen, sitting down onto his lap and gripping his neck tightly. “Please don’t leave Cull,” she yawned. “I want you to stay,” she mumbled as she fell asleep.

The siblings didn’t speak of it again that night.

 

10 Cloudreach 9:24 Dragon

The children were down by the lake. No doubt taking advantage of the unusually warm weather and having a swim. Gail was out tending to the garden. A fresh batch of Elfroot ready to be pruned along with several vegetables thanks to the heat wave that had hit Honnleath. Stan was in the barn hauling fresh hay into the stables when he heard heavy footsteps accompanied by the jangling of armor approach the barn doors.

“Sorry to bother you sir, but are you Stanton Rutherford?” the man asked.

Stan brushed his hands quickly on a rag and walked up to the Templar, “Yes, Stan would be just fine,” extending his hand to the Templar who took it firmly, “is something wrong?”

If this man wasn’t a Templar Stan would’ve sworn he was from Honnleath. It was mostly a farming community and the man looked the part even in his armor. He was almost as tall as Stan but not quite. His frame was a little more slender but still broad no doubt from his many years of training. He looked to be older possibly close to retirement for a Templar, which wasn’t old. Their job was quite demanding and the lyrium easily took the minds of many. His hair was balding and kept nearly skin tight and his eyes were dark.

The Templar gestured towards Gail, whose gaze had fallen on the two men. “Not at all, perhaps we should have this discussion with your wife as well.”

Stan nodded in return leading the way towards the small table on their deck while beckoning for Gail to come over. He was fearful this day would come and it didn’t escape his attention that his wife’s eyes suddenly looked saddened.

“Can I get your anything, Ser? Some water perhaps?”

“Yes, that would be lovely,” he replied as Gail rushed off.

While they waited for Gail to return with cups and a pitcher of water the two men took their seats at the table. Tension was incredibly palpable, as the Rutherfords knew this conversation would happen one day and the Knight-Captain feeling uneasy about the discussion about to take place. It wasn’t often that a highly determined thirteen year old wanted to join the Order. Most children came to them at a much younger age and were usually given not personally volunteering.

“Well, I suppose I should get straight into shall I?” the man said and was answered with shallow nods. “My name is Daniel McPherson but you may call me Dan. I am current Knight-Captain at Kinloch Hold. I was passing through here on some business for the Order when I noticed an exceptionally well trained young man on the training grounds with some of the men. His fighting style is nothing like I’ve seen in some time. It reminds me of that of a lion,” he chuckled. “Cautious, analytical, and stealthy at first, but fast, determined, and powerful when he strikes. I watched him for some time and after speaking to him he seems determined to join the Order.”

Gail looked as though she may start crying but was trying her best to be reserved. Stan looked pleased, proud even, but also somewhat shaken. They had witnessed the kids all playing and training with Cullen many times but hadn’t realized just how advanced he had become. Losing his son’s presence day in and day out not knowing what was happening to him, where he was, if he was okay, he was not sure he was ready for it.

“No amount of time could’ve prepared us for the day you would come to us, Ser.” Stan said. “He came to us around five years ago telling us he wanted to be a Templar. Despite our best efforts, he was determined to train with the local Chantry Templars and we had no other choice but to allow it. Mia, our eldest, started allowing him to train with her some time after. She’s been his biggest supporter since he told us of his desire to be a Templar. He quickly over powered her and has been at the Chantry more and more by the day. She’s even convinced our other two children to help him prepare for the Order as well, much to our disagreement. Selfish as we are, the thought that the others may want to follow him is terrifying. I’d wager he’s at the Chantry more than he is here at this point. Cullen has wanted this for so long. We knew he would leave us eventually.” Stan paused, his eyes locking with his wife’s.

Both of them not wanting to say what they were really concerned about as they knew the answer would not change the odds in their favor. Stan sat with his mouth slightly open, as if he couldn’t will the words to come out. Gail said it before he could, “He’s just so young Knight-Captain.”

“That may be so but even at his age he would have some catching up to do. I promise you that he will be well taken care of. Unfortunately, until his vigil is taken at 18 years of age he will have limited contact with you. That time is meant for focus, training and education through the Chantry. Once he takes his vigil however, you will be more than welcome to write to him as often as you wish or visit when you can and same for him to you.”

Just then, the sound of running footsteps and laughter rang out and the four Rutherford children came quickly into view. Branson made it to the house first. “Ha! I win! I told you that I am the fastest!”

“All right already! No need to be so smug!” Mia replied pushing him slightly on his shoulder while trying to catch her breath. 

“Mia, you really shouldn’t… say such things… given the fit you gave… when Cull bested you… in chess just yesterday.” Rose said panting heavily as she spoke. “Right Cull?!” She looked to her brother whose attention had been stolen by the three sitting at the small table just above them. His face white as a ghost and his expression unwavering.

“Mia, Bran, Rose, why don’t the three of you go inside and get ready for supper?” Gail demanded gesturing to the front door. Her tone harsher than usual. They reluctantly retreated into the house while Cullen stayed behind. He swore he caught a looks of surprise, anger, and sorrow on their faces before they disappeared through the door.

“My son, please come and join us.” Stan gestured, his hand held out to the empty seat at this side.

Cullen had been unable to move himself. As if his legs had suddenly filled with lead and he’d be rooted to the spot he stood forever. Watching their faces, he found encouragement in the Knight-Captain’s expression and somehow willed his legs to finally climb up the small staircase and over the small table where they sat.

“Cullen I have come to speak to your parents on your behalf about joining the Order” Dan told him. “Perhaps you should talk to them more about what you and I have discussed.”

Cullen nodded his head and took his seat. His parents staring intently at him waiting for the words he wished would come to his mouth.

“Well, I… I was telling the Knight-Captain about my training at the Chantry. How I told you I wanted to be a Templar when I was eight years of age.”

“Perhaps you should tell them more about why you want to be a Templar,” the Knight-Captain prompted.

“All right.” Cullen nodded. Taking a deep breath, the words came rushing out of him as he felt a sudden jolt of confidence, “I want to help people Ma and Pa. What better way to do that than be a Templar? Maybe I could even come back to Honnleath and serve here in the Chantry so I won’t be far away! The Order is well respected and they do good in the world. I want to be a part of that. I want to do good.”

Stan and Gail looked defeated as they watched their first son make his case. It was Gail who spoke first, “Oh my dearest son. Since you were a little lad all you’ve ever wanted to do was help others. Once when you were only three you took too tending to Mia when she twisted her ankle. Assuring her she would be all right and that you would hurt whoever did it to her. Little did you understand she did it to herself!” the woman chuckled lightly at the memory but then her face fell as another memory surfaced. “You stayed by my side while I gave birth to your baby sister, tending to my every need and have been her best friend and protector since.” 

She sighed knowing that at his leave a whole would be there in her family, one that could never be filled again. “You have so much love in your heart my son. I’ve always known you were destined to do great things. Suffice it to say that part of our reserve in allowing you this is selfish. We do not wish to lose you from our lives so soon,” she said as she reached over and lightly stroked her son’s face. Tears threatening to spill over her bottom lids.

Stan nodded in agreement, reaching for Cullen’s hand and grasping it tightly, “Are you absolutely sure this is what you want? This decision should not be made lightly, if there is any doubt then you should stay until you are ready. We know you are well trained in combat already but what of the lyrium? Son, what if it one day…” it takes your mind. He couldn’t finish the thought aloud and no one dared offer the rest of his concern though they each shared it.

Cullen placed his other hand on his mothers and gripped the hands of his parents tightly, “Ma, Pa, I have never been so certain of anything as I am of this. I want to be a Templar.”

Tears flowed freely at his words from Gail’s eyes as she stood and retreated into the house. A gentle “I’m sorry” falling from her lips. Cullen was trying not to hold it against her but he had to admit that it stung a little to watch her walk away from him in such a way. He knew that this would be hard on all of them but he hadn’t thought to emotionally prepare himself to say goodbye. It was what he’d wanted for five years and his desire had blinded him from consequence when he found the opportunity for his dream to become reality.

“Then it has been decided. You shall leave with the Knight-Captain to begin your training with the Order.” Stan squeezed Cullen’s hand as he spoke “Despite our emotions here today Cullen, please know that we are proud of you. This will not be easy on us nor you but I assure you we support you no matter what. I should go check on your mother.” He quickly retreated into the house.

“You have a good family behind you,” Dan assured Cullen who returned his words with a small nod. “I am leaving in three days time. You are not allowed to take personal possessions with you so you must leave everything behind. Take these three days to enjoy your family and say your goodbyes. I will be here to retrieve you when it is time.”

Knight-Captain Dan made his leave and Cullen headed into the house. Standing there just inside the door was Rose, her bright green eyes vacant yet firm.

“Are you leaving Cull?” she mumbled through a broken voice.

His head falling forward slightly in response, she ran at him full speed grabbing him around the waist and sobbing uncontrollably. “You can’t! Please don’t leave! I’m going to miss you too much!”

Cullen said nothing in return, only held her tighter than he ever had before knowing this was just the beginning of what would be a very difficult journey.

Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t hold back the tears that pooled in his eyes from flowing down his cheeks as he sank to his knees and buried his face into his baby sisters shoulder, soaking the long curly brown hair that laid there.

Chapter Text

9:30 Dragon, During the Fifth Blight

Dearest Cullen,

It is unfortunate that I must write this letter to you. The Blight has done a number on Honnleath and I’m broken-hearted to say our farm has been destroyed.

Bran, Rose, and myself managed to make it to South Reach but Ma and Pa… Oh Cullen, I am so sorry but they did not make it. They both had the Blight and we had no choice but to leave them behind. They insisted we do so. You know how they are. I am certain by now they have both passed.

Last I heard you planned to visit us soon. Ma was so very excited as was Pa. I wish you could’ve seen how incredibly proud they were of you. It was not easy for quite some time but we fell into the routine of things after your leave sure enough. We often still waited for you to come running from the Chantry for supper or to meet us at our little table for chess. Maker, I hope you know how much we miss and love you Cullen.

For this to be our first correspondence after saying our goodbyes all those years ago, it breaks my heart over and over again with each word I write. I should have written to you sooner but a part of me was still hurting. That’s Rutherford stubbornness for you is it not?

I hope that despite this news you are well. We’ve heard whispers of things happening at Kinloch Hold and hope that they are only rumors at best. Is it true the Hero of Fereldan is from your Circle? Did you know her? As ridiculous as I know this is, Cullen, please be safe.

Still visit if you can. Rose is absolutely devastated and it would do greatly for her to see you again. Even now she still calls out for you in her sleep sometimes.

Either way, please write back. I miss you so very much. We all do.

Your loving sister,

Mia

Mia,

I am sorry to hear about Ma and Pa. I was looking forward to seeing them.

Kinloch Hold was All I can manage to write is that it’s far worse than anything you likely heard. Yes, I knew her but not very well.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to visit anytime in the near future. I will try to write again soon.

I miss you all too.

With Love,

Cullen

Chapter Text

Misguided Ghosts

 

“We are just misguided ghosts.
Traveling endlessly.
The ones we trusted the most
Pushed us far away.
And there’s no one road.
We should not be the same.
But I’m just a ghost
And they still echo me.”
~ ‘Misguided Ghosts’ by Paramore

29 Solace 9:20 Dragon

It was a typical sunny warm day in Ostwick at the Trevelyan estate. Maxiana’s birthday was the following day and the house was buzzing as it prepared for the party that awaited the eldest Trevelyan child. Their family home was right on the shores of the Waking Sea and they frequently enjoyed their stretch of it’s beaches as Maxiana and her mother were now.

“My dearest Ana, I cannot even believe you will be nine years of age tomorrow! It seems like I had just found out you were in my belly not so long ago,” her mother, Lucia, proclaimed. Lucia was the very definition of a beautiful Antivan woman. She was just slightly above average height with the kind of curves that sent many into a frenzy. Naturally tanned skin deepened each moment she spent on the beach and her hair was long and dark as the night during a new moon. Bright grey eyes that could easily get you to confess to anything gazed purposefully. Their color had been bestowed upon each of her children. Lucia’s eyes locked with Maxiana’s and a look of confusion crossed her face. “Ana, won’t you come closer to me?” 

Maxiana looked up to her mother with a warm smile and moved to sit right on her lap. “Your eyes my dear, they look…” Lucia was unable to finish her observations when the sound of her husbands footsteps sounded just behind them.

“Ana! I got you the most magnificent gift! I cannot wait to see your face when you receive it tomorrow!” Brett proclaimed. Her father was the complete opposite of her mother. His complexion was pale though it often held a bronze from his exposure to the sun. He was slender and tall with light brown hair that had started to grey. His eyes were a deep dark brown and they danced with delight when Maxiana started to bounce in anticipation.

“Papa it is only a day early. Why not let me have it today instead?” She insisted.

Brett chuckled, “Now, now you have waited a whole year for your birthday and I don’t believe one more day is going to hurt.” He winked at her and she ran to him accepting a hug as his arms flew open. No one was closer to her father than she. Perhaps even more so than her mother. Though their marriage was arranged they loved each other deeply. Even so, Brett went every extra mile for Ana, always. Something she was often teased for by the other members of their family.

Suddenly there was a loud thud followed by a smash from inside the house. Their heads snapped at the sound. Brett said through clenched teeth, “Those boys better not have…” 

As they walked into the house working their way through to where the noise had come from Maxiana started questioning her father relentlessly. Desperate to know what her gift was.

“Is it a pet?”

“No.”

“Hmmm. Is it a new dress?”

“No.”

“What about a new book?”

“No.”

“Please Papa! I can’t wait until tomorrow! I’ll be extra good, I promise!”

They rounded the corner and the three of them stood in shock. Lucia’s hand flew to the front of her mouth as they stood as Brett’s balled into fists at his sides, his face growing red with anger. Maxiana stared in confused wonder and irritation all at once.

“Papa?” She asked as her eyes began to pool with tears.

“I am so sorry my dear Ana. I will get it fixed, I promise,” he replied.

It was her surprise birthday present he explained. He had only been teasing her as he intended on giving it to her a day early anyhow as there was no way of hiding the ginormous thing. Especially not from a clever girl like Maxiana.

It was a brand new wardrobe. Something she had been obsessively asking to have for months now. Her small wardrobe was starting to cramp as she grew in size. Now laying on the floor, the new wardrobe had three doors, the two on the sides smaller than the middle door which contained a full mirror. It had been painted in Maxiana’s favorite shade of periwinkle purple with intricate detail of different constellations painted on it. Each with the constellations name and Astrarium locations. Maxiana had always been fascinated with the subject from an early age. Its mirror was now cracked and shattered into smaller pieces, some of the detailed wood work on the top had broken off, and one of it’s legs was cracked.

“BOYS! GET YOUR ASSES DOWN HERE AT ONCE!” Brett yelled.

Thunder sounded on the stairwell as the two twin boys ran quickly down. Obviously hiding something as they stopped in front of their father without meeting his gaze. Their faces holding smirks whenever they looked in Maxiana’s direction. They shared many of their fathers features aside from the grey eyes they got from their mother.

“What in the Maker’s name did the two of you think would happen? Did you think us fools to not know you were the culprits behind this crime?” Brett’s face was red as he yelled.

“It was an accident Papa!” Maddix exclaimed.

“Yeah Papa! An accident! We didn’t mean it!” Makai defended.

“Maker’s breath! Dixi, Kai, explain yourselves!” Lucia said firmly.

“Well, we saw it down here,” Maddix began.

“And we wanted to see if there was anything inside,” Makai continued.

“So we tried to open the door but it was stuck!”

“We pulled and pulled and pulled trying to free the door.”

“Then it just fell over!” the twins said in unison. Conspiracy dripping from their words.

Footsteps were heard coming down the stairs as the fourth and second eldest Trevelyan child made her way to the scene. Maxiana’s first sibling, Mackenzie was just over a year younger than she. She nearly looked exactly like her sister but had their father’s light brown hair opposed to the dark hue Maxiana shared with their mother. While Maxiana liked having her hair shorter cutting it just over her shoulders Mackenzie hardly ever cut hers allowing it to grow incredibly long. It was quite passed her waist by now at only the age of seven years.

“What happened down here? Ana what’s wrong?” She noticed Maxiana had begun to cry as she spoke. Maxiana never answered her. Instead pushing passed her sister as the tears started to flow freely and sobs escaped her mouth. She bound up the stairs and into her chambers. She thought she heard the boys say something about their father always giving her the better gifts but shook it off. 

Slamming the door shut, she wished she could lock it tight to be left alone to cry. Surely the boys would be punished and her father would get the wardrobe fixed but she just couldn’t help the emotions that overtook her. Her fingers were tingling and she couldn’t shake the feeling away.

There was a light knock on the door some moments later.

“Ana, may I come in?” Mackenzie asked.

“Yes, all right.” Maxiana agreed. It was best to allow her sister in. She was a persistent creature and would likely be knocking every five minutes asking if she could come in until Maxiana caved and gave her entry. She was holding a large bag with a hanger that poked out of the top. It ruffled as she walked into the room.

“I know you’re sad about the wardrobe but father asked me to bring this up to you. He hopes it’ll make you feel better. It was inside of it. It is meant to be for your birthday party tomorrow.”

Maxiana grabbed the bag from her sister and laid it out on her bed. She carefully unbuttoned it and pulled out the most magnificent dress. It’s color matched the wardrobe, periwinkle purple. It had an empire waist with a belt of large flowers that matched in color. From the waist up it was covered in a lace that also made up its sleeves. Where the bend of her elbow would go on either side was a ribbon to loosen and tighten the wide lace ruffle detail that began there. Below its belt was a skirt that looked that it would fall just to her knees and it was made of tulle that was four layers deep. A soft satin filled the interior of the dress. She squealed with excitement when she turned it to its back seeing a big bow that held the belt on and a cutout back that formed the shape of a heart.

“Oh Kenzie it’s gorgeous! He’s so silly, he told me he didn’t get me a dress! Do you think he’ll be angry if I try it on?”

Mackenzie laughed, “No I don’t think so Ana. He’s quite mad at our brothers at the moment. Technically he didn’t lie to you. The dress is from Mama.” She shrugged.

The girls spent the rest of the night playing dress up with all the dresses they could find. Pretending to be a noble lady like their mother or acting as if they were a princess or queen. Mackenzie was easily her best friend, someone she could share anything with and feel free to be herself. Other than her father, she was closest to her sister. Their bond going deeper than sisterhood and friendship.

Some time later they were collected for supper. Everyone was quiet at the dinner table which was highly unusual with the twin boys present. After they finished eating they approached Maxiana.

“Ana, we are very sorry we broke your wardrobe. It was an accident. Please forgive us.” They said together in unison once more. Maker, it was annoying!

Maxiana fought the shiver that always came when they recited together in such a way, “It’s ok boys. I know it was an accident. At least you are unharmed.”

Maddix and Makai looked pleased with her acceptance and gave her a quick hug before heading upstairs to ready for bed. Soon Maxiana was doing the same.

She wasn’t sure she would be able to sleep. Despite the wardrobe being broken tomorrow still promised to be quite amazing. All of her friends would be coming to celebrate with her. After she had her bath and was comfortably in her night gown she slipped into bed. Her father came and tucked her in and she couldn’t help but feel that today was just the beginning. Of what she had no clue but her gut instinct was telling her to be ready.

“My Ana, how did we get so lucky to have such a strong, compassionate little girl like you?”

She smiled wide at his words but said nothing.

“I have already sent word to get your wardrobe fixed straightaway. Kenzie gave you your dress, yes?” he inquired.

She nodded her head in response. “Yes, Papa, it’s very beautiful. I have to confess I tried it on already. I was just too excited!”

He chuckled at her, “But of course! I wish I could’ve seen the look on your face. When your mother brought it home and showed me I knew that it would bring you such joy. I can’t wait to see how beautiful you look in it tomorrow. Do try to get some sleep all right?”

She wrapped her arms around him tightly, “I love you Papa. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, my Ana. I love you so very much,” he replied with a warm smile, his fingers lingering on her cheek after brushing her hair aside when it fell to her face as she rest on her pillow.

Despite her excitement for her coming celebration she fell fast asleep within moments. Something felt odd about the Fade though. Almost as if it were more vivid in color and alive with detail. She was out on the beach just as she had been earlier that day with her parents. But this time she was alone and very aware of it. She looked around before she saw something looming towards her just down the beach.

“Maker! A demon!” she started to panic and lose her breath, knowing she needed to get out of her dream as fast as she could. She pinched as hard as possible on her arm but it was no use. The demon moved in closer and her hands started to tingle.

Her eyes were wide when she realized, “No. It can’t be. It can’t. No, no, no!”

There was only one way she was getting out of this dream. The tingle she kept feeling on her fingertips had come and gone for a few weeks now. Always shaking it off, she only now realized what it really meant. She had to embrace it, accept it.

Closing her eyes, she fought back the tears while she tried to focus on relaxing. Trying to allow the foreign energy pulsing through her fingertips to radiate even more. It wasn’t far off now. It would reach her at any moment and try to turn her into an abomination. She focused harder still willing whatever it was to work its way through her. Despite what she was she would never be an abomination, would never allow a demon to possess her.

She woke and sat straight up in bed. Moving so quickly it took her a moment to gain her balance. She looked down at her hands that were covered in sparks of periwinkle purple lightning. She jumped out of bed looking into the mirror. Small specks of the color flashed through her iris’ until she found control over the powers flowing through her.

It wasn’t just a dream. This is real. What will I do? She thought. I can’t believe it. I’m a mage.

 

30 Solace 9:22 Dragon

She had managed to keep it a secret for two years now. She had no idea how she’d done it but she had. There were plenty of times she should have been easily caught but never was.

Today was her eleventh birthday. After her first encounter with a demon in the fade and finding the lightning dancing on her fingers two years prior, this day had lost meaning. Now it was just a reminder that she would either be hiding for the rest of her life or be imprisoned in a Circle. She did her best to put on a brave face but she was sure no one was buying it.

Her mother was very pregnant with her coming baby sister. She had been placed on bed rest until her arrival. Lucia hardly noticed anything these days as she was confined and often half awake. Pregnancy was taking its toll on her and Maxiana heard her say more than a few times that the twin’s pregnancy was easier than this one.

Her father noticed her becoming increasingly jumpy over the couple of years and always showed concern. Today was no exception. Maxiana had been sitting outside tucked away into the trees that lined the beach practicing little bouts of magic that no one could see unless they were up close. She heard her father call for her from the house and she nearly found herself clinging to the branches above as she jumped so high in her terror that she may be discovered.

“I’m sorry Papa, you gave me an awful fright,” she said with a breathy voice as she approached him.

“My sweet Ana, is everything all right with you? You seem to shake and jump out of your skin whenever any of us interact with you! You seclude yourself so much these days,” he said with nothing but concern and suspicion. Brow furrowing and eyes focused sharply on her reaction.

“Of course, Papa. I’m fine. You just startled me is all,” she wasn’t fooling him she could see it in his eyes. She pressed on anyway finding her way into the house waiting for guests to arrive to celebrate her birthday.

“Young lady, I was still speaking to you! Did you hear anything I said?”

She was frozen in shock. She hadn’t heard him at all. What was wrong with her? “No, I’m sorry I didn’t hear you.”

Her father sighed, “Maker, Ana. You’re really starting to worry this old man. Your party will be starting shortly. Go and get ready.”

As the day went on Maxiana was having a harder and harder time keeping herself under control. Growing increasingly uninterested in her party, he just wanted to go to her room and practice her spells. She’d managed to sneak a tome with simple spells in it. Using her status as a Trevelyan to retrieve the heavy book from her Tevinter ancestors who were all too happy to provide what she needed. She had taught herself every single spell within. There was comfort in her magic. Like an old friend greeting her and making her feel warm and loved when she cast.

She hadn’t realized just how hard it had been to keep her powers under control. She felt absolutely exhausted and only wanted to sleep by the time the party reached its end. Maxiana quickly retreated back to her chambers. Before she could shut the door her twin brothers were there in the doorway wearing mischievous smirks.

“We know what you are Ana!” They said in unison.

“I’m sorry but I don’t know what you’re talking about. Now shoo, I’d like to rest.” 

“Or maybe you wanted to read this!” Maddix exclaimed as he held up the tome.

“Maker’s breath! How did you find that?”

“Ana! You said a swear!” Maddix gasped. Both the boys giggled.

“It wasn’t very hard. You don’t hide things very well.” Makai explained. Ironic. She thought.

“Yes, well, give it back!” She reached out for the tome but missed when Maddix quickly pulled it away.

“No! Not unless you promise to show us some magic tricks.” 

“I don’t have the faintest idea what you think I can show you. Now give it back!” she exclaimed.

In the act of yelling at one another none of them had heard their sister sneak up behind them. Something she was entirely too good at. “What’s all this yelling about?” Mackenzie inquired.

“It’s nothing, the boys took one of my tomes and won’t give it back,” she pouted at her knowing she’d have her back.

“Two against one, that’s not fair at all is it!” Mackenzie said playfully. Not knowing exactly what the tome contained and what it meant about her older sister. Soon the Trevelyan children were dancing around one another laughing and giggling as the boys traded the tome back and forth and eluded the girls every measure to capture it.

Before they knew it Mackenzie had managed to grab hold of the tome. “Ha! Got it!” she shouted, satisfied with her victory. Promptly looking down at the tome, Ana watched her sisters face go through many emotions in the blink of an eye. Confusion, sadness, anger, curiosity, and fear.

“Ana… how did you… Ana please tell me I’m reading this incorrectly,” she finally mustered.

Ana reached out and grabbed the tome from her sister, “I’m sorry sister but you’re not. Please don’t tell anyone. I don’t want to be sent away to a Circle,” her eyes were filling with tears now.

“Kenzie, please!” The boys added for good measure.

She thought for a few moments then asked, “How long?”

“Since my ninth birthday, two years ago,” Maxiana replied in a small voice.

Her siblings eyes grew wide with shock as they trained their gazes on their oldest sibling.

“Maker, Ana! You’ve been hiding this for two whole years? No wonder you jump out of your skin all the time,” Makai said.

“If we don’t tell then she can show us cool magic tricks!” Maddix exclaimed.

Maxiana and Mackenzie both stared with their ‘big sister’ look at the two boys.

“I don’t do magic tricks you weirdos,” Maxiana finally said.

“What can you do?” Mackenzie asked quietly.

Suddenly Maxiana felt lighter than she had in months, years really. They were in on the secret and they were going to help her keep it. They hadn’t become afraid of her or treated her like she wasn’t a person. They still loved her and wanted to be around her.

She sighed slightly but couldn’t fight the smile that showed on her face, “You all promise to keep this a secret?”

Each of them nodded their heads enthusiastically. Maxiana ushered them into her chambers and shut the door, setting a small ward she had learned. It wouldn’t keep anyone out but it would notify her if someone was coming close. Maddix and Makai jumped in excitement while Mackenzie just stared at her sister’s chamber door. Reaching a hand out as if to touch the ward that had been placed.

“Maker,” she said in astonishment. “What else can you do?”

“Do you have a specialty? I’ve heard mages have specialties,” Maddix said matter-of-factly.

“Well, I don’t quite know since I haven’t had proper training. But storm magic seems to be the most natural for me. When I cast, my eyes turn slightly purple. Like a periwinkle color,” Maxiana offered.

“That would explain why that’s your favorite color then,” Makai observed.

“Well then, lets see it!” Mackenzie was buzzing with anticipation now.

Maxiana couldn’t stop the smile that spread on her face. She held her hands out, spreading her fingers slightly, holding them about a foot apart, palms facing each other. “Ready?”

“Yes!” they all cried.

“Ok, don’t get too close. I don’t want to accidentally hurt you. I’ve never done magic this close to someone before.”

All they did was stare at her waiting for the magic to appear. A spark started in Maxiana’s right hand and passed onto the left. After a few seconds it continued going back and forth, more sparks adding themselves the longer she went. A brilliant periwinkle purple color filled the room and her eyes had changed color to match.

“Maker, Ana! That’s beautiful!” Mackenzie finally said.

“That’s not all I can do,” she replied. She winked at them as she began to work another spell.

 

1 Firstfall 9:22 Dragon, the first day of Satinalia

Brett sat outside the door of his chambers. Knees scrunched up into his face and hands covering the tears he wanted no one to see. He was a grim sight amongst all the decorations put in place for Satinalia. Maxiana, her sister, and brothers had come in from playing down at the beach when they found him.

“Papa! What’s wrong? Is Mama ok?” Maxiana shouted at him looking towards the chamber door. She didn’t mean to be so loud but Lucia’s pregnancy had been very hard on her mother and she was frightened.

“Children, it’s not looking so good. The baby… Maker,” he prayed silently for the words to come. “It seems… that the baby is also very sick. It is possible that neither of them will make it through this. Why don’t you all go in and see her? That may lift her spirits a bit.”

He means to say goodbye. Just in case she… Maxiana couldn’t finish the thought. The four children did as he asked and entered the chambers. Gasps, sighs, and tears rushed out of them at the sight of their mother. The thin linen gown she wore was soaked in the sweat that covered her entire body. Her eyes hollowed out, deep purple skin bagged underneath from lack of proper rest and her limbs thin and weak from so much time spent in her bed. She tried to muster a smile for them but even that seemed to be a difficult task in her weak state.

“Oh my little loves. I am so happy you came to visit me.” Her voice sounded like it could break at any moment. The force of it harsh and rough. Lucia held her arms out to them gesturing that they join her on the bed. “It is Satinalia is it not? What kind of gifts do you all wish to receive?”

As the children climbed carefully into the bed Maxiana hesitated in the act. “Mama, what I really want if for the two of you to live. What if I could help you? What if I could make you better?”

“Whatever are you talking about Ana?”

“Maybe you shouldn’t Ana… what if someone gets hurt? Papa certainly will not approve,” Mackenzie said in a worried tone. For her or their pregnant mother, maybe both. Maxiana was unsure. She was right about one thing though, her father hated mages and magic. It was a big risk.

“It could save Mama! It could save our baby sister! I have too Kenzie!”

Her mother looked at her with weary eyes but somewhere behind the exhaustion there was a splinter of hope. “Ana?” she inquired.

Maxiana finished her climb onto the bed. Slightly nervous about casting the spell she had practiced over and over again, never having put it to practical use. She lowered her hands down to caress her mothers belly. Just then she felt the baby move towards her touch and her face lit up with excitement. Her eyes moved up and met Lucia’s. Both of them certain that this had to be the right thing to do. It had been a sign from the Maker himself. She knows doesn’t she? Maxiana thought.

Suddenly her hands started to glow green as she called on her magic to cast the simple healing spell she had taught herself. She pushed it in as deep as she could manage hoping that whatever was making the baby or her mother so ill would vanish away. The baby moved again, this time pushing into Maxiana’s hand. Encouraging her to continue.

“Maker’s breath! I knew it! Ana? On your ninth birthday, your eyes flickered purple while we were on the beach that day…” Lucia said as she watched the periwinkle hue dance in her daughters eyes. “Is this why?” Maxiana nodded in response.

Lucia already looked significantly better. Color returning to her cheeks and the hollow of her eyes looked less bruised than before. The grey of her iris that was dulled brightening again. “Continue Ana, it’s working! Oh Maker, Thank You for my sweet girl! Thank You for this gift!”

Lucia managed to sit upright and was hugging her daughter with everything she had. Small sobs of comfort and relief coming from her as Maxiana worked. She concentrated even harder willing the magic to save her mother and baby sister in anyway it could.

MAGE!” They all jumped at the noise.

“Brett darling it’s all right! She’s nearly fixed me, and the baby. It’s a gift from the Maker!”

“Papa please don’t be frightened, she’s still our Ana!” Mackenzie pleaded.

“Don’t send her away from us! Don’t send her to the Circle!” The boys shouted.

“NO! You can’t be! Not my Ana… Maker, please. I can’t loose her too,” he prayed. He shook his head as if trying to remove the vision of his daughter as casting magic. “No, you can’t be a… a mage.” Brett was muttering as he fled the room.

Maxiana’s eyes filled with tears as did the rest of her family's. They crowded together holding one another tightly knowing what was coming next. Maxiana never stopped her magic willing as much of the healing powers she could conjure to go to her mother and baby sister before she’d be ripped away from them. Even if it drained her. It didn’t matter anymore whether she lived or not. Only that her mother and sister were safe.

They sat there for a time refusing to let one another go. They all weeped silently together not wanting to break the silence. Mutually understanding that it was better than shouting I love you’s and goodbyes before Maxiana would be taken from them. Her father appeared in the room and pulled her away dragging her by her arm.

“No, Brett! Please, stop it! You’re hurting her!” Lucia cried as she reached out. Hoping to pull her daughter back to her arms.

“She’s a mage, Lucia! She has been lying to us! I have sent for the Templars. You will be taken to Ostwick Circle in the morning, mage.”

“Papa please! I’m still me! Please! I’m still your daughter, your Ana!” Her sobs started to come out of her uncontrollably. She faintly noticed that her mother and siblings were making similar cries as they trailed behind them as her father dragged her through the house with no remorse.

“You are not my daughter mage!” Hatred poured from him every time he said the word.

They arrived at a small room that was nearly empty. Brett threw her down into it taking no measures of precaution. There was no bed or sofa to lay on. No food or water to sustain her. No windows, blankets, nothing. Only a few boxes that held insignificant items. He slammed the door shut and promptly locked it. “You will stay here until the Templars arrive in the morning.”

She heard the rest of her family outside the door a few moments later. Lucia sat down leaning against the door and her three other children crowded around her. Maxiana leaned against the door on the other side trying to be as close to them as she could. Sobs escaping them all. “We’ll stay here with you Ana,” she heard her sister say quietly under the door.

