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Dearest Mother and Father,

Doubtless by now you’ve heard rumors

 

Bann Grace Trevelyan and Ser Gareth Trevelyan

Ugh, no that’s horrible . Sorry, Josephine, I can’t be as formal as you want me to be.

 

Mama, Papa, Calla, 

First, forgive me for not writing sooner. I know I ought to have. I just… well. I didn’t.

No matter what you’ve heard, I’m not dead. Not yet, anyway. Unfortunately, it turns out the big gash in the sky—can you see it where you are?—and I are all wrapped up together somehow. For a while I was a prisoner. They got over that, and now I’m some kind of… Maker, I don’t even know what to call it. They call me the Herald of Andraste. Isn’t that the most pretentious load of shit you’ve ever heard? 

Mama, please put down your bow. I know your first instinct will be to careen across all Thedas to help me in person. Please… don’t. Right now I need your (don’t groan) political help more than your excellent aim. I suspect you’ll find a letter from Lady Josephine Montilyet accompanying mine. She’s my political advisor (yes, I have a political advisor, thank the Maker. Don’t laugh, Calla. Or snort. Just don’t make any faces at all. You think that’s bad? I also have a military advisor and a spymaster. So be nice. Or else). Please do what you can for Josephine; she’s juggling more knives than a street performer desperate for a next meal.

More importantly, I feel I’m already on such thin ice (pun intended; it’s bloody cold here in Haven) that the sudden appearance of my mother and father might completely undermine the tiny bit of authority I’ve managed to carve out (isn’t that savvy of me? Papa, don’t grimace, I can feel it from half a world away).

Please write soon. I would love to hear from you. Are the flowers still blooming? How many puppies did Pumpkin have? Can Linden count all his fingers and toes yet, or is he still stuck on the number seven?

I love you all very much.

 

Rose leaned on the desk, propping her head in her left hand while the right twirled the quill, spattering ink droplets on some of her discarded drafts. For a moment, she considered adding a few more lines. Something about the oppressive quiet, maybe; about the unnerving ache in her hand even when the mark wasn’t flaring; about how sometimes she walked the length and breadth of Haven at all hours of the day and night because when she lay down to sleep her belly ached not with fear or worry or despair, but with loneliness. No chance her mother would respect her wishes to stay away then, though. With a sigh, she signed Rose with a much more cheerful flourish than she felt, blotted the last of the damp ink, and sealed the letter shut before she could undo all her good work by pleading for the parental rescue she not-so-secretly longed for.

Rising, she carried the letter into Josephine’s office. The ambassador managed a distracted smile and a wave in the general direction of her correspondence when Rose asked where to leave it. Recognizing busy when she saw it, Rose swallowed her instinct to converse, and only said, “If you include a letter of your own, I’m sure my mother will do her best to accommodate your requests.”

“Thank you, my Lady Herald,” Josephine said, stilling her hand but not lifting the quill from the page. “It is much appreciated.”

“Anything else I can help with? I’ve got a great handshake. Very glowy.” Josephine either didn’t hear the note of desperation, or she ignored it. Probably a bit of both. Not that Rose blamed her; the jest wasn’t particularly funny. “Right then. I suppose the war council ought to meet sooner rather than later to discuss next steps. Perhaps another trip to the Hinterlands, much as it pains me to say it. Before dinner?”

“Of course, Lady Trevelyan.” Josephine inclined her head graciously, but not before Rose caught the faint flicker of panic in her eyes. Mentally rearranging schedules, probably.

“Or tomorrow,” Rose amended. The tension in Josephine’s shoulders eased a fraction, though the ruffles and puffed sleeves did an admirable job of hiding that there was ever tension there at all. Perhaps Josephine was onto something. Rose liked ruffles. And bows. Maybe some well-placed rosettes would convince people she knew what she was doing and all their faith in her wasn’t wildly misplaced. She cleared her throat. “Yes, tomorrow works better. I’ll speak to the others, if you like.”

