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Peacekeepers and Champions

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Sorcha Trevelyan was never considered the “ideal” daughter. Although she was intelligent, resilient, and attractive, she was also the bane of her parents’ existence.  She was quick to anger, ill-mannered and shameless; the opposite of what a lady should be.

At the age of nine, she broke her tutor’s nose during a politics lesson.  “Ladies do not attack their tutors, Sorcha!” her father had said.  At thirteen, she was stealing expensive wine from her parents.  “Ladies do not steal from their parents, Sorcha!” her mother had said. At sixteen she was sneaking out to rut with the very attractive (and much older) stable hand.  Unfortunately, for her and the stablehand, they were caught one night, in the throes of wine-fueled passion. That was enough for her father to nearly lock her away out of shame, and to dismiss the first decent stablehand they have had in years.

She was nineteen now, and had her own table at the seediest tavern in Ostwick, a tab at the bar, and a “permanent” room upstairs.  She enjoyed her life.  She felt alive with every hand she dealt, craved the liberation imparted by wine and brandy, and grinned at the sight of a beautiful, naked stranger in her bed the morning after. Her parents were ashamed of her actions, but like most nobles, feigned ignorance.

Sorcha had never cared what ladies did or did not do, nor for what other people thought.  She was going to do what she wanted, it was her life, and her life was glorious…until it wasn’t.

The night began like any other. The tavern was not much to look at, and it reeked of stale vomit with a hint of soap (at least the owner tried to keep it somewhat clean), but it was comfortable.  The minstrel was singing of Grey Warden exploits, the mood was light, and Sorcha was running games of Diamondback at her table.

She had just finished winning a pretty sum, and was packing her dog-eared cards into their leather case, when she heard the grinding sound of a sword being loosed from its sheath.  Her hazel eyes shifted from the leather-bound cards in her hands to see a drunken mess of a man staggering toward her table, his sword pointed at her with shaking hands.

“I want my money back!” he slurred.  She stood quickly, grabbing her silverite buckler from her back and drawing her sword from her hip.  Sorcha was not a strong warrior, but she had been taught more than enough to defend herself.

“Fair is fair, friend.” she purred with her throaty voice, “It’s not my fault that you’re a dumb-shit at cards.”  He lunged at her in attack, but failed miserably.  She deflected his weak blow with practiced ease, side-stepping his clumsy strike.

“Give me back my coin, you filthy bitch!”  the drunk spat as he wheeled around for another assault.

“Language!” Sorcha chided.  A satisfied smirk grew on her lips as she watch the bumbling man’s face turn a deep, angry crimson.  He lifted his sword above his head and ran screaming at her. She just shook her head.

“Idiot, leaving yourself wide open…” she murmured as she readied her shield and jabbed her sword to his side.  She had meant to render a flesh wound, but the Maker had other plans.  The drunk fool stumbled over his own feet and fell on Sorcha’s sword, burying the blade between his ribs, and effectively killing himself.  She pulled her weapon out of the dead man’s chest, and watched as his blood began to pool around him.  “Fucking idiot.” she said under her breath.

There was a mad scramble around her, but she was so lost within her own thoughts to realize it.  She had never really hurt a person before, let alone killed one.  She stood silent and still, while blood dripped from the sword clutched tightly in her hand.  She could not stop staring at the corpse on the floor in front of her, she was horrified but was unable to move.

Within moments, an alerted city guard was upon her. Sorcha was known to the guard-- she had been causing mischief and getting arrested since she was fourteen. After every offense, her father’s attendant would just retrieve her from the guard station, pay her fine, and haul her home.  She did not think that this time would be any different; she could not have been more wrong.

Ostwick’s jail was a modest building with loose stones and crumbling mortar.  Its whitewashed exterior was a stark contrast to its dimly-lit rooms and dank cells.  Sorcha leaned against the cold wall of her prison as her parents lost their minds.  

“Of all the fucking things to do, Sorcha, murder?”  Her father was livid, her mother was weeping, and Sorcha felt nothing.  The events of her night replayed in her mind over and over, and she still felt numb.  Only once she realized that her parents thought that she had intentionally killed that man did she snap out of her daze.  She clenched her fists so tightly that she shook, and she stared her father down.

“He came at me!” she screamed. “He fell onto my fucking sword!” Her chest heaved for breath.  How could they think that she had meant to kill someone?  Surely they thought more of her than that?  “It wasn’t my fault!” she continued. “How can I be held responsible for the stupid feet of a drunken ass?” she asked.  “And it’s been three days. Why have I not been released yet?”

Any other time she would have been released into the attendant’s company and taken back to the manor, where her parents would merely glare at her for a few days.  She paced the length of her cell, pausing by the barred opening set high into the wall.  The moon was full that night, its silver rays illuminating her noble features and raven hair as she gazed upon the stars.

“Impudent child!”  The Bann was red-faced and hoarse from yelling. He paced back and forth across the stone floor of the prison with vehement strides.  “The other nobles are calling for my removal as Bann,” he growled, “because I am seen as unfit to rule over lands if I can’t even rule over my own child!”

Sorcha was unmoved.  She turned to stare at her father, and raised her chin defiantly.  “I don’t give a shit what people are saying!” she hissed. “That man came after me and I was just defending myself.  He wasn’t supposed to fall on my blade!  It’s his own fault!” she snapped, her voice growing raspy.

“Enough!”  Her mother yelled, finally losing her composure.  She slammed her fists onto the Guard-Captain’s oaken desk, sending papers scattering to the floor. “You will listen, and you will listen well, you selfish little brat!  Your shameful actions are ruining us all!”

Sorcha winced at her mother’s words.  Her mother wasn’t a loving woman--she was indifferent, but not unkind.  The Bann looked over at his wife, who nodded to her husband solemnly.

“Sorcha,” her father sighed, “you are our flesh and our blood, and we love you with all that we are, but your behaviour here cannot be allowed to continue.  We have tolerated it for too long.  Your years of impropriety have forced a most difficult choice upon us.”  He walked to iron bars of the cell door, gripping them with swollen hands.  He looked at his daughter, sadness in his expression.  “There is no alternative.  You can no longer stay in Ostwick.”

“You’re exiling me?” Sorcha couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “What cowards you are, tossing your daughter away like a fart on the breeze!  I have done nothing wrong! Can’t you just talk to the courts and have me cleared?”  

Her mother spoke with a sour tone, “There are consequences to your actions.  It is time you learn that.”  Lady Trevelyan’s eyes narrowed as she stared her daughter down.  “Thanks to you, the Trevelyan name carries not the weight it should.  Your father is no longer able to have you released on our word that you have learned from your mistakes.  Maker be praised, we still have some friends on the council.  Sending you away is the only condition of your release that the courts have accepted.”

Sorcha’s posture deflated.  She knew, of course, that her parents were right.  She did not hide her behavior from anyone, noble or peasant, and she had yet to answer for her iniquity.  She walked over to her father and affectionately clasped her calloused hands over his.

“Where am I being sent?” she asked, her voice barely audible.

The Bann was not an emotional man, but when Sorcha’s hazel eyes met his, she saw his blinked-back tears.

“Hercinia. You are being pledged to the Chantry.”


“My lord, your carriage arrived some time ago.  We need to make ready for departure, for you are expected at the Chantry before month’s end.”

Sebastian did not wish to leave Starkhaven, but he knew that he was only delaying the inevitable.

“Tell me again why my parents are sending me to Hercinia?”  The Prince fired another well-aimed arrow at the training dummy.

“For protection,” his attendant replied, “Your father felt it best that you serve your duty to the Maker away from Starkhaven.”

Sebastian exhaled a controlled breath, his piercingly blue eyes narrowed as he aimed down the training yard to his next target.  “Yes, but is it for my protection or his reputation’s?” he sighed jadedly, “I just have no desire to leave my home.”  The prince held his breath and released the nocked arrow.  It struck true and he lowered his bow.  “Let us be off then, but bring me my horse.  I’ll not ride hiding in a carriage like a coward.”