Somehow, she had managed to fall asleep with her face pressed into the door. She was woken by the freshened cries and pleas of her mother and siblings. Rising up from the door just before it swung open, her eyes grew wide as a large man, heavily armored walked into the room. Wincing as her swollen, puffy eyes squinted at the man as he entered.

“My name is Jorge Baker. You are Maxiana?” he inquired as he bent down onto one knee and opened a hand out for her to accept. “I am the Knight-Commander at Ostwick Circle. I promise, no harm will come to you while you are in my care. You must come with me so I can keep you safe.”

Knowing there was no point in fighting back, she took his outstretched hand followed him to the carriage that would take her to the Circle where she would live out the rest of her days, forever.

Chapter Text

Not Alone

“I don’t want to cry when you go.
Stay a little longer you know.
You’re making me feel
I’m not alone.”
~’Not Alone’ by Sara Barielles

16 Bloomingtide 9:29 Dragon

“I’m sorry. Did I hear you correctly? You want me to go through my Harrowing early? Why in Thedas would you want that?”

“You’ve shown quite the promise to making your way to First Enchanter someday. You’re a very quick learner, you’re thorough, and accurate. You often master a spell within the first or second try. That’s not a gift to be taken lightly Maxiana! You’re a very powerful mage,” First Enchanter Esmirelda Halliwell said. She was an average woman but had a knack for warming your heart with her smile. Years of the Circle life showing on her face never went unnoticed as her skin crinkled even more when she did so. She had naturally red hair that went perfectly with her green eyes.

“I suppose I still don’t understand. What purpose does it serve for me to take my Harrowing early?” Maxiana challenged.

“As you know, we have several children who come to our Circle. Being a mage is not easy as it is but when you’re only three or four years old coming into your powers it is just that much more frightening. With rumors of the Blight looming around us, several of our more advanced mages have given their lives to the Grey Wardens. We find ourselves in need of more Junior Enchanters as promotions have been necessary. Given your nature for having such patience and your ability to learn and adapt, we think you’d be a perfect teacher for our younger apprentices. You will be apart of the next generation that runs this Circle, Maxiana. You are destined for great things. I just know it.”

Maxiana sat still and examined the woman sitting across from her. Perhaps this was her path, her destiny. Or perhaps they were desperate. Since she had come to the circle she had been desperately trying to figure out what the Maker had intended with her.

Suddenly the door to the office opened. Crossing the room in only a few strides was Knight-Commander Jorge Baker. He was aging rapidly due to his many years of service and the stress that caused. They had taken quite a toll on him even in Ostwick, known for being one of the most lenient circles. His hair had turned grey and was thinning. He looked at the First Enchanter with bright inviting blue eyes and as he walked across the room, she responded warmly to the gesture with a smirk of her own.

“Good afternoon, First Enchanter, Maxiana.” he said as he nodded to each of them. Turning his attention to the First Enchanter, “Esme, Have you spoken to her about her Harrowing?”

“We are discussing it now actually.”

“Brilliant! So Maxiana, you understand our need to keep order here? How important you are to the wellbeing of this Circle and its future?”

Keeping order? She hadn’t thought of it that way. They had been known for being gentle in their positions at Ostwick. Something that no doubt fueled the hatred she heard rumors of from mages at other circles. Before she could stop herself she was hoping. Hoping that this would be what made things better. That it would steal away the thoughts that haunted her at night. That the Maker had indeed finally shown her the path He had made for her when she came into her powers nearly nine years prior. She smiled slightly when she said, “All right when will I be taking it then?”

“Fantastic! You will take it in a few weeks time.” Esme said as she reached across her desk giving Maxiana a reassuring pat on her arm. 

Maxiana nodded to the two “I will make my preparations then. Thank you.”

That night as Maxiana lay in bed as she went over the conversation for what must’ve been a hundred times. Trying to find anything she may have missed. All her confidence had quickly faded away as her thoughts turned against her. Surely they couldn’t be praising her. There must be, must be, some other reason for this. What was the Maker playing at?

They don’t actually care about you. They’re just doing their job. Trying to keep the Circle together. No one cares about you. They all stopped caring when you came into your powers and became a mage. Everything, everyone, gone forever. You’ll never get them back.

That wasn’t necessarily true. Her mother had made arrangements to send and receive letters from her and her siblings. It was better than not having them at all. Years in the Circle had made it harder to maintain the relationships she once had with them. Each letter she sent was a little shorter than the last, more vague and complacent.

Attempting to push the thoughts away, she tried to drift off to sleep. But memory after memory, thought after thought flashed in her mind forcing her to stay awake, plaguing her of her father’s last words to her, making her feel small and insignificant. Convincing herself that the only reason anyone put up with her was because they pitied her.

“My dearest Ana, I cannot even believe you will be nine years of age tomorrow!”

“Maker Ana, you’ve been hiding this for two whole years?”

“What if I could help you?”

“You’re hurting her!”

“Papa, please!”

“You are not my daughter mage!”

She was holding her head tightly with her hands threatening to squeeze it open with the amount of force she was using. Curled up on her bed, her body rocked as she tried to calm.

“Stop it, stop it, stop it. Just one night. Please.” She muttered to herself.  “Breathe Maxiana, breathe.”

Over and over again all of the thoughts she couldn’t rid herself of, even after all her years in the Circle, played in her head no matter how hard she tried.

Please, Maker, take me away. I cannot live this life any longer. I want to die. Please. Please.

A thought occurred to her as she was praying to the Maker for mercy, her harrowing. It was in a few weeks time. Many others had done it. She could too and no one would be any the wiser about it. With that, she carefully put the plan together and she finally drifted off to sleep.

 

1 Justinian 9:29 Dragon

The coming weeks went by quickly. She was ready.

On her little desk in her chambers were two letters, one addressed to her mother apologizing and another to her father letting him know he got exactly what he wanted. She knew that they would be found and sent out afterwards and there was no need to send them herself. Most mages did the same not knowing what would happen in that chamber once the doors were shut behind them. Some of them were intentional like her own while others did it as a mere precaution.

As she walked over to her bed she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She rarely looked at her reflection. Her deep set, almond shaped eyes had fully changed over to the periwinkle purple that matched her Storm magic abilities. She hated seeing them, disgust filling her as she studied the bright purple color they had become.  Her rounded heart shaped face had her mother’s chin, it was strong and soft all at once. Her nose was small and round more like her fathers but the tip was more defined. Her forehead was a little too wide for her liking but she had giving in trying to hide it. She had her hair cut with a fringe once to cover it and it was absolutely awful. She could see the signs of womanhood were settling into her features and body. Curves showing themselves more and more as time passed on. When she caught the periwinkle staring back at her she moved away from the mirror fast and fell backwards onto her bed.

They weren’t meant to know what the harrowing entailed but nearly everyone knew it was a demon. She lay in her bed mulling over the possibilities of which one she may encounter. The best way to handle each one flooding her brain. Maybe it didn’t really matter. Any one of them could offer her anything with the end result being the same. Possession. Which would ultimately result in her death at the hands of the Templar stationed at her side. She was so lost in thought she hadn’t heard the door open.

“These look ominous.” Maxiana startled, sitting up quickly and looked to see a teenage girl standing there with the letters in her hand. She was pale, tall and slender, her eyes shining bright blue and her eyelashes seemed to stick out a mile long. She looked to be close to the same age as Maxiana herself. Her hair was so blonde it was nearly as white as snow and had just a slight wave to it. It was long enough to touch the small of her back. Her ears poking through indicating that she was an elf and her lack of marking’s telling her she wasn’t Dalish. 

“Maker! You scared me half to death! Who are you? What are you doing in my chambers?” she exclaimed. She had her own chambers for quite some time. They bunked two of them per room and the last roommate, Aimee, was no longer with her as she had graduated into a full Circle mage.

Maxiana wondered briefly where the elf was from. She had two little buns made of hair sitting at the front top of her head. Her face was round and her features were soft. Her lips turned down slightly on the corners but there was a playfulness to them. If Maxiana had an opposite, surely it was this girl.

The girl scoffed, “You mean our chambers? I just got here, well I was here before but now I’m back and I’ve been bunked with you it seems.” She walked over to Maxiana and held out her hand. Maxiana couldn’t help but be entranced by the girl. Something in the way she carried herself, the way she moved oozed confidence. “Jadzia Dax Feyhon at your service. Former apostate, Winter mage.”

“You were here before? Shouldn’t you be Tranquil with your capture?”

“Should be, maybe. I have a way with words and reading people. Convinced them that I was only eleven years old and didn’t know what I was actually doing. That an older mage that escaped with me tricked me into it. But it was actually me who arranged it,” she said with a wink. “It helps that it's my birthday today too. Come now, don’t be rude, I’m not going to hold my hand out all day now!” She said as she shook her hand dramatically at her.

Maxiana accepted her gesture, “Oh, sorry. I’m Maxiana, Storm mage. And Happy Birthday.”

“Gee thanks, don’t sound so excited about it,” the girl said sarcastically. “Just Maxiana, Storm mage then?”

Maxiana shook her head, “Well I suppose if you’re going to be so formal. Maxiana Athena Trevelyan, first born of Brett and Lucia Trevelyan, former apostate, Storm mage,” she looked at Jadzia as if to challenge her but Jadzia just smirked at her.

“Maker’s breath, a noble in my chambers! One who used to be an apostate no less! How scandalous! So how long did you get away with it?”

“Yes, well, since I am here then I’m sure you can figure out that I have been disowned by my father so don’t get too excited about it,” she said as she lay back in her bed. “I came into my powers at nine years of age. My father sent for the Templars on Satinalia when I was eleven when he discovered me.” Jadzia listened as she was taking her seat on the bed across the little room.

“Well X, whatever you say. Eleven seems to be a tricky year for the both of us,” she said. “Will you tell me why are you being so mysterious?”

“X?”

“Yeah that title is a mouthful. So I’ll just call you X instead.”

Maxiana looked at her in confusion but then said with a smile, “Shall I call you Z then?”

“Sounds great! Does this mean we’re friends? I’ve never had a true mage friend before. Only people I’ve tricked into doing things for me. My mum always said I should’ve been a rogue instead. Ha! And give up these abilities!” She let the frost take over her hands as she said it.

Try as she might, Maxiana couldn’t help but feel like they were in fact friends. In such a short period of time she had already talked of the downfall with her father, something she never spoke about. She had never met someone who was so confident with their mage abilities.

They openly shared their talents with each other over the next several hours. Talking about anything and everything it seemed. Something about Jadzia was just easy. They naturally fell into a rhythm with each other that Maxiana had never experienced before. Well, except maybe with her sister Mackenzie.

“Soooooo, you never did answer me earlier. You’re holding something back I can tell. Why are you being so mysterious?” Jadzia said playfully.

“Oh, my Harrowing. They’re having me do it early. A few of the higher ranked mages and Templars are going to the Grey Wardens so they want me to become a Junior Enchanter and teach the younger children.”

“Ah, so that’s what these letters are then? The aftermath of you not making it out of that chamber alive?”

Maxiana didn’t say anything, she just nodded as she laid there hoping that Jadzia would let it be.

“Maker! You can’t let the demon just take you! That’s suicide!”

Maxiana stayed silent. A little dumbfounded that Jadzia hatched open her plan so quickly. She looked over and noticed the letter to her mother open in the girls hand. She wasn’t sure why she didn’t care about Jadzia reading them. Maybe because she planned on dying anyway or maybe it was just the natural feeling of their relationship. She knew she could trust this girl, probably with her life.

“Oh X, this is just pitiful.”

“What?”

“This letter. Telling your father off. Do you really think killing yourself is the best way to get revenge on him? Did you ever think that deep down the reason he was so upset was because he knew he would lose you?”

She scoffed, “Everyone else in my family seemed content with keeping it a secret. Even my mother. So no, I don’t think that at all. He hates mages so he hates me.”

When Jadzia didn’t respond, Maxiana looked up at her in curiosity. She thought that Jadzia looked sad. They sat looking at one another for a few moments before Jadzia finally spoke. “Come with me, I want to show you something.”

“I’m sorry but no I think I’ll stay right here.”

“Don’t be so damn unreasonable! We don’t have long before curfew so lets go.” She was pulling on her arm trying to force her out of bed. Maxiana finally gave in and climbed out of her bed putting her boots on.

“Fine. Where are we going?”

With a smirk on her face, “You’ll see.”

They made their way down the halls, Jadzia pulling Maxiana behind her. After several minutes they finally arrived at their destination.

“These are the chambers used for the children. Why are we here?” Maxiana questioned.

“Can you trust me?” Jadzia asked. 

“Yes,” she replied, surprised by her quick response and the truth that lay behind it.

Jadzia opened the door and the two walked in to see roughly thirty children playing amongst themselves. Many of them looked to be between the ages of six and ten. A few were much younger. One little boy quickly caught Maxiana’s attention and she went over to him.

“Hello there,” she said with a smile. “My name is Maxiana, what is your name?”

The boy was shy and didn’t look up when he quietly said, “Max.”

“Max! We have the same name!”

He smiled a little and looked up at her. “We do!”

“How old are you Max?”

He was suddenly shy again, averting her gaze when he held up three little fingers.

“Maker, you’re only three years of age?” she said losing her breath.

“His mother found him setting his bed on fire. Saying that a demon was underneath of it and if the bed was gone then there was no where for it to hide,” one of the older kids standing nearby said.

“Maker,” was all Maxiana could muster.

Most of the night was spent with the children by the two girls. They left before curfew hit with just enough time to make it back to their own chambers. Before laying down Maxiana hugged Jadzia tightly saying only, “Thank You” before she climbed into her bed. Finding a new purpose in the life she loathed so much just mere hours ago making her more grateful that she had a new roommate. 

 

9 Kingsway 9:34 Dragon

Cold. Empty. Hurt. Pain. Sadness. Anger. Loneliness.

I deserve it. I’m just a mage. I deserve it.

With everything I’ve done.

Lying to my family. Thinking I could escape the circle. Intending to fail my Harrowing.

Allowing myself to have feelings for another. Stupid. Stupid, Idiot.

I’ve never been Silenced before. It burns. But I deserve it.

I’m a terrible person. No one would miss me. Everyone is better off without me around.

I can’t even be trusted to…

They’re right. I deserve this. I. deserve. it.

I want to die. I deserve to die. Maker, please, please. I’m begging you.

I can’t take this life any longer. I’ve never been so empty. So alone.

End my misery. Please. Maker, please.

I have suffered a terrible loss today. I can’t see Your hand in all of this anymore.

I have lost my way and I’m terrified I’ll never find my way back after this day…

Maker, if you are merciful, you will take me to your side.

End this pain. Please. I can’t.

 

13 Drakonis 9:37 Dragon

“Did you hear about Kirkwall?” Jadzia asked. “Crazy shit if you ask me.”

Maxiana had heard about Kirkwall. As a Senior Enchanter she was not supposed to talk about it with the mages except to reassure everyone that the Chantry and Order had it under control. This of course was a complete lie. They sat together in her office, picking away at the snacks Jadzia brought for them every night. Being in Ostwick was easy for the most part and Jadzia had a way of getting the things she wanted.

“More like fucked up batshit crazy if you ask me.” Maxiana replied. She didn’t have to worry about sugar coating anything with Jadzia.

“Oh my, X! You said a swear, two swears! Such foul language from you Senior Enchanter! What will the First Enchanter say? I’m such a bad influence on you,” Jadzia responded as she nudged her on the shoulder with a look of triumph on her face. Maxiana’s look of disgust at the mention of the First Enchanter didn’t escape her.

“First Enchanter Damien probably wishes I would use such foul language in his chambers,” she shivered at the thought. “I don’t even want to think about what he would say about a lot of the things I do or do not do.”

“Yeah, let’s not talk about that shall we? I have enough disgusting images thanks to the new Knight-Commander…” Jadzia said. They sat in silence for a few moments before deciding to leave it be. “I was hoping maybe there was a middle ground between what you were told and what the rumors were. In Kirkwall that is.”

“I’m afraid not,” she mumbled at the elf as she chewed her food.

“So what happened? Do you know?” Jadzia responded, her eyes wide as she waited for the gossip she was looking for.

“Only bits and pieces. An apostate mage blew up the Chantry. The Knight-Commander there, Meredith I think her name was, she was killed after invoking the Rite of Annulment. I heard that the Knight-Captain stood with the mages before the end. He supposedly has rallied whats left of the Templars and is trying to fix what he can. I’m sure there’s more to it than that but that’s all I know for sure. We’re one of the lesser scandalous Circles so I don’t think we’ll have much to worry about here.”

“Shit,” was all Jadzia said for a moment. “You think even with us getting all these new Templars lately that we’ll still be safe? And the First Enchanter, the way he looks at you some times…”

“I’m sorry, are you Senior Enchanter Maxiana Trevelyan?” Looking up, they saw a Templar standing in the doorway of Maxiana’s office.

“Yes, that would be me,” she said as she walked over to greet him.

He’s not wearing his armor. Maker, those arms look strong. Maxiana shook her head of the thought. “My name is Jace Watson. I have been recently promoted to Knight-Lieutenant from the circle in Hasmal. I have been stationed by Knight-Commander Malcolm to look over your classes,” he said with a warm smile.

She couldn’t help but smile in return. Something about him was warm and inviting. He had a beard and mustache that would rival the few dwarves she had met in her life. His hair was short along the sides down to his nape but long and slicked back on top. He was only a few inches taller than she was but he was broad and muscular. Noticing her gazing at him he asked, “What is it that you teach?”

“Oh, I’m a Knight-Enchanter. But I also teach Storm abilities,” she replied tucking her hair back behind her ear and her teeth involuntarily biting down on her bottom lip.

“She’s not just any Knight-Enchanter pal,” Jadzia said as she joined them. She ignored the look Maxiana gave her and proceeded to say, “She uses dagger grips instead of a hilt. Her staff even breaks in two. She’s quite impressive Knight-Lieutenant Jace who will be stationed here in this very room for hours and hours…”

“All right. That’s quite enough Jadzia,” she demanded. Maxiana couldn’t help but notice a look of satisfaction and lust on Jace’s face at her friends ridiculous words. 

He held himself high and confidently as he responded, “A Knight-Enchanter? We’ll have to spar sometime. I suppose that I will see you tomorrow then? It’s been a pleasure to meet you Senior Enchanter.”

“Same to you Knight-Lieutenant and please, call me Maxiana.”

“Only if you’ll call me Jace,” he said as he ran his finger lightly along her jaw. For a moment she was sure he was going to kiss her. His lips were slightly parted and his eyes darted from hers to her lips several times. He dropped his hand and he nodded to Jadzia with a wink as he turned to leave.

“MAKER’S BREATH X!” Jadzia squealed once the door was shut. “He was practically fucking you with his eyes and then he touched you on your jaw all ‘Call me Jace,’” she tried to imitate his voice then made a sound of ecstasy as she fanned herself with her hand. “He obviously wants you! Please tell me you’re going after him? You haven’t been… you know… with a man in a long time. Fucking the Knight-Captain in Starkhaven every few months isn’t cutting it. You’re all worked up, you need a good release.”

“He’s a Templar Z. That’s not exactly going to work out,” she replied.

“Oh and the Knight-Captain is what?” Jadzia shot back quickly.

“That’s different,” Maxiana dragged out. “You weren’t helping the situation any you know!” She knew she wasn’t fooling her friend. Especially because she couldn’t stop smiling no matter how hard she tried.

“Psh, listen up, my girl right here,” she grabbed her by her shoulders as she explained herself, “she needs a man in her life who isn’t a weeks travel away, if you know what I’m saying. He,” she pointed towards the spot where Jace had been standing moments ago, “obviously doesn’t mind taking on the responsibility. In fact I’m quite positive that he’d beg you for it.”

Jadzia was being absolutely relentless and was practically bouncing as she said, “He’s basically going to be living in your office X! It’d be so easy to call him over until he pins you to the desk. Or maybe up against the wall. You think he’ll beg you to fuck him or get you to beg him to fuck you? I wonder if that mustache and beard tickles? You know, down there…”

“Oh sweet Maker…” she blushed.

I bet it does… I bet it’s wonderful. We will be together an awful lot. Alone in this room a lot. I wonder how sturdy this desk is? Maker, this is not going to go well.

Chapter Text

Breaking the Habit

 

 

“I don’t know what’s worth fighting for
Or why I have to scream.
But now I have some clarity
To show you want I mean.
I don’t know how I got this way.
I know it’s not all right.
So I’m breaking the habit tonight.”
~’Breaking the Habit’ by LINKIN PARK

 

5 August 9:40 Dragon, All Soul’s Day

“The moment they entered the city of the Maker, their sin poisoned it. What had been golden turned black and violently they were flung from the world of dreams back into the waking world. Twisted and corrupted by their crime and their magic into monsters. They fled underground unable to bear the light of day. The first darkspawn.” Cullen’s voice sounded of anger at the final words of the prayer. Filled with emotions as he recited the prayer as he kneeled in front of the statue of Andraste in the small Chantry setup in the Gallows. The heavy door creaked open behind him and the heavy armored footsteps that entered stopped a couple of feet behind him.

“What is it that the Canticles of Threnodies brings says to you Knight-Commander?” said a Nevarran accented woman.

Eyes closed tightly, he lifted his head training his eyes on Andraste. Fist were clenched as he explained, “It is All Soul’s Day, I always say a prayer for my Ma and Pa. They died during the Fifth Blight.” As he walked towards the woman a realization hit him like a ton of bricks, “Maker, you’re the Right Hand of the Divine! What brings you to Kirkwall?”

“I am. But that does not matter right now. I am here to see you Knight-Commander Cullen. Is there somewhere we can go to speak privately?” the woman inquired standing tall and confident.

Cullen nodded and gestured for her to follow him out into the hallway to walk to his office. It wasn’t far from the little sanctuary. He would wager he spent most of his time in one room or the other and had walked this path many times. “You seem to know me but I only know you as the Right Hand. Is there another title you prefer?”

“Of course, my apologies. I am Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast,” she replied as she took his hand into a firm hand shake.

“Its pleasure to meet you Cassandra,” he replied has they made way into his office. “I had heard the Right Hand was a Seeker. I hope you are not here to investigate. I’m afraid we are still recovering from the mage rebellion, even after three years time and I assure you I am doing my best to rebuild with what we have left,” he said as he took his seat behind his desk and watched Cassandra sit across from him.

“Fortunately that is not my purpose today. You know better than most the toll the Mage-Templar war has taken on Thedas. Divine Justinia seeks to stop this war as soon as possible. She has called for a Conclave at the Temple of Sacred Ashes in two weeks time. She intends to meet with leaders from both groups to try and resolve the issues we face,” she replied as she sat rigidly.

“Our Divine has a lot of work ahead of her then. I can tell you that just from my time here alone that it’s much easier said than done,” he examined with a light chuckle.

“Indeed. However, Justinia is choosing to take another course should the Conclave fail us,” she said as she set down a large tome onto Cullen’s desk. He recognized the symbol right away and could only muster out ‘Maker’ before she continued. She seemed to acknowledge his recognition, “Yes, Knight-Commander, the writ of the Divine herself. She has declared the Inquisition to be reborn should the mages and templars insist in this war continuing.”

Cullen slid his hand over the top of the tome. Wonderment filling him to be so close to something the Divine had written in her own hand. Many knew of the original Inquisition but only those within the Order likely knew its full history. “That is what the Divine’s writ has claimed? What would this Inquisition be responsible for exactly?”

“It would be a peace keeping force. We would take on the responsibility of restoring order in this world gone mad. We could finally have peace among all people,” she said with passion.

“And what precisely does this have to do with me?” Cullen’s eyes hadn’t left the tome since the Seeker had placed it in front of him.

“The unfortunate reality is that even as a peace keeping force we will need an army. I have done my research. We feel that you would be the best fit as the Inquisition’s Commander, as the leader of our armed forces. Divine Justinia as well as her Left Hand, Sister Leliana also agree with this decision.”

His eyes shot up and met hers with confusion and pride. Him? They wanted him? Why?

“You have been through a great number of challenges and worked your way through them all when many others would have faltered. You are the sole survivor of Kinloch Hold. You fought against Knight-Commander Meredith when many others would have, did, simply follow orders. You took the responsibility of rebuilding Kirkwall, with no orders to do so when you could have easily left it behind.” 

He shook his head at her response to his thought, “Maker, did I say that aloud?”

“You did. But it is a valid question. One that makes me all the more sure that you are the right choice. Anyone who would take this position without questioning their ability to do it would be a fool,” she replied sounding impressed.

This is it. He thought. This is my chance to break free of the chains of this life. To be free of its hold. To set out to do good, like I wanted to when I joined all those years ago.

“If I accept this position, will I be able to bring willing men with me? I know of many templars who would happily join your cause,” he insisted.

“Of course. We will trust your judgement explicitly,” she reassured.

Names and faces began to filter through his mind. Many of the men right here in Kirkwall would be happy to flee the devastating place. Several others that he had met in his travels as Knight-Commander, as well as those who came to aid Kirkwall since the rebellion would be willing he was sure. Many of the men and women he thought of having had similar discussions with him over the years.

“There is one other thing should I accept,” Cullen said in a low voice. Hazel eyes watched him carefully as she waited for his response. Clearing his throat, he tried his best to sound confident in his request, “I wish to no longer take lyrium.”

A small gasp left her, brow raised in alarm, “That can be highly dangerous Cullen. It could kill you!”

“Yes, I know. I’ve been taking less and less of it each day. It binds me to a life I no longer wish to live. Gives me abilities I no longer wish to possess. As a Seeker, you can assess the dangers better than anyone. I will fall to your judgment should I become compromised in any way,” he offered.

Both of them held their positions stiffly, silence filled his office as he waited for her acceptance or refusal. Losing his confidence, he shifted in his chair and his hand began rubbing the back of his neck. The creak of the wood the only sound between them when she suddenly dropped her gaze, “All right, you have a deal, Commander” she said as she pushed her hand forward. His met in the middle and they shook binding the verbal contract they had just made.

“Before I leave, Cullen. There is one other thing I wanted to ask you,” she implied as she rose from her seat.

“Of course, what is it?”

“I have been looking for Garrett Hawke for some time. I do not know the nature of your relationship with him but as you stood with him during the rebellion I had hoped that you may know where I can find him,” her voice defeated as she asked. Her eyes were hopeful as they locked with his.

Hawke. What does she want with him? He thought. “I’m sorry, but I do not know where he is,” he said. It wasn’t entirely a lie. He knew where he might be but it was unlikely he was. The Champion had maintained contact with him over the years but his letters were untraceable. Someone as cunning as Garrett Hawke wouldn’t be caught so easily.

Cassandra seemed to accept his reply though he was sure she didn’t actually believe him. Giving a shallow nod she said, “Very well. We are using Haven has an asylum for now. Meet us there and send word to anyone you think would follow you.”

She walked out of his office and he promptly shut and locked the door behind her. Pulling the little box that held his lyrium kit out of his desk drawer, he set it down neatly in front of him. Four vials left.

No, I don’t need it any longer. I am no longer a templar.

Placing the vials back into the box he put it back in its original place. Emotions ran rampant through his body as he realized what had just happened. He’d be working for the Divine. Putting the world back in place and helping those in need, like he’d always wanted to do and he wouldn’t need to rely on the lyrium that had leashed him for years while he did it. Allowing himself a moment to collect his thoughts, his head fell into his hands as he realized that he would finally be free of the life he had wanted to leave behind for so long.

Chapter Text

5 August 9:40 Dragon, All Soul’s Day 

Knight-Captain Rylen Ryker,

I have recently accepted a position outside of the Order in which I will be serving the Divine as the Commander of the Inquisition. She seeks to hold a Conclave in two weeks time from the date of this letter. Should it fail, the Inquisition will be born again.

When you came to Kirkwall you followed under my command without question and provided me with much needed help in restoring what we could. Given your frankness, problem solving skills, and determination to put Kirkwall back in place I could think of no one better to help us put the world back in order. Your ability to put your faith aside to do what must be done is something I greatly admire in you as you know.

I have been given the choice to find my own recruits to join the Inquisition with me. I wish to ask you to join me as my second in command.

If you chose to accept Knight-Captain of the Inquisition, please meet with us in Haven as soon as you can. If you have men there in Starkhaven you believe will come with you, bring them. I will trust your judgment on the matter.

This could be it Rylen, everything we talked about all those years ago. This could be our chance. Though we don’t maintain contact often, I consider you a friend. I’ll admit it may have clouded my judgment on this matter a bit but I meant everything I’ve said.

I hope you will accept. I look forward to seeing you in Haven should you do so.

Sincerely,

Commander Cullen Rutherford

Leader of the Inquisition’s Armed Forces

Chapter Text

White People for Peace

“Their prayers went unanswered and ignored.
God like the rest of the world just watched in silence.
There was purpose to be served.
There were fortunes to be earned.
Before a peace could be called
To stop the fighting.”
~’White People for Peace’ by Against Me!

5 August 9:40 Dragon, All Soul’s Day

Cold. Hard. Broken. It burns. It burns. I deserve it. I’m just a mage. I deserve it.

She had been praying in the Chantry when the Knight-Commander had retrieved her. Lying to her saying he needed her help in the courtyard. Her naked body scraped across the cold, hard ground of the courtyard over and over again. Back and forth. Back and forth. Surely her back was covered in scrapes and bruises by now. Her tears were never ending as she was assaulted by the very men who were meant to protect her.

“That’s right, take it you fucking mage bitch. This is what you get you little cunt!” the Knight-Commander’s deep voice seethed.

“Please, please,” her voice was so low it was almost a whisper. She could hear another voice muffled nearby. She looked up to find his face desperate for any form of comfort. But her eye was too swollen and she winced at the pain that shot through her face. When she found him he was just as bloody as she was and she had to refrain from looking allowing the concern to show on her face.

“Jace…” she whimpered. An armored hand slapped her in warning.

“I told you not to say his name. Don’t even fucking look at him. Look at me! You’re all mine now you mage bitch. You and that little elf friend of yours will keep my cock plenty satisfied won’t you sweetheart?”

Jace was standing nearby, bound and gagged by his fellow templars, pulling and pushing desperately on his restraints. Rendered powerless with a Silence performed by one of them, there was nothing she could do to say e herself or protect him. As soon as she felt her mana begin to restore she would be Silenced again.

After Knight-Commander Malcolm had finished having his way with her he said, “Would any of you boys like a turn? Jace doesn’t mind sharing now do you?”

Malcolm walked up and stood next to the bound man, “Do you boy?”

Jace stayed silent, refusing to submit. Trying as hard as he could to break free from the hold the other men had on him. It earned him a punch to his abdomen which was sore from the several other hits he had taken by now. “I said, you don’t mind sharing your mage whore with us do you boy?”

Jace refused to give in and stayed silent still. She had never seen him look for furious, had never seen his eyes grow so dark with hatred. Maxiana watched him and when he caught her gaze his eyes softened with sorrow and concern. Both of them desperate to break free of their temporary prisons so they could save the other apparent in their silent exchange.

“I suppose it don’t really matter do it? We’ve got ya both. I think it’s my turn with the mage whore yeah?” said one of the other templars. Beginning to remove his armor and clothing, he stopped when there was a loud noise from inside the building. They all turned towards the vibrating sound when the door leading to the main hall burst open revealing mages and templars alike attacking one another. The battle began moving towards the group of defilers and their victims.

“Shit! Leave them. This lot will take care of them,” Knight-Commander Malcolm ordered.

Jace fell to the ground as he was released and crawled over to Maxiana. She pulled the gag from his mouth and pulled him down to her. Their lips were desperate and needy knowing that whatever was happening could easily tear them apart. They were both in a weakened state and knew that surviving whatever had started to pour into the courtyard would be a difficult task.

“Maxiana, I love you. I am so sorry.” Jace said as he broke their kiss. Holding onto her face tightly as if letting go would cause her to vanish.

“It’s not your fault. You are a good man. These are bad people. Do not feel guilty,” she replied.

Jace quickly pulled her up into his arms intending on taking her to safety.

“We should find Jadzia and check on the children,” Maxiana said. It wasn’t a suggestion but a command.

Jace nodded in agreement, “We will. We can search for her while we help the kids. We could run and be rid of this place then. We can be together forever my darling,” he kissed her deeply as if sealing the promise he had just made. “First we need to find clothes and weapons.”

They managed to evade every fight that could have prevented their task. When they made it to her chambers she locked the door behind them. Here mana still depleted from the consistent waves of Silence, she pulled what she could, using it to perform the wards she had used so many times before. “I need lyrium,” she mentioned to Jace. “They Silenced me so many times I need to rebuild my mana as fast as I can.”

Running to her desk, he found the little vials of glowing blue liquid there in the top drawer on the right hand side. He popped two open downing one himself and quickly pouring the other into her mouth as she cast, watching the spell strengthen as he did. Finding a spare change of clothes he had stashed in her chambers, he dressed quickly. He began finding all the things she would need as he waited for her to put on her armor. Clothes, her staff, some of her personals he knew she would want to keep, a few tomes, and a small portrait of her with her family. Her father had paid quite a large sum to have the image made and her mother paid even more to have it copied for her in secret.

By the time he had gathered all the items she had already begun healing herself at a rapid pace. “Just enough to make us mobile,” she said with a small smile, her gloved hand reaching up to his face to heal the wounds there.

She finished the last of the healing magic they needed in order to escape. Within a blink she was pushed into the wall by Jace. His hands were everywhere and his mouth was insistent. His tongue was begging for entry but she broke their contact stating, “Jace, my darling, we have to go. Now is not the time.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry. Something about watching you cast…” he snickered. He’d always had a fascination with the way she cast her magic. He had a fascination about a lot of things she did. It made her uneasy sometimes. “I’m just relieved that we got away from the Knight-Commander and his lackeys. I’m still trying to convince myself that you’re here and we’re alive. I thought for sure they were going to kill us both.”

