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The Coward's Way

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Evelyn fled the Hinterlands determined to put as much distance between herself and the Warden Blackwall. She thought of heading for the Imperial Highway and follow it up through Crestwood, what was left of Lothering, eventually arriving in Highever, where she had planned to finally sail back to the Free Marches. Maybe she would just continue until she reached Antiva. 

She could change her name and just disappear and let Thedas fend for itself. The Inquisition could handle the unrest and the warring Templars and mages. As for the rifts, well, she didn’t care. No matter what Blackwall had implied. If she saw one, she’d close it, but she was not going to go out of her way to track them down.

Hand curling into a fist, shocks of pain bolted up her arm, leaving an ache in the bend of her elbow, and through her shoulder. Evelyn grit her teeth and scowled at her gloved hand. Andraste’s Herald my ass, she thought bitterly. She had never been particularly faithful to religion though her family was devout. Her choice to become a soldier and not join the Templar order as her elder brothers did had always been a point of contention between her and her parents. 

And then she had gone and married a school teacher. Closing her eyes against the pain, she breathed through it. Tried to. She wanted to scream. Alexander had been the kindest man she had ever met. Gentle and patient with the children. With her . She had never deserved it, never deserved him. 

Punishment for your sinful ways!

Her mother had screamed that at her when she’d gone to relay the news. Because if nothing else, her parents had doted on their only grandchild. 

Yanking her pack higher on her shoulder she quickened her pace. Evelyn knew she should have done this weeks ago. Had it been weeks? Weeks since that first day when the Warden had found her after she had battled a handful of demons. Since he’d kept her from certain death, which she was still very much not grateful for.

He should have left her out there to die.

Evelyn was torn between cutting across the hinterlands, dealing with difficult terrain and wild animals and potentially bandits, or backtracking to the Imperial Highway which would take her through Redcliffe. She knew it would be the quickest option, but there was always the possibility of running into someone she didn’t want to see. Like the members of the Inquisition that she knew were filtering into the Hinterlands. 

Looking for her?

It didn’t matter because she would be long gone before they realized she’d lingered.

Hair tucked back in her hood, glove concealing the mark, she was just another traveler on the roads. Until she reached Redcliffe and spotted another rift directly in front of the gates. It spit out demons and there were soldiers there, fighting them, shouted orders reached her ears and she felt the pull toward it. Her hand sparking and practically vibrating with the need to reach out to it.

A foul curse left her lips and she ran, further up the road, putting distance between herself and the rift. If she closed it they would see her, they would know who she was. 

A pained cry reached her ears and she told herself not to turn around, not to look, but she skidded to a halt and turned just in time to watch the soldier fall, gutted and dead before he even hit the ground. “Fuck you,” she spat to whoever or whatever it was that had put this mark on her. That had thrown this duty onto her shoulders. They’d picked the wrong person. 

But she couldn’t just let them die. Letting out a scream of rage she ran back down the path, launched off a massive boulder, and landed hard in a crouch just below the rift. There were a few shouts of surprise, but the soldiers were so distracted by the demons that kept pouring out they barely noticed her. Thrusting her hand up she squinted at the bright light that was the rift and felt it, that pull and pain that came with closing the rifts. 

It reverberated up her wrist, pulled through her elbow, and made her shoulder feel tight. Then snap. The rift drew shut, leaving the air tasting like a lighting storm and her ears ringing. Flexing her fingers before drawing her hand down to clutch at her chest, now her hand tingled as if it had fallen asleep, and pinpricks of sensation were returning painfully. Evelyn stayed hunched there, wishing herself invisible. The demons were gone and she knew that the soldiers were looking at her now. 

She couldn’t look at them, refused to. Couldn’t bear the weight of the awe and adulation that would no doubt be in their eyes. Evelyn was no hero. Lifting her head just enough to see where they stood, she quickly plotted her quickest route to escape, and then she ran. Ignoring the shouts that came from behind her. She ran around the stone wall that surrounded Redcliffe, spotted a thicket, and all but dove into the brush. 

Back against a tree, legs splayed in the thick foliage around her, she closed her eyes and tried to slow her breathing. Blindly she tugged off her glove and shook out her hand before massaging it with the other. 