Josephine’s eyes widened at the very thought. “You needn’t trouble—”

“No trouble,” Rose said, heading toward the door before Josephine could somehow snatch the task away and leave her once more floundering for occupation. Or company. “It’s on my way.”

Josephine accepted this at face value and didn’t protest further, much to Rose’s surprise. The ever-present scratch of quill against parchment followed her out of the room.

 

Dearest Mama,

I don’t know who I am here. No one calls me by name. It’s always Herald or my Lady or, very rarely, Lady Trevelyan, which is at least part of my name, though it’s not like I was ever called by that title at the Circle. People bow their heads instead of looking me in the eyes. When we came back to Haven after a trip to the Hinterlands, a woman reached out and touched the edge of my coat like it was something holy. I saw it in her eyes. I thought: oh the stories my mother could tell you. No holy figure stole half as many pies as I did as a child, unless there’s a whole verse of the Chant we’re not taught by the Revered Mothers. I’d steal a pie right now, if I could. Though doubtless then the pie would be considered holy, too, and my actions irreproachable. If Andraste guides me to steal a pie, who are they to complain about missing dessert?

I’m sitting in Haven’s little tavern, writing this letter I will never send you. A minstrel’s singing about heroes. Everyone keeps looking at me, but no one says hello. When I start conversations, people speak in monosyllables, and extricate themselves as soon as they can. They ask me what they can do for me. I don’t know what they’d say if I replied, ‘Just talk to me.’ I unnerve them so much it unnerves me.

And yet, it feels petty to be so unhappy, when everyone else at the Conclave is dead. Gideon, Farah, the First Enchanter, Ser Carralyn. The Divine. So many others. So many. I keep thinking about how Papa wanted to accompany me. I wanted him to come, you know. And now I’m so glad he didn’t. Even though he’s safe with you in Ostwick, I keep--I keep imagining--

Maybe I died, too. Not physically, of course, but… oh, Mama. On the worst days, I think you wouldn’t recognize me. How foolish I was, with my dreams of making a difference, my dreams of being part of the solution, part of getting the mages and templars to start seeing eye to eye. What was I thinking? Why didn’t you stop me? Did you try? I can’t even remember. There are so many gaps now. I can remember every Divine in chronological order, but not what brought me to the place where this last one was murdered. 

Yet another thing I can’t tell you. You have enough to worry about. I’ll be fine. I always am, right?

 

Rose balled the parchment in her fist, drank down the last of the ale Flissa wouldn’t let her pay for, and vacated the table that had been swiftly cleared for her. Packed room, and her with five empty chairs at a table no one would share, no matter how much she insisted. Typical. She shook her head, and watched the paper curl into ashes in the hearth.

She considered stopping to talk with Varric, but he seemed busy. Besides, she was pretty sure she’d offended him with her questions about Hawke (she hadn’t meant to, but that battle with the Arishok seemed so impossible! Archers didn’t survive close-combat battles with seasoned warriors carrying giant broadswords!) and she wanted to give him time to forget, or at least forgive, her misstep. 

Much as she liked Varric—and she did—speaking with him was always a little melancholy. Even when he was smiling, a certain sadness creased the skin around his eyes and lingered in his tone. She understood him, really, even if she couldn’t find the words to say so: like her, he was thinking of distant family, distant home, of belonging and not belonging. Like her, he was torn between staying and going. Every morning on their last trip to the Hinterlands, she’d half-expected to find an empty bedroll and a note of apology scribbled to My Lady Freckles. Every morning on their last trip to the Hinterlands, she’d woken early and stared at the mark on her hand until her eyes blurred and she told herself the burn was only the sting of not blinking.

She waved with this marked hand as she passed, and Varric lifted his own ink-stained fingers in return, but he didn’t call her over. She tried, and failed, to contain her disappointment. 