Leonal fetched the Prince’s horse, and Sebastian’s mood lifted slightly at the sight of his Imperial Warmblood stallion.  His mount was a remarkable beast; tall, with the purest white coat, bluest eyes as clear as a reflection pool, and silver mane and tail which flowed like waves as he moved.  Sebastian had trained the animal himself and his confidence soared every time he was astride the magnificent creature.   

The young Prince strapped his bow to his leather-clad back and mounted his horse.  He reigned his Warmblood around for one last look at the palace before he departed to begin a new life in the Maker’s service.  A sadness crept over him, and he turned to leave before he was consumed.  His retinue fell in behind him.  

The road from Starkhaven to the coast was widely travelled and considered safe.  Sebastian and his men had been on the road for three and a half weeks when they entered a wooded patch.  His horse began to act skittish, and Sebastian knew that something was amiss.  He called for his guards to be at the ready.  Something foul was afoot if his indomitable steed was jumping like a frightened filly.

The first arrow grazed Sebastian’s shoulder, the next found its mark in his hip.  He nearly blacked out as he snarled, first in pain, then to his men, “On me!”  He noted three archers on the hill to the east and another twenty footmen advancing on them.  He and his men were greatly outnumbered, four to one.

“Get that coach rolling NOW!” he shouted to the driver, “We must get to a clearing!”

The Prince was a young man of sixteen years, but already a cunning rogue and lethal archer.  He had been trained for this, but his heart still leapt in his chest.  He knew they must make it to the clearing should they have any chance of survival.  His men were well trained-- the riders galloped in to protect his flanks, and he rode slightly behind the carriage for protection.  

The mercenaries mounted their hidden horses and rode after the Prince.  Sebastian watched as two of his men are struck in the back by arrows meant for him.  He urged his horse to run faster, and rode up to the side of the carriage.  He climbed from his galloping stallion onto the coach rails, and made his way to the roof, the arrow still protruding from his body.

“Keep going!” he yelled to the driver over the thunder of hooves, “We need to reach the clearing!”  The driver whipped his horses on.  He did not to need to be told twice.

Sebastian carefully pulled himself to standing and unhooked his bow from his back.  With unholy speed, he drew an arrow from his quiver, nocked it, and fired at the pursuers with deadly accuracy.  Each arrow spent found its mark.

One by one, the mercenaries fell.  The prince killed twelve before they reached the edge of the woods.  As they entered the clearing, his remaining guards rode off to flank their attackers.

The carriage rolled on at full speed and Sebastian still fired from atop its roof, shooting around his guards who are now in melee combat with the few mercenaries that remain.  Within minutes, his would-be assassins were dead, save one which was spared for interrogation.  

Sebastian sent a guard to scout the area.  He returned within a quarter hour and confirmed that the mercenaries were all dead or had fled.  The prince shouted for camp to be made, and to prepare the prisoner.  He needed some answers.

He entered his tent and shed his Starkhaven travelling leathers-- stark white with embellishments of deep blue and gold.  He removed his tunic and cut into the waistband of his trousers to inspect the damage caused by the enemy’s arrow.  He was fortunate, the angle from which it was shot caused the wound to remain shallow.  He cautiously began its removal, slowly pulling at the shaft and hissing at the pain.  The wound was field dressed with a few stitches and he stood at his mirror to inspect his work.  He grimaced when he saw it.  It would leave an ugly scar on his otherwise unmarked and perfect body.  He was not completely vain, but he knew that he was attractive.  Years of combat training had provided him with the chiseled physique of a man years older-- strong but flexible, and well-muscled.

Sebastian finished washing and redressed.  This time he wore combat armor in lieu of his travelling leathers.  Over a deep blue tunic, he strapped on a breastplate of gleaming white dragonbone emblazoned with the Vael family crest, and covered his strong shoulders with a cloak of smoke grey, and secured it with golden buckles.  He grabbed the arrow that had injured him and re-emerged from his tent looking ever so much the prince.

He signaled to Leonal to bring to him the prisoner and the satchel.  The unconscious prisoner was dragged before Sebastian, and the satchel placed at the Prince’s feet.

From the black leather bag, Sebastian retrieved two vials—one of pungent herbs and the other, a liquid.  He uncorked the first vial and crouched low to reach the prisoner’s breath.  The acrid smell of the herbs filled the captive’s nostrils and jolted him awake.

“Oh good, you’re awake,” the Prince snapped, his Starkhaven accent dripping with venom.  “Get this man a chair.”
A stool was brought forth and the prisoner was lifted and shoved to a sitting position.  Sebastian sat also, opposite the mercenary.  He watched the man carefully, sizing him up quietly.

“You ain’t gonna get nothin’ outta me!” spat the prisoner.  

“Oh, I know that full well,” Sebastian said dismissively, knowing that the man could not rightly comprehend proper grammar.  He reached down and grabbed the satchel, placing it onto his lap.  The captive’s eyes widened slightly, which Sebastian was keen to notice.  

“Ah, you recognize this?” Sebastian asked, tracing the etching in the leather with a gloved hand.  The mercenary said no words, but his face betrayed him.

The man had heard rumors about the Vael methods of interrogation, but didn’t give a second thought.  He knew that the family was pious, but also cunning.  He had laughed at the old men who whispered of the bag of horror.  Now that he saw it with his own eyes, the fear began to grip him.

The bag was of well-oiled black leather, seemingly nondescript.  The carvings, however, relayed the satchel’s purpose.  Into the leather was worked a figure of a rider atop a skeletal horse.  The mane and tail were of flames, and the rider’s head was a crowned skull.  In its one hand a flaming bow, and in the other a beaming arrow.

The prisoner swallowed hard, summoning the last of his bravery.  “So it is to be torture, then?  I can handle torture.”

Sebastian met the man’s eyes, raised one brow, and shook his head slowly.  He uncorked the second vial and dipped the enemy’s arrow into the contents, which looked like blood and pitch.  He leaned in a little closer to the captive mercenary.

“Since I am expecting you to be forthcoming with information for me, allow me to be forthcoming, myself.”  Sebastian held the second vial to the light, its thick liquid leaving a red film on the glass.  “This is poison, yes, but not what you are thinking.  It has no antidote, and death is not swift.  It is darkspawn blood.  And if you don’t tell me everything that I wish to know, I will stab you with this tainted arrow for every unanswered question.  You will slowly and painfully turn into a mindless ghoul, spending your remaining days feasting upon your own flesh.”  

Sebastian watched the man’s reaction, and smirked when the prisoner pissed himself.

“I am not, however, without mercy.  Tell me everything, and I will make your death quick.”  Sebastian may have been on his way to a life in the Maker’s service, but the Prince was no saint.

The man panicked and tried to struggle against his bindings.  His eyes grew wider and he blinked back tears.  The fear was real now, and rising like a beast from the pit of his stomach.  A lengthy whine escaped his chest.

Sebastian merely raised an eyebrow at his captive’s reaction.  He looked the man straight in the eye with a fiery gaze that commanded the man to cooperate.  

“What were the details of your orders?” his voice neutral, but demanding.

The prisoner remained silent, but Sebastian knew that at this point, his defiance was merely reflex.  He began twirling the tainted arrow around his long, deft fingers and stared expectantly at the man.  That little action succeeded in reminding the condemned mercenary of his predicament.  Fear escaped his chest, flitting across his face. He took a breath and slouched into the stool.

“To make sure you never reach Hercinia.”

Sebastian leaned in a little and tilted his head.  “My travel plans were not made known to anyone, how did you learn of them?”

“A missive.  Delivered by a runner to our captain.  Had on it a map and everything.  We knew where you was gonna be and when.”

The Prince had expected spies within the palace, but he was still unsettled by this confirmation.

“Were you paid to kill anyone else in my family?”

“Orders were to handle only you.” The man had answered him truthfully.

“Tell me”, Sebastian asked nonchalantly, “about the messenger.”

“A boy, or maybe a man. Hard to tell.  He was tall enough to be a man, but had a boy’s voice and no beard or nothin’. Smelled like a woman though.  Could’ve passed for one after a bloke’s had a few pints.”

Sebastian’s thoughts were racing with familiarity.  His pulse was quickening, he needed more details. “What else?” he snapped.