Blackwall had known that last time that Evelyn walked out the door of his small cabin that she truly was leaving the Hinterlands this time. But that isn’t to say that he didn’t hope. Which was something he knew he had no business doing. Or maybe that was all he deserved. To hope that he’d see the woman who was so damaged that he felt as if they matched in some fractured way - yet be denied that. 

It was why, just a few days after she’d left when the people from the Inquisition had shown up and he’d asked to join them. Fuck the Inquisition, the Maker, the Chantry- her words were a quiet echo in his mind when the woman with the very short crop of dark hair had questioned him about the other Grey Wardens. 

It made his heart beat faster, sweat trickle down his spine whenever anyone asked about them. He was lucky they were such a secretive organization and he’d been careful to avoid running into any others. Joining up with this Inquisition was likely a bad decision, but maybe, just maybe, he’d see Evelyn again. They said they wanted to help, and that had been his goal in the last years. To help as many as he could while he still breathed. And if it turned out that they were as terrible as Evelyn had implied, then he could always leave. 

Even still, he told them he’d meet them in Haven and had waited nearly a handful of days, hoping that Evelyn would walk into the tavern, or show up on his doorstep once more. But she didn’t and he resigned himself to his promise. 

There was disorganization to Haven when he arrived. Arguments over what the next move would be. Talk of the Herald, her abandoning the cause. Whispers of breaches being closed, trying to track her down. Blackwall often found himself staring at the breach. It made his chest feel oddly hollow, his throat tight to think that she had gone into the Fade. Walked back out. A part of him didn’t blame her for running. Cowardly, and yet, he had no room to judge her for that. 

“I know that you just left the Hinterlands, Warden Blackwall,” Cassandra was saying and he looked over to where she stood. “But there is the matter of Redcliffe. We have received word that they have shut the gates and are not allowing anyone in, or out. If you could travel there and see-” she let out a breath. “To fully seal the breach, I believe the mages are our only option. Cullen believes the Templars have the capability to temper the power of it. But without the Herald I don’t know if either party can do anything for it.” 

Blackwall looked at the Seeker, she looked weary and there was a scar on her jaw that looked to be fresh. “What exactly do you want me to do out there?”

“See if you can get into Redcliffe and find out what is going on. And if you-” she broke off, let out a breath. “Word has reached us of the rifts in the Hinterlands being closed. I know of only one person who can accomplish that. Her name is Evelyn Trevelyan, and the Inquisition needs her. We told her she could leave but- there are so many rifts, so many demons and our soldiers can’t fight them all.”

He wasn’t sure what to say. How could he tell this woman that he knew the Herald and she had no intention of returning.

“Take the soldiers you may need,” she continued. “And Varric, please.” 

Rubbing a hand along his jaw, Blackwall nodded. “Wouldn’t Solas be the better option in dealing with the mages?” he asked, and it was ornery, he knew because it was no secret that Cassandra and Varric were always at each other's throats.

“He is an apostate,” she said as if that explained everything. “I am begging you. Take Varric.” The look Cassandra gave him was pleading and he pressed his lips together to hold back the grin.

“Alright, Seeker,” he relented.

And that was how he found himself, with Varric and a handful of soldiers setting up camp a short distance from Redcliffe. It was late in the evening and they had debated the merits of heading for the gate at the late hour or waiting until morning. Finally deciding they would wait, they settled in for the evening.

Evelyn stared down at the small camp of Inquisition soldiers and silently cursed her luck. She felt an odd sense of betrayal when she first spotted Blackwall with the Inquisition forces. Which she silently berated herself for, because she didn't care what he did. But she watched. waiting. Because she was going to confront him. It was late the sun sinking low on the horizon when he walked away from the camp to relieve himself. Evelyn followed.

It didn't matter she kept trying to remind herself. But the anger bubbled inside her, and she had

no one else to lash out at, so just as he turned to return to the camp, Evelyn stepped into his path and shoved him hard.

Blackwall staggered a half step back and then he just stared at her in surprise. "Evie-" he breathed and she felt an odd twist in her belly and that only made her angrier. She shoved again but this time he didn't so much as sway.

"What are you doing with them?!" she hissed angrily, gesturing toward the camp.