“I did too. Luckily they didn’t. So let’s get out of here before they find us.”

The pair made their way towards the children’s chambers. Fighting off any who would oppose them easily. They had managed to find time to spar many times over the last couple of years. As a Knight-Enchanter it was much easier to get away with sparring against Templars. Knowing each other in battle making it all the more easier for them to work together. They reached their destination only to find the chambers had been emptied.

“I’m not sure if this is good or bad,” Jace said.

“Me either. Let’s hope it’s good. Maybe one of the other Senior Enchanters got them out and into safety?” Even as she said it she didn’t believe it. Something was telling her this was most definitely not good.

“We should get your phylactery,” Jace insisted.

“Its too dangerous! We have to find Jadzia and get out of here!” she countered.

Jace set his jaw, anger evident in his gaze, “If we don’t get your phylactery first they’ll find us before we have time to even escape.”

“Why would stye bother? I am of no importance and there will be apostates everywhere!” she shouted back as the lightning danced on her finger tips.

“Are you joking?” Jace said incredulously, his hands thrown up in mock defeat. “Maxiana you’re a powerful spell writer, a Senior Enchanter and a Knight-Enchanter. Not too mention you are of noble birth. You’re the first one they’ll come looking for!”

“My father made it perfectly clear that I am no longer a noble!” she reminded. She had never told Jace the whole truth. Being denounced as a noble when you turned out to be a mage wasn’t uncommon.

Watching her for a moment, Jace stated firmly, “Irregardless, we have to get your phylactery. Otherwise they will find us within days.”

“It won’t be here! I’m a full circle mage and a Senior Enchanter. It surely has been moved by now,” she argued back.

“The circle here isn’t so wicked as the others until recently. It’s known for being one of the safest and most forgiving. I’d imagine they wouldn’t be so worried about the mages here that they couldn’t keep them close by. This Circle is also quite large as it has its own wing for the templars. What if we don’t check only to find out that it is here?”

He had a point. Up until recently when Knight-Commander Malcolm arrived just before the Mage Rebellion began in Kirkwall there had very rarely been an issue at Ostwick. It had only recently started getting worse with the mages voting for freedom. Some part of her knew Jace was very likely right but the risk was incredibly great. Jadzia had been no where in sight during their attempt. Going back would give her the opportunity to look one more time.

“All right. Let’s go find it. If we could find Jadzia’s too that would be even better. We can use it to find her and get her out too.”

Jace nodded and grabbed her hand pulling her back the way they had come. He directed her until they came to a large door that Maxiana had passed several times during her life in the Circle but had never been through.

“This leads to the templar’s wing. I’m betting the phylactery chamber is in here somewhere.”

“Maybe it’d be safer for me to stay here.”

“No. I won’t leave you here alone. Not after what we just went through. Besides, the Knight-Commander has it out for me so I’m just as much a target as you are.”

Jace performed a templar ritual she had never seen before on the door and it promptly opened. They went through every hallway, every corridor they came across looking for the hidden room. For the second time that night they were surprised by how empty it was. They both knew that as much as they didn’t want a fight, it was not a good sign that this part of the building seemed to be evacuated too.

They turned down another hallway for what felt like the hundredth time when they were face to face with First Enchanter Damien and a small group of Templars. Damien remained unmoved from his position as the Templars charged at the couple.

Outnumbered and already exhausted they fought with everything they had. When clanking sounds of metal diminished away, Maxiana became very aware that Jace had been chased around a corner by three of the men. Before she could go to his aid the last remaining templar came charging at her full force. His shield up and ready to knock her down. Before he reached her, he fell to the ground.

Maxiana looked up to see First Enchanter Damien standing there with his hands up. 

Her eyes wide as she realized what he had done, “What did you do?” she said in horror and felt the magic of another suddenly hit her. “Why did you…” was all she was able to say before everything went dark.

Maxiana woke some time in the early morning before sunrise. Beams of pinkish-orange light filtered through the windows, illuminating the room just enough for her to see. She felt strangely out of place but wasn’t sure why until she started to scan the room. I’m in First Enchanter Damien’s chambers. What in Thedas am I doing here? She thought as groan left her while she tried to sit up. Panic suddenly overrunning her, she shot out of bed forcibly.

“Maker, that hurts.” She pulled her tunic up slightly to find the source of pain she felt. There were bruises and small cuts all along her sides, her abdomen, and legs, and her throat was sore. She found a mirror and noticed the marks of being choked there on her neck. Flashes of the night before filled her vision. They were all the marks left over that she hadn’t had time to heal or couldn’t be healed with magic.An instinct to flee pushed her to move towards the chamber door but before she could make her way out she was face to face with the First Enchanter.

“Hey, you shouldn’t be out of bed. You need to rest.” Damien said as he came around the corner. “I’ve grabbed some creams and herbs for tea from our healers to help you get more comfortable.”

Maxiana lost herself in thought trying to recall everything that had happened, but could only remember bits and pieces. Sounds of clinking metal, spells being cast, screaming and crying filling her ears. There was a templar, he was running towards her but he was cast down. She was wearing her armor before… where was it?

“Did you stop that templar?” she asked in a shaky voice. Damien only nodded to her as he directed her to the bed and sat next to her.

“Yes, I was so scared for you Maxi. May I help you with this?” he said has he held one of the creams up to catch her attention. She grimaced at his nickname for her but she was going to need help. She nodded at him in response and moved the tunic she wore out of the way so he could reach the affected areas. 

“Is that Templar… is he… did you?”

“Yes. I had to protect you Maxi,” his voice was soft and gentle but held no remorse.

His hands were soft she noticed. He wasn’t much older than she, maybe five or six years difference. He was gentle as he applied the cream to her bruises. One in particular, the one that caused her to cry out in pain moments ago, was intensely relieved by the cream and she couldn’t help but let out a little moan.

A flicker of a distant memory made her suddenly hyperaware of how close they were to each other. They had been like this before when they were much younger and he was still a Senior Enchanter and she was still a Junior. His hands were applying cream to her ribs dangerously close to her breasts. She looked up to meet his gaze which locked with hers. He stared intently at her and his lips parted slightly. He wasn’t a terrible looking man and he was always kind to her. She just never felt a connection to him in anyway even on that night so many years ago. His eyes were a deep grey blue, his hair dark and messy. His beard was turning white and kept short.

Maxiana covered herself up quickly and got up from the bed. “Thank you Damien but I think I’ll just go to the healers.”

“You don’t have too. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable. Please, stay here. I insist. You need to rest,” he said as he placed his hand under her jaw to guide her eyes up to his.

“Why am I here?” And what happened to Jace? She finished in her head not wanting to give too much information to him. She didn’t know if he had seen who was with her. He’d question her asking for a Templar and didn’t want to chance it.

“I…” he began. She could see him choosing his words before he spoke them, “When you fainted all I could think about was getting you here. Getting you to safety.”

He took a step towards her and she instinctively took a step back. She was trying to remember what had happened and his words felt empty. Ostwick Circle had surely fallen given the amount of fighting she remembers. How had she ended up with Damien without Jace? He was fighting right along side her. 

She shook her head, something is definitely, definitely not right here.

“Thank you Damien but I’m just going to go find Jadzia. I will visit the healers while I’m looking around,” she said hoping that would reassure him enough.

Damien reached out and grabbed her arm tightly, “No, Maxi.” Maker, she hated it when he called her Maxi. Her look certainly tried to tell him so. “She’s not here. Jadzia fled with the other mages during the fighting. She left you here.”

“Let go of me! You’re lying! Let go I said!” she yelled out as she tried pulled her arm free.

“Knight-Lieutenant Jace is also gone if you must know,” his face looked smug and she wanted to strike him down with all the magic she could muster. “Oh yes, I knew about your relationship with Mr. Watson. Most of us did. You didn’t hide it nearly as well as you thought. He will pay for his sins just as you did. Now they are gone and we can pick up where we left off.”

Before she could protest his lips crashed down on hers. He was trying to force his tongue into her mouth but she was pulling away as hard as she could. When she felt it slide in-between her teeth she bit down hard. He let go of her in his surprise and she could taste the metallic of blood in her mouth.

She pushed her way through his chamber door and ran as quickly as her legs would allow until she reached her own chambers. Pushing the door shut, locking it, and putting up any and every ward she could imagine.

Cradling herself up into the farthest corner of her room on her bed and never losing eye contact with the door. She sat and waited, listening for what was surely to come. 

Has all of Thedas gone completely mad? She was trying hard to catch her breath as the panic washed over her. No. No. No. They wouldn’t leave me here. I know they wouldn’t. Maker, what have I done this time? What did I do to deserve this? Is it because I was with Jace? Or because we tried to run? Is it because I’m a mage? It is isn’t it? I’m a mage. I deserve this. Magic exists to serve man. Is that your will for me? To serve man forever? To allow them to use me when they give into their temptations? To waste away in this Circle giving my life unwillingly to the men who hate me and what I am? I am such an idiot for thinking otherwise. I deserve this.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a banging on her door and a muffled sounding Damien. Focusing instead on her dark thoughts, she ignore his attempts to get her to allow him in. Fear invaded her, causing her pain to intensify st the thought that no one was coming to her aid. The Circle had fallen. Jadzia and Jace were gone. Maker only knew how many mages and templars were left in Ostwick, let alone how many of them would be friendly towards her.

When reinforcements came moments later she was still sitting in the far corner. Her hands on her head squeezing it tightly, knees bent up to her face, her body rocking back and forth as she chanted for everything to stop.

Chapter Text

12 August 9:40 Dragon

Commander Cullen,

Ostwick Circle has fallen. Since I was on my way to port there to travel to Haven I decided to stop and investigate. There isn’t much left to report on honestly. Whatever happened here was premeditated. It’s unclear whether it was the templars or the mages. It’s entirely possible it was both. We are helping as many as we can before we make way.

We found First Enchanter Damien Caldwell trying desperately to get through the chamber door of one of the Senior Enchanters chambers. Luckily, it was someone I had met before and she recognized my voice. She allowed me to lower her wards so that we could give her aid once he was removed. 

Her name is Maxiana Trevelyan. She visited Starkhaven many times to teach and was always polite and respectful. By looking at her wounds, whoever got ahold of her was not expecting her to survive. She’s been asking for a Jadzia Feyhon and a Jace Watson. Perhaps the Inquisition has a way to help her find them? They’re not accounted for here and likely escaped somehow. Feyhon is a city elf and mage and Watson is a templar.

We have apprehended the First Enchanter as our main suspect for now. He certainly seemed interested in getting to Maxiana and she definitely was trying to keep him out. You should’ve heard him mumbling at her like a fool. I had to restrain from laughing it was so ridiculous! His tongue was completely swollen and he choked on it a few times. She apparently had bitten down on it pretty good when he tried to kiss her. He’s lucky that’s all she managed. Tough one she is. She’s a damn powerful mage and a specially trained Knight-Enchanter no less. Wait til you see this girl in battle, Cullen.

First Enchanter Beckett Sanders from Starkhaven had followed me to join the Inquisition. He has taken her ahead to meet at the Conclave. He thinks it’d be best for her to speak to the Divine about what happened here. Without any delays they should arrive there just in time.

Many of the templars and mages left here are interested in following us to Haven. I hope I am not out of line for allowing them to do so. We need all the help we can get I wager?

We will see you there,
Knight-Captain Rylen Ryker

Chapter Text

Radioactive

“I’m waking up to ash and dust.
I wipe my brow when I sweat my rust.
I’m breathing in the chemicals.
I’m breaking in, I’m shaping up,
Then checking out of the prison bus.
This is it, the Apocalypse.”
~'Radioactive' by Imagine Dragons

Green. Everywhere.

Maker, where am I?

Beckett was taking me to the Conclave but…

What was that?

Shit. Demons.

I’m in the fade. Wake up, Maxiana, wake up!

Looking around it became clear that her trip to the fade this time was not just in a dream.

“How the fuck did I get into the fade physically?”

“The demons!”

The voice startled her but it had the appropriate affect. She looked to see the hoard of spiders running at her, turning towards the voice she saw a golden figure standing next to an opening in the opposite direction. It was reaching out for her and she ran full speed towards it, somehow understanding that it could be trusted.

As she got closer she realized it was a woman but could not tell who it was.

“Go!” the golden figured shouted.

Maxiana reached back for the woman but it was too late.

She jumped through the opening and felt herself fall several feet down onto the hard ground.

The last thing she saw was the shuffling of boots and swords around her. Someone shouting ‘Commander, over here’ close by and the heavy footsteps that followed.

“Maker have mercy and watch over us all,” the deep voice replied.

She barely had time to process the man's words before everything went black.

Chapter Text

18 August 9:40 Dragon

King Alistair Theirin,

How are you old friend? Did you ever imagine that this is where we would end up when we were just boys all those years ago? You a king and I a leader of an army of a ‘heretical movement’. Maker, life has a strange way of playing out.

With the Conclave destroyed and Divine Justinia dead we do not know what we will soon face. I am hoping that we can rely on Fereldan for any assistance we may need in the coming months while we work through this. Who would be so deadly to destroy and kill so much and so many?

We have one suspect in custody. She fell out of the Fade right before my eyes Alistair. She is a mage and according to my Knight-Captain, Rylen who has met her before, she’s a powerful one. Apparently she’s also a special sort of Knight-Enchanter. Something still doesn’t add up though. She came from Ostwick and she’s from noble birth. My gut is telling me she is innocent. I find myself worrying about what all these bureaucrats will do to her. Many are calling for her to pay for the Divine’s death already. You know better than many what being a mage of status means.

How is Galadriel? Have you heard from her? I’d be lying if I didn’t say there is a chance we may need the both of you before this is over. We meant to seek peace and order and now there’s a giant hole ripped into the sky. Maker only knows what that will mean in the days to come.

I heard that you’ve offered shelter for the rebel mages. Sounds like something Gal would have happily done herself. Is that why you did it? For her? Alistair, I don’t know how you two do it.

It has been too long old friend, we must meet and discuss everything when you are able. The sooner, the better. I have to admit I would rather like to see you after all these years. We have so much to catch up on. Even outside of the Inquisition, the Conclave, and a giant hole in the sky.

I’m sure I could add some frivolity to this letter in honor of your kingliness but I rather think you would prefer I keep it simple.

Regards,
Commander Cullen Rutherford
Leader of the Inquisition’s Armed Forces

P.S. When you hear from Gal, ask her to send word to Leliana. She has taken the Divine’s death terribly. She’s trying her best to stay professional but I know she is grieving heavily underneath. She could use some support from a friend.

Chapter Text

Can’t Say

“Now I’m thinking of you.
When I can’t explain the feeling
But I know that its real when I hold you.
When I saw you, you know, I knew,
I knew I couldn’t live without,
Without you ever in my life.”
~’Can’t Say’ by BBMak

24 August 9:40 Dragon

Cullen stood next to the apostate mage as he examined the prisoner.

“You’re sure she came from the Fade?” the mage questioned.

“Are you implying that I’m lying to you? Of course she did! I saw her fall from that blighted thing myself!” he shouted, losing his patience. 

The woman still hadn’t woken after nearly seven days. They had been debating with the others since they had brought her from the Temple down to the Chantry dungeon. Solas had insisted that they were running out of time, each time more urgently than the last.

As she lay on the dungeon floor, he watched the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed deeply. A grimace covered her face whenever the magic imprinted on her hand would come to life but as the magic faded and her features settled back into a peaceful slumber, he found himself admiring her. They had yet to identify her but her golden tan skin suggested she wasn’t of Fereldan or Orlais. Dark wavy hair framed her face perfectly while it’s length shorted behind her shoulders exposing her neck. With her arms cuffed, she had taken to sleeping on her side. Curves along her body were outlined by the dim light from the torches lit behind her. It made him uneasy.

Maker’s breath, what is wrong with me? He thought as his hand found the back of his neck as it always did when he felt uncomfortable.  It had been a long time since he had been with a woman but the thoughts that crept into his mind as he watched her were unworthy. She was a prisoner of the Inquisition. He didn’t even know her name!

Though they had yet to determine who she was, they had figured out that she was indeed a mage as he had suspected. He had seen an explosion similar to the one at the Temple cause by an apostate mage in Kirkwall and had wondered if it were possible the responsible party was also a mage. Even with the minute lingerings of lyrium left in his blood, he could sense her signature caused by her magic. It hit him in a way he hadn’t felt in many years leading him to believe that whoever she was, she was very powerful. But powerful enough to cause such a huge explosion? He just couldn’t be sure. Not without talking to her first.

“No, I am simply trying to understand what happened to her. Being sure of her physical visit to the Fade is important. This mark likely gives her a unique connection to it as it looks and feels similar to the magic coming from the Breach. I am sorry if I have offended you Commander.”

Cullen sighed. His withdraw was beginning to worsen as he felt the lyrium starting to leave his system and he was on edge more than ever these days. “It’s all right, Solas. Will she be ok? Will she ever wake?”

Solas contemplated his answer for a second while watching Cullen closely, “I can’t be sure. This mark, it will slowly consume her. In order to ensure her ultimate survival she must wake up. As to whether she will or not still remains a question. If I can find her in the Fade I may be able to wake her up from the other side or encourage her to do so. With your permission, of course.”

“Maker’s breath,” Cullen said. He did not like the idea of trusting an apostate mage with such a monumental task but saw no other option. In honesty he almost didn’t want her to wake. Many were blaming her for the death of the Divine and the Breach that now loomed above them. They will surely tear her apart if given the chance. At least this way she was protected. Something in him fueled his desire to keep her locked away and hidden from anything that may harm her.

Solas placed his hand lightly on Cullen’s shoulder, “I too believe her innocent. The power needed to create such an explosion, to tear a hole through the Veil, she is simply not capable of obtaining it. Allow me this Commander. If she is the key to closing the Breach, we need her to wake before the mark destroys her.”

Solas was right and he knew there was no other choice. After a moment he finally said, “Do what you must. I will remain here. Be warned Solas, there are Templars within this room should you try anything that may harm her.”

“Commander I assure you that I am not dangerous to her or any other person here,” Solas said with a smirk that made Cullen a bit suspicious. Sometimes it felt as though the mage could see right through you and he had plenty of skeletons in his closet he wanted to remain hidden.

He watched as the elf set himself up nearby to fall asleep and find her in the Fade. As the elf closed his eyes and drifted off he began watching the woman. She was peaceful in her slumber and only moved when the mark expanded. Each time the mark sprung to life and her face would scrunch up in pain it pulled at his heart a little.

What in the Maker’s name is wrong with me? He thought to himself. Surely he couldn’t be developing feelings for this woman. Yet here he was, watching her intently wishing he could ease her pain. Ready to strike any blow necessary to the elf should he try to harm her. Even if it meant drawing on every last drop of lyrium he had left. He didn’t even have proof, just a feeling, and he was sure he would do whatever it took to protect her.

Solas had been asleep for nearly an hour when Cullen started to get restless. Years of Templar training and Harrowings making him uneasy with the potential threat that could arrive. The mark suddenly burned much bolder and stronger than it had previously and she let out a groan in discomfort. He was at her side within seconds much to the surprise of the guards stationed in the small prison with them.

Placing his hand lightly on her unaffected hand, surprise filled him when she gripped him tightly. She was mumbling something that he was having a hard time making out.

“Hmmm… have to…” she whispered “have to… find…”

Cullen stared at her in wonder. This is the most active she had been since she fell from the Fade and he carried her here. His thumb began moving absentmindedly in circles on her hand. A warmth in the pit of his stomach grew as she loosened her grip and began relaxing in response to his ministrations.

Andraste preserve me. This woman is my prisoner. Whether I believe her to be innocent or not. He reminded himself. Again.

His thoughts were interrupted by a moan of, no that couldn’t be. She almost sounded like…

“Mmm…” she let out once more. It was deep and filled with comfort.

Cullen began to sweat and his face was surely red from the heat he felt there. Stop it you fool. She doesn’t even know who you are. She must be thinking of someone else. He thought.

She mumbled some more before finally, he made out a name, “Jace”.

Taken aback by the slight tinge of jealousy he felt he quickly let go of her. Intending to leave the room when suddenly her eyes opened slightly and she brushed against his hand as she tugged a bit on her restraints. As she pushed herself up he noticed Solas go to move pass him signaling for him to follow.

Cullen turned towards the Templar stationed at the door and said, “I’ll tell Lady Cassandra and Sister Leliana she is awake when I reach the forward camp. Be careful, she is a mage and if she could’ve caused all this a powerful one.”

He was just about to shut the door behind him when he recognized the unnerving feeling of being watched. He glanced over his shoulder and nearly regretted the sight he caught.

Her periwinkle purple eyes met his and he thought he might melt under her gaze. He had been watching her so closely for the last seven days but had yet to see her eyes. Now seeing them for the first time he nearly turned around to look into them deeper but thought better of it, breaking their shared stare and shutting the door behind him. Solas joined him as he made is way to head out of the Chantry and through Haven to the forward camp.

“Commander, she is looking for someone. Two people actually. That is why she was in the Fade for so long. It seems she’s very intelligent. She figured out very quickly that mark gives her abilities to access the Fade in ways she was unable to before. She was forcing herself to stay asleep hoping she’d find these missing people. A mage who is a friend of hers, Jadzia Feyhon and a Templar, Jace Watson.”

Cullen stopped dead in his tracks and looked at Solas with searching eyes. I’ve heard those names before. Where in Thedas did I hear them? He thought.

His memory jogged and he broke into a fast pace towards his tent where his desk lived just outside Haven’s gates.

“Commander?” Solas questioned.

“I think I know who she is Solas. Those names. I’ve heard them before.”

He dug through the pile of old letters and correspondence until he came across the parchment he was looking for.

“Knight-Captain Rylen knows this woman. He met her in the Circle,” he said as he handed over the letter to the mage.

“She’s a noble?” Solas said in bewilderment as he looked up to meet Cullen’s eyes.

“Yes. A mage from Ostwick. Easily the safest, most obeying Circle. She has to be innocent. What reason could she possibly have to do such a thing?”

“I agree. This blast was premeditated to say the least. Even given the recent events that likely happened to her according to your Knight-Captain she would not have had time to pull something of this magnitude together. Would Rylen vouch for her?”

“I am certain of it. We have to take this to Leliana and Cassandra,” Cullen suggested. Solas nodded in agreement and the two of them began making their way towards the forward camp.

Going along the winding mountain pass they had to stop several times to fight off the demons that were falling from the Breach. Cullen still wasn’t used to fighting along side a mage but he couldn’t help but be relieved that he was not alone as the amount of demons they had to thwart was increasing rapidly and his withdrawal was starting to take its toll on his body.  They came up a staircase and over a hill when they saw a fade rift laying in front of them, running at it seeing the soldiers being overwhelmed.

“It’s about damn time someone else showed up!” a familiar voice shouted.

“Varric,” Cullen said when all the demons had been taken care of.

“Curly,” the dwarf replied. “For someone whose helping you with this mess you don’t seem all that happy to see me.”

“Just trying to decipher why you’re really here,” Cullen replied.

“Seems the Seeker had some questions for me about our friend Hawke, Curly,” Varric said with a smirk.

Cullen eyebrows raised at Varric’s words, “She asked me about him as well when she came to Kirkwall.”

“You didn’t tell her anything did you? Maker’s breath, he’s had enough happen to him. He doesn’t need this shit on top of it,” the dwarf pleaded.

“I didn’t have anything to tell. I haven’t heard from him in quite some time anyhow,” he answered.

Varric seemed to accept Cullen’s response. The three men stood looking around at the destruction that laid before them when the fade rift began to spring back to life.

“Well, shit,” Varric said. “More demons incoming.”

“Can the two of you manage here with the soldiers? I need to get this to the forward camp.”

Solas nodded while Varric prepared his crossbow for battle.

“Yes, Commander. Send more soldiers if you can,” Solas confirmed.

Cullen turned from them taking out a demon that appeared in front of him as he rounded the corner. As he got close to the forward camp there was another fade rift. Maker’s breath, are we ever going to be rid of these damn rifts? He thought. Cassandra was there fighting with the soldiers and he joined along side them to finish off the ones that lurked there.

When the battle finished he called for the Seeker to follow him onto the bridge. “Commander if I didn’t know any better I would say you’re smiling!” Leliana said as they approached her.

Cullen’s face turned red at her words. He knew there was no fooling her but decided to try and save his pride as best he could, “Something has happened. The prisoner is awake thanks to Solas.” Both woman looked at him in surprise. He held the letter up for them to examine while he continued, “Solas says she was forcing herself to stay asleep so she could stay in the Fade to find Jadzia Feyhon and Jace Watson. A couple of weeks ago I received correspondence from Rylen as he was heading out of Ostwick to meet us here. I believe our prisoner is Maxiana Trevelyan.”

Cassandra seemed pleased with what he had found but Leliana eyed him carefully.

“She’s a noble. A Senior Enchanter and a Knight-Enchanter no less,” Cassandra examined. “We should go and question her Sister Leliana.”

“That we should. Keep your emotions in check Cassandra, we need her. Even if she is guilty, which I do not believe is so, she can seal the Breach according to Solas.”

Cassandra nodded and headed back towards the gate that lead to Haven. Leliana paused slightly before passing Cullen, “I will protect her. Your smile, the way you say her name. I have known you a very long time friend, it is unusual for you to be so… enthusiastic shall we say? Cullen, be careful. We do not know anything about her other than this,” she held up the letter. “There is a rift farther up the pass. Your men could use you there.”

“Of course,” Cullen said as they began walking in opposite directions.

Maker, how is it that she sees through me so easily…

Chapter Text

Black Velvet

“Always wanting more
He’ll leave you longing for
Black velvet and that little boy smile.
Black velvet and that slow southern style.
A new religion that’ll bring it all to your knees.
Black Velvet if you please.”
~’Black Velvet’ by Alannah Myles

24 August 9:40 Dragon

Cold. Damp. Dark. Why do I keep ending up in these situations? She thought as she woke. Warmth lingered in her right hand as if someone had been holding it but as far as she could tell, there was no one near her. Her arms had been restrained and she was wearing some awful form of armor. It was itchy and uncomfortable whatever it was. There were four men standing guard around her, each of their swords drawn due to her consciousness.

“I’ll tell Lady Cassandra and Sister Leliana she is awake when I reach the forward camp. Be careful, she is a mage and if she could’ve caused all this a powerful one,” it was the same deep voice she had heard before she blacked out. Looking up and she a tall, broad figure with curly blond hair and a fur cloak walking out of the room. Stopping abruptly, he glanced back towards her and their eyes met for the briefest moment. They were a warm brown like amber honey and hot whiskey. Her breath caught in her throat, she was sure everyone heard her gulp at the sight of him.

Several minutes passed before her left hand sparked with the green glowing magic she had familiarized herself with while she was in the Fade. Pain shot up her arm in response and she screamed out in agony. Ranks closed in on her as she writhed. She could feel the presence of a templar Silencing her so she was powerless to do anything other than wait for it to subside.

“Can someone tell me why I’m cuffed and what the hell this is?” she said to the room. A few of them exchanged glances to one another but none of them spoke. “I know it’s connected to the Fade. Who did this too me? I have a right to know why I’ve been locked up and guarded so heavily!”

“Sorry Miss, you have to wait for Seeker Pentaghast.”

She grunted in frustration. Green glowing magic flared on her left hand again but she was better prepared for it this time and was able to fight back the groan of pain that came previously. It subsided and she realized there was nothing else she could do but wait for the Seeker.

Fuck. She thought when she saw the Breach with her own eyes. Seeker Pentaghast was taking her to it and she couldn’t stop herself from continually looking up to see it swirling above, her brain in disbelief that it was even real. Even more so, they believed she had caused it and she really couldn’t imagine anyone would be so daft to think she was powerful enough to do such a thing.

When they reached the first fade rift she fell into battle easily enough. They had run into a few demons on their way already and though she was no true battlemage being a Knight-Enchanter certainly helped. She was surprised when the apostate mage fighting there grabbed her arm and thrust it towards the green crystals looming above them when the last demon fell. “Quickly! Before more come through!”

She felt the magic in her hand shift and twist as if intertwining with the magic of the rift. Suddenly everything fell into place and the rift burst shut. Maxiana looked to the apostate mage in confusion as he explained his theory on how the mark came to be with the same magic that caused the Breach. Cassandra had told her that every time the Breach expanded her mark did as well. Maybe he was right. He seemed incredibly well versed in the subject. It was fascinating and frightening all at once.

“Good to know! Here I thought we’d be ass-deep in demons forever,” said a dwarf as he walked towards Maxiana. “Varric Tethras: rogue, storyteller, and occasionally unwelcome tag-along,” he winked at the Seeker who grunted in disapproval while holding his hand out towards Maxiana.

Something about him made her relax as she grabbed his hand and shook it, “Maxiana Trevelyan: Storm mage, former Senior Enchanter of Ostwick Circle, current prisoner of the Seeker” she said pointing at Cassandra.

“Andraste’s ass! So Cullen was right?” he asked.

“So it would seem,” Cassandra said.

“Cullen?” Maxiana asked.

“Do you remember seeing me in the Fade?” Solas inquired of her. 

She nodded her head shallowly, “You are Solas?”

“Yes. We decided to try and wake you for fear of the mark spreading and killing you. Cullen was there with me when you woke. When I told him you were looking for Jadzia Feyhon and Jace Watson he recognized the names. It seems Knight-Captain Rylen had written to him about you when he found you in Ostwick.”

“Oh,” she said as the heat rose on her cheeks. “He’s the tall one with the blond hair?”

“Yep, that’s Curly,” Varric verified. “You and I were both brought here to tell our stories to the Divine. Shit got a lot worse real fast. For what it’s worth, I think your innocent. Most of us do so don’t get too worked up. You should spin a story,” Varric chuckled.

“Perhaps you’re right,” she giggled back. “That’s an interesting crossbow you have there.”

“Yeah, Bianca is one of a kind! Isn’t she beautiful?” he beamed.

“Why Bianca?”

“Sorry, that’s the one story I won’t tell. We’ve been through a lot together. What about that fancy staff of yours?” Varric asked, pointing at her back.

“Actually, I named her Ella if you must know. It’s my baby sister’s nick name and a long story. My mother gave it to me when I became a Knight-Enchanter,” she seemed back at him. 

It was shorter than a typical staff falling closer to the size of a longsword. Stormheart made up its grip and there were small diamonds and amethysts placed in a pattern that reflected the image of a clear starry night along it. Between the metal and the stones it magnified her storm abilities exponentially. What made it most unique however, was how it could neatly pull apart into two separate parts. It likely cost her mother a fortune to have made and even more so to keep it a secret. It was her most prized possession.

“She always said I was clever like a rogue not too mention I’m quite small to be a warrior of any kind. She thought I might like daggers better than a sword, so I worked with the spell so I could use dagger grips instead of a hilt.” she beamed, demonstrating the staff’s ability to come apart while bringing the periwinkle purple magical daggers to life. “My ability to alter the spells earned me quite a few privileges. That’s how I know Rylen actually. I went to Starkhaven to teach class on it a couple of times.”

“Damn! No wonder Curly’s so worked up about you!” Varric chuckled.

They heard a disgusted noise come from the Seeker before she said, “We should get to the Breach. Leliana is at the forward camp still. We should meet with her first,” Cassandra commanded.

“Well, Bianca’s excited!” Varric said as he winked at Maxiana and joined behind the Seeker and apostate.

When they got to the forward camp, Maxiana could hear a man ranting before they even made it through the gate. The other woman who had interrogated her earlier was countering him. “As Grand Chancellor of the Chantry, I hereby order you to take this criminal to Val Royeaux to face execution,” he said while pointing and wagging his finger at her.

Before she knew it, the Chancellor, Cassandra, and Leliana were arguing about her fate as if she wasn’t even there. She looked over to Varric who was leaning against the wall of the bridge, who gave her an apologetic look with a smirk.

“Told ya, should’ve spun a story,” he chuckled.

“You did,” she replied. She vaguely heard them talking about options to get to the Temple when the Seeker turned to her and asked, “How do you think we should proceed?”

“Now you’re asking me what I think? Is this a joke?” she questioned.

“You have the mark.” Solas said.

“And you are the one we must keep alive,” Cassandra confirmed. “Since we can’t agree on our own…”

She thought over the option of going the long way through the mountains. It would be safer and she was in enough danger as it was. But something told her it wasn’t the right way to go. That they should charge with the soldiers instead. Making her decision she said, “I say we charge. This mark is killing me anyway right? What have I got to lose at this point?”

She started to walk towards the gate with Varric while Cassandra gave out orders to Leliana. The Chancellor muttered a threat but no one seemed to care. 

As they walked up the path to make it to the mountain pass, Maxiana could hear the fighting taking place. Quickening their pace to join in, they came around the hill to see yet another rift impending. There were several soldiers there fighting and even more wounded. She caught sight of Rylen fighting along side a man with curly blond hair and a fur cloak. They were surrounded by demons and she reacted quickly by casting Chain Lightning, shocking them all in place.

After seeing the men make quick work of the demons surrounding them she pulled out her staff and neatly unlocked it into two, calling on her Knight-Enchanter abilities to conjure the daggers that came out of its ends. Running at full speed towards a demon nearby, she twisted her storm abilities with her Knight-Enchanter skills, feeling eyes on her but she tried her best to keep her focus. Somehow she knew they were his without even looking his way.

“Quickly! You must seal it!” she heard Solas shout at her as she killed the demon that was now being sucked back into the rift.

She thrust her hand upwards allowing the foreign energy to filter through her fingers and into the green crystals. Moving and weaving until they fell into place with each other and the rift closed.

As the glow faded she noticed directly across from her was the blonde curly haired, hot whiskey eyed, fur cloak wearing man she saw in the Chantry dungeon. Cullen they had told her his name was. He was watching her very closely, his lips parted slightly and his cheeks flush.

