The executioner’s block stood at the end of the long, dank hallway. The rope swung in the cold breeze, a single noose that hung from the center of a wooden post that glowed the blue of lyrium. She struggled against the chains that bound her wrists, not ready, no! Death would not have her, not when she did nothing wrong. She only wanted to do the right thing, tomake up for her mistakes in the Order. But the helmeted templars at her side ignored her pleas, wrestling her up the creaky steps.
Knight-Captain Cullen stood nearby with a piece of parchment, her name written in what dripped like blood down the paper. “Evelyn Trevelyan,” he read. “For your crimes against the templars, for aiding and abetting a mage intended to undergo the Rite, for your work with the apostate Anders, you are hereby sentenced to death.”
The paper fell to his feet. When it hit the ground, he stepped forward and wrapped the noose around her neck. “Any last words, traitor?”
“Fuck the Order,” she spat and the floor dropped out from underneath her.
Evelyn shot up, gasping for that last breath as her shaking hands flew to her throat. No noose to pry from around her windpipe, no Cullen with his judgements standing by her side to watch her hang. Tears sprang to her eyes as relief washed over her, though the fear of the dream left her trembling. Careful not to wake her sleeping companion -another night of Rylen crashing in her room because the ass said he didn’t feel like walking back to the barracks- she climbed out of bed, feeling around the dark of the room for the handle to the washroom. Her knees threaten to buckle several times, and she leaned against furniture to hold her weight while she struggled to shake off the nightmare.
When she found the handle to the room, she slipped inside, closing the door in a delicate fashion so the creaky hinges wouldn’t give off its usual noise. Inside, she sank to the floor, a hand hard-pressed over her lips to muffle the sobs that burst forth. Her knees drew to her chest, shrinking her into a ball while her forehead rested on top of them. Her body shook with each sob, her free hand digging into her calf so hard that it drew blood.
Well, she wouldn’t be able to face Cullen at work tomorrow, not with a dream like that. Not when that almost became her reality if not for Anders’ timely intervention with the Chantry. Evelyn almost wished Hawke let Anders live, to help clean up the mess he created, to see how many his actions killed or robbed of their homes.
But he saved her. As much devastation he reeked with the explosion of the Chantry, it saved her. And she hated the relief she felt every moment she thought about how close she came to death; guilt trailed relief when she thought of how many traded their lives for hers.
But it wasn’t about her.
Still, she cried harder.
The door opened, Rylen’s sleepy face illuminated with the small flicker of a candle. She quickly buried her head back between her knees from her glance up at the intrusion, lest he see this unkempt side of her. He wasn’t here for the mess, only the clean-up of the city. He wouldn’t understand what she went through, why she did what she did. And she didn’t want whatever petty comfort he thought to offer her, him with the knack for always making things worse.
He blew out the flame before sinking to the floor beside her. His hand landed on her back, rubbing large circles between her shoulder blades. But for all his snarky comebacks and picking on her, he remained tight-lipped, the only sound the unsteady breaths she took to stop her tears.
It was just a dream, she repeated in her head, a soft reminder that did little to offset the chills it left in her bones. But then a new wave hit, surging up from her chest. She bit hard into her lip to stifle the sound, but some of it managed to leave her throat, a sharp cry in the dark.
Rylen leaned her into his chest, though she refused to unfold herself. Instead, he curled around her, his head settling on top of hers as he enveloped her in an embrace. No words exchanged, only his hands massaging into her while she quaked with aftershocks from her nightmare.
When she finally managed to regain control of her breathing after a long period of silence, her tears crusted on her cheeks, he finally spoke. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“No,” came her muffled reply.
When he let go to rise to his feet, the sudden lack of body heat left her shivering once again. As if able to see her forlorn expression when she raised her head, he said, “I’ll be right back.”
Stay , she wanted to beg him, because she didn’t want to be alone, because having him wrapped around her felt nice, comforting in a way she was unaccustomed.
Sounds of scuffling came from the next room, and a small flicker of light came through the crack he left in the door. She wiped at her cheeks, trying to clean herself up some should he return, but he didn’t. Instead, a door opened -the one to the bar- and closed, leaving her truly alone. She shifted to lay down on the floor of the washroom, curling in on herself. If she thought she could stand, she’d return to bed, but no energy remained.
Almost asleep again, the door opened, alerting her to his return. There was a scrape of glass, and then the candle drew close to the room she occupied. He pushed open the door, and upon seeing her on the floor, stooped to scoop her up into his arms. She squirmed against him, embarrassment flaming her cheeks. “Set me down,” she shoved at his chest.
“I will,” he gruffed, taking her over to the bed. On the nightstand sat two steaming cups of what smelled like tea. Careful, he sat her down then tucked her in. While she stared with big eyes at this new caretaking side of Rylen, he plopped a cup into her hands. The sweet smell of chamomile hit her senses as she leaned over the mug, drawing in a deep breath through her nose.
He crawled over top of her, then reached for his own cup. The candle flickered from the other side of the room, left forgotten by the door to the washroom. He sank back into the pillows, observing her blow on her cup with a cautious reservation. She didn’t know what to make of all this, how to take it. Why did Rylen do this for her? It was unexpected, certainly from him, but yet she grew touched by the gesture of it all.
A small smile hid inside the lip of her cup as she took her first sip. He must’ve caught sight of it, because he decided to try talking to her again. “I’ve never seen you so shaken up.”
“Don’t get used to it,” she mumbled into her cup, daring to take another hot sip.
“You sure you don’t want to talk about it?”
“I’m good,” and she was, strangely enough. The tea, having him there, it helped in its own weird way. The dream grew distant as she focused on the present, this moment with him drinking tea in her bed. She bit her tongue to avoid chastising him about not spilling any on her mattress. Just this once, the two of them deserved a little peace.
When the cups finished, her stomach warm with beverage, she laid back down while he got up to blow out the candle. With his return, instead of the two of them on their own sides of the bed, his hand ran along her arm, a ghost of a touch that left goosebumps in its path. “If you want,” he murmured, his voice trailing off as though for her to guess the end of his sentence.
She sighed, scooting in close to him and opening her arms. “Only because you brought me tea,” she replied as he rolled onto his side, back facing her. One arm draped over his waist, a leg tangling between his own as she pressed her forehead into the back of his neck. They usually ended up like this come morning anyway, but this was nice, the two of them like this while awake.
His hand clasped hers, fingers folding between her own. She shut her eyes, drifting off to sleep with a soft grin on her lips. No more nightmares came that night.