“Had a guard with him.  Didn’t dress like one, but I can tell a guard when I sees one. Carried the purse. It was more gold than we saw in a year.”

Sebastian’s free hand clenched into a tight fist, his knuckles turned white.  He knew of only one person who had a preference of using eunuch servants.

Sebastian stood, drew his dagger from his belt, moved behind the prisoner and spoke almost inaudibly, “I thank you for your cooperation.”  He pressed it to the man’s throat and with a quick flick of his wrist, cut deeply.  The Prince had been true to his word and killed the man quickly.  “Rest well!” he shouted to his men, “We break camp at dawn!”

He retired to his tent and began penning a letter to his father, warning him of the palace spies and the suspected involvement of the Duke of Wycome in the failed attempt on his life.  Even though he was not in line to rule Starkhaven, he was now fully aware that the Vael’s enemies found him a threat.  He could not deny the small relief he felt, knowing that he would find himself in the safety of the Hercinia Chantry by next nightfall.

Chapter Text

Sorcha was awed by her new surroundings.  Ostwick was her home, but it could not hold a candle to Hercinia’s beauty, which was a city unlike any other in the Free Marches.  Its stunning landscape could inspire epic paintings and poetry.  Winding stone paths were lined with lilies and palms, threading along the terraced hillsides where sat white-washed stone homes and shops.  Lanterns of colored glass were hung from every roof and canopy, the streets were lit with an enchanting candle glow.  Here, every breath taken was of fresh sea air, and every face turned to meet the sun.  The breeze carried on its caress the sounds of shorebirds, and the hauntingly beautiful song of the Chantry choir.

The Chantry was atop the highest cliff, overlooking the entire coastline.  It was of the grandest architecture, an earthly palace for the Maker.  Its high arches and vaulted ceilings were humbling.  The towers and spires rose to the sky, like outstretched arms that sought to reach the Maker himself.  Large windows bore breathtaking glass from Serault, each depicting a chapter of the life of Andraste and was ornamented with stone tracery.

The Chantry grounds were surrounded by a meters-high wall that was partially covered by ivy and moss.  The courtyard had granite-paved pathways and an ornate fountain.  Dotted along the field-stone paths were outbuildings that served as living quarters for the Brothers and Sisters.  The Templar training yard was tucked into the rear quarter and had the largest outbuilding for the barracks.  Four breathtaking gardens were meticulously tended and centered behind the Chantry proper, each sharing a border with a reflection pool.

Sorcha walked across the courtyard with the Sister tasked to be her guide to her new quarters.  They approached a stone building with moss-covered walls and a wood-shingled roof.  It was large enough to house four Sisters almost comfortably.  Sorcha followed the Sister inside where she was directed to a small room at the back.  It was the middle of the day and the Sisters with whom she would be sharing this space with were undoubtedly off performing their duties.

“This is your room.”  The Sister gestured with the wave of an open hand.  “You have a bed, table, basin, chamber pot and a trunk at the foot of the bed for your belongings.  Please take tonight to settle in.  You are to join us tomorrow for morning prayers.  Grand Cleric Elthina wishes to meet with you after the service.”

Sorcha would definitely take the Sister’s advice about settling in.  After four days at sea surrounded by her father’s boorish men and disgusting sailors that averaged one set of teeth between the lot of them, she was in dire need of a bath.  She didn’t dare wash on the ship.  Normally, she wouldn’t balk at the idea of being accosted by a number of sailors, but there wasn’t enough drink in all of Thedas to have made these ones even slightly attractive.  She was sure that her father had planned it that way.

Her house-mates returned to their rooms after the late evening prayers had concluded, but Sorcha did not meet them.  After her initial shock about not having a bathtub had worn off, she had spent her remaining energy attempting to wash her body and hair with only a pitcher and basin.  She was fast asleep on her surprisingly comfortable cot before night had completely fallen.

At dawn, she was awakened by her neighbors as they prepared for the morning prayers.  She sat up from her cot slowly, her long black hair tangled and her eyes almost completely shut.  “Maker,” she thought to herself, “I will never get used to this early morning shit!”  She stood and waited a moment to gain her balance before she took the few steps to her table and the wash basin.  After splashing cold water over her face and wetting her hair, she wiggled out of her shift and dressed in her casual summer robes of deep grey and sage green linen.  She re-braided her hair and took a quick final glance in the mirror before she left in a hurried step so as to not be too late.

The rising sun illuminated the chapel in glittering gold as its light met the exquisite Serault glass windows behind the lectern.  The whole of the room looked as though it was being touched by the Maker himself.  Sorcha made a mental note to pay more attention to her new home as she slipped into a pew near the rear of the room.  She was one of the last (if not the last) person to enter the chapel before the prayers began.  She found that the Grand Cleric had such a calming voice, it took all of her will to not fall asleep during the morning service.    Before today, the only times that she was ever awake at dawn were the many, many, instances that she had yet to go to sleep.  She was never going to get used to this early morning shit.

After prayers had ended, she was approached by one of the Mothers sent to retrieve her for Grand Cleric Elthina.  Sorcha had a pit in her stomach.  She felt as though she were being brought for sentencing in judgement of her wicked sins.  She followed the Mother up a wide and winding stone staircase and down a long hall decorated with rich tapestries and portraits.  They stopped at a set of double doors at the end of the hall, and the Mother knocked gently.

“Please enter,” came the calming voice from the other side of thick maple.  Her escort opened the door and ushered her inside without following, and closed the door behind Sorcha.

“Lady Trevelyan, it is wonderful to meet you. I am Grand Cleric Elthina.”

Sorcha immediately relaxed in the peaceful gaze of the middle-aged woman, and with a slight bow replied, “Thank you, Your Grace.  It is an honor, but may I ask, why is Kirkwall’s Grand Cleric not in Kirkwall?”

The woman brought her hand to Sorcha’s elbow as if to guide her, and gestured for her to sit at a tea table, which was delicately set.  As they both were seated, Her Grace poured steaming tea from a glass teapot into each of the two intricate glass teacups.

“I am responsible for the spiritual wellbeing of the southern Free Marches.  I spend time in other Chantries so I may better serve the Maker’s children.”  She took a sip of her tea and looked comfortingly at Sorcha.  “Tell me, child, has your soul begun to feel at peace here? I am aware that you arrived only yesterday, but sometimes the soul finds its place immediately.”

Sorcha glanced down at her tea and wrapped her chilled hands around the steaming cup for warmth.

“To be completely honest, Your Grace, I am thinking that perhaps my soul is beyond reaching peace.”

The older woman tilted her head in attention as Sorcha carried on.

“I’m unsure of how much detail my father provided you of my life, but I can say with certainty that the decision to pledge me to the Chantry was made in desperation.  Our family has pledged the youngest child to the Chantry for generations, but my parents were not going to send me.”  Sorcha fidgeted in her chair as she kept confessing.

“I loved my life, my old life, with all of its gambling, fighting, drinking and sex.  My parents spent a decade chastising me, but I had no interest in relenting.  When I was sixteen I overheard my parents talking one night, about me.  Mother said that she washed her hands of me, and it was time for me to go to the Chantry.  My father shook his head.  He said to her, ‘She is so out of control right now.  Putting her in the Chantry at this point would make her fucking crazy.  She would bring shame upon the Chantry as well as our house.’”

Her Grace nodded in understanding as Sorcha began to let some of her pain free.

“That was the night I decided to just be what they thought I was—a drunk who did nothing more than gamble their money away and sleep with whomever I fancied.  I have been wicked, and I have enjoyed every moment.  I doubt that my soul will know peace, when all it knows now is chaos.”  Sorcha’s voice went soft. “I will do nothing as His servant but mar His name.”

The Grand Cleric reached across the table and took Sorcha’s calloused hands in hers.

“My child, the Maker knows our true heart.  I do not think it is to be the deed that He sees or judges, but the intent that drove it.  If you are truly repentant, He will know, and all will be forgiven in His eyes.”

Sorcha lifted her gaze to meet the woman’s, and she said confidently, “I was sent away because I was ruining the Trevelyan name.  I am considered a curse and a pariah.  I am hurt and very, very angry”, Sorcha’s eyes flashed with a wickedness and a sorrow as she continued, “but I am not repentant.”