“Hello! Cullen!” Rylen shouted next to him waving his hand in front of his face as the group approached them.

Cullen cleared his throat, “You managed to close the rift. Well done,” he said to her not losing eye contact as he spoke.

“I told you didn’t I mate? She’s damn amazing this one,” Rylen said as he walked over to her and gave her a big hug lifting her slightly from the ground as he did. “You’re a sight for sore eyes! If I would’ve known you were the prisoner I would’ve gotten you out of that blighted dungeon a lot sooner. Like you haven’t had enough shit to deal with. I came out here to the Temple as soon as I arrived. For all the shit that’s happened you look incredible. How are you?”

“Other than being Thedas’ number one suspect for killing the Divine I’m just great,” she jested. “I owe you thanks by the way. I’m afraid I was not in such good condition when you found me. Maker knows what I would’ve done to that pathetic excuse of life had you not come and rescued me.”

“Like I was going to let that bastard hurt you! I’m surprised you didn’t just kill him,” Rylen said with a shrug of his shoulders.

“Yes, well, after the night I had, murder seemed like a bad idea,” she giggled in response. “Maybe this isn’t the best time but the two people I told you about…”

“I’m sorry, lass. They haven’t been found. We’ll keep looking,” Rylen promised as he placed his hands on both of her shoulders in reassurance giving them a little squeeze.

She caught the Commander watching them with what appeared to her as jealousy. No, that’s ridiculous. He doesn’t even know me! She thought. All the same, he stood there a few feet away with his arms crossed, mouth tight in a thin line, and nostrils flaring as he breathed deeply. Feeling self-conscious, she was suddenly very aware of the frumpy green armor she was wearing and how terrible she likely looked. Rylen caught their silent exchange and smirked. Varric muttered something about a bet but she didn’t catch it as he wasn’t close by and kept a low voice.

“This here my friend, is none other than Cullen Rutherford. He is the Commander of this fine army you see before you and my savior from the corrupted Order,” Rylen boasted. Cullen’s face blushing at his friends words.

Holding out her hand, she introduced herself, “Maxiana Trevelyan. It’s a pleasure to meet you finally.” He took her hand in his but they both pulled away quickly as a small jolt of lightning escaped her palm. “Maker! I am so sorry. That happens sometimes when I’m overwhelmed. I’m sure you can imagine why.”

“I don’t think that’s why!” Varric yelled over and Rylen snickered. As Varric came closer to them he said, “Curly here has been watching you the last several days making sure you were safe.”

“He said it was because it was his duty as the Commander but I’m sure he had other…” Rylen began but was quickly interrupted by a quick jab in his gut from Cullen whose face had turned violently red.

“It’s.. umm.. it’s all right Lady Trevelyan. I’ve been hit a few times before when I was a Templar,” his hand finding the back of his neck as he spoke.

“You can call me Maxiana,” she replied with a smile as his blush started to creep further down his face and onto his neck. “As I am a mage my father has seized to acknowledge I exist so, “ she was making him feel guilty. It was written all over his face and she felt like a complete idiot. “That is too say that I no longer use the title. Maker, I’m sorry I’m being so curt. I’m just exhausted.”

“Of course, you’ve been through quite the ordeal. My apologies, Maxiana,” he said softly, lingering on her name just a moment too long, as if he wanted it to stay on his tongue. It made her heart race.

Both of them suddenly realized they were being intensely watched by the others. Varric and Rylen looked rather pleased with themselves. Solas looked fascinated and Cassandra looked angry though there was a playfulness in her eyes. Cullen quickly steered their conversation in another direction, “The path is clear for you to go to the Temple, Maxiana.”

“You sure you don’t want to come with us Curly? I bet you’d have a good time!” Varric teased much to Rylen’s amusement and Cullen’s embarrassment.

“I can handle things here. Go to the Temple with them. Maker knows what they will face when she starts messing with that thing,” Rylen said as he pointed to the Breach.

“Let’s go then,” Cassandra said as another disgusted noise escaped her lips. “Hopefully Solas is right and your mark will seal the Breach.”

“It is just a theory. But I do believe I am correct on the matter,” Solas replied.

They all turned their attention to the path leading to the Temple while Rylen made way over to the wounded soldiers. She glanced back at Cullen as she walked. He looked at her simultaneously and they both quickly looked away as he fell into step next to her. Cullen’s legs were much longer than hers given his significant height but somehow she matched his pace easily. 

Sounds of their boots crunched on the snow together in unison. Occasionally, she’d pluck up the courage to look his way. When she would, she’d catch him looking at her in return, both of them quickly turning away as they made eye contact.

Every time she would be reminded of his hot whiskey eyes through the door of the Chantry dungeon. They way the amber brown color reflected the fire light from the torches, causing them to shine brightly in the dim room. Reminded her of the way they softened, just enough for her to notice, when he realized she was watching him too.

With every step, she could think of another question she wanted to ask him and in what manner he would respond. They were nearly to the Temple now and even though she knew she should be focused on the Breach, she couldn’t stop herself from hearing the way he said ‘Maxiana’ over and over again in her head.

Chapter Text

Ladies and Gentlemen

“Ladies and gentlemen please
Would you bring your attention to me?
For a feast for your eyes to see.
An explosion of catastrophe.
Like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
Watch closely as I open this door.
Your jaws will be on the floor.
After this you’ll be begging for more.”
~’Ladies and Gentlemen’ by Saliva

24 August 9:40 Dragon

“Maker’s breath…” she muttered as they came to the Temple. Only hearing about the destruction from the others was nothing compared to see it with her own eyes he was sure. Watching them grow wide and the sorrow that took over her features as she took in the sight of everything.

“Are you all right?” he asked her but she didn’t respond. Even after everything he had been through, it gave him pause the first time he had seen it himself. She seemed to be rooted to the spot and her hands squeezed her head tightly. Eyes welled with tears and became unfocused, he moved closer to her unsure of what he would even do. All he knew was that she was afraid and he wanted to take her fear away.

“I think she may be in shock Curly,” Varric said.

“Maxiana. Maxiana,” he said with force. Placing his hands on her shoulders, trying to pull her attention. Her face softened and her hands loosened their grip after a moment, “Are you all right?”

With absolute horror on her face, tears now falling from her eyes despite her obvious efforts to contain them, she looked at him and said with an agonized voice, “Everyone thinks I did this?”

“Not everyone,” he replied softly, a need to comfort and protect her giving him a burst of self-assuredness and confidence, “Maxiana, I know this is not of your doing. Many of us knew even when you fell from the Fade that you did not do this. Maker, Maxiana please don’t think that. We know you are innocent.”

Before he knew what he was doing he was holding her close and wrapping his arms around her. For a moment she did not move. He felt her take in a deep breath and fall into his embrace. Clutching at his fur cloak as she let out a few sobs. He knew the others were watching them but he didn’t care. Not right now when she needed his strength.

She pulled back from him and he wiped his thumbs across her cheeks to remove the moisture there. She caught her breath after a moment and said quietly, “Thank you Cullen.”

A small smile came when his finger lingered on her jaw. Periwinkle purple eyes shining so bright he could almost say they were filled with the lightning of her magic. Maker, he wanted to stare into them forever. Trying to stay focused, he couldn’t stop his mind from wandering. When he was on duty, nothing stood in his way, physically or mentally. He was strong, had trained himself to repel the emotions that gave him unease and discomfort, emotions that would lead to hurt and pain. Yet standing here with her, he felt like a young boy again, infatuated with a crush. Chastising himself, he began to let go of her when her hand suddenly flared to life.

He held her opposite arm tightly, worried that she may fall from the pain he could tell she felt. Once it passed she looked up at him and said, “The Breach.”

They all looked up instinctively to see it expand just a bit further out. All of them started moving forward toward the center of the Temple where a very large rift was waiting, hearing voices ring out as they made way.

“That was the Divine’s voice!” Cassandra called out.

“How is that possible?” Maxiana asked.

“At a guess? Echoes of what happened here,” Solas replied. “The Fade bleeds into this place.”

“Maker’s breath…” Cullen exclaimed as they rounded the last corner to see a shadowed image of the Divine bound by magic. A large figure across from her calling for her sacrifice when Maxiana’s shadow entered.

“You were here! Who attacked? And the Divine, is she… was this vision true?” Cassandra shouted stalking towards Maxiana to confront her. Before he could even think of his actions, he placed himself in front of her, blocking the Seeker’s path. Cassandra’s eyes grew wide at him in surprise before they moved to examine Maxiana.

“I… I don’t remember,” she said in an unsure voice.

“Seeker, Maxiana is a mage albeit a powerful one. But I find it difficult to believe she can wield such power. I believe our attentions should be turned towards this unseen figure,” Solas reassured.

“Divine Justinia did call to her for help,” Varric added.

“Agreed. It seems I am outnumbered and seeing this vision,” she shook her head, giving Cullen an apologetic look as she stepped around him to Maxiana. “I believe you too be innocent. Please, forgive me.”

Before Maxiana could respond Solas said, “This rift is closed though it is not completely sealed. I believe with the mark you can open it so you can seal it properly.”

“That means demons! Stand ready!” Cassandra called out.

Maxiana walked over to the rift and he followed at her flank. He wasn’t entirely sure why he followed her but she was also completely unbothered by it, his actions did not seem to be his own around her anymore and he didn’t know how to feel about that. Trying desperately to convince himself he was only trying to keep her safe, it felt bitter in his thoughts. She looked back to him and after he finished checking to make sure everyone was ready and in place.

Once he was satisfied with everyone’s position he gave her a small nod. She returned it and turned her focus to the rift, lifting her left arm up and allowing the magic to flow through the mark. It took a few moments but she finally got the crystals to unlock themselves. As she did so, a large Pride demon fell from the Breach and the battle began, its screech loud and the lightning shooting out of it hands. With sword in hand, his shield at the ready, he stepped in front of her once more and took his position as the battle began.

This moment defined the thing he had been denying since she fell from the rift over a week ago. After Galadriel in the Fereldan Circle, he had sworn himself to the Chantry. Choosing to focus on his duties and the care of his fellow templars and their charges. Any desires he had were easily dismissed as he reminded himself of his oath to serve and protect for the Order. But he was no longer a templar, he was no longer bound to that life. And somehow without those barriers he knew that no matter what came, he would always stand beside her, ready to protect her at all costs. In this moment, as the Pride demon unleashed his whips of lightning around them and he fought of the Shade demons who came for her as she tried to close the Breach, he was falling in love with her. For the first time, in more years than he could count, it made him stronger and he refused to push the feeling away ever again.

27 August 9:40 Dragon

The sand was warm between her toes and she could feel the sun heating her skin. Maker, she missed this more than just about anything. Laying on the beach, walking along the tide, swimming in the Waking Sea. Her mother was there in the distance with all her siblings. She had a sinking feeling in her stomach that told her to flee. But she missed them so much and she wanted to see them. Only they were wrong. Her siblings were still children and she an adult. They sat there perfectly still together staring out into the horizon.

“Kenzie… Dixi… Kai… Ella…” she called out. “Mama?”

She felt the tingle on her fingers just as she had the first time she had visited the Fade this way. Her body was soon alive with electricity. Periwinkle purple bolts floating all over her skin. They all pointed at her, “MAGE! MAGE! MAGE!” They chanted.

Abruptly they stopped. But this time she saw herself as a child sitting among them and her father appeared next to her. Now they were all smiling, happy.

“You want your family back? For you to never be a mage? Imagine how happy your Papa will be to see you come home. For you to be normal just like them.”

Her hands were on her head and she squeezed tightly. “Stop it, stop it. Stay away from me demon! You will not possess me so easily!”

“No? Perhaps a change of scenery then?”

Her office from the Ostwick Circle surrounded her. She was sitting at her desk just after finishing a class. A man with dark hair and beard came up to her. He placed his finger under her chin to tilt her head upwards and meet his gaze. 

“Maxiana, we finally have a moment alone. This may be as close as we ever get to the life that has been denied us. But if you were not a mage, we could get married and have children. If you were normal we could live happily into old age together.”

Visions flashed behind him just within her sight as he said each one. Little dark haired children running around the pair of them, laughing and giggling as they played. Her and Jace sitting in rocking chairs next to one another wrinkled and grey with age.

“Jace…” she managed to choke out. She’d be lying if she didn’t notice the lack of desire she felt for such a life. She missed him and wanted to know that he was safe but things had changed since the night they were attacked.

 “No, no, you’re not here. You’re not really here.”

When he began to speak again his voice was different and the words didn’t match quite right. His face and body began to morph into a figure she was becoming entirely to aware of.

“She’s been asleep for three days! Why can’t you wake her up like last time?”

“Because Commander she needs to heal. She used a significant amount of stamina and mana to close the Breach. Be patient, she will wake in time.”

A door opened and then promptly shut.

“Maker’s balls, I hate this time of year when the seasons turn cold. Here, I’ve made these potions for her. If we can get them into her system she will heal much faster.”

“I just… I want her to be all right.”

“Have you heard they’re calling her the Herald of Andraste now? Fuckin’ hypocrites.”

“Her breathing is stabilizing more and more. She will be fine Commander. Go. Get some rest.”

“Cullen…” she said as she pushed the thoughts away and flared her lightning back to life. Warning the demon to stay away from her, no not her. Him. Or else.

Her eyes opened slowly. She looked around trying to get her bearings. She was back at Haven laying in one of the cottages outside the Chantry it seemed.

“Commander,” she heard an unfamiliar voice say.

“Thank the Maker, Thank you Adan.” he said as he patted the stranger on the shoulder then kneeled down at the side of the bed. “You’re awake, I was so worried you wouldn’t wake like before.”

“I suppose having ten days worth of sleep in less than two weeks could be alarming yes,” she said with a smile.

“I guess… yes, that’s true,” he blushed and she giggled. Maker she loved making him blush like that. She made a note to try to make him turn that shade of red as often as she could.

“How did you know you have been asleep for three days if you don’t mind my asking?” Solas inquired.

“I could hear you all talking for the last few minutes. I was in the Fade, there was a demon. But then…” she looked at Cullen. His hot whiskey eyes burning into her periwinkle purple waiting for her to finish her thought aloud, “I heard your voice.”

“Maker’s breath…” Cullen said quietly while his blush deepened and she watched him visibly gulp.

“It seems that your voice has been my savior lately,” she said with a warm smile as she reached over and lightly touched his arm.

“What kind of demon? Did it make itself known?” Solas asked.

“A desire demon if I’m not mistaken,” she noticed Cullen’s face turn white as a ghost at the mention of the demon before she continued, “tried to use my family and… Jace… against me,” she said the name with caution watching his reaction closely. Years of being a Templar giving him the tools he needed to keep his emotions hidden but she swore she saw hurt behind his eyes.

“She should be left to gather herself gentlemen. She’s been through a lot and I’m sure the Seeker and Spymaster will want to know she’s awake Commander,” Adan said.

Solas followed the man leaving her and Cullen alone. They had yet to be alone together and the tension was undeniable.

“Once you are ready come to the Chantry. We will be there waiting for you to discuss what comes next,” he said in a quiet voice. He rose to his feet and made his way out of the little cottage without looking back.

Maker, I wish Jadzia was here. She’s so much better with these things than I am. She thought to herself.

Maxiana laid there thinking about every interaction with him leading up to this one. His jealously at her playfulness with Rylen and now pain at the mention of Jace’s name? Surely he didn’t know the nature of their relationship back in Ostwick. Though it probably wouldn’t be hard to guess. A mage openly looking for a missing Templar wasn’t exactly conspicuous. She thought about what that meant for a long time before she finally decided to get up and head to the Chantry.

Chapter Text

Fences

“Don’t look up just let them think
There’s no place else you’d rather be.
You’re always on display
For everyone to watch and learn from.
Don’t you know by now?
You can’t turn back
Because this road is all you’ll ever have.”
~’Fences’ by Paramore

30 August 9:40 Dragon

Herald of Andraste. Herald of Andraste. It had been a week and it still felt incredibly strange to hear it. At the very least, most everyone thought her innocent now. Few still find her guilty however, particularly one Grand Cleric. He had left shortly after she sealed the Breach ranting about going to the Chantry to invoke her imprisonment and waiting for a new Divine to judge her.

She was to head to the Hinterlands the next day with Cassandra, Varric, and Solas to meet with Mother Giselle. Leliana said this Revered Mother was a ‘reasonable sort’ and may be able to help them win the favor of the Chantry.

She couldn’t wait to leave Haven. Everywhere she went, everything she did, there were eyes on her at all times. People bowing and praying to her as she’d pass by. A few even asking for her blessing in marriage, or for a newborn babe, or for her to heal them as Andraste’s Chosen, or for some mundane completely ridiculous reason like ‘I named my cat after you Herald!’. Maker, she was getting so annoyed with it all. As a mage, being under constant watch wasn’t exactly flattering. Her anxiety had severely increased and she needed a way to manage it.

“You will likely have to fight your fellow mages,” Cassandra said to her as they walked towards the gates. Maxiana didn’t have much experience in real battle, even with the sparring sessions with Jace and Knight-Enchanter training. It was all practical and she had never really had to put it to use until recently. She had asked Cassandra to spar with her to help release some of the unwanted tension she was feeling and to brush up on her skills before their mission.

“Yes, I know,” she replied.

“Will you be ok with that? Sometimes battle requires you to put all emotion aside. Do you think yourself capable of doing such a thing?” Cassandra asked, her brow raising at the curt response she was just given.

“Honestly, I’m not sure. When Ostwick fell I only had to fight a couple of mages. People I knew. It was difficult to say the least. It’s incredibly odd how it all went down really. Most of the fighting seemed contained,” Maxiana said, unable to shake the feeling that something bigger than the mage’s rebelling happened at her home Circle. It all seemed too calculated.

“That does seem strange,” Cassandra said as they made it to the training grounds.

Cullen was there overseeing his troops. Yelling out directives whenever someone was amiss. “There’s a shield in your hand! Block with it! If that man were your enemy you’d be dead!” he called out, shaking his head as a frustrated grunt came out of him.

She couldn’t stop the giggle that escaped her and she didn’t fail to notice the look Cassandra gave in response. The Seeker seemed to think better of it and drew her sword, “Ready?”

Maxiana nodded as she pulled out her staff and brought her magic to life. “I think the better question is are you ready?”

A disgusted noise fell from Cassandra’s lips as she said, “For someone who claims to need training in battle you’re overly confident in your abilities.”

“I’m highly competitive Seeker,” she pointed her staff at the woman, “I don’t take losing lightly.”

Cassandra charged at her and the two women began dancing around each other. Maxiana kept her magic to a minimum as she needed more practice at the art of fighting rather than using her spells. She’d be encountering Templars and wanted to be able to hold her own better against them. Their stamina dwindled quickly as the two fought harder and harder. Their competitive natures wanting to force the other to submit.

Cassandra caught Maxiana in the gut and pushed her to the ground, throwing her a little ways back with the force. She pointed her sword at the mage, “Yield.”

“No!” Maxiana yelled as she pulled her staff into two magical daggers and deflected the woman’s weapon. Picking herself up off the ground and starting a new form of fighting that was unlike what most had seen. Knight-Enchanters were rare but as far as Knight-Enchanters who used daggers, she was the only one to the best of her knowledge, aside from the few she began to mentor before the fall of the Circle. For several minutes all that could be heard was the clash of Cassandra’s sword against her staff and it’s magical daggers accompanied by the grunts and groans of battle.

Being cornered by the Seeker, she thought she would have to surrender. Suddenly she felt a connection to the Veil that she hadn’t noticed before. She nearly fell backwards when she realized she had accidentally triggered the Fade Cloak spell. One of very few spells she struggled with. Within a blink she was standing on the other side of her opponent nearly ten feet away as she combined it with a Fade Step.

“Whoa,” was all she could manage to say, looking herself over in wonder.

“How did you…” Cassandra said in astonishment.

“Fade Cloak. It’s a Knight-Enchanter ability but I’ve always struggled with it. I’ve never done it that well before. It required a good amount of my mana though.”

“You shouldn’t tell your enemy you’ve just weakened yourself,” Cassandra preached as she attacked Maxiana again.

By the end of it, the women agreed on a draw. Both worn out from their efforts. Agreeing on a rematch at a later date. Cassandra walked over to shake Maxiana’s hand and it broke their trance. Feeling the silence around them, noticing eyes of dozens fixated on their match.

A crowd had gathered around them including the many soldiers what were training before. Some of them looked stunned, some fascinated, and a few looked terrified. She looked over, just by the tents where she knew he’d be. His eyes were watching her with admiration and curiosity as he leaned against the one of the post on the tent closest to him.

“Shows over folks! Those of you who placed bets come see me!” she heard Varric in the background. Cassandra stormed off after him scolding him for encouraging gambling within the Inquisition. Maxiana swore she heard him tell her to ‘relax’ and that certainly didn’t go over well. 

Before she realized it her feet were taking her to the Commander, occasionally stopped by someone offering her praise and a couple of mages that asked if they could train with her. A group of the soldiers even asked for their own spar match wanting to better themselves against fighting mages. Cullen’s stare never left her with each intrusion.

“You fight unlike anything I’ve seen before,” he said when she finally made it to him. “Rylen told me you were unique in your abilities but to see it for myself… I must say I’m rather impressed,” Cullen mused.

“You’ve seen me in battle before,” she teased.

“True but this is the first time I’ve… watched you,” he countered as his hand found its way to his neck.

“You do that a lot you know,” she mentioned pointing to his arm raised up behind his head.

“Oh, right… only because….I umm… I do it when I’m nervous,” he blurted out letting his arm drop back to his side.

Heat rushed to his cheeks and she was sure hers mirrored the effect, “I make you nervous?” she asked with an unsure voice.

His smirk confirmed all she needed to know. They found their way over to the steps in front of the main gate into Haven after Cullen handed training over to a Lieutenant. Everyday they had found themselves sitting on the steps at some juncture of the day. Talking with one another while they sat and watched the training grounds together.

They were becoming friends quickly and fell into sync with each other without hesitation. They talked about everything from their time in their respective Circles, their favorite books, hobbies they enjoyed, and their families.

“I grew up in Honnleath, it's close to Redcliffe and the Korcari Wilds. When I left Fereldan I didn’t expect to come back. It’s been over a decade since I was here last. Between serving the Templars and now the Inquisition I haven’t seen my family in years,” his tone was quiet and she could see how much he missed them.

“I’m familiar with the feeling. Being in the Circle we’re not meant to ever see our families,” she teased.

“Sorry… I didn’t mean… that is… Maker’s breath,” Cullen stuttered.

“It’s all right!” she laughed as she lightly pushed his arm. “Don’t worry about offending me so much! Being friends with Jadzia has made me pretty tough. She’s very forward and unafraid to speak her mind. You have to develop a tough skin with a friend like that. Besides, my mother is a persuasive woman and she found ways to contact me.”

Cullen’s brow raised at her words. “How so?”

“I haven’t any idea what she gave or promised anyone. All I knew was I would receive letters and items that were from her." She pulled out a small piece of canvas that had her family's portrait on it. "She snuck this to me once. This is her there," she pointed to each as she told him their names, "My Mum's name is Lucia, that's my father, Brett, my sister, Mackenzie, and my twin brothers Maddix and Makai. Ella hadn't been born yet."

“Are you still in touch with them?" he asked as he took the small canvas from her to examine it further.

"My father is still in Ostwick. My Mum left him when Ella came into her powers around 10 years old, nearly a decade ago now. Everyone else moved with her to Antiva with help from my grandparents. They never forgave my father for sending me to the Circle,” her voice was quiet as she spoke. His worried look caught her gaze as her eyes fill just slightly with tears at the memory of that night. You are not my daughter mage! Her hands grabbed her head and she squeezed trying to rid the thought from her mind.

"What is it?" his asked, placing his arm around her shoulders and nudging her to lean on him for support. 

He brought his other hand up and pushed her chin upwards when he got no response. She let her arms fall back down to her lap and her head rest on his shoulder for a moment. Noticing a few people stopping to point and whisper they quickly pulled apart.

"It's nothing. Sometimes my emotions just get the better of me," she replied. He handed the portrait back and she placed it in her satchel. "Anyway, I’d get letters from my sisters and brothers too. I was eighteen when she managed her first visit. I had just passed my Harrowing not long before. She always brought one of my siblings with her when she could, Kenzie was with her that time. That’s how she met Adrian, the Knight-Commanders son. They’re married now and have two little girls.”

“You have nieces? I have a nephew myself, Alexander.”

“I do, Kellie and Kairi, and Maddix and his wife, Emilia are expecting twins. He’ll have fun with that, being a twin himself. A full dose of this own medicine I expect,” she chuckled. “What about your family?”

“They fled to South Reach during the Fifth Blight. I have an older sister Mia, a younger brother Branson, and my baby sister is Rosalie. Alex belongs to Bran, his wife died during childbirth. It’s been more difficult for him than he tells me I think.”

“And your parents?”

“They… did not make it out of Honnleath. I was meant to visit them, but I received a letter from Mia telling me they had passed. It’s been ten years and not a day goes by that I don’t regret not seeing them after taking my vows.”

She placed her hand over his and squeezed it lightly. “I am so sorry Cullen.”

“I appreciate that,” Cullen smiled warmly at her and squeezed her hand back. “You said the Knight-Commander’s son lived in the Circle? How is that possible?” he said in wonder.

“We were the most obedient so it was easier to get away with things,” she shrugged as if questioning it herself. “There’s a theory, Knight-Commander Jorge retired shortly after First Enchanter Esme passed away. He didn’t live much longer after that. He left a note saying he couldn’t live without her. Some thought it was just because they ran the Circle together for nearly 23 years. A lot of us believed it was more likely the two of them had an affair for many of those years, maybe more even. They both lived nearly their entire lives in that tower. Which would mean Esme was Adrian’s mother and Jorge protected them somehow.”

“Your experiences and mine within the Circle are so vastly different. No wonder so many of them were so eager to start a war,” he laughed but there was a darkness behind it. “I’d imagine even rumors of such a thing would anger those in the stricter Circles.”

“Like Kirkwall? It was quite strict from what I gathered. I heard about you once you know, after the mage rebellion there,” she said as she laid flat a stray patch of fur that had been sticking out on his cloak. “I didn’t know your name only that the Knight-Captain there had stood with the mages against Meredith and he had then tried to put it back together as best he could with the Templars that we’re left. I was quite impressed with that.”

“You were?” his cheeks were bright red now and she couldn’t help but melt a little at his sincere reaction to her compliment.

“Yes, I was. Most people would’ve just let it rot away,” her voice softening as she spoke, “Cullen… you’re not like most of the Templars I knew. Even in Ostwick many of them kept their distance.”

“A habit often mistaken for coldness I’m sure. We aren’t meant to get close to our charges. If a mage is possessed or uses blood magic, you must act quickly, without hesitation. Your judgment cannot be clouded. Of course, ignoring one another does nothing to foster understanding.”

“What about me? Could you… if I…” the question hung in the air. 

“Maker, I don’t want to think about that,” he replied as he pushed her hair back from her face to hook it onto her ear. Her hand moved to his to hold it there as she pressed the side of her face into it. They moved in closer to one another and she could feel his breath hit her lips when he suddenly stopped, “Herald… I don’t think we should. This is… it isn’t appropriate.”

“Herald?” she questioned.

“Commander, my Lady Herald, sorry to interrupt you but Sister Leliana wanted me to hand deliver this to you before you departed tomorrow. You never came to your cottage and it’s getting quite late,” a scout said handing her a report.

“Maker’s breath, how long have we been sitting here? It’s starting to grow dark!” Cullen said as Maxiana scanned through the report.

“Thank the Maker!” she shouted as she bounced with excitement handing him the report. “She’s done it! She found Jadzia!”

“She’s in the Hinterlands in the Templar Encampment?”

“Yes, that bits a tad alarming but at least I know where she is so I can find her and get her out. Still no word on Jace, which is disappointing to say the least. I was hoping somehow they ended up finding each other. I’m going to go speak to the others.”

She hugged him tightly and kissed his cheek. Pulling away so quickly he didn’t have time to respond. She was sprinting up the stairs and into Haven by the time his thoughts caught up with him. He touched his cheek where her lips had been and smiled to himself as he got up to rejoin his soldiers. He heard the bell ring at the Chantry soon after and dismissed them for supper.

She’s going to be gone for weeks. I wonder if she’d sit with me for supper before she leaves. No, you can’t. She’s the Herald and you’re the Inquisition’s Commander. It wouldn’t be right. She is a mage and you were a Templar. If she knew the truth, she certainly wouldn’t want you. Besides, she’s still looking for this Jace…  

His thoughts soon escaped his reason when he thought of them walking outside her cottage door the next morning. Accompanying her to the gate and wishing her safe travels then kissing her goodbye.

Chapter Text

30 August 9:40 Dragon

Dearest Mother, 

I am currently in Haven with the Inquisition. Something strange has happened. Have you heard what happened at Divine Justinia’s Conclave? I was at the there during the explosion and I woke being told I had physically walked and survived the Fade with a foreign magic on my left hand. I don’t remember any of it and that is certainly complicating matters.

The ambassador here, Josephine Montilyet, says she is familiar with our family. Hopefully I am not out of line in telling her to reach out to you for any assistance our family may be able to provide. Maker knows this war needs to come to an end. It’s even worse here in Fereldan.

It seems that I am now the key to stopping this madness. They are calling me the Herald of Andraste. Maker, I don’t know what to make of it, Mum. What in Thedas would Papa think if he knew? All those years ago he cast me aside like I was nothing. Like I would never be more than just a mage.

They have offered me asylum in exchange for my help and I fully intend to give it. Hopefully when this is all over I can just come home. I miss you all terribly and with the fall of the Circles I can’t see anywhere else they can force me to be. 

Rylen is here so that helps a little. A familiar face in a foreign time. He’s still as he was back when I visited Starkhaven. Bastard knows it too. You should’ve seen him, Mum. He can be such a flirt! Do you remember the last time I saw him? Maker…

I assure you that I am safe and in capable hands. The Commander here, Cullen Rutherford, has seemed to make it his personal mission to keep me safe. We have spent some time together and I can see us being good friends. There’s something about him, I don’t know how to explain it. It’s as if I am drawn to him without explanation. I wish you were here to talk too.

How is Ella doing with her abilities? It seems with the fall of the Circles we are all apostates now. At least that’s what one of the other mages here claims and I can’t say I disagree. Perhaps she could come to us here and train under me now? I was a Senior Enchanter after all.

Remember how Jadzia and Jace had disappeared after Ostwick fell? The Inquisition’s Spymaster has found Jadzia. She’s in the Hinterlands with some templars. I only hope that it’s not one particular templar though I am nearly certain that it is. I will be heading out at first light tomorrow where I will be searching for her and meeting with Revered Mother Giselle from the Chantry. No word on Jace, however. There are strange whispers of things happening within the Order that I do not like one bit. I hope he turns up soon.

Please be safe and give my love to everyone, especially those little nieces of mine. Maker, I miss you all so much. Think about what I said about Ella, this is a scary time as a mage and I can get her protection here.

With all my love,
Ana

Chapter Text

Kaleidoscope Heart

“All the colors of the rainbow
Hidden ‘neath my skin.
Hearts have colors
Don’t we all know?
Red runs through our veins.
Feel the fire burning up.
Inspire me with blood
Of blue and green.
I have hope
Inside is not a heart
But a kaleidoscope.”
~’Kaleidoscope Heart’ by Sara Barielles

9 Kingsway 9:40 Dragon

They had finally made it to the Crossroads in the Hinterlands to meet with Mother Giselle a few days prior. Refugees overloaded the small area and were in desperate need of supplies. They had gone out and hunted down rams, looked for abandoned caches, even going to a cult to ask a man’s son for a breathing potion for his wife. Doing anything they could to bolster the Inquisition’s name.

Master Dennet was next on their list in the vast place. Rumor said the Templar Encampment was close by the horse master and Maxiana was eager to find her friend. She had secretly hoped Jace would be there too by some miracle but she doubted that would be the case. Fatigue had already begun to sink in and they still had so much left to do before heading to Val Royeaux. 

“Is it just me or does everything here sort of, blend together?” Varric mused.

“I’m pretty sure we passed the same spot three times today. Does anyone have the map?” Maxiana’s words slurred together as she spoke.

Cassandra let out a disgusted noise as she dug the map out from the requisitions table setup there. She brought it over to the others and sat down next to them around the fire. “Herald, please do not tell me you are drunk!”

“Psh, nah. I’m just fine,” Maxiana dismissed before falling into a fit of laughter.

“All right, hand over the bottle Rabbit,” Varric held his hand out waiting for the glass container.

“Hey, why do you call me Rabbit?” She drank the bottle dry before she handed it to him. “Here ya go, no use to me now anyway.”

“Andraste’s tits Rabbit! That’s whiskey you know? Are you gonna be all right? I got enough shit to worry about and I don’t want to have to go back to Haven and tell Curly you drank yourself to death.”

“Ha!” she exclaimed loud enough for the dwarf to cover his ear for a moment, “I told you I’m fine and you didn’t answer my question dwarf!

“I call you Rabbit because you’re fast, like a jack rabbit. You’re kinda small for a human too and you also seem to hear everything…” Varric answered leaning away from her as she wobbled around, unable to hold her balance.

“Oh, like placing bets about me and Cullen?” she raised her brows at him and he squirmed under her stare a bit. 

“Shit, you heard that? Yep, Rabbit suits you,” he nodded.

“Ok I like my name a lot better now,” she hiccuped as she spoke. Her eyes opened widely in shock and she felt defensive as his words sunk in, “Hey! I’m not that small!”

“You’re not much bigger than me and I’m a dwarf,” Varric defended with a shake of his head. “Does that mean I get to ask a question?”

She swung her hand in the air attempting to say, ‘ask away’ but it definitely didn’t sound like it.