Blackwall crossed his arms over his chest and lifted a thick brow. "Helping," he said, voice calm. "The Seeker Pentaghast arrived at my cabin a few weeks ago and asked me to join them."

Curling her hands into fists, Evelyn felt her heart beat faster. Did that mean he had told them about her? Was that why they were here?

"I thought you were leaving," he continued and Evelyn glanced away.

"I tried," she bit out the words. Again, he raised a brow, and her lip curled in response. Evelyn shoved at him again. "Fuck you!" she ground out between clenched teeth. “You stupid noble, self-righteous prick!” She punctuated every word with another shove to his chest that didn’t move him an inch. She wasn’t entirely sure why she was so angry that he’d joined the Inquisition. Of course, he would. Evelyn had figured out enough about him and his need to help people, whether they wanted it or not. 

Her fingers were curled in the front of his gambeson and her head tilted back to look up at him while her chest heaved. “Why did you leave them?” he asked and her grip tightened. 

“I did what they asked. They put me in chains, treated me like a prisoner, and then decided I was the Herald of Andraste. It’s all a load of chantry bullshit and I won’t be a part of it.” Angry tears stung her eyes and she jerked slightly at the front of his gambeson. 

Blackwall’s arms fell to his sides and he just looked at her and her anger grew exponentially. Was that pity in his gaze? “So why are you still here?” he asked.

Shoving away from him, Evelyn paced away a few steps and then whirled back around to face him. “The fucking mages. There’s a fucking Tevinter magister in there and they have sworn fealty to him,” she waved a hand toward Redcliffe castle and she saw the confusion on Blackwall’s face.

“A magister? What about Enchanter Fiona, that’s why the Inquisition is here. She asked them to meet with her.” 

Scoffing, Evelyn ran a frustrated hand through her hair. “Yeah, well, time travel.” She hadn’t believed it at first with the mage Dorian had found her while she’d been hiding in the bushes a handful of days earlier. She’d called him a lunatic and turned to leave, telling him none of this was her problem. Then he’d called her a coward. Ducking her head she curled her hand into a fist, remembering the crack of her palm against his cheek. 

Looking back up, she found Blackwall peering at her as if maybe she’d lost her mind. “It’s complicated, the mage can explain it better.” 

“The Inquisition will want to know about this,” he said, rubbing a hand over his bearded jaw, the hair rasping beneath his palm. 

Evelyn shook her head. “You tell them and I’m gone. This Magister wants me dead, because of this,” she spread the fingers of her left hand, the mark sparking beneath her fingerless leather glove. “I’d be better off leaving Ferelden all together.” 

“So why haven’t you?” he asked again, folding his arms over his chest once more.

“Well, with all the stories I heard about the famed Herald of Andraste, I wasn’t expecting such a coward.”  

“None of your business,” she retorted and then shook her head. Approaching him had been stupid and pointless. He’d run back to camp and tell whoever was in charge that she was there and then what? She knew that they hadn’t actually expected her to leave when she was given the chance, so would they throw her in chains again? A familiar hand curled around her forearm, tugging her back around to face him and without conscious thought, her arms were around his shoulders, her fingers in his hair while Blackwall buried his face against her throat, sucking and scraping his teeth over the sensitive flesh. Her legs were around his waist and his hands on her ass, supporting her weight. 

Evelyn whimpered, then felt something hard at her back, trapping her up against Blackwall’s chest. Her hands were nearly frantic as she tugged at the fastenings of his gambeson, while he yanked at where her tunic was tucked into her trousers. He released her long enough to let her shove the garment off his shoulders where it fell to the ground with a quiet thud, and then his hands were on her hips, calloused palms scraping over bare flesh, up her sides. She shuddered at the sensation, then yanked her tunic over her head, felt her hair snag on one of the buttons, but so desperate she just pulled harder, felt the hairs rip free from her scalp but the pain was fleeting and then Blackwall’s mouth was on the swell of her breast. 

His hips were a hard press between her thighs and Evelyn arched against him and scraped her nails over his scalp. Blackwall drew one pebbled nipple into his mouth, sucked hard, and then let out a low curse against her skin before drawing back and forcing Evelyn to stand on her own two feet again. Her breathing was labored and she swayed at the sudden rejection. But then he was on his knees in front of her, tugging at the laces of one of her boots. 