Grand Cleric Elthina offered a last suggestion before she was required elsewhere.  “I understand, child.  Your soul is burdened and broken, but there are many methods of healing.  Please use today to become acquainted with these buildings and grounds.  There is much here that your spirit may find solace in.  The library is in the building to the northwest of this one, you will find there the scholars who can help.  To the northeast is the training yard, should physical exertion be what calms you.  There is a healer’s building to the east where herbs are stored, and poultices and potions are made.  Our Brothers and Sisters there can always use an extra pair of hands. And finally, to the west, there is an infirmary where we treat the sick.  Again, help is always welcome there.  And should you wish to venture down to the city, please take another with you.  We always carry healing supplies and food for the ill and the poor, and make a mission of our trips to the city.  Until you have gotten your bearings, it is wise to have another accompany you.”

Sorcha nodded slowly.  She was inevitably overwhelmed, and desperately needed to be alone with her thoughts. She asked for a blessing before she excused herself, and promptly made her way back to her room.

It was near lunch time, but she did not feel quite up to eating yet. Rather than hunker down in her room alone, she decided to walk the grounds while they were relatively empty.  Perhaps taking in the surrounding beauty would help soothe her, if only just a little.  She exited the house and began following the field stone path that snaked through the entire courtyard. 

She walked in silence past the infirmary.  Nothing there was calling to her spirit, at least not yet.  She continued past the healer’s building.  Still nothing noticeable.  Sorcha found the walk entirely peaceful; the birds were singing gentle songs, the light breeze was carrying the scent of lilies and apple trees, and the sound of her footfalls on the stone path was almost hypnotic.  As she was ambling past the training yard, something in her peripheral vision caused her attention to focus to her right. 

Her ears tuned in to the thudding noises at the practice dummies.  She saw the marks of the arrows shot, each one on center target, some head shots, others lethal body shots.  Her eyes widened at the speed with which the arrows were flying down the yard past her. 

She turned to head further to look for the source of this incredible skill, and that’s when she saw him—the most handsome man she had ever laid eyes upon.  He was tall and tanned, with wavy dark hair that was tousled from the breeze.  His dark grey linen tunic was well fitted and semi-transparent in the sunlight, she could make out the silhouette of very muscular shoulders and taut torso.  His stark white leather breeches seemed to gleam in the sun, and drew her attention to his very attractive…thighs. 

While her eyes were taking in the view, the only sounds she could hear were her racing heart and… singing?  Sorcha had no way of knowing how long she had been standing there, admiring this amazing specimen of manhood.  Seconds? Minutes? She watched as he emptied his quiver and as he lowered his bow, he turned and saw her. 

She turned the deepest shade of crimson and blushed shamefully, but her eyes never averted.  His bluest of every possible blue eyes met hers, and time, it seemed, had stopped.  Her heart lurched in her chest and in that moment, she had never felt so drawn to anyone in her life. 

This”, she thought to herself, “is how I will find my peace.”  Her spirit soared on a song of color, and it was then that she knew it. 

This man was her destiny.

 

Chapter Text

Sebastian’s heart stopped and he nearly fell to his knees.  Standing before him was the most remarkable woman he had ever laid eyes upon.  Her long, raven hair escaped her braid by way of the silky breeze, and danced around her perfect heart-shaped face.  Her hazel eyes were on his, and he could feel her essence enter his soul.  Her divine body was hugged by a perfect dress of green and grey, and her curves accentuated by the breeze rustling her skirts.  He inhaled sharply, remembering that he had forgotten to breathe.  “Maker…” he whispered aloud, failing to be silently appreciative.

He was not in control of his body.  If he had been, he might have tried to stand straighter, appear stoically regal, or flex some muscles.  Instead, he found himself being carried over to her on feet that seemed willed by the Maker himself.

Within a blink he was bowing, her hand in his and his lips to her knuckles.  He had taken the briefest moment to admire the beauty of her strong, graceful fingers and slightly calloused palms.  A fighter, he thought to himself, how exquisite a creature she is!

“My lady.”  His voice was coated with a husky sweetness.  “I should not be surprised to see such a divine beauty such as yourself here, in the house of the Maker.”  As he rose, he gave her a gentle smile and a blush crept up her magnificent face.  Still holding her hand, he continued, “My name is Sebastian Vael.  May I inquire as to my lady’s name?”

Sorcha was enamored.  Her lips parted to allow words to form, but only a breath escaped.  She looked at her small hand taken into his strong but gentle grasp, his fingers long and deft.  She had begun to feel a stirring in her stomach, and heat rising through her chest as she imagined those hands exploring her with eagerness and longing.  Fuck, Sorcha! Get your mind out of the gutter for one minute, woman!  She scolded herself.  

Her eyes locked onto his, her thoughts raced with her heartbeat.  She had heard that name before, hadn’t she? It took a moment before it dawned on her that she was meeting the youngest prince of Starkhaven.  She immediately tried to gain composure, and once she felt able to speak, she replied.

“My lord,” her raspy voice was barely above a whisper, “it is an honor to meet the handsome Prince of Starkhaven.” She dipped into a respectful curtsey, met Sebastian’s gaze and returned his sweet smile.  “My name is Sorcha Trevelyan.”

Their hands parted and fell back to their sides.  Sebastian’s gentle smile grew into a heart-melting grin, his tanned and clean-shaven cheeks revealing deep dimples.  He was already enraptured by her beauty, but now felt more at ease knowing who she was.  His family occasionally had dealings in Ostwick, and the representatives would share the nobles’ juiciest gossip upon their return to Starkhaven.  He was grateful to be meeting the wildest of the Trevelyan family, and not an obtuse, arrogant noblewoman. He fastened his bow to his back and offered Sorcha his arm.

“If you are free, Lady Trevelyan, might I accompany you on a walk?” his voice, his accent, enchanted her.

Sorcha graciously accepted, wrapping her arm through his, and they set off along the stone path.  After taking only a few steps with her on his arm, Sebastian became acutely aware of his senses. 

His lungs filled with the aroma of verbena and spice, which the breeze carried from Sorcha’s hair in waves.  His ears filled with the sounds of her voice, lilting and melodic, as she commented on the beauty of the grounds.  His vision filled with all the color in the world, as though he had only ever lived in grey-- her skin, her eyes, her dress all radiant and vivid to the point of pain. 

He noticed the sheen of her perfect golden skin, and the way that her hair danced between black and indigo brilliance in the midday sun.   He imagined her hair splayed along his pillow, as he positioned himself over her, her legs wrapped around his waist as he entered her.  Maker!  I MUST have her!  

They came upon a sculpted bench, set under the shade of a fragrant tree.  He motioned toward the seat, silently asking permission to sit with her.  He caught himself praying that she would allow him to be close to her.   Sorcha acknowledged the gesture and made her way to the shaded bench.  Sebastian held her hand as she sat, and he took up alongside her.

“I do not mean to pry, my lady, but how is it that the most captivating member of the Trevelyan family has come to be at the Hercinia Chantry?”  Sebastian’s tone was inquisitive and sensual.  Sorcha swore that his voice was created by the Maker for her, and her alone.  His accent sent flutters rippling through her body and she committed every intonation to memory.

His question brought her back to the reality of her situation.  Her expression saddened almost imperceptibly, but Sebastian’s keen eye had spotted her pain.  Before she could answer him, he interjected.

“My apologies, Lady Trevelyan.  I should not have been so callous as to assume that your reason for being here was without…complication.  I can see that my question has made you uncomfortable, I pray that you will forgive me.”

Sorcha blinked in surprise and smiled in her relief.  She had just met the most attractive man she had ever seen.  Shut up, Sorcha! Do NOT tell him!  The last thing she wanted was for him to know how she had gambled, drank, and fucked her way into a lifetime of serving the Maker; that was a mood-killer if she’d ever known one.