What stories might he tell of her, in the end? She hoped none of them involved sliding down the length of a qunari’s sword, or statues coming to life, or losing friends you’d never thought you’d lose.

She hoped he’d consider her a friend by then, at least.

Her sigh as she turned away and headed down the stairs made a lonesome puff of mist rise in the cool air. Maybe the Storm Coast, next. Or the Fallow Mire. A change of scenery might be just the thing.

 

Calla,

How are you? How’s the family? Is Linden looking forward to meeting his new brother or sister? Oh, Maker, you haven’t had the baby yet, have you? I’m sure someone would have sent word. Give Linnie a big kiss from Auntie Rose, and make sure you tell the baby only good things about me until I’m there to defend myself. (I don’t suppose you’ll break with flowers and virtues, as naming goes? Just imagine the possibilities. No? Well, then have you considered Sage? Virtue and plant all in one! You can thank me later.)

Oh, Callie, I wish I could be there! Make sure they know about that tea, you know, the one I made for you last time. Don’t let them forget the royal elfroot. Royal. They’ll tell you there’s little enough difference, but they’re lying because the distillation of royal elfroot is so much more challenging and they don’t want to go through the effort.

Remember when I was little (fine, fine, I know I did this until I was twelve and left for the Circle) and used to crawl into bed with you and drive you mad with my cold feet? I was thinking about that (my feet are always bloody cold here, no matter how thick my socks or padded my boots or heaped my blankets), and I realized you never once kicked me out. Even when I woke you out of a dead sleep, you never sent me back to my room. You never even complained. You just tucked my little cold feet between your warm calves and whispered stories into my hair until I fell asleep. I don’t think I ever thanked you. Not once. I’m sorry. Can I thank you now?

Please write and tell me at least a dozen really stupid things I’ve done or mistakes I’ve made. Feel free to be exceedingly detailed, as only one’s long-suffering sister can be. I’m terrified all this Heralding and glowing hands and holes in the sky and people refusing to look me in the eye is going to my head.

Rosie

 

After imparting news of the next day’s council meeting to a Cassandra busy thrashing a practice dummy half to splinters, Rose lingered, shifting her weight from foot to foot. She wanted to ask what was bothering her—aside from a murdered Divine, a hole in the sky, a ‘Herald’ still trying and mostly failing to find her arse with both hands, unknown enemies on multiple fronts, of course—but the intensity of Cassandra’s attacks and the irritation in the accompanying grunts of exertion dissuaded her. 

Leaving Cassandra to her stress relief—Maker, she hoped it was stress relief and not a prelude to wide-scale murder—Rose went to watch Commander Cullen running drills with his new recruits. Standing with his back partway to her, arms folded, pink-cheeked from cold, alternating directions with advice and the occasional reprimand, he didn’t appear to notice her arrival. With admirable patience, he explained the importance of defense to a hotheaded swordsman intent on lunging himself with flowery flourishes into an early grave. Cullen’s adamant gestures left very few details about the pain of that eventual death to the imagination. One of the other recruits went a little green, and leaned heavily on her practice blade. When Cullen noticed, he clapped the young woman on the shoulder; offered quieter, more bolstering words; and gently corrected her grip.

Strange that he’d been a templar, that if her life or his had taken just a slightly different turn, they might have spent their days in the same place, passing each other in the same halls, never speaking. His might have been the hand holding the blade at her Harrowing, his the voice reprimanding her for ever-so-slightly abusing the liberties she was granted. (The children always missed home so much; she couldn’t help bringing back little treats after she was allowed to visit her own family. Another thing she hadn’t thought about twice when it happened, but that she remembered now with a sort of twisting certainty that someone somewhere had pulled strings to permit it.) Perhaps if Cullen had been at her Circle, those liberties wouldn’t have been allowed in the first place. 