“Whose this Jace you’ve been looking for?” he asked before taking a drink.

“Oh,” was all she managed to say. She noticed them both watching her trying to gauge her reaction to the inquiry, her liquid courage giving her the confidence to just say the truth. “Jace was a Knight-Loo, a Knight-Loo, fuck, a Templar that was promoted from Hasmal to Ostwick. When he came he was stationed in my office and classroom. It didn’t take long before we were fucking each other every chance we got. Shit gets lonely in the Circle and we were alone. A. Lot.”

“Note to self, our Herald curses when she’s drunk,” Varric chuckled.

“Yes well, that my friend, that would be Z’s doing. I used to be a good little proper noble girl. Then I met Z and BAM!” she clapped her hands together as she shouted, “Next thing I know, I was a Senior Enchanter fucking fucking Templars all over the place. Sneaking around and shit. Well, a Templar in Ostwick at least. Not too mention all the other shit I did elsewhere.”

“Elsewhere?” Varric inquired, his head snapping up to her.

“It’s… complicated. Still, little noble Maxiana wouldn’t ‘ave ever done that.”

“So he’s just a Templar that you used to sleep with?” Varric inquired. His only response was shrugged shoulders. “Maybe you should tell Curly. I got the impression he thinks Jace means more to you than that.”

Maxiana started laughing uncontrollably at the suggestion. “Why? It’s inappropriate,” she said mockingly. Looks of surprise found her as she continued, “That’s what he thinks. I, on the other hand, don’t give two fucks that I’m the Herald if it means I can’t fuck whoever I want. Him and his stupid hot whiskey eyes and being tall and handsome and being all Commandery and being all ‘Maker’s breath’” she said trying her best to imitate his voice. “He may be the most damn infuriating and tantalizing person ever.”

Varric began laughing as Cassandra said, “Sweet Andraste. Perhaps you should get some rest.”

“No way. You guys are my friends… I’m having fun with my friends… looking at this map!” she exclaimed while shaking it vigorously in front of them with a look of excitement like she’d forgotten she was even holding it in the first place.

“She’s gone completely mad hasn’t she?” Cassandra asked to no one in particular.

“Seriously Rabbit, what’s going on? You can’t seriously drink that much whiskey and expect us to believe that’s what’s bothering you so much,” Varric pressed.

Before she could stop herself she blurted out, “Today is not good… today… my son turned six years of age.”

“What the hell are you talking about? You have gone crazy!” Varric shouted while Cassandra’s eyes grew wide.

“Nope, nope, nope,” she enunciated each one more than the last, dragging them out. “9 Kingsway 9:34 Dragon was the worst day of my life,” she suddenly burst into laughter which she struggled to contain to say, “They took him. I’m a mage… not allowed. I… deserve it.”

She fell backwards as she passed out from drink. Snoring so loud they were sure all of Thedas could hear her.

“Well, shit,” Varric said. “I was definitely not expecting that.

After debating the news they had just gotten about their companion they agreed it was best not to mention it anyone, ever. They cornered the scouts there and swore them to secrecy while they were at it. Deciding to not even mention it to Maxiana since it was likely she’d forget the whole conversation even took place. Between the two of them they managed to get her into her tent and laying on a cot.

“If this gets out Seeker,” Varric said before turning in himself.

“I know Varric,” was all she said before they both went to their tents for the night.

 

10 Kingsway 9:40 Dragon

She woke the next morning with what could only be described as the worst migraine imaginable. She quickly placed her hand on her head waiting for the healing green magic to flow into her and take it away. Sounds of whispered conversation were heard a few feet away. Smelling breakfast cooking on the fire propelled her out of bed.

After getting up and putting on her armor, she walked out of the tent to find her three companions sitting around the fire eating. She quickly joined them when her tummy grumbled in hunger as the smell of cooked eggs and toasted bread hit her senses.

“Morning! How are we feeling about meeting with Master Dennet?” she asked taking a spot next to Varric.

They were eying her carefully and it made her self-conscious. Broken and hazy memories from the night before crossed her mind. Sure, she had way too much to drink and she couldn’t stop chastising herself for letting her guard down so easily. But the looks they were giving her, she wasn’t quite sure what they were for. What had she said?

“We’re all fine here. How are you feeling?” Varric offered.

“I know I had a lot to drink,” she said as she raised her hands up in defense. “I apologize for any bad behavior if there was any. I typically don’t drink like that and I don’t really remember much after arriving at camp.”

“Nothing?” Cassandra asked.

“I remember drinking a lot of whiskey,” Maxiana replied sheepishly.

“You seem awfully chipper for drinking so much whiskey,” Varric muttered under his breath.

“You healed your headache?” Solas asked and she nodded in response.

“Good. There are reports of fade rifts surrounding Redcliffe farms where Dennet resides. It would do us well to take care of them first before we meet with him. May help us gain his favor.”

After finish their meal, the group gathered their supplies and headed to the north where a fade rift just beyond the farms could be seen. As they moved, every-so-often one of them would give her a strange look. Sometimes confused, or surprised maybe. No, that wasn’t quite it. It was sympathy. Every time, her heart would drop to her stomach and her mind would race trying to remember exactly what they had talked about the night before. Maker, what in Thedas could I have…

Bold green light came to life on her left as they neared the rift and the anchor connected to its magic. Everyone turned their attention to the demons pouring out of it, clearing them easily and closing it before speaking with Dennet and his wife. 

“You closed that rift?” Dennet said after welcoming them into his home.

“I did,” Maxiana answered with confidence.

“That’s a good start. But that’s not all that’s been plundering our farms. There have been bandits attacking us from all sides and there’s a pack of wolves in the Northern Caves that’s been giving us trouble,” his wife, Elaine said.

“What can the Inquisition do to help?” she replied.

After dealing with the wolves they found another rift looming at the waterfall nearby. As a despair demon fell from the green crystals they charged forward. It was a close fight but they hadn’t received any damage that couldn’t be healed with magic, potions, and tonics. It was nearly sunset now and the sky had turned a brilliant pink along the horizon and the moons had begun to rise. The Inquisition camp wasn’t far from where they were and they decided to rest for the night.

“Who wants to write to Curly and tell him about the watchtowers?” Varric asked. “Personally, I think it’d be best received from Rabbit.”

“Why is that dwarf?” she teased, lightly pushing his shoulder.

“Oh you know, you just squeeze your arms together, puff out your lip, and bat your lashes and he’d be so tantalized he’d probably come out here and build the damn things himself,” the dwarf joked, imitating the motions.

She looked at her friend with a look of innocence before Solas laughed much to everyone’s surprise. “Chuckles! I knew you had it in you!” Varric teased.

“With such a proper assessment and the Herald’s obvious ignorance to such a statement I can’t help but be amused,” Solas offered.

“And he’s back,” Varric said as he shook his head.

“I have noticed the two of you spending an awful lot of time together,” Cassandra mused.

“We’re just friends,” she said trying to hide the bitter tone she was sure came out. Cassandra quickly looked away and Varric gave her an apologetic look. Oh no. What did I say last night? She thought. “All right, what is it? Did I talk about this already?”

“You may have mentioned that he thinks it’s inappropriate,” Varric confirmed.

“Anything else?” she challenged as her brows rose in anticipation.

“You also said he was tantalizing,” Cassandra added.

“Oh no, Maker, please tell me I did not say that!” she grumbled.

“Oh yes Rabbit, you most certainly did,” Varric verified as his laughter returned. 

After teasing her a bit more they decided to drop the subject after she agreed to write the report. A strange silence fell over them as they sat and ate supper before turning in for the night. Cassandra seemed to be working extra hard not to look in her direction, Solas had eaten quickly and fled to his tent, but Varric kept glancing at her and asking her tons of questions. Usually, she didn’t care much. It was in Varric’s nature she had figure out quickly after meeting him. He liked to know people and that meant asking a lot of questions. But tonight, something was… off. His words were more careful and the questions were more specific.

All in all she shrugged it off. Figuring that perhaps he just wanted to get to know her better. When she finished eating, she excused herself and went into her tent, sitting down on her cot. Pulling out a piece of parchment, she thought about what to write. This was her first formal report for the Inquisition but she couldn’t help but be aware that she was writing it to him.

It took her a few tries to get the words right. She was used to writing such documents as a Senior Enchanter but thoughts of him holding this report in his hands, touching her wax seal, and reading her words all clouded her mind. After several attempts, she decided that what she had written would just have to be good enough. Her mind kept wandering, and she was sure she had rambled about in the letter given her stray thoughts. Once she was finished, she looked it over a few times just to be sure. Exhaustion and a full belly was making it hard for her to keep her eyes open but something caught her attention that shook her awake.

Right at the top, she had written it without really thinking too much about it. It was normal for a letter or report and it came naturally but tonight it caused her to panic. It was the date, 10 Kingsway 9:34 Dragon. Her son would’ve turned six years old yesterday. No wonder she had drank so much. Something must’ve triggered the reaction surly but then she couldn’t stop thinking about all the looks she had been given throughout the day by her companions.

Raising quickly from her seat she torn open the tent in hopes to find them still sitting there near the fire but only Varric remained. When he turned toward her, his furrowed brow smoothed as he studied her expression.

“Shit,” he whispered. “You remembered?”

“Can you just come in here a moment?” she asked him quietly holding the flap open until he entered then quickly placing a sound drowning ward on its fabric. She paced a few moments, her arms crossed and one hand pulling at her lip. Each time she tried to approach the subject, she’d lose her nerve or get anxious it wasn’t the right thing to say.

“Maybe I should talk first?” Varric offered. “Cassandra and I know you have a son who was born in the Circle. We’re pretty sure Chuckles knows too.”

Maxiana stopped moving, her head snapping to where he stood. It wasn’t like him to be quite so direct. He always found a way to skirt around it. Shit.

“How do you know that exactly?” she asked deciding not to offer any information up.

“You told us last night,” Varric said with a sigh before sitting at the end of her cot. “I felt kinda bad, I was pushing you but I had no idea it was that deep. I thought maybe it was the mission or something like that.”

Maxiana nodded her head. It was starting to come back to her now. How she had downed the whiskey bottle and made the confession to them before passing out.

“Look Rabbit, we understand this needs to stay a secret. If anyone finds out about this boy who knows what could happen to him or you.” Varric offered as she sat next to him.

Her heart began to race and her palms felt clammy. She hadn’t thought about it that way. It was a secret she had kept to herself for many years. Esme and Jorge were the only other ones who knew the boy was hers and both of them were gone. But they had assured her that he would be safe, that he would be well taken care of. Maxiana had absolutely no clue if they had gotten the boy out of the Circle or where he had ended up. She told Varric as such but he was unconvinced.

“Babies born by mages in the Circle are given to the Chantry. He’s likely being trained as a Templar right now as we speak,” Varric told her. “I’d imagine they were just trying to spare you the truth.”

“You think the Chantry would use him against me if they have him?” she questioned.

“I… think that’s a question better suited for the Left or Right Hand,” Varric suggested.

“Perhaps,” she thought aloud.

“We took care of the guards that overheard. The three of us won’t tell anyone either. As long as you keep it contained, the boy should be safe,” he shrugged before getting up and heading towards the tent’s entrance.

“Varric,” Maxiana whispered, continuing when he stopped short of the ward she had set. “Thank you.”

Turning his head just enough for her to catch his eye, he gave  short nod before leaving the tent and effectively breaking the ward.

The boy should be safe. Should be. Should be. She thought over and over again. It wasn’t very reassuring. For the first time since she had given birth, she thought about him. Wondering what he looked like, did he have her eyes or was his hair color the same? What if he’s a mage?

Maker, what if he’s a mage?

The idea that he would come into his powers under the grips of the Chantry made her nauseous. Perhaps Varric was right. Cassandra already knew her secret now and Leliana had the means at her disposal to help her search for the child. But something about it, it just didn’t sit right with her.

She barely knew these people and though she adored Divine Justinia, she had no idea if they both held the same beliefs or would have the same compassion she was sure the Divine herself had.

Getting up from the cot, she grabbed the parchment, folding it neatly and placing it in an envelope. Flipping it over, she wrote out “Commander Cullen Rutherford” on the smooth surface. Staring at his name while she waited for the ink to dry a thought occurred to her.

Cullen had been a Templar before, a fairly well respected one from what she knew. Surely this had given him connections of his own. A Knight-Commander in the Free Marches would know what would happen to the children born in the Circles more than others wouldn’t he? But to ask for his help meant revealing her secret and the thought of that made her anxious.

Forcing herself to breath deeply, she tried to reign in her emotions to keep her magic under control. Placing the wax seal on the envelope, she handed it off to a messenger before turning to her cot to rest. As she laid, scenarios played over and over in her head about how he would react, what would happen if they succeeded in tracking him down if he agreed to help. Certainly she couldn’t just take him in the name of the Inquisition, especially if he was being held by the Chantry, could she?

No, perhaps its better that it remained a secret for now. It’s not like the Inquisition would be the safest place for the boy and getting her hopes up that they would find him only to hit a dead end would be much too hard for her to bare.

Chapter Text

Cough Syrup

“If I could find a way to see this straight,
I’d run away to some fortune that I should have found by now.
And so I run now to the things they said could restore me,
Restore life the way it should be.
I’m waiting for this cough syrup to come down.
Life’s too short to even care at all, whoa.
I’m losing my mind, losing my mind, losing control.”
~’Cough Syrup’ by Young the Giant

11 Kingsway 9:40 Dragon

She was sitting on the edge of her little bed in the cottage back at Haven. There were sounds of armor being removed and she looked over to find him in the act.

“Jace, will you hurry up? We don’t have much time,” she smirked.

“My apologies my darling. It’s this damn strap. I can’t get it undone,” he grunted in frustration.

She giggled at him, “Let me help you.”

She got up and walked over to the Templar but something was off about him. His hair wasn’t dark enough and even leaning back against the table he was much taller than she recalled. Much of his Templar armor was scattered on the floor by now but he was struggling with one of the straps on his arm. Once she was close to him, she reached up to help when his head snapped up to look at her.

Not Jace…

“Cullen?”

Hot whiskey eyes warmed and his lip pulled up in that smirk that made her go weak in her knees. “There you are my darling,” he said. “Seeing you in my cloak isn’t helping matters, you know.”

Her hands reached up to feel the fur on her shoulders. He was right, she was wearing it. She was wearing it and nothing else. The fur tickled the tops of her breasts and she could feel the hem of it’s angled corners along the bottom rubbing against the back of her calves. It was opened just enough for him to see her, all of her.

“Do you want me to fuck you while you wear it? I can’t say I haven’t thought about it myself,” he said was his eyes greedily took in the sight of her.

He reached out to touch her face but she pulled back. Something was off about him. His eyes weren’t quite right and his voice held a strange vibrato. Even in the Fade, her memory of him wouldn’t be perfect but certainly not this far off.

“My darling? What’s wrong?” he asked with ungenuine concern. She almost felt he was angry at her. She thought back to the last time she was this lucid in a dream. A desire demon had been toying with her then so the chances it was here now…

“No, fuck you, demon!”

Cullen’s voice twisted and changed as the demon spoke, “Your desires are nearly bursting through the seams darling. I could just go after your precious Commander! Him and I have met once before. Maybe then you’ll give me what I want!”

Maxiana brought her magic to life, covering herself in the periwinkle purple bolts, “You stay away from him. I won’t warn you again.”

“Demon!” she shouted as she woke. Her lightning fizzling out as her head began to clear itself. It was very early morning and was still quite dark outside. Her movements were stiff from sleeping in a cot for so many nights in a row and the deep slumber she had fallen in. She hadn’t realized just how exhausted she had become until she stretched herself out feeling each muscle scream out and every joint crack and pop. Sweat covered her body, a light blush accompanied the sheen and her cot had some torch marks from her magic.

“Herald, are you all right?” Solas said just outside her tent.

She got up and made her way out to where he was standing. “Yes, bad dream is all.”

“You shouted demon. Was it the same one as before?”

“I’m sure of it,” was all she said in reply not wanting to give away anything else.

“Would you take a walk with me?” he asked. Gesturing for him to lead the way she fell into step next to him. They walked until they reached a path that went up the mountain behind Redcliffe farms. It started out steep but she didn’t mind. The farms were quiet and she was grateful for the peace it brought her. Thank the Maker Solas seemed to understand her need for the silence as he simply kept in stride with her steps, his eyes focused forward on their path.

“Maker! I actually found one!” She was bouncing with delight as she went to look through the eyepiece of an Astrarium. Finding the constellation Peraquialus she made a mental note to cross it off her list nestled in her satchel back at the little camp.

“I have been fascinated with these since I was a little girl. To finally find one and see it for myself…” she couldn’t fight the smile as Solas took a look into it himself.

“That is quite remarkable. These are relics of Old Tevinter are they not?”

“They are. I read that if you find three that correspond together that there is a secret cache location given to you. Maker, I hope we find the others! How exciting!” she exclaimed before following his gesture to continue on the mountain path he had chosen.

They resumed their climb up the mountain shortly after her find. When they neared the top Solas went to the edge and sat gesturing for her to take a spot next to him. She looked out to see all of Redcliffe farms below. Druffalo’s walking in their little pasture, markers from the race that Sienna, Master Dennet’s daughter had challenged her too, and their little camp over by the pond.

“Do you know much about the Fade?” he inquired.

“Some, we’re mostly told what the Chantry wants us to know in the Circle. I considered being a Rift mage before choosing Knight-Enchanter so I studied it a bit on my own too.”

“It is an extraordinary place. As you know, I visit the Fade often. Something that I have found in my time there is that spirits and demons are much more alike than many realize.”

“How so?”

“Spirits wish to join the living. Demons are that wish gone wrong. If you come across Wisdom and corrupt it, then it will turn into Pride.”

“I never really thought about it that way before. So you’re saying that this Desire demon that seems to have it out for me…”

“Was likely a spirit of Purpose, yes. With everything that has happened to you, everything that you have been through, it may be impossible to say if this spirit was with you before and became corrupted somehow or if it found you through your desire as a demon.”

A quiet hum escaped her as she thought over Solas’ theory. Suddenly the implication seemed perfectly clear. She wonder briefly for a moment if he was angry with her but that seemed unlikely as his face showed only curiosity. “Are you saying that I may have corrupted it?”

“Indirectly. Given you started this journey by walking the Fade, I find myself wondering if a spirit of Purpose meant to aid you. But in some way you have changed your purpose into desire.”

What in Thedas had she done to corrupt a spirit? She had always done her best to do what was right and to help others. Always placing those in need before herself when it was necessary. Being a mage was difficult to say the least but she always tried to put her best foot forward. Though, it was satisfying that being Andraste’s Chosen and a mage was something many would have to accept if they intended for her to close the rifts and the Breach.

“Could it be that I’m happy I’m the Herald  and a mage?” she wondered aloud seeing the quick raise of his brow in surprise at her candor. 

“Perhaps. What about that causes you to feel desire?” he inquired as he looked back out onto the farms.

“We get looked down on, bullied and pushed into corners. ‘Magic exists to serve man’. A part of me delights in the fact that so many who would’ve thrown me to the Templars the second they got a chance now need me to save them. A part of me desires to rub everyones nose in it, honestly. And then there’s Cull…” she stopped as she said the name. Her twisted dream still fresh in her mind. At times her mouth and brain didn’t cooperate so well and she hadn’t meant to say it.

“Ah.” was all he said in response at first. After seeing the accompanying blush on her cheeks with her confession he continued, “Has this demon taken his shape?”

“Yes, both times. This time it was closer to the mark though,” she answered with the blush growing on her face.

“It is learning more about you. As you learn more about your feelings for our Commander, I’m afraid that it’ll likely visit you more often,” he told her confidently as his face fell.

“Great!” she said sarcastically throwing her hands up in the air in mock defeat trying to lighten the mood. Solas seemed to appreciate her doing so but his face remained somber.

She thought about everything she knew about spirits, demons, and the Fade. Solas had said this desire demon was once a spirit of purpose but it became corrupted somehow. the Fade worked in mysterious ways and of all the people she had known, Solas was the most familiar with it. She had always been curious about the process, specifically if it could be reversed. Surely there had to be someway and if anyone would know the possibility it had to be him.

After several moments sitting quietly atop the mountain as she considered her thoughts she asked, “Is it possible to change it back? To make the demon back into a spirit?”

“That is an interesting question. One that many don’t think to ask and it is important that you thought to do so,” he replied sounding impressed. His face turned to sadness soon after. “I don’t believe that it is possible for you to complete such a task.”

“Well, what do I do then?” she urgently asked, being more aggressive than she intended to be.

“You have two options as I see it, either you rid yourself of your desires. Immensely difficult but not impossible. Or you will have to find this demon in the physical and kill it.”

“Well, what’s one more thing on the list right?” she joked.

He smirked at her light-heartedness this time but his eyes had grown dark with the conversation. They noticed the others had woken when looking out in the distance and began making their way back to the small camp. After reaching it, they ate breakfast as they discussed what their plan was. Going over possible locations, how many Templars they should expect, and a description of Jadzia so they could better search for her. Once they were satisfied with their plan they packed up to start searching for the Templar Encampment.

The letters from the rogue Templars they had gathered all pointed to their location being off the river in the direction of the West Road. When they neared the broken bridge that lay across the water they hung back noticing the amount of Templars in the area.

“Shit, that’s a lot more than I thought,” Varric said.

Maxiana was determined and focused more so than she had been since they arrived in the Hinterlands. Feeling the pressure to find Jadzia she pulled from the knowledge from her studies to win the small battle. “Once we attack Solas and I will risk being Silenced so we have to be quick. We don’t know what kind of lyrium supply they have and its better to be safe than sorry. We will hang further back as long as you and Cassandra can hold closer by. 

Solas, you and I need to stun as many of them as we can. You take the group to the left, I’ll take the group to the right,” she looked back to the mage and he tipped his head in acknowledgement before she continued. 

“Jadzia is here somewhere, remember: she’s a tall city elf with nearly white hair and she’ll probably be cursing like her life depends on it. Cassandra, once Solas and I get close the more Templars you can disarm with your Seeker abilities the better. You’ll lead us in. Draw their attention when you are ready, we will be right behind you.”

“Someone’s taking their job as Herald seriously!” Varric quietly exclaimed.

“Knight-Enchanter remember,” she shrugged. “I’ve studied a lot of strategy. It’s nice to be able to put it to use really.”

“Is everyone ready?” Cassandra asked.

Once she received confirmation from them she began working her way over as quietly as she could as to not draw attention too early. Varric went Stealth running over dropping land mines inconspicuously. When he reached a boulder and ascended to its top, he threw out caltrops and readied Bianca with poisoned arrows. 

All the Templars near the rogue looked to the source of the fallen weapons as Cassandra came running full speed at the closest Templar to her. When Maxiana and Solas heard the clanking of metal on metal they both froze their respective groups followed quickly by chain lightning to stun them for good measure. Warrior and rogue were making quick work of the Templars as they fought but they would soon be overrun without help. 

“You stay back if you can. I’m going in.” Solas nodded in agreement as she sparked to life the fade cloak she felt back in Haven twisting it with a fade step just like before. Within seconds, she was right next to a Knight-Templar bringing her staff around into two and flaring her magical daggers to life. Before long, all of the Templars there had been taken down and they began moving into the camp.

Having worked together in battle the last few days was showing in their ability to fight along side one another. Copying their strategy from before, the Templars didn’t last long as they made quick work of them.

“Shit. I didn’t see Jadzia. Maybe she’s farther in still? We’re nearly to the waterfall…” Maxiana worried aloud.

“There’s only one way to find out. Let’s go,” Cassandra replied.

“You know, for a Knight-Enchanter who never put their skills to practical use you sure know what you’re doing,” Varric teased as they walked back finding several supplies they knew the Inquisition could make good use of. 

“Like I said, I had a lot of time to study. Plus I used to spar with Jace when we’d get the chance. In all honestly, it’s nice finally putting it to use,” she answered as they kept walking further back into the camp. 

“I am curious, if you are a Knight-Enchanter why did you stay in your Circle? Knight-Enchanters are often given privileges to leave when they wish to do so from my understanding,” Solas wondered.

“I liked teaching better,” she offered. “It still gave me opportunities to leave once in awhile to visit other Circles. Especially given my ability to use daggers opposed to a sword. Plus, I was comfortable there. I had contact with my family and they would visit when they could. I had Z and Jace,” she finished explaining as she wondered back finding a patch of Royal Elfroot that she quickly harvested knowing Adan would put it to good use.

She was rounding the corner when she heard the voice she had been dreading would be here.

“There’s Watson’s little mage whore. He’s not with you? Shame. I was looking forward to killing you both myself,” Knight-Commander Malcolm said in his thick Fereldan accent.

Just behind him near one of the tents Jadzia was tied up to a post along the fence and her mouth was gagged. Her body looked thin and frail and her eyes were sunken in. She began pulling on her restraints when she saw Maxiana. Even at a distance, the scrapes and bruises could be seen and a deep red shone under the rope on her wrists and ankles. Maxiana’s anger boiled over and she was sure her temper would soon take over her control.

“You fucking bastard! What have you done to her?” she shouted at he man.

Malcolm laughed with evil dripping from his voice, “I wouldn’t hurt my little elf mage. That’s why I took her. To keep her safe. I made a deal with that coward First Enchanter. You’re meant to be back at the Circle still. When I heard you were the Herald, I knew you’d show up eventually.”

“What?” she said in shock, “What are you talking about?”

“We knew the mages were going to attack so we came up with a plan.”

“That’s ridiculous! Why in Thedas would the mages attack at Ostwick?” she asked.

He laughed deeply, “You couldn’t possibly think everyone got special privileges like you did? Getting visits from your mummy, gifts and letters too. Leaving the Circle whenever you pleased. Fucking a Templar at your discretion without punishment. You deserve every bit of what you got when I pulled you into that courtyard!”

Her mind was racing as she thought over the many years in the Circle. Had she been so blind to see that she was in fact allowed more than others? Memories of her drunken confessions from two nights prior came crashing back to her. She turned her head to catch the eyes of her companions watching her closely. All of them filled with sympathy and their bodies tense ready to jump in to help if needed. 

She had received the worst punishment imaginable during her years at the Circle. No amount of special privileges gave her the one thing she wanted more than anything else, her son. “You’re wrong…” she muttered to the Knight-Commander but he didn’t seem to care.

“That’s not for you to decide! You are nothing but a mage! You’ve probably used blood magic to trick all these people into thinking you were chosen by Andraste!” Malcolm countered, his face growing more red with each word shouted.

“You’re wrong!” she yelled at him. Her anger was returning tenfold as the words she had heard in her head over and over again began repeating themselves in her fathers voice. She grabbed her head, squeezing it tightly, willing the thoughts away. Hoping to refocus her attention to the evil man that stood in front of her. She needed him to talk, he alone may be the only one who truly knew what happened that night. “So I’m just supposed to believe that you caused the downfall of the Circle in Ostwick simply because I had special privileges and was sleeping with one of your Lieutenants?” 

“You weren’t the only ones breaking rules. Just the ones everyone else knew about. What you and Watson were doing wasn’t right and we agreed you both needed to be taken out. Damien found out our plan and made a deal that I’d keep you alive for him. Watson was meant to be dead when Damien found you in the courtyard. It was supposed to give us the upper hand against you and your fellow mages. I locked my elf mage up nice and tight. I knew you’d go looking for her if you got away and I couldn’t have you take her from me. But then the mages attacked earlier than we expected and I had to leave you there to save my elf mage. I figured Damien keep you under some magical bond. Should’ve known that little shit was too soft to go through with it.”

A distant memory suddenly hit her, the foreign magic that she felt after Damien killed the Templar trying to attack her. Jace disappearing around the corner out of reach and sight. He had cast on her. To get her to submit. Her armor was off when she woke and the night all seemed a little hazy… her stomach lurched as she ran to the side of the alcove and vomit came rushing out of her.

“Rabbit?” Varric asked in concern as he and the others moved to her side. Maxiana held her hand up signaling that she was ok. She stood up straight wiping her face with the back of her gloved hand.

“You are going to pay for this. I am going to make you suffer for what you did to me. For what you’ve done to her!” Pointing to Jadzia as she yelled. Her magic flared to life and the periwinkle purple bolts floated around her, “I kill this fucker myself. Don’t interfere unless I say so.”

“Stupid mage whores always think they can have more than they deserve. It’ll give me great pleasure watching the life leave your eyes Herald.

She felt it immediately. The forceful wave of a Silence that was so strong she knew Solas must’ve felt too. He and the others took a step forward and she held her hand up signaling the others to stay where they were.

Maxiana grabbed her staff off her back and swung it around as she spoke, “There’s something you should know about me. I am a Knight-Enchanter. I have studied and trained in combat,” she said through gritted teeth. Holding the confidence in her voice, she hoped he wouldn’t see through her words. It wasn’t exactly a lie. She had been trained and was very well studied in battle. The only downfall was her lack of practical application but if she played it just right she knew she could come out victorious. She circled around Cassandra as she spoke, grabbing the dagger she knew the Seeker kept on her belt. “I do not need magic to slit your throat and watch you bleed out.”

“I’d like to see you try, mage whore,” Malcolm replied.

Maxiana sprung to life, running at him full force as a cry of battle fell from her lips. He lifted up his longsword ready to swing it at her but she was too quick as she ducked underneath. He screamed out in pain as her dagger tore into his thigh as she passed under his weapon. Being as big as he was he turned around alarmingly fast and swept her right across her legs causing her to fall backwards. But she was determined and the fury within her was stronger than ever before.

She quickly rose to her feet and blocked his next swing as she charged at him not caring whether or not she got hurt anymore. She was determined to make him suffer for what he had done. Ducking under his sword again this time plunging the dagger deep into his belly. Keeling over before he fell to his knees, it was long enough for her to get behind him and pull her staff up under his chin. Pushing into his throat as hard as she could, choking him. 

“Cassandra, can you disable him?” she asked.

Cassandra nodded and moved in a little closer holding her hand out slightly. Suddenly Malcolm cried out as the Seeker used her abilities to paralyze his lyrium fueled blood.

Moving her dagger to his throat ready to pull it away to tare through his flesh when she heard a voice, “X?” A single letter hung in the air filled with relief and happiness yet feeling bitter and cold. In Jadzia’s desperation to break free she had managed to remove her gag somehow, “X, don’t.”

Maxiana looked back at her, “After everything he’s done?”

“You misunderstand me. I’m going to do it. This fucking small dicked piece of shit has been torturing me for years now. I get to kill him. X, think about what this man did to you. He’s been doing that shit to me since he arrived in Ostwick. So, if anyone gets to kill this fucker it’s me!” Jadzia shouted in anger pulling harder and harder on her restraints to reach the guilty man.

“Release her,” she replied looking to Cassandra.

The elf’s eyes were wide and her nostril’s flared as she approached her. “I am of no danger to you. I will free your bonds,” the Seeker said.

When Jadzia nodded in response she began to cut the ties holding her there.

“All right Z,” she spoke calmly. “You’re right. You should get too.” Cassandra had completely freed the elf mage who was now right at her side. Cold, thin fingers wrapped around Maxiana’s to grab the dagger from her hand. She willingly obliged turning around hugging the girl slightly before walking away. The Knight-Commander’s eyes followed her as she moved back towards the camp.

“You can’t leave me unarmed with her!” fear evident in his tone.

She stopped, intending to turn to face him when she was interrupted by Jadzia’s need for revenge. There were magical bonds on his wrist’s and ankles now and his eyes were wide with terror.

“Don’t even look at her. Look at me! You’re all mine now you fucking piece of shit,” the elf said with venom in her voice.

Jadzia kicked him in the gut right where the dagger had punctured him and he cried out in pain. “My little dagger friend is going to keep your cock plenty company, isn’t it? You don’t mind sharing do you?” Jadzia taunted.

His eyes were wild as she said the words and he followed the dagger with his gaze to his pelvis. He was muttering for her to stop, begging her to have mercy, when she pushed the dagger deep where she knew his cock was under his breeches. He screamed out in pain and they thought for a moment he might pass out.

“Jadzia?” Maxiana asked with concern and confusion evident in her tone. Jadzia had been reciting his words back to him, the ones he had hurled at Maxiana all those weeks ago when he tore their lives apart. There’s no way Jadzia could’ve been that close by and she remember it with such detail. He had locked her up beforehand he had said. “Jadzia!” she said again with more persistence when she got no response. Her friend’s head snapped up quickly to look at her face to face.

“Oh yes, I was there X. He locked me in a fucking trunk nearby and forced some poor mage to put a ward on the box that would keep it silent. I heard it all. I heard what they did to Jace before you arrived, what they did to you when you did, I heard you and Jace after they left you laying there on the ground to die. Hearing you tell Jace you intended to look for me before the box lifted and he took me away. Knowing that you would be looking everywhere when I was mere feet away to begin with was the worst part. It wasn’t just you and Jace he tortured that night!”

“Jadzia, I’m so sorry. I never should’ve left without finding you first,” Maxiana said softly.

“Don’t apologize for that. You survived and that’s what matters now,” she said. Focusing her attention back on her prisoner, “Imagine that Malcolm. You thought us nothing but little mage whores. Thought us insignificant and weak. But now, we will be your undoing, your death. Say your prayers to the Maker Malcolm. Pray to Him that he show you mercy in the afterlife. You’ll certainly get none what-so-fucking-ever here.”

Jadzia grabbed at his fingers singling out a finger on his right hand. She brought the dagger up to it, “I’m gonna take every last one of your fingers for touching without permission.”

“Herald,” Cassandra moved close to her, “we cannot allow this. We are not in the business of torturing people. Only bringing peace and order.”

“Z,” it was a question and command in one. “We can take him into Inquisition custody where he won’t be able to hurt anyone else.”