“Be at ease, Lord Vael.  You are correct about the circumstances of my arrival being complicated, but I think that story is perhaps best shared another time.”  Sorcha’s anxiety began to melt away as she looked upon his handsome face and lost herself in the sea of blue that were his eyes.  “Would you happen to have a tale of how the most handsome prince of Starkhaven came to Hercinia?”  She was hoping that this would be a long story.  She could listen to his voice for an eternity.

“I’m afraid it’s not much of a tale,” he chuckled.  “I am the third son to apathetic parents.  They have the heir, and the spare, making me…unnecessary.”  He sighed softly, his eyes falling to his hands. “They tired of my antics and exiled me, essentially, to a Chantry away from Starkhaven, where I won’t cause any more trouble and where trouble may not readily find me.”

Sebastian glanced at Sorcha and saw a hint of recognition in her face.  She could relate to his story, he realized.  He had heard of the Trevelyan daughter causing all manner of chaos for her family in Ostwick.  He would never judge her for her past actions, though.  In fact, he was quite relieved to find in her a kindred spirit.  If anyone could understand him, or at the very least entertain him, it would be her. 

Sorcha set her hand on top of his and looked at him with understanding.  “Our reasons for coming here may not be very different at all,” she told him.  “How long ago did you arrive?”

“I’ve been here a week”, he answered, “and today has been the most pleasant yet.”  He gave her his most sly smirk and a wink.  Sorcha blushed and grinned widely.

“Perhaps, then, my lord would not object to showing a lady around?”

“As you wish, my lady.”  His voice was so tender, Sorcha felt like she could hear his song deep in her spirit.

They rose to continue their walk, Sebastian again offering his arm to Sorcha.  She accepted, and this time let her hand fall on top of his, where it he was all too happy to let it linger.

They walked together for a time in comfortable silence, each one just enjoying the proximity of the other.  The signal was sounded for evening meal time, so Sebastian stopped walking and turned to Sorcha.  In his most charming and enticing voice, he asked, “Might I have the honor of joining you for a meal, my lady?”

Sorcha giggled at the flirtation.  She wasn’t used to being treated so chivalrously by handsome men, which made it all the more wonderful.  “It would be my pleasure, my lord.” She answered with a smile and an enticing voice of her own.   If she played her cards right she could have the prince eating out of her hand by nightfall.

They made their way to the dining hall, and Sorcha was impressed by the sheer number of people gathered.  She knew that this Chantry housed many, but seeing so many people in one room astounded her.  She began to feel uncomfortable in the crowd, and the din of conversation grew overbearing. They took a spot in line to fill their plates, and bowed their heads as the Grand Cleric led an offertory prayer.

Sebastian clearly saw Sorcha’s distress, it wasn’t very subtle this time.  With meals and wine in hand, he motioned for her to follow.  They walked to the reflection pool and sat along its edge, resting their plates and goblets along the stone lip.

“Thank you,” she said, “for getting me out of there.  I honestly don’t know how I’m going to handle being here.”  Her sadness had crept back, replacing the light that had been in her eyes.

“Let me help you,” Sebastian offered.  His voice was so kind, so comforting.  “I know that this cannot be easy for you.  Tell me, what did you do in Ostwick to calm your nerves?”

Sorcha let out a chuckle.  “I drank.  I fought.  I gambled.  I…”

Sebastian interrupted her before she could confess the last.  “…was bored?”

Sorcha released her held breath.  “Maker, I was out of control. But it was fun.”

Sebastian laughed knowingly.  “Revelry usually is.”

He took her hand and met her gaze.  His eyes shone with what his heart felt—sincerity. 

“Lady Trevelyan,” he began.

“Sorcha—”, she interrupted. “Given the circumstances of our futures as exiled black sheep, I don’t see any reason why we need to stand on propriety here.”

“As you wish…Sorcha.  As I was about to say, I would wish to help you ease your burden.  I have always found that filling something full of arrows or slicing things to bits has had a ‘focusing’ effect on my mind. I feel that you and I may be quite alike, and it would make my heart very happy if you were to join me in training activities, beginning tomorrow.”

She thought about his offer, albeit quickly, and flashed him a genuine smile.  “That sounds like exactly what I need.  It would please me to join you for training, but I must admit that I am nowhere near as skilled as you are.  Could you teach me?”

“As you wish,” was his reply.  Still holding her, he began drawing a circle with his thumb on the back of her hand.  He gave it a gentle squeeze, then lifted it to his lips, grazing her knuckles ever so gently.  He reached out and cupped her cheek with his free hand, gazing into her shining, hazel eyes.  She seemed a little confused by his actions at first, but lifted her hand to his and pressed her check into his palm.

“Sorcha,” a blush began creeping up his face, “I know that we have only just met, but, I feel that there is something…more—something…divine about you and I.”  He began to stammer nervously as his eyes flitted to her lips and back again.  “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but I feel a song in my soul now that I have found you.  I don’t want another moment to pass before I tell you how connected I feel to you.”   

Sebastian’s “confession” was really a pick up line he gathered from a book he once read, and was one Sorcha had heard before (or variations of it).  She had been around enough, Maker, Sorcha, have you ever!, to realize when someone was trying to bed her.  She quickly decided to use the prince’s seductive momentum to her advantage.

Her eyes twinkled and a wide grin spread across her beautiful face, and she lifted her free hand to cover her heart. 

“Maker! I thought it was just me!  I’m so relieved and so happy that I’m not the only one of us to notice this!”  Smooth, Sorcha, smooth!

Sebastian pulled her forehead to his, and closed his eyes.  “The Maker must have a plan for us,” he whispered, “How else could this be happening?”

Sorcha smiled and whispered back, “I don’t know, but who are we to question the Maker’s will?”

Her breath caught at the sound of Sebastian’s low, breathy chuckle, “Indeed.”  He leaned and placed the softest, most lingering kiss on her quivering lips.  Wait, what? What is this?!  Her chest wanted to explode with feelings that she had never known to exist. He pulled back from her lips, and she whimpered in protest.

“Evening service is about to end.  May I walk you to your quarters, lest we become tonight’s entertainment for the masses?”  He was right, of course.  Neither of them needed what little privacy that was afforded to them invaded.

Sorcha nodded and they rose, picking up their plates and goblets, and made their way to her building.  Once they reached her door, Sebastian looked at her and smiled, taking the dishes from her hands.  “I will come for you tomorrow morning, and escort you to the early service.  We can begin training after breakfast.”

She leaned up onto her toes and placed a soft, gentle kiss onto his perfect lips.  She leaned back, smiling widely with anticipation, her voice breathless.

“Until tomorrow.”  You’re wicked, Sorcha! Picking up princes in the Chantry?  

Sorcha entered her quarters, and smiled an extremely satisfied smile as she closed the door. 

Eating from your palm tonight, eating you tomorrow…

 

Chapter Text

Sorcha awoke to birdsong just before dawn.  Never had there been a morning where she was excited to rise, but she supposed there was a first time for everything.  She sat up with a smile and left her bed with a hop.  She was practically dancing across her tiny stone floor as she went to her basin to wash the sleep away.  She hummed dreamily while twisting her wild, raven waves into beautiful but practical knots at the nape of her neck.  She was floating on a cloud, and all the troubles of the world were but mere specks on the ground below her.

She set about dressing in her training leathers.  It was the first time in a long time that she wore her Trevelyan armor, but she felt it appropriate for the day, seeing as how she would be spending it in the company of royalty.  She wiggled into the leather breeches and laced them securely (making sure to squat a few times to stretch them out a little, for good measure).  Her black boots were well polished and ended just below her knee.  She bent low to lace them, and was more than a little happy that she had stretched out her tight pants beforehand.  Over a fitted sage linen tunic, she buckled into her well-oiled black leather harness engraved with the Trevelyan coat-of-arms, and rolled her shoulders to work out a comfortable position.  After sliding on her black and silver bracers, she took a final look in the mirror.  Although she was going to be combat training today, she still wanted to look perfect for her prince.

Her prince.  The thought of Sebastian stirred up so many feelings within her.  Adoration, belonging, understanding, comfort, fiery loins. Fuck, Sorcha, control yourself!  She giggled at her reflection and with a final pinch to her cheeks and a swipe of spice-flavored oil to her lips, she was ready to embrace her destiny.