Rose hadn’t lied to Josephine when she’d asked about it: she had enjoyed her life in the Circle. She’d gotten along with most everyone—barring a couple of schoolgirl rivalries and arguments that seemed positively benign in light of what she faced now. She’d fancied the occasional templar—usually the ones whose stoic faces sometimes cracked with rule-breaking smiles—though she’d kept her relationships, such as they’d been, within the ranks of fellow mages. She’d had books and laughter and a private room even as an apprentice; she’d been allowed home every Feastday; letters and visits from her family were never forbidden. Listening to the rebel mages—allies, she tried to think of them now, not rebels: allies—speak of their ordeals in Starkhaven and Kirkwall and even Ferelden brought home just how exceedingly privileged she’d been. And how completely she’d taken that privilege for granted. 

Cullen took up one of the practice blades and a shield, positioning his body to minimize the target he offered while maximizing his own reach. The recruit he’d reprimanded (thrice, since she’d been watching) had already looked away, but the other watched carefully, trying to echo the commander’s position exactly. Rose shook her head. The young woman was too stiff. Loose limbs moved faster. If she stayed that tightly wound, she’d be dead before her brain managed to send the message parry, you blighter to her arm. 

When she tried to imagine Cullen in templar armor, all menacing plate and sword on the breast and emotionless expression, she came up short. The picture didn’t match the man she watched now, warm in his fabric and fur, smiling as he easily stepped out of the way of an ill-timed thrust. He tapped his opponent on the top of the head to prove he could, then slid back into his defensive stance. The girl facing him chucked ruefully, giving her pate a rub, and then tried again. 

Cullen had been a Knight-Captain, though. All but Knight-Commander, if she correctly read between Varric and Cassandra’s lines. Softness—kindness—didn’t earn that kind of rank, especially at his age, and especially not within the Templar Order. Not in a city like Kirkwall; rumors of the goings-on in that Circle had occasionally reached Ostwick, and she’d always imagined them exaggerated. Perhaps she hadn’t given them enough credit. 

Nibbling at her lower lip, worrying a bit of dry skin, she wondered how much of Varric’s account of Cullen in his Tale of the Champion she could trust. Varric certainly hadn’t pulled his punches in the telling, or painted Cullen in the most flattering light, but they seemed to get on well enough now, without the kind of lingering bad blood or resentment or outright hostility she’d have expected if Cullen were still the angry templar Knight-Captain who’d once vowed mages—like her, like some of Varric’s friends, like the Champion’s sister—couldn’t be treated like people. Varric had written of Cullen’s actions in the battle against Meredith Stannard with admiration. Perhaps that was the closer characterization, now. Perhaps. She hoped so, anyway.

Cullen called the first recruit back into the sparring ring. The young man stammered an excuse and went pale, but the commander only nodded at the rack of practice swords and waited. The bout didn’t last long; Cullen moved fast and clean, struck without hesitation, and had the lad flat on his arse on the half-frozen ground before he’d so much as raised his blade. “Again,” Commander Cullen said.

“Let Ella go ag—”

The young woman straightened, beginning to step forward. Cullen waved her back without once taking his eyes from the source of his disappointment. And ire. “Again.”

“Commander—”

Cullen didn’t ask another time; he merely lunged in and hit his whining recruit with the blunted point of the sword, hard enough and precise enough to knock the breath from him. “Report to Knight-Captain Rylen, Merrin.”

“Ser?” The lad’s voice broke on the vowel, and Rose lifted a hand to cover her smile, though no one was looking at her to see it.

“You heard me. Captain Rylen will put you to work. When you prove to him you can both listen to and follow orders, perhaps you’ll be allowed a blade again. I need soldiers, not dead bodies. You’re destined to be the latter, with your attitude, and I won’t have it. Rylen will sort you out.”

The lad scrambled to his feet, and glowered with the kind of hauteur that only accompanied noble blood and privilege left to run amok. “Do you have any idea who I am?”