But it went ignored. Jadzia’s smile turned wicked as she pushed the dagger in. They all watched in horror as she hacked at the digit until she cut all the way through. Brilliant blue eyes were wild and greedy as she picked up the fallen finger, turning it in her hand and examining it, “No. He’ll get what he deserves whether you agree or not.”

Maxiana turned and walked away with the others at her side. Burning in her throat worsened as she tried to hold back the bile that was trying to escape her yet again. Lightning returned to her fingertips as the Silence began to ware off and she struggled to keep it under control. Her pace quickened as she heard the screams coming from Malcolm, she needed to get away from it quickly and was soon running out of the camp as fast as she could manage.

After everything that had happened, this was by far the worse of it. Jadzia was not acting like herself, at least not like the woman she had known in the Circle. Sure, Malcolm deserved the worst forms of punishment. But this? She couldn’t fathom why Jadzia would ever think she’d be ok with such a thing.

Sitting down on a bench in one of the small campsites they had cleared early, she looked around finding all the bodies from the Templars they had killed. Killed. She was killing people.

A sweat broke out across her body and she felt like the heaviest boulder suddenly rested on her chest. Her hands came up to her head and she squeezed it violently. Lightning from her hands lingered at first but got stronger as her throat felt as though it was closing in tightly and she started finding it more and more difficult to breathe. Tears flowed down her cheeks uncontrollably and her eyes were wide in panic.

“Maxiana?” she heard someone say. Tilting her head up, her eyes searched for them. She needed to ground herself or she would lose all control. Blinking quickly, she finally made out who it was. “Breathe, in and out.”

“I-in.. and o-out,” she whimpered.

“You must focus, control your magic,” Cassandra said in a gentle voice, her hand coming up to rest on Maxiana’s shoulder.

“Control… right…”

Shutting her eyes tightly, she did as Cassandra had instructed. Focusing on the duration of her breaths, choosing to force her magic back and her heart too slow. A wave of relief washed over her a moment later and she looked to find Solas there with healing green magic flowing from his hands.

“Thank you,” she said to them as she found a steady voice. “How did you know to do that?”

Cassandra sat next to her, legs slightly agape and elbows resting on her knees. “My brother, Antony, he was a dragon hunter. Sometimes after a rough battle he would have nightmares, the kind that follow you even in the daylight.”

Maxiana nodded. She could understand that, more so than she wanted to admit.

“It’s not your fault,” Cassandra said.

“I know. I just don’t understand what’s gotten into her,” Maxiana puzzled.

“Not her,” Cassandra replied with disgust. She grabbed Maxiana’s left hand and pointed to the mark, “This. It’s not your fault. But it’s the burden you must now wear. I will not lie to you, it’s not going to get any easier but I am here for you. I misjudged you in the beginning but now I see. You didn’t ask for this and I will do what I can to help.”

Maxiana looked up at the Seeker, her brow raised as a strange peace came over her. Cassandra was right, it was now her burden whether she wanted it to be or not. This war was now hers, theirs, to lose and she was not going to let that happen. Even if that meant getting used to the evils she would commit in the name of restoring peace.

Chapter Text

Maybe We’re Becoming Friends

11 Kingsway 9:40 Dragon

Curly,

I’m not even sure why I’m writing this to you. I wouldn’t exactly say this is a formal report. Maybe I’m in shock. Maybe we’re becoming friends. Shit, I don’t know.

We found Rabbit’s friend. These two are attached at the hip at this point. It’s a wonder how they got separated in the first place. The Knight-Commander that had her was the one from Ostwick. Apparently he had a habit of using Frost and was the one who attacked Rabbit the night the Circle fell.

Curly, this friend of hers, she’s got some dark shit hidden in there. I’ve seen some things and I’m telling you I was afraid of what she was going to do. To put it mildly, the Knight-Commander is definitely dead and he definitely suffered for his crimes. We all had to walk away before she was finished with him. I’m not saying the asshole didn’t deserve it but Andraste’s tits… she practically slaughtered him like a pig. Rabbit didn’t take that so well either. It took some time to calm her down. She kept grabbing her head and squeezing it, to the point that we were worried she would hurt herself. She swears she’s never seen Frost act like that before and I think it scared her more than she’s willing to admit.

The Knight-Commander said something about Ostwick Circle falling was preplanned. I’ll write to Nightingale about it, see what she can dig up. He made a reference to the First Enchanter that Rabbit didn’t take to very well and she refuses to talk about. You still have him in custody don’t you? Someone should probably question him again. Number Two was there, perhaps he could offer more guidance to that situation. You should talk to her about it when we return. She seems to trust you more than the rest of us.

Now that we have Frost we’re heading for Val Royeaux. We’ll have to come back here to find the apostate mage’s hide out. Chuckles said it’s probably cloaked with wards so we may need to borrow some Templars when we do. 

We won’t have time to stop in Haven according to some letters in the camp we found that lead us to believe the Order may also be heading to Val Royeaux. We should be there in just over a week as long as we have no delays. 

Regards,
Varric

P.S. She said some things that lead me to believe you turned her down. Don’t, Curly. For the love of Andraste, don’t. Stop getting in your own damn way for once would you?

Chapter Text

My Friends

“My friends are so depressed.
I feel the question of your loneliness.
Confide, cause I’ll be on your side.
You know I will, you know I will.”
~’My Friends’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers

12 Kingsway 9:34 Dragon

Cullen rolled his shoulders hoping to loosen them up. Lyrium withdrawal was taking a toll on his body and the cold mountain air wasn’t helping. He was overseeing the troops as they trained when a runner brought him a small stack of papers. Leliana had insisted that each incoming report be examined before it was handed out so when there was a letter perfectly held in its envelope with its wax seal still in tact it drew his attention right away. On its front was a playful script that simply read ‘Commander Cullen Rutherford’.

Asking the lieutenant to oversee training, he walked into his tent taking a seat feeling the relief of his aching muscles as he did. Throwing the other reports haphazardly onto the work surface he turned the envelope in his hand and his heart skipped a beat when he recognized the seal. It had been made especially for her, the seal of the Herald of Andraste. Josephine had carefully selected this seal trying to reinforce the vision of the Herald to those who would receive a letter with its insignia.

Its wax was emerald green and the imprint showed a hand with the Inquisition symbol where the mark could be found on her real hand. Thanking the Maker that the spymaster was kind enough to leave this particular letter untouched he ran his finger over the seal a couple of times before finally hooking underneath the flap to pop it open.Reading over it multiple times he lost himself in the playful tone of her words.

 

Commander Cullen,

We have made contact with Master Dennet. He and his family made some requests of the Inquisition in exchange for his mounts. There was a den of wolves in the Northern Caves that had been controlled by a demon. Fortunately, they were easy enough to take care of.

Unfortunately, they have also asked for us to build watch towers so the farmers are able to watch for potential incoming attacks. I have marked locations on the enclosed map for these towers per their request. We will need to handle this quickly if we want Dennet’s help.

We also made contact with Mother Giselle and did some recon in the Crossroads to bolster the Inquisition as you suggested at council. It seems we have turned several of the people here to our cause just by simply being there for them. Something that the Chantry apparently is refusing to do. Am I really that much a problem for them? Maker, these people have lost so much and the Chantry is sitting on their asses crying over me when they could be here helping. Isn’t that what they’re supposed to do? Help people?

I’m rambling aren’t I? I have no idea what to write in this thing…

Mother Giselle has recommended that we meet with the Chantry in Val Royeaux. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing than throwing myself to the mercy of their judgment. I hope you won’t have to come rescue me from the White Spire. Though, it would be nice to see you. I know it’s only been a day short of two weeks but I miss our daily chats on the stairs. I hope that’s ok to say.

Perhaps I should write a formal report when I return with Josephine’s help. I doubt she’d be happy with an Inquisition report containing my declarations of missing you and me poking at the Chantry. 

We found some red lyrium in a few places out here. Troubling to say the least, it was being guarded by Templars in one location and that was even more troubling.

Oh Maker, I’m rambling again already aren’t I? I swear I’ve tried to write this so many times and I’m just too tired to try at it again.

Even with our small numbers in our forces, we have gotten several compliments on our finely trained soldiers thanks to one Inquisition Commander. Is it silly that they make me feel safer just because you trained them and not because they are soldiers? That sounded better in my head…

Right, rambling. I’m exhausted and we still have so much to do.

Hoping to be back in Haven soon. As thrilling as it is to travel around Fereldan, in the cold, surrounded by war, and apparently cults that worship rifts (don’t ask) I am missing my little cottage and the ability to sleep on a normal bed. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m eager to be back to tell you about all of it in person.

Sincerely,
~Maxiana Trevelyan
Herald of Andraste
Agent of the Inquisition
(Is that right? I have no idea. I have to talk to Josephine about this when I return)

“What has you smiling so wide it’s threatening to tear open your face?”

Cullen jumped as he looked up to see Rylen standing on the other side of his desk with a report in his hand. He tried to hide the letter away but his second was too quick snatching it from his grasp.

“She’s infatuated with one Inquisition Commander I’d say,” Rylen joked with laughter in his words. By the time he had read to the end Cullen’s face had turned a deep shade of red. “Exhausted or so nervous she can’t think straight?”

“Did you need something?” he said as he stood and grabbed the letter back from him.

“Reports on the supply lines,” Rylen responded handing him over a piece of parchment filled with lists and numbers. Cullen scanned over it quickly as Rylen stood with a smirk on his face.

“What are you so smug about?” he asked him as the Knight-Captain’s expression made him uncomfortable.

“Oh nothing,” he replied. “Why don’t you take a break and come grab a drink with me?”

“I have way too…” Cullen began but was interrupted by Rylen speaking over him as he walked around the desk.

“Way too much work to do. Yes, I know. We all know. You still could use a break, mate. What harm is it going to do? It’s nearly supper anyhow,” he offered hoping that would get him to cave.

Cullen always liked Rylen and they became friends very quickly. He had played a pivotal role in helping him begin to rebuild the Templars in Kirkwall and he had the upmost respect for him. Rylen used to do this to him back then too. Talking him into getting a drink and before he knew it they’d end up at the Blooming Rose. Rylen would disappear after a few drinks leaving him to sit uncomfortably at the bar alone before one of the girls there would try to entice him into their room. He had turned so many of them down that it wasn’t long before the men started working in on him too, making him even more uncomfortable.

“C’mon mate, just one drink. All right maybe two drinks. Three max I swear!” he teased his friend who was moaning in protest.

“Fine. No more than three though,” Cullen said in defeat. In honesty, he was happy for the distraction. Knowing that Maxiana was out there missing him made her absence all the more apparent. When they passed the spot on the stairs where they’d have their chats as they made way to the tavern Cullen smiled to himself. It wasn’t a secret by any means, anyone walking by could see or hear them, but it still felt like a secret. It was theirs and they shared it with only each other.

When they reached the tavern, he grabbed a table near the back while Rylen fetched them drinks. Cullen scanned the room as he waited and noticed a few of his men shift uncomfortably in their seats. He tried his best to give them a reassuring look that right now he was just Cullen and not the Commander. Looking further he noticed a couple sitting in the opposite corner, their heads close together as they whispered softly to each other, stealing a quick kiss every few words before their lips became extensively entwined.

He moved around in his seat feeling as though he may have invaded their privacy. Though they were in the tavern and surely they must know people would see them. Stealing another glance at the them while he was still alone they had moved in closer, holding and caressing each other as their tongues danced together. It hit him very suddenly when he started to picture Maxiana sitting next to him the same way, arms holding him close, her lips on his.

“Cullen, mate you’re starting to worry me you zone out so damn much.” Rylen said as he placed the drinks down and took his seat turning to see the kissing couple that had his friend’s attention.

“Sorry, I was just…”

“You were thinking about her. I get it. I told you before she’s damn amazing. I meant it,” Rylen said before taking a big swig of his ale. “She’s easy to fall in love with that one.”

“I’m not in love with her! That’s ludicrous!” 

“You should seriously consider it given how defensive you're being towards your caring friend,” Rylen teased. “Are you gonna drink that or just let it sit there all night?”

Cullen had been so lost to his thoughts he hadn’t even realized that his ale was sitting there untouched. He grabbed it and drank it down to the bottom slamming it down on the table when he finished.

“Smartass, if that’s how it’s going to be,” Rylen said before finishing off his own. “Your turn to get the drinks.”

“I believe it was you who asked me here. Doesn’t that mean you provide the ale?” he replied as he leaned forward on his elbows that were resting on the table.

“Is everything strategy and competition with you? I didn’t know this was a date…”

Cullen laughed loudly letting the sound fill him as the ale began to kick in, “No, not unless you want it to be, I haven’t been courted in quite some time.”

“Ha, ha, very funny. Fine. I’ll get one more round but the next ones on you.” Rylen said as he got up from the table and walked over to the bar.

Cullen realized as Rylen walked away that he had wanted him to leave so he could look back over to the couple. But they were gone and that was almost worse. He knew what they were likely doing now and it filled him with longing. Maker, it had been ages since he was with someone in such an intimate way let alone with someone he really cared for. He had always managed to keep his feelings of such things under control but it had changed when he met her. Every day since he watched her close the rift near the Temple of Sacred Ashes he had given into thoughts of her and it was hard not to let his mind wonder after seeing the public display of affection.

“Mate you’re doing it again. Do I need to take you to the healers?”

Cullen sat up straight and cleared his throat, “No, of course not.”

Rylen set the refilled tankards down on the table as he watched his friend closely, “It’s her again isn’t it? Maxiana?”

“What makes you think that?”

“I told you, she’s easy to fall in love with.”

“And how would you know this? I thought you were just friends.”

“We are just friends. But we were more once.”

“Oh,” was all Cullen could say. Jealousy rose in his chest and he was surprised by its presence. This new information about her seemed to make his heart twist and his stomach squeeze. He didn’t know there was more to their background and he wasn’t sure he wanted to know the details.

“It was a long time ago. She came to Starkhaven after she altered the spell for her daggers. We had heard that she was good at writing spells and twisting them to do as she wanted. I thought nothing of it, just another Senior Enchanter coming to teach a class. Usually they’re a bit older anyhow right? Maker, when I caught sight of her I nearly melted to the ground just like you did.”

“Why exactly are you telling me this?” Cullen asked as he finished off his second ale.

“Because mate, you’re my friend. She’s my friend too. If you have feelings for her, then I think you should know so there are no secrets.”

“Maker’s breath, everyone seems so eager for us to be together but we’re just friends. Besides, her and I wouldn’t… we just…. I can’t pull her into my withdrawal let alone all the other shit I deal with. She deserves someone better than me.”

“No, no, no, I don’t believe that. Stop being so damn hard on yourself. She’d be perfect for you. She’d understand all of that.”

His mind began to spin at his friends words, encouraged by the alcohol no doubt. Seeing her every morning as she wakes next to him, walking hand-in-hand around the small village, making her smile when he teases her, laying down with her every night… no. He couldn’t allow himself to go that far. They were just friends and he intended on keeping it that way but he’d be lying to himself if he wasn’t curious, “You didn’t seem so worried about me knowing before.”

“I’m not worried about it now just don’t want it sneaking up on you. I’d rather you hear it from me,” Rylen said in defense. “I know you’ve held yourself back from getting involved with someone for a long time. But that letter, she’s not going to give up on you so easily. She’s nearly as stubborn as you are and she gets what she wants.”

Cullen contemplated for a moment that maybe, maybe, there was a chance they could be together. Perhaps he should hear what he had to say, “Does this story require more ale?”

“Honestly, it couldn’t hurt. Three went fast.”

Cullen got up as he spoke and made way to the bar. He returned with their tankards filled and a bottle of whiskey with two shot glasses. If he was going to be hearing about their relationship he was going to need something a lot stronger.

“Shit, whiskey? You do love her!” Rylen chuckled.

“Maker’s breath, I don’t love her. I just…” he looked at him to see his disbelieving look. “Am I so transparent? How does everyone seem to know how I’m feeling all the damn time?” he said with frustration, “Leliana is always giving me looks, Solas looks at me like I’m a blighted experiment whenever I’m around her, Varric is… well Varric and now you too?”

“Love is a hard emotion to hide,” Rylen replied snuggly, crossing his arms and leaning back in his seat.

Cullen laughed at his friends words, “I. Do not. Love her. I barely know her. We only just met.”

“Trust me, with her, that doesn’t matter,”

“What does that mean exactly?”

“Are you sure you want to hear this?” Rylen asked with reservation. Cullen downed the rest of his ale and poured the whiskey into one of the small glasses downing it quickly. The battle in his own mind was raging by now and the part of him that wanted to believe he could be with her won out.

“No, but go ahead.”

24 Solace 9:35 Dragon

It was hot in Starkhaven and Rylen was uncomfortable in his armor with the sweat that was pouring from his body. There was buzz about the new Senior Enchanter from Ostwick that was due to visit and it seemed to add even more warmth to the atmosphere. He didn’t remember her name, only that she was powerful with spell writing.

He was standing in the classroom they had set aside for her to use. She was running behind due to the hot weather during her travels. Normally it’d only take a week to travel from Ostwick to the Circle in Starkhaven but the heat caused them to stop more often as to not exhaust their mounts. There were several mages in this class and they were so eager to learn from her they were having a rough time keeping under control.

“All right you lot, I know you’re excited but let’s just calm down. She’ll be here any minute.” First Enchanter Beckett said to the students as he fell into place next to him.

“What exactly does this mage do?” Rylen asked in curiosity.

“Well, she’s a Knight-Enchanter which are rare enough. Apparently she’s also good with writing spells and has found a way to turn a Knight-Enchanter’s blade into daggers. That spell is centuries old and has never been meddled with successfully. It earned her a promotion and she’s garnered quite a bit of attention for it.”

Rylen had offered to sit in on the class himself when he had heard the whispers of her talents. If he was being honest, he wanted to see the magic she was rumored to be able to perform with his own eyes. Words from the First Enchanter making him even more curious as they confirmed much of what he’d heard. A few moments later, the door to the room opened and everyone turned to watch her enter.

When she came through a prayer to the Maker left his lips unexpectedly. She was stunning in every way. Her skin was sun kissed, glowing under the warm sun that filtered through the windows. Her hair was dark and fell just to her shoulders but gradually got shorter in the back up to her nape exposing her neck. Her robes fit her body just so, her breasts were full and her hips swayed as she walked. When she approached him and the First Enchanter, he made note that she was just the right height to fit perfectly in the crook of his neck.

“Senior Enchanter Maxiana Trevelyan, you must be the First Enchanter and Knight-Captain I was told would be with us here?” she said as she held her hand out to them waiting for introductions. When he didn’t respond the First Enchanter took on the responsibility.

“Yes, First Enchanter Beckett Sanders, and this is Knight-Captain Rylen Ryker,” he said as he shook her hand then gestured to the Templar.

“Pleased to meet you both,” she said as she smiled warmly at him. When their eyes met, her teeth bit down into her bottom lip for a moment before she caught herself. Her head shook slightly before she said, “May I get started?”

“Of course,” Beckett said as he walked over to speak to the class, “This is Senior Enchanter Maxiana Trevelyan. We have heard a great many things about her and if even half of them are true you best pay close attention to what she has to teach you. Maxiana?”

“Thank you First Enchanter, you are too kind. Good afternoon, a little about myself first shall we? I am a Storm Mage and a Knight-Enchanter. I get asked often why I chose to be a Knight-Enchanter. I picked my specialty because in all honesty, being a Rift mage seemed boring and Necromancy is well… disturbing,” this gained a chuckle from the class and Rylen couldn’t help but be entranced by her. She carried herself with such confidence as she slipped into her role as mentor. 

He watched her the entire session not even hearing what she was saying but just listening to her voice. The cadence of it had his mind in a trance and he soon wondered what he could do to get a chance to talk to her alone. Her eyes, Maker, he thought he could stare into them for a lifetime. He had to reel in his thoughts as he watched the way her curves moved with her as she walked around the room. Before he knew it, she was dismissing the class and walking his way.

“Knight-Captain Rylen correct?”

“Yes, my lady,” he replied watching her blush at his words.

“First Enchanter Beckett said you can show me to my temporary quarters?”

“Oh right, of course. Follow me please.”

As they walked he thought of a thousand things to say and just as many questions he wanted to ask her. He felt like such a fool, fumbling over his thoughts because of her when they’d only just met a few hours prior. When they reached her quarters he blurted out the question he had really wanted to ask the whole time.

“Could I interest you in sitting with me during supper?” her eyes grew wide at his request and the shock she wore made him realize what he had just done. He was a Templar, a Knight-Captain no less, and he basically just asked a mage to have a date with him. Something that was strictly against the rules.

“Oh, um… I don’t…” she began while her fingers restlessly intertwined with each other and the blush on her cheeks turned to a deep red.

“I’m sorry, let me explain,” he started but had yet to come up with a legitimate excuse in his head. She was looking at him with confusion. His feet had moved him in closer to her without his noticing. She was up against the door, pinned there by his massive size in comparison to her own. “As the Knight-Captain here, I wanted to discuss your lessons with you. I like to know what’s going on in the classes that take place in my Circle.”

It was of course, a complete lie. It wasn’t his job to keep track of such things but he needed a reason to talk to her some more. He was so close to her she had to tilt her head to look up at him. He swore he could see her pulse resonate in her throat as her hair fell back exposing it as she brought her eyes to his. She was biting her lip again and he wasn’t sure he could control himself much longer.

“Right, that sounds reasonable,” she whispered through her nerves.

“Maker,” he was moving his hand up to her neck while the other held his weight against the door. Barely an inch from their bodies touching as he whispered, “your eyes are beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she replied grabbing his face and placing her lips onto his. He wasted no time kissing her back as he fell into her, pushing her up against the door. When they broke away she was trying to catch her breath as she asked, “Would you like to come in?”

“Yes, my lady, I would.”

“I was completely taken with her. She pulled me in so quickly and I couldn’t stay away from her,” Rylen leaned in closer, dropping his voice down to a whisper. “Mate, I thought she put a spell on me or slipped me a potion somehow I fell for her so fast. We spent every moment we could together before she went back to Ostwick. I even got her a gift for her birthday before she went back. We ended up making a deal. Whenever she was in Starkhaven we would spend our time together. And that worked for a while but then after a year or so she visited less frequently. She became more reserved and then I got sent to Kirkwall.”

“Shit,” was all Cullen could say. Watching his friend tell this story made him wonder just how much he still cared for her. He kept saying there were just friends but the depth of Rylen’s sorrowful eyes and careful smile couldn’t be ignored. He was still hurting.

“I got a letter from her while I was stationed with you. She said that it was too difficult being together but apart all the time. She wanted to stay friends and I didn’t want to lose her. I thought if we were friends maybe I could get her to come back to me. I even told her when I was done in Kirkwall I would transfer to Ostwick if it meant she’d be with me. A few weeks later I heard through some of the other men from Hasmal about Jace being sent there and that he was with one of the Senior Enchanters already. I knew it was her without having to hear her name. She confirmed it in a letter I received shortly after.”

“Is that why we were always ending up at the Blooming Rose?” Cullen’s words were slurred as he downed another shot of whiskey. He had barely left the container alone during Rylen’s retelling of his first encounter with Maxiana.

Rylen’s eyes lost focus for a moment as he thought about the question. After a few seconds, he replied, “Yeah, actually, I think so. I missed her, we only saw each other every few months but I was always waiting for the next visit. The more time passed, the more I realized, I didn’t love her that way. She just has that affect on people. Honestly, you couldn't have lucked out with a better person to end up as a prophet of Andraste. We were just friends who fucked every once in a while,” he confessed with a shrug but Cullen wasn’t sure he was convinced.

“Just like that you got over her?” he asked him. Rylen’s words somehow felt hollow, empty. He thought of that day at the Temple when Maxiana had temporarily sealed the Breach. 

Rylen had hugged her and quickly turned her attention onto himself. The careful control of Rylen’s facial expressions were there that day too. That strange sorrowful look at lingered in his friend’s expression that day too. Cullen had thought nothing of it at the time. They were at war, he chalked it up to Rylen feeling sad that yet another one of his friends was caught up in it, let alone having the anchor attached to their person.

But now, watching the way he talked about her, the way his face smiled differently and the joy of her name on his lips… Maker’s breath, I want to believe him. For so many reasons. He thought.

Had Cullen himself not been a Templar he may have missed it but there was no denying Rylen was hiding something. Templar’s are trained to hide their facial expressions, taught how to carry their bodies as to not show any emotions.

“Not just like that, I keep telling you mate, she’s special,” he said taking another shot of whiskey. “I was jealous at first but it wore off quickly. I realized she was a mage, she wasn’t meant to have relationships with anyone let alone a Templar. She kept me at a distance for a reason. I’m sure she did the same to Jace.”

Cullen thought of everything Rylen had told him since they entered the tavern. He wasn’t sure what to make of it just yet. That was likely due to the large amount of alcohol he had consumed by now and he began cursing himself for losing his self control.

“Uh huh,” Cullen huffed, his glass half raised to his mouth before he set it back down not he table and relaxed back into his chair. “And you’re completely over her?”

“Of course I am, mate,” Rylen replied as he took yet another shot of whiskey, his gaze fixed straight ahead, eyes slightly glossed over and unfocused.

“Rylen,” Cullen sighed, “it’s ok if you’re not. I just don’t understand! If you were so taken with what are you pushing her and I together so much? Why don’t you want her back for yourself?”

Rylen stared at him a moment before speaking. “Because you two belong together. If I went after her I’m certain she’d have said no, even more so now. You are much better suited for her.”

“How so?” Cullen scoffed.

“Cullen, do you know why I respect you so damn much?” Rylen asked.

“I don’t believe you have ever given me the pleasure of such indulgence,” he answered.

“You have this way about you. You’re firm, tough but in someway you’re also compassionate. You stick to your beliefs but you grow, you learn, and you accept when you’re wrong and try to make amends. It’s what Maxiana needs. Someone who keep her in line but helps her rather than controls her. Someone who can hold her and tell her everything is going to be all right and she actually believes it. As long as I’ve known her, she hasn’t trusted anyone as much as she trusts you. You two are meant to be, it’s the Maker’s will.” Rylen paused, his shoulder slumped forward slightly before he continued, “she needs someone who understands.”

Someone who understands? What’s that supposed to mean? He wondered to himself. All the horrors he had been through… he wondered which of them haunted her at night as well. Cullen poured the last of the whiskey into the two small glasses. He was silent as his mind continued to sort out all the information he’d just been given.

Couldn’t just be Circle life. All of them had experienced that in their own ways and each of them had been through something different. They were both Templars, well he was a former, but still. Could it be that because he was no longer one? Trying to put the pieces together, he was sure he missed a move one of them had made when a thought occurred to him.

“What do you think will happen when this Jace guy shows up?”

“You mean if he shows up. I dunno. It’s hard to say. If their relationship was anything like hers and mine I’d say you have nothing to worry about.”

Rylen was watching him closely when he said, “Cullen, the way she looks at you, that letter, you’re something more to her than I ever was. For the first time since she got thrown into the Circle, shit probably for the first time in her life, she finally gets to choose someone because it’s her choice. Not because she’s a noble or a Circle mage stuck in a tower. Don’t think that your just another Templar under her belt. She cares about you, she may even love you. Don’t pass her by. You’ll regret it. Trust me on that at least.”

“Well, I appreciate it but I still think she deserves someone better than me,” he rose his shot glass, “Cheers.”

Rylen copied the action, “Cheers.”

After they downed their whiskey, they both got up on shaky legs to head back to their tents outside the gates of Haven. They made jokes and poked fun at each other for being so intoxicated before supper had even been served. Both agreeing that they needed to hide away while it wore off so the soldiers wouldn’t see them acting like fools, they made it to Cullen’s command tent taking seats in their respective spots.

“Maker, I forgot about these,” Cullen said gesturing to the pile of reports that sat on his desk from before. He grabbed one absentmindedly not really noticing what kind of report it was. Knowing his clouded mind wouldn’t actually allow him to carry out any of the requests that may lie within. As he read his brow furrowed in concern.

“What is it mate?” Rylen asked holding his hand out to grab the parchment from the Commander.

“It’s from Varric. He’s worried about her,” Cullen said. He needed to go to her, to protect her, to make sure she’s all right. Rylen seemed to know what he was going to ask before he even opened his mouth to speak.

“You should go, I’ll handle things here,” he offered in a supportive tone.

“Don’t forget about the watch towers, we need Master Dennet’s help.”

“You got it. Damien isn’t going to confess to any of this,” he said holding up the letter from the rogue. “He’ll only talk to her, we’ve already tried.”

“Talk to Sister Leliana about it. She can be quite persuasive.”

“Yes, Ser,” he saluted in jest causing Cullen to chuckle. 

Despite his gesture, Cullen knew he was worried for her just as much as he was. He sent for his horse to be readied and began packing for his trip to Val Royeaux. He grabbed the letter from Maxiana, folding it up neatly and putting it in his pocket. A runner brought him some supplies including a large canteen of water that he quickly downed trying to sober up then demanding it be refilled. Once he was ready he walked out of the tent towards the stable hand that had his horse ready for travel.

“One more thing,” Rylen said as Cullen climbed up onto the steed.

“Yes?”

“Varric is right. Don’t get in your own way.”

Cullen nodded to his second as he commanded the horse to charge forward. He knew he shouldn’t be traveling alone but he couldn’t wait for anyone else, he needed to reach her as quickly as possible. Each fall of the steed’s hooves making him feel alive knowing they were bringing him closer to her with every step.

Chapter Text

Clarity

“Cause you are the piece of me
I wish I didn’t need.
Chasin’ relentlessly.
Still fight and I don’t know why.
If our love is tragedy
Why are you my remedy?
If our love is insanity
Why are you my clarity?”
~’Clarity’ by Zedd feat. Foxes

 

19 Kingsway 9:40 Dragon

They had spent much of the trip with Maxiana telling Jadzia about everything that had happened in Ostwick, at the Conclave, and since she fell from the Fade. She accidentally lingered too long on the subject of one tall handsome Commander to her friend’s amusement. This opened the gate for the other’s to tease her about it some more and she was none too pleased that Jadzia had decided to join in.

Maxiana had tried to talk to Jadzia about what transpired along the river with the Knight-Commander but she wouldn’t budge. She refused to talk about any of it making Maxiana nervous about what had really happened to her during the weeks they’d been apart. Deciding that when she was ready to talk she would confide in her she left it alone.

Jadzia became friends with Varric very quickly as most people did and spent an odd amount of time making Cassandra uncomfortable by flirting with her. They reached Val Royeaux a day later than they had expected due to some bad weather they hit while crossing the Frostbacks. They were already tired and rundown from their stint in the Hinterlands as it was and the long trip didn’t help. It was wearing thin on all of them so they decided to immediately check into the hotel just outside of the main part of the city to wash and rest.

Maxiana had never been this far west before and she was completely enthralled by it all. Jadzia had spent some time here when she was an apostate. Her and her mysterious companions from her initial escape traveled often to stay hidden. She marveled in telling everyone what knowledge she had of the place as they had travelled from Ostwick all those years ago, venturing into the city they were now in.

Josephine had directed them to a hotel where everything was ornate and painted in whites and beiges with gold trim. Most of the decor there was made to match and had shades of royal blue to go along with the color scheme. ‘It’s the Empresses favorite color’ Jadzia had said. As the Herald of Andraste, the clerk was more than happy to provide them with some of the best Val Royeaux had to offer.

“I’m surprised, that man couldn’t wait to help us,” Maxiana mused. They were informed that there was an entire wing of the hotel that was reserved specifically for the Inquisition. “Josephine must’ve called in a few favors for all that.”

“It’s all part of The Grand Game they play. It ridiculous if you ask me,” Cassandra said.

“That it is Seeker, but we shouldn’t complain when they’re being so nice to us,” Varric replied sarcastically.

“It’s more likely that if you end up being this ‘Herald’ that the people have deemed you to be, they’ll all want a piece of your ass. Probably literally in most cases,” Jadzia emphasized. “Better to be nice to you now than have to apologize later. Then the fuckers can all say, ‘I knew her when’… fucking jerks.”

They came around to the hallway that would lead to their rooms. Maxiana’s heart began racing when she saw a tall, handsome, blonde standing down a ways speaking with an Inquisition scout.

“Well, now we know why they were being so nice,” Varric chuckled. “Curly probably threatened them on your behalf Rabbit.”

She rolled her eyes at him, “I doubt that. Well, the threatening part anyway.”

“Commander, what are you doing here?” Cassandra asked as they approached him and the scout scurried away with his orders.

“We got word the Order would be here waiting for you. I thought it’d be best that I come as well. If things go badly, perhaps we can persuade those who wish to be free of the Order to join us instead,” he replied.

This is Cullen?” Jadzia questioned sounding impressed. She turned and was walking backwards toward him mouthing ‘oh my’ while wiggling her eyebrows. Maxiana wished she could shock her with a lightning bolt.

Jadzia draped herself on his shoulder, “I have heard so much about you Commander.”

Cullen was clearly uncomfortable, his hand finding his neck, “You must be Jadzia?”

“Oh of course, how rude of me to not introduce myself,” she said as she slid her hand down his arm to grab his to shake it properly. “Jadzia Dax Feyhon, Winter Mage. Seems my X is quite taken by you. I wonder though, what’s wrong with you to not want my friend in return? She’s powerful, smart, gorgeous, a fantastic kisser…”

Everyone stared at the elf in disbelief when Maxiana practically yelled, “All right Z. I think we all get it let’s just go to our chambers shall we.”

She grabbed the elf by the arm and pulled her away from Cullen. Pushing her towards their chamber door, “Go now, I’ll be right behind you,” she turned to him placing her hand lightly on his arm, “I’m so sorry. She has a no filter problem with her mouth.” 

“It’s all right…” he replied. “I got your report on the watch towers for Master Dennet. Knight-Captain Rylen is taking care of it.”

