Leliana leans on the parapet at the spot where she can see Cassandra, who is a creature of habit when it comes to destroying stuffed men. And her habit is usually a pleasure to watch, but today her rhythm is off.
The Inquisitor argued with her this morning and then changed his plans just to leave her behind, on a day when a Nevarran noble embassy is arriving, of all days. They may not get along, but one could wish the self-celebrated Herald of Andraste were less petty.
Below in the far courtyard, Cassandra starts a stroke, stops abruptly, stalks back to her last position, starts again. The sight itself is frustrating, like the sound of grinding teeth.
Leliana watches her for as long as she can stand it, thinking, then steps inside for a scrap of paper and encodes a few quick observations on time not spent traveling and its best uses.
She stops listing when the space is almost full, smiles while she blows on the ink, then suggests in postscript that, cf. the preceding, escaping the Fallow Mire is hardly a punishment, and furthermore, unpleasant things can get into a man’s underclothes in a swamp if he isn’t careful.
After the wax hardens around her seal, she lifts a hand to signal one of the scout runners. “Take this down to Seeker Pentaghast for me, will you? No need for a reply.”
“Yes, Sister!” Note in hand, the girl takes off down the stairs like the keen new recruit she is.
Leliana steps back outside in time to see her hurry down all the flights of stairs and past the Herald’s Rest to where Cassandra is standing and glaring at the practice dummies. The runner hands her the note with a quick bow, and backs away just as fast.
She puts her sword away, shades her eyes to glance up at the rookery, then breaks the seal. Leliana can picture her exact expression, and leans on her elbows on the parapet to wait for it.
After a pause, Cassandra hides a laugh with her hand, and her body language softens all over, like a jagged line shaking out even, her stance relaxing before she sits on the grass to finish reading.
Leliana never tires of this reaction. If they ever have real idle time—the Maker only knows when that could be—she’ll make it happen more often.
She rests her chin on one hand. Now, did she blush at the list, or does it need elaborating in person?
Cassandra looks up toward her again from where she sits. It’s too far away to tell. Leliana kisses her fingers to her, whether or not she can see.
She refolds the note and slips it into her waist pocket, then gets to her feet, moving in an easier pattern. She draws herself up and drops into a charge on the closest dummy, whirling to half decapitate it. With an invisible puff of sawdust, its head neatly collapses.
For the rest of the day, Cassandra’s form is flawless again; and putting her list into practice doubles as a good way to avoid the Nevarrans, it turns out.
The week when the first delegation arrives from the gathering remains of the Chantry, the Inquisitor has gone off with Dorian and the Chargers again, but they don’t seem offended by his absence.
From the moment they arrive, they’re much more interested in Leliana, or really, what she may represent. Mothers in robes waylay her in the great hall, and the library, and the garden, to start pointed discussions about Divine Justinia’s legacy. “You were so important to her,” they say, “you did what was needed, you surely understand what she wanted,” by which they each mean something different.
Leliana doubts any of them knows a thing about what was important to Justinia, or what she’s done, but they want to make veiled suggestions, size her up, persuade. Though she speaks this language, it’s exhausting. She sees a few do the same with Cassandra, and wonders how that’s working out for them.
She spends the rest of the day shut in the tower watching a storm on the horizon, worried for the birds straggling in as much as their messages, and has her evening meal sent up.
Most of Skyhold has gone to bed by the time the last bird is safe. Tired, not wanting to face another Chantry mother tonight, she takes a route through empty hallways, some with open ceilings, frosted with new snow. It’s more secure back here, of necessity. The castle staff don’t enter her room.
Around the last corner, there’s unexpected warm light beneath her door, and paper stuck in the jamb. She pulls it out and reads:
I used your key and disarmed the traps. C.
A smile breaks over her lips, weariness retreating as she opens the door.
Cassandra has lit a merry little fire and candles and is sitting cross-legged on the stone, with a book, next to an arrangement of cushions.
“I left your other things alone.” She closes the book and holds out a cup of something, returning her smile wryly. “Today, I thought you might need this.”
It’s hot and smells delicious. The tense sharp edges of the day inside blunt themselves as Leliana drops to her knees and accepts it.
Spiced Arbor eau-de-vie: the taste carries her back to similar nights in easier times, firelight across the floor of her rooms in Val Royeaux. “When Trevelyan was busy, I went to that shop in the Belle Marché,” says Cassandra.
“I can tell.” It’s gone too soon, its warmth spreading through her chest and core.
Cassandra takes a sip of her own. “The Nightingale may not sleep, but I will leave if you planned to.”
Leliana laughs, feeling herself loosen further. She strips her gloves off to let the cup warm her fingers, too, and holds it out for a refill.
“And they say the Maker sends no messengers,” she says, sitting carefully down on the cushions so as not to spill. “I most certainly need this, and sleep, and you to stay.”
Cassandra smiles and squeezes her hand, right in left, the back-to-front way they do.
“What did they ask you?”
“You can imagine.”
”Oh, yes,” Leliana says, leaning her head back, and begins to describe her morning.