Cullen settled back on his feet, folded his hands on the pommel of his sword, and lifted one corner of his mouth in a smile. “You’re either Rylen’s newest runner, or you’re on your way back where you came from.”

“Lady Montilyet will hear of this!” The young man balled his hands into fists, taking a step toward Cullen. The commander didn’t so much as blink, though Ella bristled at the slight and straightened her shoulders, fixing her grip on her practice blade. Perfectly, Rose noted. The girl was a quick learner. “No, the Herald will. I’ll tell her myself.”

“You needn’t bother,” Cullen said. “She’s been here watching your shameful display for some time.” He turned to look at her, inclining his head slightly. “Herald.”

“Commander,” she replied, without bothering to swallow her amusement. Merrin looked a little as though he wanted to pinch himself to wake. “Trouble in the ranks?”

“Hardly. Merrin here’s got a death wish, but the rest are doing well.”

“As I saw.” She glanced at Merrin and smiled. “There some reason you think you’re too good for this, recruit?”

“I’ve had training. I don’t need to learn how to stand, or which end of the blighted blade is the sharp one. I had a master. I can duel.”

Her smile widened. “Can you?”

“The Commander won’t let me fight. Not for real.”

“No? Then I was imagining the bout where you were laid out flat in a single move? Mere moments ago?” She leaned back, crossing her arms, echoing Cullen’s posture. “Care for a go?”

Merrin’s mouth opened. No sound came out. Cullen said, with diplomacy to make Josephine proud, “I am… not certain this lot’s ready to test themselves against an actual mage, Herald. They're, uh, very raw.”

She held her empty hands up, and noted who flinched away. Cullen didn’t. Neither did Ella. Merrin took a whole step back, nearly hamstringing himself against a rack. “No magic necessary. See, I can duel too. Passably, anyway. And I promise not to augment my attacks with lightning bolts.”

A nervous titter swept through a crowd growing steadily larger. Merrin scuffed his toes in the dirt, and didn’t look up. “I’ll go find Captain Rylen straight away, Commander Cullen.”

A few people muttered their disappointment. Rose was half-tempted to join them. Sighing, she lowered her hands, folding them behind her back. “Too bad,” she said, shrugging. “With so many things trying to kill me in such a wide variety of ways, I was rather looking forward to the practice. And I was serious about not using lightning.”

“You can fight me, if you like, my Lady Herald,” said Ella. “I’m not at all sure it’d be a challenge, what with me being so new to it, but I’d give it a good go.”

“No one can fault your bravery,” Cullen said. “But in cases such as these, it’s best to learn when to stand and when to flee.”

“I’m not that good,” Rose said. “But with parents like mine, it was only a choice of which weapon I’d learn, not if I’d do so at all. Mother never was much for embroidery. And my magic came late. I had some time with it.”

“Sword and shield?” Cullen asked, expression thoughtful but voice giving little away. He looked her up and down, and for once no hint of awe or adulation clung to the gaze fixed on her. He was merely doing what he did best: assessing potential. She could’ve hugged him for it. “Twin blades? Surely not a broadsword.”

“Battle-axe,” she said, deadpan. “Bigger the better.” It earned a surprised blink from her usually-stoic commander, and she laughed. “It would be amusing to watch me try to swing a blade as long as I am tall, and twice as heavy to boot, though, wouldn’t it? Sorry to disappoint. It was rapier, with a dagger in my off-hand.” She immediately sank into a proper duelist’s stance. Not so very different from the one he’d demonstrated earlier, truth be told, though a duelist had no convenient cover in the form of a shield. The mechanics of her posture felt more akin to her work with a staff, though she hadn’t considered it in that light before. “I don’t suppose you’d let me train with your recruits, Commander? When I'm here? I meant it about all the things trying to kill me, and magic’s not an infinite resource.”

“P-Pardon me?”