“That’s fantastic Cullen, Thank you. And thanks for coming all this way to help me… I mean us,” she stumbled causing her face to start to blush.

“For you,” taking her hand from his arm and kissing it lightly, “always." They stood there holding each other’s gaze for a moment when Varric cleared his throat in uneasiness. She giggled as she walked away and went into her chambers where her friend would be waiting. Cullen stood there, now alone with the rogue as the others found their own rooms, staring at the door the two girls had disappeared behind. “What do you think she meant by saying she was a fantastic kisser?”

“I’m guessing she was just talking her friend up or… they’ve kissed before. Which honestly, after watching them together this last week would not surprise me one damn bit,” Varric replied.

Cullen looked at him with a look of surprise and a little wonder, “Maker’s breath, you think they… No never mind. Don’t answer that.”

Varric chuckled as he walked towards his own chamber door, “You’re not fooling anyone by the way. We all know you’re here for her, admit it.”

“I came because of what you said about the Order,” he said through gritted teeth as his cheeks were turning red. He knew he wasn’t fooling him. “Fine, not a word dwarf. I mean it. She’s the Herald, I’m the Commander. It would be inappropriate.” Maker, even he was starting to see the holes in his defense.

“She said as much. Whatever you need to tell yourself to sleep at night Curly,” Varric said as he opened his door stopping to say, “Wanna grab a drink?”

“Actually, I would. I’ve been here for a couple of days now and I’ve about had it with Orlesians already.”

“Don’t say that too loud, they might ban us from the country for bad talking their people. I’ll meet you down there after I wash up.”

line

When Maxiana shut the door behind her she quickly put up a ward to keep intruding ears away from the conversation she knew was about to take place. She stood there with her hands pressed against the door and her eyes shut. She didn’t even need to turn around to know that right now, Jadzia would be standing there with one hips stuck out, foot tapping, and her arms crossed. Her face was probably crunched up with frustration and disappointment too.

“Maxiana Athena Trevelyan you better explain to me right now why you haven’t throughly fucked that man out there.” Jadzia’s stance relaxed then, her face lighting up before she asked, “did you see the look on his face when I said you were a fantastic kisser?”

“I’m pretty sure everyone saw it…” she replied. “And I haven’t because I just haven’t. We only had about a week before I left to come save your ungrateful ass.”

“Hey, my ass is plenty grateful thank you very much!” Jadzia pointed in defense before climbing up onto the bed, sitting up against the golf trimmed headboard.

Maxiana climbed up onto the massive bed and sat next to her friend, the two of them instinctively holding onto one another. It had become something of a tradition for them. Whenever one of them needed serious advice or a shoulder to cry on they’d huddle up together just as they were now. Maxiana’s head falling into her friends neck as Jadzia’s hand stroked her hair lightly.

Maxiana told everything she could to Jadzia about Cullen. The way their eyes locked the first time they saw each other in the Chantry prison, her lightning zapping him the first time they touched, his jealousy towards her exchange with Rylen, how they’d seek each other out every day just to talk to one another, and the almost kiss on the stairs. 

“It’s just so strange. Even his voice, just his voice, has saved me, multiple times now,” Maxiana emphasized. “It just… we get close and then he pulls away. It’s maddening.”

She was surprised when Jadzia said, “Maybe he’s scared of what you represent.”

“What? That’s crazy!” she shouted, boldly sitting upright.

“Think about it X, much like you and I, well more you than I, anyway, we always thought we’d never have a life outside that blighted Circle. You excepted your fate, ergo Jace Watson.”

“Are you saying I used Jace?”

“No, I’m saying he was into you and your best option at the time so you went with it. Somewhere in your head you told yourself that was the best it would ever get for you and he was available. Shit, if it wasn’t for this war and Conclave bullshit you probably would’ve spent the rest of your life sneaking around with him.” Jadzia scoffed, “he’s fucking delicious so I don’t know why you’re so concerned.”

“He’s still missing you know…”

“Right. Sorry,” she replied while giving her a light hug. Maxiana made a gesture for her to continue from before, "Cullen willingly gave himself away to the Order only to find out later when it was too late that wasn’t what he really wanted. Then some bad shit happened. Imagine all the fucked up shit he probably went through at Kirkwall. He gave himself to the Chantry for years, made it his dedication, his life. Now he’s left the Order and here is this beautiful girl, who likes him, and he doesn’t know how to let you in. He convinced himself a long time ago you couldn’t exist so he thinks he can’t have you.”

“He told me it was inappropriate. Because I’m the Herald. Not because he doesn’t…” she stopped short. “He grew up on a farm in Honnleath. Do you think it’s because I’m a noble by birth?”

“Maybe it’s both.” Jadzia said as she shrugged.

“Maker, you make it sound so complicated.”

“Because X, that part is fucking complicated. The sooner the two of you realize it and just fuck and get it over with the better.”

“I don’t want to just have sex with him though Z. Otherwise I would’ve by now. I could go to his chambers right now if that’s all I wanted.”

“You should anyway…” she suggested. Maxiana gave her a look of dissatisfaction. “What? I’m just saying maybe you need to break the barrier. Get more comfortable with each other.” Jadzia laughed.

Maxiana’s face was as red as ever as she whispered, “Oh sweet Maker…” 

“I think what you really need, my dearest X, is a drink. Let’s get all dressed up and head down to the tavern,” Jadzia said as she climbed off the bed pulling on Maxiana’s arm trying to get her to follow.

“I’m exhausted Z and tomorrow is important. I really need to rest.”

“No, no, no, we’re getting a drink missy!” Jadzia made for the trunk that had her friend’s belongings in them. “You don’t have a damn thing to wear. Let’s hit the shop first shall we? All the shit you’ve been through this Inquisition better be paying you a great fucking salary.”

“That’s not why I joined first off. Secondly, I know my mother has an open account in most the shops here. I’m sure she won’t mind if I use them.” Maxiana went over to the trunk and dug around. Pulling out a little golden pouch that made clinging noises as she handled it.

She pulled it open and dumped it’s contents onto the bed spreading everything out. “Ah here it is,” she held up a ring with a thin golden band and a pendant on the front. Looking closer you could see it was a family crest.

“That’s not the Trevelyan crest, where’s that scary looking steed?” Jadzia observed.

“You’re right, it’s not. It’s my mothers family, House da Parma of Bastion.”

“Shit, X! You’re related to one of the Merchant Prince families?”

Maxiana slipped the ring on her right ring finger as she spoke, “Yes. I didn’t really know how important that was until I spoke to Josephine about it. She’s our ambassador and also an Antivan. My mother was more than pleased to help.”

“Are these accounts quite large then?”

“I would guess so but I’d prefer not to get carried away. Don’t think that I am an idiot Z, I know you’re up to something.”

“Am not!” she said with a look of faux innocence. “What’s the point in being the Herald and being related to an Antivan Merchant Prince if you’re not allowed to get carried away?”

Before Maxiana could protest any more she was pulling her out the door and down the hall to the shopping center in the city below.

“It’s about damn time dwarf! What took you so long?” Cullen asked waving his finger at the rogue. He had been sitting there since the moment he parted with him. Luckily, the tavern was filled with mostly male patrons who held little interest for him. The few women who were there made themselves known quickly with his entrance and it was making him uneasy sitting alone.

“Curly, are you drunk?” he asked in return. Disbelief filling his every word.

“I suppose I am. I don’t drink often anymore. Shit, guess I wasn’t watching my limit so well. Seems to be a problem for me lately…”

“Andraste’s tits, you and Rabbit couldn’t be any more made for each other I swear.”

“What does that…” he paused with a troubling look, thinking the alcohol might come back up for a moment before he finished, “mean?”

“She drinks more than she can handle too. Trust me you don’t want to know. Although, maybe you do, she talks a lot when she’s had some liquid courage.”

Cullen gave him a puzzling look before thinking better of it and returning to his drink. They sat in silence for a few moments before Varric asked, “Frost had a good point, why don’t you want to be with her?”

“Why does everyone keep asking me this? I told you. It’s inappropriate. She’s an agent under my care. I shouldn’t…”

When he didn’t finish the thought aloud Varric tried filling in the blanks for him, “You shouldn’t because she’s the Herald? Because she’s a mage?”

Cullen just shrugged his shoulders. “Both. Besides I shouldn’t regardless because she deserves someone better. I’m an ex-Templar with a former lyrium addiction whose never had a real relationship. I’m not exactly dating material.”

“Perhaps you should be more careful around her then. Showing up here unannounced and kissing her hand the way you did probably gave her the wrong impression,” Varric began lecturing when his drinking partner’s words settled in, “Wait, did you say former? You mean you…”

“I quit the day Cassandra found me in Kirkwall and offered me the position,” his tone made it final. He had no desire to discuss his decision with the dwarf or anyone else for that matter.

“Shit…” was all Varric could say in response. “Does she know?”

“No,” he replied with a sharp tone. “Besides you, only Cassandra and Rylen know.”

“Probably for the best,” Varric said in a quiet tone, “you know we found more red lyrium in the Hinterlands?”

“Yes, the Herald put it in the report she sent,” his hand falling to his hip over the pocket on his breeches.

“So, where did you learn how to be all mushy like that if you’ve never had a real relationship?”

“My father, he always tended to my mother like it was his life’s duty. He loved her with everything he had and she loved him in return. Even from a young age I knew they were soul mates.”

“And what does that say about you and Rabbit?”

“What do you mean?”

“You said you believed your parents to be soul mates. You’re treating her the way your father treated your mother. Am I the only one connecting the dots here? You love her Curly!”

“I… I don’t… I barely know her… that’s just…” Cullen tumbled over his words in a quiet voice. His eyes lost focus and he thought hard about what was just pointed out to him. He recognized that he had feelings for her. Something he surely couldn’t refuse any longer.

They sat in silence for a few moments before picking up their conversation again. Cullen asked Varric about Kirkwall and what state it was in since he left, knowing the dwarf kept contact with those still trying to rebuild. Varric told him about everything that had happened in the Hinterlands while continually making fun of Cullen for being drunk.

“Look at us! Maybe you’re right, we are becoming friends!” Cullen suddenly exclaimed. A smile on his lips as he slapped Varric on the shoulder.

“Damn Curly! Not so hard!” he said while rubbing his shoulder, “Maybe we are, imagine what Hawke will say when he finds out.”

Maxiana and Jadzia entered the tavern and caught the attention of many. Jadzia had practically forced Maxiana to buy and wear the dress she now wore. It was a simple dress really. A basic cotton in a deep purple with sleeves that went just past her elbows and a skirt that fell to the floor. It was fitted tight to her body and only flared out where it left the bottom of her hips. Jadzia’s dress was much more extravagant and eye-catching. Revealing her slender body with a deep V of fabric that also left her shoulders and arms uncovered. It was a light blue that matched her eyes and had white and silver detail work that mimicked fresh snowfall.

“That’s not good,” Varric said directing his attention towards the door, “The Jacks are here. All dressed up too.”

“The who?”

“You know, jack rabbit, Jack Frost, the Jacks,” Varric pointed towards the door where the women had entered, “I’m telling you Curly, that girl we went looking for is trouble with a capital T.” 

“Maker’s breath…” Cullen said in admiration barely hearing the words the dwarf spoke. His chest tightening and his face turning red at the sight of Maxiana. 

Jadzia made eye contact with Varric and quickly directed Maxiana away from the two men. Instead sitting at a table near the back corner where there was a group of rowdy men nearby. They all started shouting and whistling at the women as soon as they saw them take up the spot.

When she was sure Cullen and Varric were watching, she winked at them before grabbing the full attention of the group sitting near them. Being careful to keep Maxiana’s eyes from looking in the direction of the two men sitting at the bar. As the group began mingling with each other, one of the men sat next to Maxiana and draped his arm on the back of her chair. Though she didn’t seem to notice his arm creeping closer to her shoulders.

“You all right there Curly?” Varric asked.

Cullen’s knuckles were white grasping his cup as he watched the exchange. “I’m fine, dwarf.”

“I don’t know if you’re trying to convince me or yourself but it’s not working,” he replied as he shook his head. “Just go talk to her.”

“No, there wouldn’t be any point. She can do whatever she wants,” he said as he continued to watch them. He downed another ale signaling for a new one while his eyes turned back to the corner. After a few moments, the man moved his chair closer to her and began whispering in her ear. She lightly put her hand on his chest pushing him away slightly. The words, ‘No thank you’ clear on her lips. But the man was persistent and there was no denying he was making her uneasy as his hand found her thigh.

Cullen’s stool screeched as he suddenly pushed it back and made way for the table where the women sat. Jadzia’s face broke into a wide smile when she saw the tall man stalking closer.

“Shit,” Varric whispered as he got down from his stool and followed him over.

“Excuse me,” Cullen said when he reached the table poking the man violently on his shoulder.

“Cullen?” Maxiana asked in a puzzling tone.

He didn’t seem to hear her. Keeping his attention on the man that sat next to her, “I believe that the lady said no thank you. Perhaps you should leave her alone.”

“What is the meaning of this? Perhaps you should mind your own damn business!” the man replied in his heavy Orlesian accent. Rubbing his shoulder where Cullen had tried to puncture it with his finger.

“Cullen its fine, really. I think I’m just going to go back to my chambers,” she began to get up from her chair when the man grabbed her arm.

“My lady, perhaps I should accompany you to protect you from this Fereldan dog.”

Before anyone could react Cullen had the man lifted up by his shirt and pinned to the wall behind him. “Or maybe you should stay here Orlesian. She said no thank you once. She shouldn’t have to say it again. Of the two of us I assure you I am not the dog here.”

Maxiana was there in an instant fighting her way inbetween the men, “Cullen it’s all right,” she was pulling on the arm that was extended out holding the offender against the wall. Laughter came from behind her and she turned to find a smirk on Jadzia’s face while she bounced with excitement. Turning back to Cullen she said, “C’mon let’s just get out of here.”

“Curly, think about where we are. Don’t do anything you’re going to regret,” Varric added.

He set the man down reluctantly. Maxiana placed her hand on the side of his face to draw his attention to her, “Cullen, look at me. Let’s go.”

He was breathing heavily and his face was flush. His eyes were wild as they searched her face for clarity through his drunken haze. Her thumb began moving back and forth across his cheek as she tried to help him calm. After a few breaths his fists relaxed and his head pushed into her embrace. Grabbing her wrist to hold it there for a moment, he let his forehead rest on hers, “All right.”

A crowd was growing rapidly and they were finding themselves fighting to reach the exit. The man started shouting something in Orlesian as he followed behind them. They were doing well ignoring it as they inched their way through the tavern. Trying to give the crowd a good show of it the man spat at their feet. Cullen spun around quickly and punched him right where his jaw was exposed under his mask. He fell quickly to the ground, making it as dramatic as possible.

“Maker!” Maxiana shouted.

“Shit!” Varric yelled. “Get him out of here Rabbit!”

Grabbing Cullen’s hand, she pulled him as hard as she could towards the exit shouting for everyone to move out of their way. She didn’t stop walking with Cullen in hand until they made it safely out of the tavern and into the hallway where his chambers would be found.

Chapter Text

Bittersweet

“Baby, don’t forget my name
When the morning breaks us.
Baby, please don’t look away
When the morning breaks us.
Oh, your touch, so bittersweet, ah.
Baby, don’t forget my name
When the morning breaks us.”
~’Bittersweet’ by Ellie Goulding

 

“Which one is yours?” she asked him. He pointed at the door in question in response, not trusting his voice just yet. “Come then, let’s get you into bed. You absolutely reek of ale. How much did you drink?”

All he could manage to do was shrug at her as he fumbled with the lock to his door.

“Here, let me,” she offered and he happily handed her the key, leaning against the wall and waiting for her to unlock the large wooden door. 

“Sit,” she demanded pointing to the bed once they were inside. He did as she asked, seemingly waiting for further instruction. “I’ll be right back don’t move.”

Walking briskly over to her own chambers, she entered going straight to her trunk digging out a small vial. He was sitting right where she had left him when she made it back. Handing him an elfroot potion, she commanded, “Drink this, it will help. Let me see your hand.”

He held it out for her to examine as he downed the potion. He had some bruising that was likely to show by morning. “May I heal this for you?”

He was wobbling a little but his eyes never wavered from her face. “Yes,” he said pointedly before a hiccup escaped his lips. “Hands are soft…”

She smirked, placing her hand over his and conjured her magic to heal him. She began unlacing his boots and pulling them off once she was certain he had no injury left. He quickly pulled his tunic up and over his head throwing the garment into the nearby corner. His eyes were half closed and he was bracing himself trying to avoid falling over.

“Oh sweet Maker…” she said as she stood back up. His body was hard with muscle and had several small scars. Some you could tell were from blades while others were likely from magic. He had one that was much longer and deeper than the others. Starting just under his collar bone on his left shoulder going diagonally across his chest, down his torso, and stopping just short of his right hip.

She walked closer to him and lifted her hand up tracing the scar with light fingers. His eyes were fixated on her face watching every emotion that showed there. When she reached the end of it she allowed her hand to linger and her eyes met his. Hot whiskey was turning into deep amber as they locked with her periwinkle purple and the sudden rush of heat in her belly made her breath hitch.

He brought her hand up to his mouth kissing the tips of her fingers that had just been on his hip. She watched him intently wondering for a moment if it was real or a dream. Underneath the ale he smelled of oakmoss, embrium, and agave nectar and she found herself absolutely intoxicated by it. Sweet yet woody giving off the perfect balance of the two notes and she couldn’t get enough of it. Resisting the urge to bury her nose in his neck to get more of the smell of him she whispered in anticipation, “Cullen.”

Accepting it as an invitation he pulled her to him letting her arms fall on his shoulders while his wrapped around her waist and he thrust himself closer to the edge of the bed so their bodies would meet. “I know we shouldn’t. But Maker, this dress, and you… my temper sometimes gets away from me and you calmed me so easily and I don’t…. I don’t know if I can keep myself from you.”

“Then don’t,” she replied. Moving her hands to the sides of his face she pulled him closer, letting their hot breath intertwine for a short moment before her lips meet his. It was soft and slow at first but their desires made them desperate and their kiss became needy. Soon his tongue was sliding across her lips asking for entry. She kissed him deeper, giving him the permission he sought allowing their tongues to slide along the other’s as her hand wound in his curls. His fingers dug into her hips when her teeth pulled on his bottom lip teasing him with her tongue as she let it go. 

A deep growl came from his chest, pulling up the skirt of her dress enough to lift her up and onto his lap. Starting at her shoulder, he kissed sloppily up her throat and along her jaw until their lips met again. This kiss was hungrier than the first showing just how much they wanted one another. He wrapped his hands around her waist and pulled down her into his cock which was threatening to break through his breeches.

She threw her head back yelling, “Fuck, Cullen…” 

Their hips found a steady rhythm together, stopping only to gather her dress to pull it up over her head. A soft thud sounded as Cullen threw the dress onto the floor before they pushed back together to meet their lips, tongues falling into a dance what was becoming familiar to them as they kept learning about each other. When they pulled away the sound that came from him was animalistic and it made the wet between her legs thicken.

“You’re not wearing a breast band?” he asked as he looked her up and down with only affection. Finding no control over his need to feel the curve of her hips, which were protruding even wider as she straddled him, he moved his hands softly up and down the slope of her body starting at her knees and working up to the side of her breasts.

“Not with that dress,” she whimpered as her body shivered in response his to touch.

“Maker, you are so beautiful…” he breathed as she started to rock her hips again.

“More Cullen, more…” she pleaded not just with her voice but her hands, her eyes, her whole body. It was screaming for him to take her and make her his. Realizing now, just how badly she wanted to give herself to him completely.

“Tell me,” he begged in return. “Tell me you want me inside you. I need to hear you say it. Please. Oh Maker,” he cried as she pushed down into him even harder.

Grabbing his chin in one hand squeezing it, forcing him to give her his full attention her voice full of desperation, “I want you to fuck me. I need you inside me!”

“Fuck woman,” he picked her up as he stood up from the bed. Turning around and laying her on her back and falling down on top of her. Catching himself on his forearms he locked eyes with her, “You’re sure? This is what you want? With me?”

“Do you want me to change my mind?”

“No,” he confessed.

Her hands went to his breeches and she began pulling open the laces, “Then for the love of the Maker fuck me already.”

Her hand wrapped around his cock as she freed it from his breeches. He hissed loudly, losing his rhythm before beginning to kiss her everywhere as she started to stroke him. He tasted of ale when their lips met again and she began to feel guilty that she may be taking advantage of his drunken state. Maker’s breath, I can’t believe I’m about to do this. She thought. He was hooking his fingers underneath her smalls when she placed her hands on top of his signaling for him to wait.

“Cullen, you have no idea how badly I’ve wanted to do all of that, how badly I want to do this. And if it were any other night I’d let you continue but you have had quite a lot to drink.”

“I’m starting to feel much better now,” he said, his scarred lip pulled up into a smirk as he kissed down her neck and onto her collarbone.

“You’re making this… OH FUCK!” she shouted as he took a nipple into his mouth. Using his tongue to play with it and nibbling with his teeth. His fingers found her clit and he began working circles over it. Her orgasm wouldn’t be far off if he kept going at this rate. She had wanted this so badly, dreamt of it, fantasized about it and she was entirely unprepared for just how amazing it would feel for it to come true. Her brain was foggy and she was trying to make sense, “You’ve had… Maker… so much ale… Fuck… you’re not making this easy you know.”

“Good. I want you to come for me Maxiana.”

A moan came from deep in her chest as she gave in and allowed her hips to start moving with his fingers. One hand was in his hair holding it tightly while the other found the back of his thigh. She pulled him forward, “Inside me… get inside me, NOW.”

He wasted no time getting her smalls off, pulling his breeches down and kicking them into the corner before coming back down over her pressing her into the mattress with his weight.

“You’re sure?” he asked again. Hand on his cock, he was pumping it lightly ready to push into her.

“You are going to drive me absolutely mad Cullen Rutherford!” she teased, “Yes! I’m sure!”

Working slowly, his pushed forward just enough to enter her. Watching her reaction closely and finding confidence in her coinciding moans as he began to push in deeper. Once he was buried completely inside her he cried out, “Oh Maker, you feel…”

“You too,” she said with a smile and he returned it before he began to move. She let him set the pace at first but became impatient. Even in the short time they had known each other her lust for him was so strong she couldn’t force herself to wait any longer now that they’d made it this far. They were covered in sweat and her hands were slipping as she grabbed at his back. Scratching lightly to find purchase as her legs wrapped around his waist locking her ankles together to pull him in even closer.

“Faster Cullen, please go faster,” she begged.

Sounds of their moans and cries were only out shadowed by the sound of their bodies slapping against one another as he gave in to her demands. She was so close to falling apart around him and she was sure he could feel her body begin to tense.

“Please love, I need to feel you come undone, come for me,” he commanded as he picked up the pace and placed his thumb back over her clit.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, please don’t stop,” she screamed.

“That’s it, let me feel you,” he said as he pushed himself up onto his knees grabbing her waist tightly and thrusting into her even deeper.

“Ohhhh fuck Cullen,” she started to whimper as the pitch of her voice went higher with each word. She knew he wouldn’t be far behind her as he began to lose control of his rhythm, “Cullen! Oh Maker, that feels so good.” 

When her body suddenly began shaking he started frantically thrusting into her. A moan grew from her chest as she felt her body shatter, she was gripping him tightly, and her vision blurred. Repeating his name over and over again like it was a prayer of thanks for the euphoria she now felt.

“Maxiana!” he shouted as his seed spilled inside her with his own orgasm causing him to fall back down on top of her and his movements to become shallow.

“Fuck,” he cried as his cock pulsed with the final waves of his release. He lifted his head from her shoulder. Her smile was wide as he brought himself down to kiss her before rolling over to lay down at her side.

“Was that all right?” he asked.

“Are you kidding? That was incredible,” she reassured him. Her body rolling to curl up next to him as he pulled her close. “Cullen, I seriously don’t know why you are so sure I don’t want to be with you. I do, very much in fact.”

“Hmmmmm,” was all he managed in response. She looked up at him to see his eyes shut as sleep began to claim him.

“You should get some rest. Maker knows what we’ll be dealing with tomorrow,” she said as she watched him. “That elfroot potion should help but if you’d like, when you wake come by my chambers and I will heal your headache that I’m entirely too sure you’re going to have.”

“You mean you’re not staying?” his face dropping further into a frown with every word.

“I don’t think that’s wise.”

“I’ll be on my best behavior, I promise.” He pulled her in closer and held her tightly, peppering soft kisses on her neck and shoulder. He begged inbetween each of them, ”just please stay with me. It’s better when you’re here.”

“It’s not you I’m worried about,“ she giggled. “I’m worried about everyone else. We’ll never hear the end of it if one of them catches me leaving your chambers in the morning.” She placed her hand on his head and began running her fingers through his hair. He almost sounded as though he was nearly asleep when she gave in and said, “All right then. I’ll stay but I have to go back to my chambers as early as possible. Come now, lets get ourselves under the blanket I’m starting to get cold.”

After she got up from the bed he scoot himself around trying to get under the thick comforter. Once he was in place he held the blanket up for her and she climbed up getting close to him. He pulled himself into her resting his head on her chest. Like before her hand went into his curls playing with them lightly, something she was becoming quite obsessed with.

“Hmmm, goodnight my love,” he mumbled.

He didn’t wait for her response before drifting off to sleep. For the first time since before she was sent to Ostwick Circle she felt at home. It was proof enough to her that in that moment, she was exactly where she was meant to be.

Chapter Text

Crawling In The Dark

“I will dedicate and sacrifice my everything
For just a seconds worth of how my story’s ending.
I wish I could know if the directions that I take
And all the choices that I make won’t end up all for nothing.”
~’Crawling In The Dark’ by Hoobastank

20 Kingsway 9:40 Dragon

He was sitting at his desk inside the command tent back in Haven. It was chillier than normal that day and he found himself grateful to have the protection of it’s walls, thin as they may be.

“Cullen? May I come in?” she rang out.

His heart skipped a beat at the sound and it took him a moment to compose himself. He was used to having a few moments to prepare, usually seeing her approach but in the barrier of his tent she snuck up on him this time. He walked over to the flap lifting it slightly. Maxiana was standing there in her deep purple dress with a wide warm smile. Her breast pushed up over her crossed arms with hardened nipples from the cold wind that blew across the little village. Maker, she was going to be the end of him.

“Of course, come in. Aren’t you freezing?” he asked, jumping up to hold open the flap to let her in.

She giggled at him, “You’re always so worried about me! I’m fine. I promise.”

Despite her reassurances he took off his cloak and placed it around her shoulders anyway. She grabbed at the sides puling it in tightly and burying her face in its fur for a moment. He pulled her close to him, rubbing her arms to warm them as he said, “Someone has to worry for you if you’re going to be walking around in this weather with nothing but your dress to protect you. Honestly, you couldn’t manage even cloak?”

“And miss the look on your face or the loving care you’re giving me now?”

They both chuckled at her playfulness as he pulled her into a tight embrace.

“There’s something I wanted to ask you about.”

“Of course,” he replied. Right in this moment everything felt perfect. Like the Maker himself had handed her over to him. His happiness was overflowing and he felt so at ease with her in his arms. Knowing he could trust her with anything he held no reserve.

“When were you going to tell me?”

He pulled away slightly to see her face. It was filled with anger, sadness, regret, concern, and a million other emotions he couldn’t bring himself to admit too.

“When were you going to tell me?” she said again with more persistence. Her magic started to flare on her hands. He felt a small zap on his chest where they laid. She made no move, not to attack, not to withdraw, she just stood there looking at him.

“When were you going to tell me?” she asked again. Her voice had grown in volume this time and her periwinkle eyes were alight with magic and the bolts of the same color began dancing around her. He quickly let go of her knowing if he held onto her she would hurt him whether it was her intention or not. He had precious little amount of lyrium left in his system now and drawing on it to Silence her would soon be his only option.

“I… I just… You are so important to me… I didn’t…” he stammered searching for the words that would calm her.

“Didn’t what Cullen? Didn’t trust me? Didn’t want me to know? Didn’t think I would want to be with you anymore? What?” 

“Maxiana…” he pleaded. He was not afraid of her. Despite his past dealing with blood mages and abominations, he knew she would never hurt him on purpose. His mind raced trying to figure out just what it was she was talking about. He hid truths from her she should know about him.

He couldn’t break his eyes away from hers. They were full of love and understanding despite her growing temper. He had to rely on his lyrium so she wouldn’t hurt herself as her magic continued to grow. He hoped she would understand, give him a chance to explain as he drew on the blue liquid that was left in his veins.

But her magic still persisted. It hadn’t worked. Of course it hadn’t, he had stopped using lyrium some time ago now and there was nothing he could do. She was much too powerful and his abilities were too weak in the lyrium’s absence.

Her eyes had grown dark and felt lifeless as she spoke, “You want to be worthy of me. To be what I want, what I need. But you lied to me. You’re not a Templar any more. You’re not what I need,” she said in a dark voice.

He looked up to see Rylen and a faceless man standing at her side with the arms closest to her raised and resting on her shoulders. They had been the ones to stop her magic not him. He couldn’t protect her like they did. He felt his heart break as she tuned and left the tent with the two men at her heel.

He woke feeling feverish, a sweat had broken out all across his body and it clung to the sheets of the bed. A dream turning into a nightmare that he knew would haunt him for some time still fresh in his mind. Warm vanilla and spice filled his senses and he couldn’t stop himself from feeling comfort from it. He lifted his head slightly to look around the room only for his gaze to fall on her laying next to him. They had untangled at some point during their slumber but her hand still rested over his own.

Despair started festering inside him as the events from the night before and his dream aligned. Knowing that he made a mistake by letting her in, allowing himself to indulge in her, when she deserved so much more than what he had to offer. He couldn’t let it get any further than it already had.

Needing to put some distance between them, he carefully got out of bed and made way for the wash room. Ale clung to his body and he was determined to wash it away. 

Quietly grabbing what he’d need to wash, she stirred slightly when the trunk lid clicked shut causing him to freeze in place waiting to see if she would wake. Much to his relief she merely rolled to the side, closer to where he had just been, pulling the blanket up to her nose. It exposed her bare back and the curve of her hips just enough to make his breathing hitch. For a moment he thought to get back in bed with her. A moan full of happiness coming from her throat intensifying his hesitation, realizing that he had to leave immediately or he surely would change his mind and it made him feel heavier than he had in some time.

Shutting the door behind him, making as little noise as he could manage, he pressed the water rune on the large tub waiting for it to fill. Leave it to the Orlesians to use magical runes but condemn mages when they’re not convenient. He thought.

Since leaving the Order, he was starting to see more and more just how hypocritical people could be about magic. Mages were said to be dangerous, he had first hand experience with that no doubt, but if any non-mage needed magical talents for any reason then suddenly it was okay. Mages were guilty the moment their magic manifested regardless of their intentions. The more he saw it around him, the happier he was to leave that life behind him. Even if his withdrawal had been giving him some nasty side effects that only grew more intense the longer he went without lyrium.

He grabbed the bucket by the mirror and scooped out some of the warm liquid that filled the tub to shave with. He lathered his shaving cream and began to remove the stubble with his blade when it dawned on him that he was washing her away and a groan of disappointment escaped him.

As he watched himself in the mirror, he realized that he had no headache though he definitely should given the amount he drank the night before. She had cared for him without being asked. She had told him that she wanted him for some time. All the right things confessed from her lips when he was in his weakest state. No, she deserved better than him. He needed to remind himself that someday she would find someone worthy of her and would understand why he must push her away.

Using his blade at a fast pace, the stubble was gone from his face and he made for the bath. He sunk into the tub allowing the warm water to wash everything away. The ale he drank, the events in the tavern, her warm kisses, and trails of her fingertips on his skin scrubbed clean.

Invisible weight pushed on his chest with each pass of the soap and cloth along his skin. He had to talk to her, to make her see before it was too late. Scribbling a quick note to leave at her side once he was dressed he hoped that she wouldn’t read too much into his written words.

Herald,

I woke quite early and I didn’t want to wake you. 

Once we deal with the Chantry and the Order we should talk about last night.

I do not regret it but we should still talk.
~Cullen

Pushing out of his chambers and into the hallway before he could change his mind he wandered down the corridor. Making his way downstairs, he found Cassandra and Solas both standing in the lobby talking with an Inquisition scout. Both of them smirking as he approached.

“You’re up early, Commander. I heard you had quite a bit to drink last night.” Cassandra said without meeting his eyes.

“I took an elfroot potion before I fell asleep. It’s seemed to rid most of my hangover,” he said casually, reaching for a small pile of parchment the desk clerk was trying to hand over to him.

“Interesting choice for a Templar, I thought lyrium would be a better option for such things. I fear our ambassador is going to be none too pleased with you when she finds out you didn’t suffer.” Solas offered watching him closely.

“I fear she’s going to be angry with me regardless,” he said to the elf. “What’s going on?”

“It seems that a Revered Mother Hevara has initiated a rally. She is not in favor of us nor the Herald. As for the Order, I have only heard whispers of their involvement. If they are here, they are keeping a low profile,” Cassandra reported with heaviness in her voice.

“That’s not a good sign,” he agreed. “Perhaps we should head down there. Try to resolve it before the Herald joins us. I will go tell the troops stationed upstairs to inform her when she wakes.”

He was walking back the way he came before receiving confirmation from the others. When he rounded the corner to the hallway Varric was leaving his own room.

“Curly! How are you even functioning right now? Though I suppose spending the night with our Lady Herald helped,” the rogue said with a wink.

“What? How did you…” he began to ask when Varric interrupted him.

“These rooms aren’t sound proof you know.”