She left her room and took a seat in the common area.  Her roommates entered the common room shortly after her, and they seemed quite surprised to see her already up and coherent.  Sorcha remembered her manners and introduced herself.  The three women seemed to be the genuine sort, their smiles were true on their faces as each extended a hand to her; Sister Clara, Sister Amy and Sister Rose.

The knock on the door came as a surprise to them.  Sister Amy, with a slightly confused look on her face, opened the door.  There stood Sebastian, in his gleaming white Starkhaven leathers and a white lily in his hand.

“Good morning, Sister,” as he bowed to Sister Amy, “I am Sebastian Vael, and I am here for Lady Trevelyan.  Could you kindly inform her that I have arrived?”

Sorcha blushed and stepped out toward the door.  Sebastian’s breath was taken (again) the moment he saw her.  Her curves so pronounced in her tight pants and fitted harness, her hair loosely pulled from her beautiful face, her lips full and glistening—she was a vision, a goddess, a temptress…she was everything.

His smile was so bright, it could have lit the Void itself.  “My lady, are you ready to accompany me this morning?”  He offered Sorcha his arm, and she accepted it warmly.

They took a few steps down the path, leaving behind the giggles and whispers of Sorcha’s roommates.  Sebastian stopped and turned to her, lifting the lily between them.

“May I?” he asked most gentlemanly, as he made for her hair.  Sorcha smiled and nodded, her eyes darting away bashfully.  He lifted his hand to her chin, and with the most gentlest of touches, asked for her eyes to be on him.  She met his gaze and the twinkle in her eye was enough to outshine the stars.  He slowly reached with both hands to the back of her graceful neck, and wove the lily into her twisted, raven waves.  Their eyes never lost one another, and their parted lips in flirtatious smiles, aching to connect.

They continued to walk to the Chantry, arm in arm, oblivious to all but one another.  They slipped in to a pew at the rear of the vaulted, sunlit room, and pretended to listen to the preaching.  They were all too anxious to begin their day training together. 

Once the morning prayers were over, and breakfast was finished, they strolled to the training yard to begin what Sorcha hoped would be the answer to her problems.  She didn’t have the patience to keep her nose in a book, she lacked a healer’s sense (and bedside manner), but she did have plenty of fuel to burn for physical work.

Sorcha and Sebastian entered the armory to find some practice weapons.  Since Sorcha had more experience with a sword and shield, she opted for a weapon that Sebastian was more familiar with—he was the one training her, after all.  She knew that she could never do what he could with a bow, but she might have a chance at learning to wield daggers effectively.

They each picked up a training dagger and found a place where they could have some space.

“Now, my lady--”

“Sorcha… please, Sebastian.” A blush crept over her as she chose her next words.  “I love how my name sounds when you say it.”

Sebastian gave her a sweet smile and bowed his head before looking up and locking eyes with her. 

“As you wish, Sorcha.” 

She purred and melted into a puddle, right then and there.  That voice had her aching to hear his whispers in her ear…sweet things, dirty words, hell,--he could recite a shipping manifest and it would still turn her on.   She bit playfully on her bottom lip, her eyes narrowing as she thought how hot it would be hearing him moan her name, his beautiful, full lips never leaving her flesh…

Fuck, Sorcha! Not now!  She blinked rapidly, suddenly realizing that her fantasizing had an audience.

Sebastian caught the flush in her face and the light in her eye…he knew, with a great degree of certainty, the thoughts that ran through that unbelievably attractive head of hers.  He flashed her his most handsome smirk and most scandalous wink, for his thoughts were of the same kind.  

He snapped back into reality, cleared his throat and stood taller-- there was a time and a place for their intimacy, and this was not it.  Today they began finding their peace, together.

“The first thing that you need to learn, Sorcha”, he grinned, “is that a dagger is not a sword.  It is small and light, you will not be afforded reach and momentum.”  Sebastian twirled the dagger through his fingers before palming it again. “Using a dagger requires you to be in close quarters with your enemy, and striking with precision.  Acting and reacting faster than your opponent can mean the difference between living and dying.  The first strike can kill or disable, and your target area can be nearly the entire body.”

Sorcha held the miniature blade in her sword arm.  It felt uncomfortable, unnatural, but she was determined to learn.  She needed this to keep her mind looking forward, and not dwelling on her old life.

Sebastian continued with the lesson.  He was only too happy to share with Sorcha what he had learned from his years of training.  He hoped that intensive practice would ease her pain, he was unwilling to let her spiritual disquiet overtake her.

Sebastian picked up the marking paint and walked over to a training dummy.

“I will mark targets for lethal strikes in red, and debilitating strikes in blue.  It is important to remember that, with daggers, accuracy is key.  You won’t be able to just swing in a particular direction and have it connect with any sort of usefulness.”

He colored the grey dummy and set the marking paint aside.

Hands clasped behind his back, he walked a slow circle around her, observing her stance, her grip on the hilt, her posture, her--Maker…those are tight pants! His eyes were drawn to her long, shapely, well-muscled legs that he thought would look much better wrapped around his neck than wrapped in black leather.  He continued walking around her, stalking her like a predator on his prey, his eyes fixed on her firm, rounded ass and the curve of her hips.  Desire flooded his body, and his will was barely strong enough to stop him from throwing her over his shoulder and carrying her off to ravish her.

Sorcha did not miss the prince’s reaction to her tight pants.  She shifted her weight and cocked out a hip to enhance his view.

“By… um, ahem… wow...” Sebastian was having a difficult time hiding his arousal at this point.  He cleared his throat, attempting to compose himself,“…by controlling your attack and making it visible to your opponent, you have limited your enemy’s options for defence and can therefore predict your counter attack ahead of time.”  

 He pivoted on his heel, changing to circle her in the opposite direction.  His gaze turned lustful and he dropped his arm closest to her from behind his back.  His paced slowed and his steps were deliberate.  This was a dance now, an expression of passion.  Sorcha’s chest rose and fell with her quickening pulse, her eyes locked onto his. 

He continued administering the lesson in a voice that was an octave lower, and Sorcha felt a heat rising from her core.  “Also, if your opponent commits to his defense too early, you can change your tactic quite quickly and get him to leave himself open.”

Sebastian slowly circled to her sword arm, gently lifted his right hand to hers, and checked her grip on the dagger’s hilt as he brought his body up behind her, pressing himself against her impossibly beautiful ass.  He brought his lips to within a breath of her ear and closed his eyes, her scent was intoxicating.

He spoke quietly now, his voice so low that it was barely more than a growl.

“Your stance is extremely important in dagger combat; your form is the foundation of your movements.”

Sorcha wanted his form pressed up against her, she needed his body to envelop hers.  She arched her back slightly and lifted her ass to move against his hip.  His breath hitched at the pressure on his groin, and he smirked as he continued the lesson. 

“A forward fighting stance is preferable for maneuvering because your weight is distributed more evenly between your feet.” From behind her, he gently placed his leg in between Sorcha’s, and slowly positioned her feet with his own, her hips guided with his free hand.

“Your weight should be placed on the balls of your foot, your front knee slightly bent and your elbows tucked in at your sides, keeping your hands up for protection.”

He caressed her as he guided her body into the proper stance, his hands never lifted from her body.  “Your leading hand is always in front, and assists the cutting hand during combat.”  He moved from her rear and continued his dance around her, stopping at her front.  He lifted his hand to her face, and with gentle fingers under her jaw and his thumb on her chin, he slowly leaned in to her with parted lips.  “Remember to keep your chin tucked down, to protect your throat.”  This he whispered as he lifted her chin and tilted his head slightly, ever so slowly moving in to her neck, his breath leaving goosebumps on her perfect skin.  His lips grazed her throat with the barest touch, Sorcha closed her eyes and let out a deep but quiet moan.

An intrusive cough from an arriving Templar jolted the couple from their oblivious state. 

Sorcha gasped and dropped her training dagger in her alarm, her cheeks instantly blushed.  Sebastian was less embarrassed, more annoyed at the interruption than anything.  The daggers that shot from his eyes at the Templar would have murdered him a thousand times over, had they been real.   Sebastian reluctantly removed his hands from her magnificent body, stood to his full height, and tugged at the bottom of his white leather breastplate. The Templar sniggered, extremely satisfied with himself for cock-blocking the prince.