Yanking it off her foot, he threw it over her shoulder, and then his hands were at the waistband of her breeches. She had to grip his shoulders to keep herself steady and he paused, looking up at her through heavy-lidded eyes. “Yes,” the word came out strangled and desperate. Then he yanked her trousers and smalls down, freed one leg, and then he was lifting her again. 

Evelyn thrust her hands down between them, to unfasten his own trousers. Pushing the offending item down enough to wrap her fist around his cock she heard Blackwall groan low in his throat, then she felt the fingers that cupped her rump shift, teasing her opening. Without words, he pressed her back against the tree again, and Evelyn guided his stiff length to her slit. Then he was pushing forward, filling her, stretching her and her head fell back. 

Buried to the hilt, he stayed there, fingers digging into her thighs with bruising force, Evelyn lifted her head to meet his gaze as she slid one of her hands to the nape of his neck, the other beneath the tunic he still wore. Lips parting, her breathing ragged, she had to fight the urge to draw his head toward hers and kiss him. 

It disturbed her how much she wanted to kiss him, to taste his lips, and claim his mouth. She hadn’t kissed another man in years, despite the many other things she’d done with countless others. The last man she had kissed was Alexander. The fact that she wanted to kiss this man, this broken man who was kind to even those who didn’t deserve it. Self-loathing burned in her chest and she scraped her nails along his side, desperate to banish the desire. “Fuck me,” she bit out. Then she did tug his head forward, her lips skimming along his jaw before she sunk her teeth into his earlobe. 

Blackwall’s hips bucked and whatever moment they had shared was broken. He pounded into her with no regard for her back against the rough bark of the tree and she welcomed it all. The driving thrusts had them both at the brink in minutes. Evelyn sunk her teeth into her lip to keep from crying out as she hit the precipice and then seemed to stand teetering on the edge for long heartbeats. 

Another hard thrust of his hips, she heard his groan and felt him pulse hot and wet, filling her with his release. The pleasure left her in a rush and she sagged beneath the weight of the contempt she felt for herself. Blackwall’s breath was hot against her throat, her damp skin now rapidly cooling she shivered and used it as an excuse to push him away. “Get off,” she groused, ducking her head and bending over to yank her breeches back up the moment her feet touched the ground again. 

He stood for a moment and she felt his eyes on her, but he didn’t say anything, only went about righting his own clothing while she did the same with hers. “They want you to come back,” Blackwall spoke as Evelyn began tucking her tunic back into her pants.

“Good for them,” she muttered. 

“You may have closed all the breaches in the Hinterlands, but there are-” he was quiet for a beat and she glanced at him. “There are a lot and soldiers are dying trying to keep the demons contained.” 

Evelyn straightened, pushed a lock of hair out of her face, and shook her head. “I don’t care,” she told him, and knew he’d find that unforgivable and as she said it she saw the anger knit his brow and purse his lips. “I won’t be their Herald. Why don’t they go ask the Maker for help closing all those breaches.” 

Then she turned and walked away. She made her way through the thick overgrowth and slipped through the narrow gap that was practically invisible to the camp where Dorian sat perched on a rock. He glanced at her and she saw the disdain in the look he gave her. Only it didn’t bother her, because she felt the same thing for herself. “Got that out of your system then, did you?” he inquired with a lifted brow. 

Evelyn didn’t reply, simply trudged over to the fire, and sat down in front of it. “You do realize lives are at stake, don’t you?” he asked. “Which I’d say is considerably more important than you getting railed by the hairy lummox.” 

Heat burned her cheeks and she turned her face to glare at the mage. “Enjoy the show?” she asked, lips curving up into a smirk. 

His disdain shifted to disgust. “Actually it quite turned my stomach.” 

Evelyn stared back into the fire again, hands curled into fists. “Do you have a plan yet?” Because if he didn’t, she didn’t think she’d last in Redcliffe much longer. Her encounter with Blackwall only made her feel the need to run grow even stronger. 

“Actually, I do.” And she was relieved. She’d help him stop this Magister and then she could finally get out of Ferelden once and for all.