“You could hear us?”Cullen asked as his eyes grew wide looking at the dwarf who was wearing a grin.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure everyone in this wing could. It didn’t seem like you were exactly trying to keep it down,” Varric chuckled deeply, losing control for a moment as he watched the red on Cullen’s face deepen and grow.

“Maker’s breath,” he said as his hand found his neck. “Myself, Cassandra, and Solas are heading to the shopping center.”

Varric nodded to him in understanding, “I have a couple of things I need to handle anyway. I’ll wait for Rabbit then we’ll meet you there.”

“Thank you, Varric,” he said with relief before giving new orders to the Inquisition soldiers and heading back down to the lobby to meet the others.

Making way to the shopping center they saw a small stage setup near the docks and a handful of Chantry mothers and clerics walking around gathering people for their display. Many of them giving their small group looks of disapproval as they made their way around. They had taken up a spot near the back close to the center tower waiting for the rally to begin. They had been unsuccessful in talking to anyone productively about the Inquisition as they waited. Nearly an hour had passed when one of the Mothers took her place on the stage and a few Templars joined her ranks.

“Mother Hevara I presume?” Cullen asked as the Mother started speaking.

“So it would seem,” Cassandra replied with a disapproving tone.

Often cheering in agreement with the Mother’s words, a decent crowd had shown up for the speech. A Knight-Templar stood by her side but he looked unsure. He was looking around as if questioning his position on the stage. Suddenly there was a nudge on Cullen’s arm, “That Templar there on the stage looks uneasy,” Maxiana whispered as she stopped next to him with Varric at her other side.

“I agree,” he replied with a reserved smile. Maker, she acted as though nothing was wrong which was a relief given the brief note he had left in his haste. Knowing that also meant she had hope that it would work out made his guilt even deeper.

They stood quietly waiting for the Mother to finish her accusations. Gasps sung out around them when she cried out that Maxiana was a false prophet. Everyone turning to look at her waiting for her rebuttal. He wondered how she would respond. He hadn’t seen her as the Herald outside of Haven and he found himself fascinated with the way she carried herself as she answered the Revered Mother.

“We came here to talk peacefully and this is what you do? I implore you, let us sit down and talk about the real threat!” she shouted at the Mother.

“It’s true. The Inquisition only seeks to end this madness before it’s too late!” Cassandra called out in support.

“It is already too late!” Mother Hevara cried as she pointed to the Templars making their way to the stage. “The Templars have returned to the Chantry! They will face this ‘Inquisition' and the people will be safe once more!” His fist was threatening to break the pommel of his sword when one of them punched the Mother across the face.

“Still yourself, she is beneath us!” another said to the anxious Templar on the stage.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Cullen yelled out to him as he pushed his way through the crowd.

“Lord Seeker Lucius, it is imperative that we speak with…” Cassandra began as she followed the Commander but was interrupted by the Lord Seeker.

“You will not address me. Both of you are traitors to the Order. Raising up a false prophet and creating a heretical movement. You should be ashamed of yourselves!” Lucius exclaimed. “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 unleash 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!”

“Templars,” Maxiana yelled out while gesturing over to Cullen, “one of your own lead’s the Inquisition forces. Join us as he did!”

Lucius scoffed at them, “A staunch and loyal member of the Order. So loyal he abandoned them for you, for a false Herald. I wonder, are you simply following another pretty face, Commander Cullen.

Shit. He thought. Judging by the look on her face, Maxiana had caught that too. He never spoke of what happened all those years ago. Now was not the time nor the place. He needed to redirect the conversation back to their task.

“I left the Order to serve the Divine and her Inquisition. We mean only to close the Breach and restore order,” he corrected. He turned towards the Templars that stood behind the Lord Seeker then, “Many of your brothers and sisters have already joined us. It is not too late for you to do so also!” 

“We must deal with the real threat and close the Breach. You can help us do that by joining the Inquisition!” Maxiana added for good measure. Turning towards her in awe, he quickly looked away when she caught his eye. Maker, that smile is going to ruin me, she is incredible. He thought. Whatever she had thought before, she must’ve let it go though he was sure it would be brought up at some point.

“Oh the Breach is indeed a threat. But you certainly have no power to do anything about it!” the Lord Seeker spat at them with disgust on his face. His words were unsettling and by the looks of the others by Cullen’s side they felt so too.

“But Lord Seeker, what if she really was sent by the Maker? What if…” the Knight-Templar from the stage interjected before another of the men interrupted him.

“You are called to a higher purpose!” the man said.

“Templars! Val Royeuax is unworthy of our protection. We march!” the Lord Seeker commanded. Most of them turned and followed suit but a few stayed behind. Among them, the Knight-Templar who had questioned their leader.

“I don’t know if you were sent by the Maker or not. What I do know is that something strange is going on within the Order and I want no part of it. My sword is your’s Herald,” he said as he bowed to her.

“What is your name?” she asked in return holding out her hand.

“Delrin Barris, second son of Bann Jevrin Barris of Fereldan, you can just call me Barris” he replied as he took her hand and shook it. Cullen couldn’t help but notice the look he gave her during their exchange. Hoping that it was simply because she was the Herald and nothing more. Maker, what is wrong with me? I’m about to put an end to this… whatever this is… I have to accept that she will be with someone else. He thought. Despite his attempt to reassure himself he still felt jealous.

“Welcome to the Inquisition Ser Barris,” she said as she bowed to him. “You will be serving under Commander Cullen and follow his order from here on out.”

“Of course,” he acknowledged before turning to greet his new leader, “Commander,”

“Ser Barris, welcome aboard,” he said with a short nod of his head as he shook the young Templar’s hand. “Please have your men ready themselves for the trip to Haven. Once we are there we can discuss further where you will be serving us,” Cullen ordered. He was impressed and recognized the signs of their loyalty to him.

“My men, Ser?”

“Yes, you are the one who came forward. These men followed your lead. As far as I’m concerned, that makes you are their Knight-Lieutenant.”

“Of course. Thank you Ser,” he replied with a smile.

“Meet me at the gates in an hour. I have other matters to attend too before we leave.”

Barris saluted in recognition before gathering the other men to give them their orders.

“That could have gone better,” Varric said as they grouped together.

“Possibly, but it could’ve gone much worse,” Cullen said as he shifted his weight restlessly. His face was slightly flushed and he was still squeezing his pommel tightly. “At least a few of them decided to join us. The Order may still be persuaded to help with the Breach yet.”

“Something about the Lord Seeker, it just didn’t feel right. Do you know him very well?” Maxiana asked as she turned towards Cassandra.

“He took over the Seekers of Truth two years ago after Lord Seeker Lambert’s death. He was always a decent man. Never giving into ambition and grand standing. This is very bizarre,” she replied with confusion.

“Do you think he could be reasoned with?” She was nervous and he worried it was because of him.

“I hope so,” Cassandra answered with disappointment.

“If not him, then I’m sure there are others who will see reason given the few that stayed behind with us today.” Cullen offered trying to reassure Maxiana.

“Cassandra, perhaps you should check on Mother Hevara,” she offered.

“All right,” Cassandra agreed as she watched their uncomfortable exchange.

“Solas, Varric, if you don’t mind I need to speak with the Herald privately,” Cullen said with reservation.

“Sure Curly, we’ll just go help the Seeker. Right Chuckles?” Varric said as he gave Maxiana a concerned look.

“Indeed,” Solas agreed. 

“Shall we then?” Maxiana asked. They began to walk around the center tower towards the gate that would lead them back to the hotel. An arrow fell before her after a few steps much to Cullen’s disdain. He quickly pulled his sword and stepped in front of her as if to shield her with his body.

After a moment she realized there was a note attached, “Wait, there’s a message here.”

People say you’re special. I want to help, and I can bring everyone.

There’s a baddie in Val Royeuax. I hear he wants to hurt you. Have a search for the red things in the market, the docks, and ‘round the cafe, and maybe you’ll meet him first. Bring swords.

Friends of Red Jenny

She read through it aloud before handing it over to him. He scanned it carefully before muttering, “Maker’s breath, is this a joke? A baddie? Whoever this is can’t be serious!”

“Why else send this message?” she asked with wonder. “Why don’t you help me look and we go to the cafe last? I can look for these red things and then we can sit and talk.”

“I don’t think that’s wise. What if this is a trap?”

“Then I’ll have you here to protect me, silly!” she said as she jovially pushed his shoulder. He would gladly follow her anywhere when she was filled with so much joy. Watching her child like wonderment as she moved with a little bounce in her step nearly made him forget what he had to do. Maker, she was so beautiful and he thought he could watch her like this for the rest of his life.

“Herald, perhaps we can talk first, back at the hotel in private?” he dragged his words out as his heart fell to his stomach as she frowned at him when he called her Herald.

“Oh, um…” she was squeezing the note and arrow tightly threatening to rip them in half. “All right then.”

He continued making way towards the hotel and she fell in step beside him. Both of them walking slowly and heads looking down at their feet. An uncomfortable silence fell on them as the tension grew with each step.

Chapter Text

Please Don’t Leave Me

“How did I become so obnoxious?
What is it with you that makes me act like this?
I’ve never been this nasty.
Can’t you tell that this is all just a contest?
The one that wins will be the one who hits the hardest.
But baby I don’t mean it.
I mean it, I promise.”
~’Please Don’t Leave Me’ by P!nk

 

Once they reached the hotel they went straight for Cullen’s chambers per her request. She knew that Jadzia was still in her room and she wanted to avoid that at all costs. She had watched his face turn from pink to red and back again all morning and the way his fist balled on his sword pommel made her anxious.

“Cullen?” she asked with weight in her voice. She had been dreading this since she saw the note on the pillow next to her. His arms stated tucked to his sides and his steps were heavy. He kept a steady distance between them as they made way back to the hotel and her hope was diminishing by the second as she realized he moved in a way that told her he didn’t want to get to close.

“Perhaps we should… uh… sit down,” he said as he pointed at the sofa found along the wall.

She nodded noticing his refusal to look at her as they walked over and took their places. Watching him carefully, she waited for him to start. It was him who had wanted to have this conversation to begin with after all. Her nerves had her on edge and she noticed his hands were shaking. Surely, that was not a good sign.

“So… what do you want to talk about?” she asked when he failed to start.

He looked up surprised and shifted in his seat. Clearing his throat before beginning, “First, I meant what I said. I do not regret it. Not at all. Its important to me that you know that,” his blush had taken over his face again. 

“Ok,” she managed to whisper as she watched him.

“Second, I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry? For what exactly?” she was trying to keep her emotions under control. Glancing down at her fingers she noticed the smallest amounts of magic lingering there. She began breathing deeply in hopes to calm herself. His hand moved slightly and she thought he may reach for her but it fell back into its position at his side. It was excruciating.

“Maker’s breath, this is not easy,” he said in a quiet voice, “I… I was very intoxicated. You tried to stop me and I didn’t let you. I’m also sorry that I didn’t… Andraste preserve me, this is awkward…” his hand was threatening his neck now and his face was a deep shade of red, “I’m sorry that I didn’t pull out before…”

“Oh! Is that what this is about? There’s no need to worry about that. I keep a healthy supply of witherstalk potion,” she said matter-of-factly with a giggle. He relaxed a little and she hoped that was all but couldn’t shake that there was more to come. “Cullen, you asked me multiple times if it was okay, if I was sure I wanted too and I said I did. I meant it, really,” she replied reaching for his hand but he pulled it away. “Cullen?”

He looked up at her and locked eyes with her. They were full of sadness, disappointment, and heartbreak as he said, “That’s not all this is about. I… I don’t regret it and it was wonderful. I mean that. But I… I don’t think it should happen again.”

“What?” Her breath caught in her throat and the tears pooling in her eyes quickly spilled over. She thought about everything that had happened. Waiting for her brain to catch up to her mouth she muttered all the thoughts that sped through her mind, “Last night, you… you called me love… told me you couldn’t keep away from me… I don’t understand. What’s changed your mind so quickly?”

“I’m sorry about all that too. There is just so much about… You don’t deserve…” he was struggling to find the words just as she had. His own eyes had begun to fill with moisture as she broke down in front of him. Frustration evident on his face as he said, “Damn it you deserve someone better than me. I am not…”

She held her hand up for him to stop, “Shouldn’t I get to decide that for myself?”

“Trust me,” he pleaded. “This is for the best.” His face was full of apologies but she didn’t want to believe him. It wasn’t fair that he decided this for the both of them and her sadness began to turn into anger.

For the best?” her voice rising as she spoke. “For the best for who? Me? You? The fucking Inquisition?”

“Maxiana please…” he began but she interrupted him.

“Don’t ‘Maxiana’ me when you’ve been so keen on calling me Herald all blighted morning! I can’t believe this,” she shouted as she stood up and began pacing the room. Suddenly all the insecurities she had about why he kept pushing her away came flooding out, “Is it because I’m a noble by birth? Or because I’m a mage? Or is it that your feelings are getting in the way of your duties so instead of facing them you’ve decided just to ignore them altogether like a good Templar should?”

“Maxiana, please, your magic, you need to calm down,” he said as he looked at her with reservation. Lightning bolts were dancing on her finger tips and she was losing her careful control as he observed her.

“Don’t fucking tell me to calm down!” she shouted before she felt the sting in her blood of the lyrium sieging her magic. Her periwinkle purple met his hot whiskey when she realized what had happened.

“You just… you Silenced me…” she spoke the words as if she couldn’t believe them.

“I don’t want…” he began but seemed to lose his words. “I could see your magic was building in your hands and…”

“And what? You thought I might attack you? You may have left the Order but I suppose you’ll always be a Templar,” she spat the word at him like an insult when she said it this time and her stomach dropped when he flinched. “You didn’t even allow me to control it… you’re afraid of me aren’t you… That’s it isn’t it? It’s because I’m a mage and you’re afraid of me…” her sobs became heavy as she walked towards the door. Hands flying up to her head and squeezing it. She felt him rush up behind her placing his hand on her arm before she could open the door to leave.

“I’m not afraid of you. I trust you. I shouldn’t have done that. Maxiana please, I was just worried that you would do something that you’d regret. Imagine what would happen if your magic lost control here? I didn’t mean to make it worse I was just trying to keep you safe,” he begged as the tears he had been holding started to flow down his cheeks.

“Don’t. Just don’t,” she forced out as her breath failed her and her arms fell to her sides, shoulders slumping down.

“Maker’s breath… can’t you see that I’m doing this for you? I’m not good enough for you, you deserve better,” he said in a quiet voice.

“Last night everything was perfect. I was so…” happy. She couldn’t say it out loud or she knew she would fall to the ground in defeat.

He put his hand under her chin, pushing it up so he could look her in the eye. “Don’t think for a second you’re the only one of us that’s hurting,” he confessed. For a moment, all she wanted to do was reach for him. He was hurting and her instinct to comfort him, to take away the pain nearly made her forget what he had just done. Sadness won over as she pulled away from him with nothing but disappointment.

“Maybe so,” she said as she placed her hand back on the door handle, “but at least I was willing to try. I thought maybe…” she paused with sigh. “Doesn’t matter now. If this is what you want, and you’ll give me no say in the matter, then I suppose that’s it. I can’t believe I had feelings for you.”

“Had?” he said with heaviness in his voice.

“That’s what you want isn’t it? You’re the Commander, I’m the Herald. That’s it.”

He stared at her in shock, “No, you’re my friend and I…” he barely spoke as she watched so many emotions cross his face. Surely he couldn’t think they could just be friends after last night? Something in his demeanor changed and she was worried she pushed a little too far. He pulled away from her taking a step back, his eyes turning dark as he said, “Is it so easy for you to throw your feelings away? Is that how you came to fancy me over Jace? Just push the feelings for him aside to make room for me. I’ve been telling myself I’m doing this to protect you but maybe somewhere in my subconscious the reality is I’m protecting myself! How am I to know you won’t fall for some other Templar and leave me behind like you’ve done him?”

Her body went rigid as she countered, “That’s not fair. That’s different.”

“How so exactly? He’s been missing since Ostwick fell yet I see you going through no extra effort to find him. Besides, I know you have a thing for Templars. Rylen was kind enough to fill me in on your encounters during your visits to Starkhaven. He also told me how you broke it off with him when Jace came to Ostwick. Am I just the available Templar now? You can toss him aside now that you've chosen me instead?”

“Of course I don’t feel that way! Rylen and I… we… I broke it off with him before I even met Jace… what did he…” she was holding back the question not wanting to know the answer. She should’ve known Rylen would speak to him about their affair. “I had no idea he felt that way and he didn’t seem so broken up about it before.”

“Are you so blind to the emotions of everyone around you? When he was in Kirkwall he spent most of his time at the Blooming Rose trying to get over you! Is that to be my fate if I allow this to continue?”

“I’m sorry, are you here to yell at me about my past with Rylen and the mistakes I made back then, which frankly is none of your business, or to keep telling me what I can and cannot do?”

“I’m not… you just… Maker’s breath,” he said as he sat back down on the sofa his head falling into his hands. 

She walked over taking the seat next to him. She had to make him see. Make him understand that he was so much more than that to her. Cupping his face as she spoke softly, “Rylen… Jace… it wasn’t like this. Not like how I feel about you. This is different, can’t you see that?”

He put his hand over hers and pushed into her embrace for a moment before meeting her eyes saying, “And what happens when Jace turns up?”

“That’s my own problem to solve.”

They sat on the sofa for a long while before he finally said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring all of that up it’s just…”

“I know, I should’ve told you. We should’ve talked about this before it just happened so fast,” she moved in closer to him, intending to give him a kiss when he pulled away from her. 

“Maxiana, I’m sorry but I haven’t changed my mind.”

She let out a sound of disbelief, “I want to be with you, Cullen. Please.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to be with you. It’s that you deserve to be with someone better. I still care for you. I still…” he caught himself before making the confession to her. Please, Maker, please say it. Please. She prayed but he just stood up and walked over to the door opening it. “I’m sorry, but I can’t do this to you. I won’t. I care about you too much.”

Silent sobs shook her body as she processed his words. What in Thedas did that mean? She wondered. There was something more he wasn’t telling her. She almost thought to pry and get him to confess whatever it was but her grief was too heavy. Her heart was in pieces and she needed to be out of this room as fast as possible. He clearly had made up his mind and she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of watching her fall apart. Walking past him as she left the room saying, “Fuck. You. Cullen Rutherford.”

His eyes grew wide at her words and he stood rooted to the spot as she walked away. Just as she was about to enter her chambers Varric came around the corner.

“Hey there you guys… Rabbit? Are you all right?”

“No,” She said in a sharp tone as she slammed her door shut behind her. She fell backwards against the door hearing their muffled words.

“Mind telling me what that’s about?” Varric asked.

There was nothing but silence for a moment when Cullen finally said, “I got in my own way. I messed everything up. She hates me. Maker’s breath, what have I done?”

As if it were even possible, her heart broke even more as she ran to the wash room, locking the door, climbing into the empty tub and dissolving into nothing but tears.

Chapter Text

Over My Head

“You take the simplest thing and always complicate it.
Talking in circles got me dizzy like a merry go round.
It shouldn’t be so hard to have a conversation.
I’m sick of fighting with your ego. I wish you would admit.
Don’t know what you meant, it’s always over my head.”
~’Over My Head’ by Echosmith

 

“X, let me come in!” Jadzia said through the door. She had been knocking and begging for entry since Maxiana slammed it shut behind her but she just didn’t want to talk about it.

“Go away!” she yelled back through her sobs.

“I won’t go away until you tell me what’s wrong…” Jadzia said with persistence. “Come on, just talk to me. It’ll make you feel better. I sent the others away. I shouldn’t have had them here I’m sorry. I knew you were with Cull…”

“SHUT UP AND GO AWAY!” she yelled. When Maxiana had slipped in that morning to quickly change into her armor before heading to the rally she noticed there was not one, but two other bodies in the bed with Jadzia. She didn’t care really, if anything she was happy to see the elf acting somewhat normal again.

“Fucking Maker, what did that asshole do?”

What did he do? Ripping her heart into a million pieces all in the name of being a good person who was doing the right thing was a good place to start. Feeling the weight on her chest growing as she remembered that he actually wanted to be with her and was hurting himself on top of it. She was in a constant vicious cycle. Feeling bad for herself then for him only to be reminded it was his fault in the first place.

  A memory from that morning when she and Varric had walked to the rally flashed before her in her unsteady mind. She asked him about his conversation in the tavern with Jadzia before her and Cullen had left. ‘I had a feeling she might’ve started that fight on purpose. I just had a chat with her about not purposely starting shit. You’re the Herald and she has to understand what that means,’ he had said.

“That’s it. I’m going over there to knock some fucking sense into him…” Jadzia said as she walked away from the wash room door.

Maxiana jumped up quickly pulling the door open with force, “No, no that’s all right, don't…”

“You’re so damn predictable. He hurt you and your still defending him?” Jadzia said interrupting her.

“Yes I am,” Maxiana replied with Varric’s words fresh in her mind and her anger sensitive from the emotions that overflowed from her causing her to speak her thoughts aloud before she could stop herself, “this is partially your fault you know.”

“How the fuck is this on me?” Jadzia shouted back at her.

“Did you grab those men next to us on purpose?” her voice raised as she glared at the elf. “In the tavern, did you do it on purpose?”

“I don’t see how…”

“Just answer the question Z!” 

Jadzia was usually the leader of their little group. Maxiana was in awe of her confidence from the moment they met and she had admired that about her. But things had changed over the last couple of months. She wasn’t just Senior Enchanter Maxiana from boring Ostwick Circle anymore. Now she was the Herald of Andraste, Agent of the Inquisition. In Jadzia’s absence, she had found her own form of confidence. If she was being honest with herself, she didn’t know if she much liked the elf that showed through outside of those tower walls back home.

“Did you or did you not Jadzia? Tell me!” she yelled getting right into the elf’s face as she did.

“Fucking Maker, what’s gotten into you?”

“Do you have any idea what you have done? You started a fight with the Commander of the Inquisition and Maker knows who. What if that man ends up being a noble Jadzia? We are already grasping at straws trying to get that blighted hole in the sky closed.”

“Oh fuck off, I didn’t make you do anything you didn’t want to do! You were more than happy to talk to that man last night.”

“If I would’ve known that Cullen and Varric were there I would’ve just gone and sat with them. I didn’t want that fucking Orlesian touching me and you knew he would. You knew Cullen was there. That he was drunk. That’d he’d do exactly what he did. You’re always talking yourself up about how you’re so damn good at reading people and talking your way out of shit. I won’t listen to it anymore, tell me the truth. Did you do it on purpose or not?”

“I don’t understand why you think it matters.”

“Stop it. Stop avoiding my question. Answer me,” her voice had become quiet knowing that the answer she wanted was laced in her friends evasion. Still, she wanted to hear her say it and her anger had grown with each excuse. Lightning tingled her finger tips and her voice jumped in volume as her anger took completely over, “ANSWER ME DAMN IT!”

“Yes! Fucking Maker, yes I did it on purpose. I knew he’d come defend you. Are you happy now?” Jadzia screamed back throwing her hands up in defeat. Maxiana had never seen her cry before but the tears were there in her friend’s eyes ready to flow over.

“What if he didn’t?” Maxiana said under her breath.

“Excuse me?” Jadzia inquired.

“What if he didn’t come defend me? What if that nasty man violated me? Do you even care?”

“Of course I care, I just knew Cullen would…”

“That’s not the point Jadzia. If Cullen hadn’t come over there, if that man followed me out of that tavern, I would’ve had to let him hurt me or worse, rape me because I can’t use my magic unless I want to end up in the fucking Spire. I can’t attack him in case he’s a noble, let alone that we’re in Val fucking Royeaux trying to appeal to the Chantry that sees me as a heretic. They probably would’ve burned me at the stake if that man had any sway with them whatsoever. You don’t even care do you?”

Jadzia looked at her in shock, “Why do you keep saying that? Of course I care about you! How could you even think that X?”

“I’m not just a Circle mage anymore, I’m the Herald of Andraste. I’m an agent of the Inquisition. I am here on official Inquisition business. Yet you saw fit to play your games and now we have to hope and pray Josephine can fix what Cullen did to that man, not too mention you’ve caused Cullen and I to…” she hadn’t noticed it before but Jadzia was clenching her jaw at the mention of the Commander. “Are you jealous?”

“That’s ridiculous. Why would I be jealous of him?”

“You are jealous!” Maxiana said incredulously. How did she not see it before? Maker, maybe she was blind to everything going on around her.

“You have been talking about him non stop since you found me in that damn camp. I hadn’t seen you in weeks, I didn’t even know if you were dead or alive, if you were still in Ostwick, nothing. And all you could do was talk about was him. So yeah, maybe I was a bit jealous.”

“I can’t believe this. You purposely start a fight because I talked about him too much?”

Jadzia didn’t answer her as she sat down on the edge of the bed, voice low as she confessed, “it felt like I was losing you to this Inquisition and to him but he made you so happy and you’ve changed so much. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for whatever happened between you two.”

“Damn it Z,” she said sitting next to her wrapping her arms around her. “I’m sorry for blaming you. I know it’s not really your fault. But I am the Herald and with the Inquisition. I can’t be going around doing this type of shit. I have to be on my best behavior at all times.”

“I realize that. Everything just changed so fast. We’ve been together for eleven years. Every single day. Seeing you handling it so well, watching you move on with your life, I thought maybe you’d leave me behind.”

“That’s ridiculous Z. I had the Inquisition out looking for you. How did you think I found you so quickly?” she pushed into her shoulder with her own. Smiling when the elf smirked at the gesture.

“So what happened with you and Cullen?”

“We don’t…”

“Yes. We do. You’re right. I knew what would happen last night if I pushed you two together like that. Tell me what happened,” Jadzia demanded.

“Did you, Jadzia Feyhon, just admit that I, Maxiana Trevelyan are right and you are wrong?” Maxiana joked.

“Come on now, just tell me!” Jadzia insisted.

Maxiana went into the details of her night with Cullen. How amazing it had been and how he’d asked her to stay with him. She told her about the note on his pillow and the subsequent down fall of what was their relationship after their talk that morning.

“Maybe you were right. Maybe he’s afraid of what I represent.”

“No, Maxiana,” she never used Maxiana’s actual name and it caused her to snap her head up to look at her. “He loves you. You love him too don’t you?”

Maker, I thought he was going to say it this morning. Maybe he does love me. She thought. But did she love him back? She had told him that it was different with him. Last night may be one of the best she’d ever had and laying next to him while he slept with his head laying on her chest she had never felt more at ease. She could’ve stayed there, just like that, for the rest of her life. She was so determined to hear him say it that she hadn’t even considered if she would say it back.

“Maker,” she whispered. “Yes. I do love him.”

“X, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have meddled. It’ll work itself out. You just have to make him see.”

“Yeah I don’t know about that, he seems set on his decision.”

Jadzia had wrapped her arm around Maxiana’s waist, finding the arrow that was tucked into her belt.

“What’s this?” she said as she read the note attached to it, “Baddies? I want to fight baddies! Tell me I can go with you!”

“You don’t have a staff…”

“There’s a weaponry downstairs. I’ll get a new one. Come on! I won’t start any trouble I promise!”

There was a knock at the door causing both the women to jump slightly. Looking at each other they silently agreed to let it go unanswered. Another knock came after a few seconds but neither of them made way to the door to answer it.

“Damn it, I know you two are in there,” Varric said as he knocked again.

Maxiana got up and pulled it open, “What is it?”

“It’s time to go. Everyone’s waiting downstairs at the gates.”

“Shit,” she said. Looking across the hall seeing his chamber door made her heart drop a little knowing he was no longer there and that he’d soon be miles away from her. But then again, maybe that was a good thing. It would give them both some time and perspective. “Actually, I think Z and I are staying for now. I found this note and I think we should look into it.”

Jadzia had joined them and she handed over the arrow to the dwarf. He read over it a few times before saying, “Baddies? Whoever this is can’t be serious!”

“Our Commander said the same. I don’t care. I still think it’s important. Whoever these Friend’s of Red Jenny are went through the trouble of getting me this note and I want to see what they want for myself.”

Varric stood there for a moment, thinking over what she had declared. He looked like he was wrestling with his thoughts when he said, “Shit, I’ll go with you. I’ve heard of these Friends before and I’m curious.”

“Great then it’s settled,” Maxiana said as she walked over the nearest Inquisition scout stationed there. “Please go inform the Commander that myself, Jadzia and Varric will be staying to investigate the Friend’s of Red Jenny.”

“Yes, my Lady Herald,” the scout said before heading down the stairs.

“So we have to go find these clues right?” Jadzia said.

“Yes, they could be anywhere really. Details aren’t very specific,” Maxiana replied.

They made their way back to the shopping center to look for the clues mentioned in the note and she felt grateful when they came to the gates to find Cullen and the others had already left for Haven. All except for one Seeker who was talking to a Circle mage. They walked over only to be surprised by the person she was speaking with.

“Grand Enchanter Fiona?” Maxiana questioned with disgust and curiosity.

“Senior Enchanter Maxiana Trevelyan of Ostwick Circle. I had heard that you were the Chosen of Andraste but to see you here as such is another thing entirely.”

“Isn’t it dangerous for you to be here?” Jadzia asked as her hands clenched into fists.

“I heard of the gathering that was to take place here and wanted to see the Herald with my own eyes. If its help with the Breach you seek perhaps you should look upon your fellow mages.”

“I’m surprised the leader of the mage rebellion wasn’t at the conclave,” Maxiana said.

“Yes. You were supposed to be yet somehow you avoided death,” Cassandra added.

“As did the Lord Seeker you’ll note. 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. It disgusts me to think the Templars will get away with it. I hope you won’t let them,” Fiona offered as her face fell into sadness.

“So you think the Templars are responsible?” Maxiana countered. Lord Seeker Lucius was acting strangely during their encounter. Ser Barris had told them something odd was going on within the Order’s ranks. But surely they couldn’t have gone as far as to blow up the Temple of Sacred Ashes and killing the Divine. 

“Why wouldn’t she?” Cassandra said.

“Lucius hardly seems broken up over his losses, if he’s concerned about them at all. You heard him earlier, you think he wouldn’t happily kill the Divine to turn people against us, against mages. So yes I think he did it. More than I think you did it at any rate.”

“He is a charming fella isn’t he?“ Varric said sarcastically. Maxiana thought back to their exchange that morning with the Lord Seeker. Cassandra said he wasn’t one to give into grand standing yet he was doing just that. There was a piece of the puzzle missing and she just couldn’t put her finger on it. She looked to the Seeker to see confirmation of her own thoughts in the woman’s stare.

“The thing is Grand Enchanter Fiona, you’re responsible for the mage rebellion. Ostwick was doing just fine until you started filling everyones heads with fucking nonsense of freedom. Now look what’s happened?” Jadzia spat out at the Rebel mage leader, her hands covered in frost.

“You think any of this wouldn’t have happened anyway?” Fiona countered.

“Z, we need her help.” Maxiana said grabbing the elf’s arm to try and distract her.

“You can’t be fucking serious! This woman is the reason…”

“That’s enough Jadzia! It does not matter what happened. Only that we move forward and close the Breach,” she said in a tone of finality while pulling her friend back. Turning towards the Grand Enchanter she asked, “Does that mean the rebellion will help us?”

“We are willing to discuss it with the Inquisition at least,” she said while watching Jadzia closely. “Consider this an invitation to Redcliffe. Come and meet with the mages. An alliance could help us both after all. I hope to see you there. Au revoir, my Lady Herald.”

They watched the mage walk away from them. Maxiana wasn’t sure what to make of the encounter. She knew Fiona of course. Meeting her a few times during her time as a Senior Enchanter when Fiona would visit the Circle. Recognizing that she must be true in her intent given the risk she took to show herself in person, in Val Royeaux no less.

“We should talk about this back in Haven.” Cassandra suggested.

“At least we’ve made contact with both parties now.” Maxiana added. “I thought you would head back with everyone else.”

“I heard that you are looking for this Friend of Red Jenny and I thought perhaps I should stay and see if it benefits the Inquisition,” she replied uncomfortably forcing the words.

“You’re a terrible liar Seeker,” Varric said as he winked at the woman.

“Fine,” she said as a disgusted nose came from her lips. “Cullen asked me to stay behind, but I also stayed because this is Inquisition business. You are the Herald and as the Right Hand of the Divine I feel that it is my duty to keep you protected.”

Maxiana smiled warmly at her, “Well I’m glad you stayed. Let’s go find these clues.”

Cullen asked Cassandra to stay and protect her even after everything that had happened that morning. His mood swings were beginning to give her whiplash and she couldn’t stop herself from thinking that maybe there was hope for them after all.

Jadzia had found every single one for he clues from the Red Jenny arrow, insisting that she be allowed to go with them to the meeting the clues eluded too. When the Friend showed herself, Maxiana was sure she had never seen Jadzia so dumbfounded since she had known her. After eleven years, it was nice to finally see Jadzia mumble and trip over her words and actions over herself for once.

Maxiana easily accepted the Red Jenny, Sera, int to he Inquisition. How could she not at this point? The two elves were clearly infatuated with one another and being in contact with the organization could be useful.

The whole way back to the city, she couldn’t help but watch them. The little giggles, the much too forward comments disguised as jokes, and the small touches they’d each sneak. All of it reminded her of Cullen.

Jadzia had insisted Sera stay with her so Maxiana sought refuge in Cullen’s chambers for the night. Climbing up into the large bed, her eyes settled on the sofa they had sat at that morning. No. She told herself. That will not be the end. I won’t let it.

Chapter Text

I Find Myself Impatient

20 Kingsway 9:40 Dragon

Cullen,

Maybe this seems silly to send through message but I find myself impatient. I wanted you to know that I’m not ready to give up yet. Maker, we made so many careless mistakes already but I can’t seem to persuade myself not to care for you. You are important to me and I will do everything I can to make you see just how much.

I am so sorry. For everything.

~Maxiana