Sebastian lifted his chin and rolled his eyes to the sky pompously.  “As I was saying, Lady Trevelyan, before we were interrupted by Ser—”, his eyes darted to the Templar.

“James.”, the Templar said with a yellowed sneer and an exaggerated bow. He straightened, knocked his heels together in mock salute, and stomped off to an unoccupied training dummy, leaving the frustrated couple to their training.

Sebastian’s eyes narrowed menacingly as he watched the Templar walk off.  “That fucking asshole will find my arrow in his neck one day”, he growled.

The jesting tone of Sorcha’s throaty voice snapped his attention to her.  “He seemed quite pleased with himself, didn’t he?  Are the Templars giving the prince a hard time?”  He looked down into her vibrant eyes, and she up into his breathtaking blues, smiles spread across both of their faces.

Sebastian chuckled.  “It’s nothing that I can’t handle”, his voice rich and velvety.  

Sorcha lifted her hand to his handsome face, her thumb placed gently in front of his ear and her fingers played lightly with his chestnut waves.  Her eyes flitted between his scorching gaze and his irresistible mouth.  She lifted herself onto her toes and placed a chaste, lingering kiss on his perfect lips.  The moment her lips touched his, the heavens opened and the light of a thousand suns shone behind her closed eyes.  She leaned back and opened her eyes to find Sebastian smiling so widely that his dimples were unmistakable.

“Shall we continue with my training, Sebastian?”

“As you wish, Sorcha. Your will be done.”  He brought his arm across his chest, placed his hand over his heart, and bowed. 

He bent to retrieve her training dagger, and Sorcha leaned slightly to his rear, fully taking in the marvelous view.  It seemed that the prince was partial to wearing tight pants, himself.

They spent the rest of the afternoon working on Sorcha’s form and accuracy.  She was an extremely quick learner, and had no trouble picking up the foundations of dagger wielding.  Sebastian was leaning back against the fence with his arms resting along the rails, impressed with her natural ability to adapt to the smaller blade, and thoroughly enjoyed watching her movements.  She was light on her feet, but there was power behind her attacks.  With some training she would be a formidable opponent.

The time for evening services was approaching, and Sorcha was ready to take a break from stabbing the straw-filled, man-shaped husk.  Her accuracy was beginning to improve, but her speed was slower than she would have liked.  Sebastian could tell that she was getting frustrated.

“Don’t worry yourself about being quick just yet.  Your main focus right now should be your accuracy, the speed will naturally follow.”  He spoke supportively.

Sorcha ended her frenzied stabbing and dropped her arms to her sides.  She was breathing heavily, and her face was flushed from exertion.  She turned to face him, cocked her hip and smirked naughtily.

“Actually, I’m kind of focused on you right now,” she replied, “and the things I am going to do to you once we are alone.  None of that will be quick.”  Holy shit, Sorcha!  Throw yourself at him a little harder, why don’t you?!

The look in Sebastian’s eyes changed from patient to predator in a blink, and he was beside her within a moment.  He leaned in and with his lips grazing her earlobe, whispered, “Your will be done.”

He offered his arm and he walked her back to her quarters.

“May I return for you in thirty minutes, so you may accompany me to evening services?” he asked before he bowed deeply and placed a kiss on the back of her hand.

“Your will be done,” she purred before going inside to get cleaned up.

Maker, he thought to himself, You have sent me a desire demon!  He would do anything to feel her, taste her, to hear his name on her lips as he’s driving himself deep inside her.   She was making him mad with desire; he needed to have her, wholly and presently.   He caught his breath as he made his way to his quarters.

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Thirty minutes to make herself presentable, and desirable.  You got this, Sorcha!  He already can’t think of anything other than wearing your ass as a hat.  You’re going to be riding that stallion by night’s end!  She ripped off her top and peeled out of her tight pants.  She stared at her pitcher and basin, and wished really, really hard for a bathtub.  She set the basin on the floor and stepped into it, struggling to keep her balance as she poured water over her head, letting it run over her entire body.  She only had enough water left for a quick rinse, so she lathered her hair with her verbena and spice soap, and hoped that the trickle-down would work to clean the rest of her.  She rinsed herself with the rest of the pitcher, and quickly threw herself into dressing.

Allowing herself to air-dry, she dug through her trunk to find something appropriate to wear.  By appropriate she meant sexy.  She found her silver lace smalls and matching breast band.  She knew that being “friends” with her mother’s Orlesian seamstress would have its benefits.  She laid her underclothes on her cot and pulled out her favorite velvet dress; it was the color of a night orchid, long enough to sweep the floor, and in both front and back cut in a “v” so low that her breasts would fall out if she so much as sneezed unexpectedly.

She went to her mirror to deal with her hair.  She combed it through with her dragonbone comb, and began twisting it into a chignon.  She glanced down to her table, and smiled when she looked at the lily Sebastian had tied into her hair earlier.  She picked it up and expertly wove it into her locks. 

Now with her hair done, it was time for clothes.  She poured a palmful of her spiced oil into her hand and began meticulously working it over her naked body.  There wasn’t much that was more of a turnoff than a woman with dry, scaly skin.

Sister Clara called to her through her door, asking if she would walk with them to evening service.  She would meet up with them, she said, as she was still getting ready.  She reached for her clothes and stepped into her smalls.  She was struggling with fastening the Orlesian breast band when she heard a light rap on her door.  Oh thank the Maker!  Another pair of hands to help me with this fucking thing.   She turned her back to the door and called for whoever knocked to enter.

“Thank the Maker that someone was still here!  Could you please help me fasten this?  I swear it came from the Void itself.”

A gentle pair of hands took over where hers were failing.

“Thanks for that. I thought I—”,her words caught in her throat as she turned around.  Her eyes locked onto full smirking lips, then flicked up to breathtaking blue eyes with pupils so dilated with lust and need that she could see herself in them.

“Sebastian! Where..how.. mnnnnf!”

His lips crashed onto hers with hunger and fury, igniting the tempestuous passion they’d been trying to control since they first met.  His hands cradled her head, tilting it so he could kiss her mouth deeper with his very talented tongue.  Her arms wrapped around his neck, holding close his hard, hard body.  His hands now roamed her almost naked flesh, greedily grabbing her round ass and lifting her onto his hips. 

She wrapped her legs around his waist, swallowing his moans with her mouth.  He carried her to the cold stone wall and unwrapped one of her legs from his hips.  He pulled away from her lips and looked at her perfect face with the intensity of a man possessed.  She ran her hands over his chiseled chest and very muscular shoulders, coming close to ripping the beautiful teal tunic from his magnificent torso. 

There they stood for a moment, chests heaving for breath, staring at each other with a need the likes of which neither of them had ever known.   He explored her scented skin with one hand, and holding fast to her leg wrapped around him with the other, he lowered himself to his knees, trailing kisses with those perfect lips all the way down.  Sebastian slid her leg from his waist to his shoulder, and gave her a wink before he pushed aside her smalls from her already wet core. 

“This is for your tight pants,” he growled, his accent heated with desire.  Before she could register what was happening, her head was thrown back and she was moaning his name.

His tongue flat, he took a long, slow taste of her divine slickness, and drew firm, slow circles over her center. Her hands grabbed his head, holding his face right where she needed him.  Her hips bucked against his mouth as he entered her with two long, and very deft, fingers.  He looked up and moaned into her when he saw the exquisite pleasure on her face.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, Maker, oh fuck! Sebastian! Fuuuuuuuck!”  Sorcha was breathing so hard she felt that she would pass out.  I’m going fucking die getting fucking eaten out in a fucking Chantry!  She fisted his now sex-messed hair and rode his face like it was the last horse out of hell.

His throbbing cock strained against his already-tight pants.  He needed to be balls-deep in her; she was so hot and so very, very wet.  He wanted and he needed and he hungered… but he resisted.  He was doing this for her pleasure, and he was enjoying her taste in his mouth and her tightness around his fingers.