He looked so unsettled—so completely baffled—by the request, she nearly retracted it immediately, nearly retreated as he’d just advised his recruit. Instead, she held her ground, careful not to challenge or defy, searching his face for any hint of genuine reluctance or discomfort. She found none. A moment later, he nodded at the rack of practice weapons. “We’ve nothing so slight in the hand as a rapier,” he said. “You might go with a pair of daggers, but I think a longsword and dagger would serve you better. And you’ve doubtless strength enough.”

“Doubtless?” she murmured. “You might be giving me more credit than I deserve, Commander.”

“Staves are more than large sticks,” he replied, with that damnably distracting hint of smile. “Even when they’re not focusing magic. Or so I’ve been reliably informed by any number of annoyed mages during training when I dared suggest otherwise.”

“You trained mages? To fight?”

“Occasionally. Ferelden’s Circle was… the war with Orlais was still fresh in many memories, and rumors of the Blight spread quickly. Basic battle skills were a required part of study. Sometimes I helped.”

“But not in Kirkwall?”

Cullen’s usually-expressive face slammed shut like a book. Oh. She swallowed hard, and pretended to check the balance of the dulled blade. There’s the templar. 

“Not in Kirkwall,” he said, in a voice she barely recognized. "The Knight-Commander did not approve of arming her charges. Under any circumstances."

And there she went, once again introducing her feet directly to her mouth. She made a note to offer him a more private apology later. She said, “Well, then. If not Ella, who’ll it be?”

A small smile broke the ice of Cullen’s countenance. Thank Andraste and the Maker and everything holy. He nodded a duelist’s greeting, raised his blade in a salute, and said, “My lady.”

She didn’t have time to formulate a proper reply, though the words Blessed Andraste, he’s going to hand me my arse did skitter frantically through her brain. Ducking to the side, the breeze of his blade’s passing ruffled her hair, but her feet were all out of position, and her desperate save nearly made her echo poor Merrin’s failure. Jumping backward, she bought herself a return to proper footing and just enough time to bring her dagger up to parry another of Cullen’s attacks.

“Good,” he said, without even the slightest hint of breathlessness, damn him. Her own heart was already pounding. “You want to avoid parrying on the dagger; you’re in too close and have no room for the longer blade. You’re more like to trip on it than get a hit in.”

She nodded, blowing the curls out of her eyes, bringing both blades up in a rusty defensive stance. Cullen circled her, eyes evaluating over the top of his shield. He moved like a cat. She half-expected to see a lashing tail. Or the strike of claws before her own inevitable demise. He began a thrust, looking to catch her off-guard, but she anticipated him, sliding to the side, spinning handily, and jabbing up all in one motion. He caught the blow, turning the power of it aside with his shield, but before he could riposte, she whirled, stabbing at the side left open with a backhanded dagger strike. “Very good,” he said, but he still dodged her hit effortlessly, bringing the flat of his blade down across her ribs. More lightly, she realized, than he could have. Lesson, not punishment. “But do you see what happened?”

“Yes,” she said. “Overextended. Assumed I’d catch you and didn’t have a plan if I missed. Left my whole flank open.”

Before she’d finished speaking, she attacked again, pitting her speed and slightness against his larger bulk. It almost bore fruit; his blade only barely caught hers, and she’d danced away again before he could return the favor. Her muscles ached pleasantly; though she suspected she’d feel like death by the time her war council met the next day. Cullen would probably be fresh as a bloody daisy.

She and Cullen circled each other, occasionally testing the waters with a jab or a feint, and though he hit her three more times and she didn’t manage a single touch, she was beyond gratified to see a trickle of sweat run down the side of his face. 

Then, of course, he stopped holding back. He drove her back a dozen steps, and no matter how she tried to twist or turn to escape, he hounded her, anticipating her every move, blocking every attempt to attack almost before she could think through the move. She lost her sense of her environment—amateur mistake—and instead of the lunging thrust she thought she had in hand, she tripped over a stone and sprawled face first in the dust, both blades knocked from her hands. When she rolled onto her back, Cullen’s blade was at her throat.

“I yield,” she gasped. He grinned at her. Grinned. And Maker, but she was glad she’d been sweating for fifteen minutes, because she could blame the heat in her cheeks on exertion. Tossing his own shield and blade to Ella, he offered Rose his hand, and hoisted her to her feet. Very handily. Speaking of strong. Had she been? She was thinking it now. Her knees trembled. Also from the exertion. Definitely. And she most certainly did not hold onto his forearm six seconds longer than she absolutely had to.

“You didn’t use magic.”

She frowned, which stopped her thinking about grins and sweat and rumpled hair and the size of his hands. “I said I wouldn’t.”

“You could have taken me if you had.”

Pushing a hand back through her damp hair, she shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not. Throwing lightning at a templar—even a former templar—seems like a good way to get myself smote into the next age.”

“Still, it took a great deal of control not to lash out with your most potent weapon.”

“Ahh, but I said I wanted to train with a sword, Commander Cullen. I know how good I am with magic. And I also know how easily I might be struck down by one of those templars out there, if he should catch me unaware. At least a blade might save me helplessly getting my throat slit if someone lobs a particularly powerful dispelling or cleansing blast my way.”

For a moment, she thought he was going to clap a companionable hand on her shoulder, the way he’d done with Ella earlier. His hand twitched, like it meant to. He pressed his palm flat against his thigh instead.

She said, with a wavering kind of tremor in her voice she’d have done anything to swallow, “Might I come back? When it’s convenient?”

“You needn’t train with an audience, if you don’t like. I can certainly arrange for private instruction, if—”

“Oh, I… well, I was rather hoping to blend in. Be part of the ranks.” Her smile slipped, went lopsided and a bit sad, before she could stop it. “But I wouldn’t want to be a distraction. I know how it goe—”

“I’ll put you with some of the intermediates, then.” His own smile was rueful, and this time when his hand lifted, he rubbed the side of his neck. “Might be good for them, to see you more. As you are, and not as they imagine.”

“Exactly,” she breathed. “Exactly.”

“But I should return to my--”

“Of course! I didn’t mean to keep you. Thank you. For, uh, the bout. And not slaughtering me with the ease you could’ve employed.”

“You did well.” He did settle his hand onto her shoulder then, and snatched it back almost as quickly, but not before she felt a swell of pride warm enough to chase the chill from the air. For a change.

She’d gone half a dozen steps before she remembered her original purpose in coming. “War council tomorrow,” she called out. He lifted his head and half-turned at the sound of her voice, just in time to let Ella’s clumsy blow to his midsection land. Hard. He waved his understanding even as he grunted. Rose turned away, skipping up the steps, followed by the sound of Ella’s desperate apologies and Cullen’s breathless assurances that he was fine. 

Maybe she’d talk to Varric after all. Invite him for a drink. And this time someone was going to share her blighted table, whether they wanted to or not.

 

Mama, 

So, I’m… not supposed to fall for my military advisor, right? The commander of my forces? Especially when he’s a former templar? Incredibly inappropriate. Tell me it’s a terrible idea. Really terrible. Tell me I definitely shouldn’t daydream about… his smile, his smirk, the growly thing his voice does sometimes and the stuttery thing it does other times, how glad I am he no longer wears those templar skirts that would deprive me the sight of his very nice legs . And arse. Possibilities.

You’re right, of course. No point dismissing it out of turn. Look where that would’ve left you and Papa. So I should just… see. What happens.

(Probably nothing will. I know that. I'm not completely foolish. )

Yes, Mama, I know. It’s very likely the world’s ending and my left hand’s the only thing standing between the world’s continuing existence and certain annihilation. When better to fling oneself into ill-advised romantic entanglements that may or may not ever be reciprocated? A little harmless flirting never killed anyone, right?

Don’t answer that.

Love to you all,

Rose