He worked them deeper and his tongue harder, his free hand squeezing her ass and pulling her into his face.  Maker, she is magnificent!  He moaned into her center, the vibrations elicited a squeal from Sorcha’s mouth.  She was getting close, he could feel it.  She was getting wetter and louder, and was fucking his face with ferocity.  He freed his mouth for a moment.

“Come for me, Sorcha.  I need to taste you coming on my tongue.” 

Hearing him say those words, with that voice, that accent, Sorcha flew over the edge.

“Fuuuuuck, Sebastian! Fuck! Yeeeessss! Oh my fucking Maker yes!”

His tongue dove deep into her tight wetness as he grabbed her ass with both hands and held her tight to his mouth.  She pulled his hair and bucked against his face as she came hard.  She was breathing fast and seeing stars.  She had NEVER felt anything like that.  When she released his head, Sebastian kissed her center gently before rising from his knees.  She took his face and kissed him deeply, tasting herself on his tongue.  He took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the slick from his face.  A dangerous smile spread across his lips, and he gave her a wink.

“Well now, my darling Sorcha, shall we go pray for our sins?”

 

Chapter Text

What in the FUCK just happened?

Sorcha was dazed.  Dazed and extremely satisfied.  Did the prince of Starkhaven just pleasure her in her quarters in the CHANTRY? Yes, yes he did, and it was fucking amazing!

Sebastian walked over to her cot and lifted her velvet dress.

“Please, allow me.”  He stepped over to her, and with the dress draped over his arm, he took her hands in his and lifted her still-trembling arms over her head.  His fingertips brushed her goose pimpled flesh as he moved his hands from her wrists down to her waist.

He rolled the dress from hem to neck and brought it up to her waiting arms.  Sorcha maneuvered her arms into the sleeves before Sebastian released the soft fabric, and it cascaded around her sensual curves like a river over a fall.  His eyes devoured her, and with a smirk he leaned in for his lips to do the same.

Sorcha cocked her head to the side and placed her fingers over his lips, her eyes darting to the door.  Seconds later, the Sisters could be heard returning from evening services.

Her eyes wide in panic, she glanced around the room and led Sebastian to an unfurnished wall.  With a pleading look and a silent “I’m sorry” she gave him a shove.  The prince of Starkhaven went tumbling backwards out of her window, and not a moment too soon.

A knock came, followed by the concerned voice of Sister Rose.  “Sister Sorcha, is everything okay?  You missed evening service.”

Good fucking luck getting out of this, Sorcha.

Her brows furrowed and lips pursed as Sorcha desperately tried to think of a viable excuse for her absence.  She shuffled over to her door and slowly opened it, revealing three concerned faces.

“Uh, yea…yeah I’m alright. I just, um—,” a knock at the door interrupted the excuse she had yet to come up with.

The three other women went to the common room while Sister Rose went to answer the door.

“Brother Sebastian? What brings you here at such a late hour?” Sister Rose eyed him suspiciously.

“Forgive my impropriety, Sister.  I am here to inquire about the well-being of Sister Sorcha.  I did not see her at the service tonight.”  He bowed deeply as Sister Rose motioned for him to enter.

He stepped into the common room and saw Sorcha already standing there.  His eyes gleamed with devilish mischief, and an arrogant smirk played on his impossibly perfect lips.  Sorcha met his gaze, her eyes narrowed as she bit her lip.  No, he can’t be doing this! And how does he not look like he just fell out of a window? I’m going to fucking kill him!

“Sister Sorcha, forgive my intrusion,” he gave her a wink as he bent into an exaggerated bow, “I noticed that you were absent from evening service and I was concerned.  Is everything alright, my lady?”

He’s really doing this!

“Brother Sebastian!  What a surprise!” Sorcha was going to kill him. “I appreciate you calling on me, but I assure you that all is well.”

Sebastian was loving this.  “Are you sure you are feeling well?  You look rather flushed.  Are you feverish?  You look like you are burning up.”

She was burning, alright.  If looks could kill, Sebastian figured he’d be drawn and quartered.

“Brother Sebastian is right, Sister.  You look feverish, and your skin is hot.”  Sister Clara had her hand on Sorcha’s forehead, and Sorcha had her eyes on Sebastian’s beautiful, smug face.

“I’m fine, really!  It’s nothing, it’s just, um…”  Sorcha suddenly noticed four pairs of eyes on her, waiting to learn what could possibly keep their newest lay Sister from evening services.

“Cramps!” she blurted out. “Bad cramps.”  She hunched over slightly, proof that she was in some discomfort.

Looks of recognition and pity came to the faces of the Sisters, and a feigned look of embarrassment crossed Sebastian’s.

“Shall I get a healer, my lady?”  Sebastian was really loving this.  Sister Clara chimed in, to Sorcha’s relief.

“That will not be necessary, Brother Sebastian.  We will tend to her, she will be just fine.  It was very kind of you to be concerned, but we ladies can handle this.”

“Ah, I understand.  I am glad to see that you are not unwell, my lady, and I will see you at training tomorrow.  Until then, I bid you goodnight.”

Apparently satisfied with the heart attack that Sorcha had just experienced, Sebastian bowed and glanced back to give her one last wink as he took his leave.

Maker, she was going to make him suffer for that!

--------

He was grinning madly as she entered the training yard. 

“Good morning, my lady!  I hope that you are no longer suffering your affliction.”  His voice was sarcasm-laced velvet.

Sorcha sauntered over to her prince, her hips swaying with each step.  Her eyes predatory, she stared him down like a lioness.  He stood tall, training daggers in hand.  She circled him slowly, their eyes locked on one another. He smirked an arrogant smirk as she reached out and trailed her hand along his broad shoulders.

“That was quite the performance last night, my lord,” she purred.

“Why, thank you.”  He nodded his head in gratitude and gave her a wink.  He was grinning broadly now, his dimples drove her mad.

“The Sisters fawned over me for an hour after you’d gone.  You left me in quite the position.”

He reached down and grabbed her ass, lifting her closer to him.  “The position I left you in was nothing compared to the one I had you in while you were coming on my tongue.”  Fuck, she tasted divine!  Sebastian felt arousal stirring as he thought of her taste and his name on her lips.

Her breath hitched as she thought of his tongue on her and in her, his eyes looking up at her from between her legs and his moans as he devoured her.  She bit on her lower lip to hide an escaping grin.

She leaned in to his ear, and with a raspy whisper made him a promise.

“My vengeance will be merciless.”

Sebastian’s eyes lit up, and he licked his smirking lips.  Game on, my demoness… game on.

Sorcha gingerly took a training dagger from Sebastian’s large, strong hand and twirled it in her palm.

“Shall we continue with my training, Brother Sebastian?”  Her emphasis on his new title sent ripples of desire through his entire muscled body.  Neither of them had taken full vows, but their relationship would still be forbidden, causing Sebastian to ache for it all the more.

He took her free hand and led her to the rear corner of the yard.  She noticed markings on the ground that made an “X” pattern.   “Today, Sister Sorcha, will be about the way you move.”  With his strong hands firmly holding her rounded hips, he centered before the first pair of marks.  Standing behind her, his manhood pressed against the soft curve of her perfect ass, he placed his knee between her legs and spread her feet to shoulder width.

“To survive close quarters combat, you must be agile and sure-footed.  Your limbs must be coordinated and move with grace.”

Sorcha lifted to her toes and rolled her hips, caressing his stiffening bulge with her ass.  Turning her head, she purred over her shoulder, “Give me thirty seconds with this cock and I’ll show you graceful coordination.”

Sebastian’s member twitched in his tight pants.  Bending slightly at his knees he pulled her hips back and straightened himself to have a better angle to grind his cock into her ass, closer to her delicious core.

He leaned forward and with her earlobe held almost roughly between his perfect teeth, he growled. “Your will be done,” he whispered.

Maker, I need my cock to be inside her!  It took all of his will to not bend her over a barrel and pound her mercilessly right there.

A familiar intrusive cough snapped Sebastian’s attention from his sinful thoughts.  He and Sorcha both straightened and slowly turned their heads to face the source of the interruption, their eyes narrowed in annoyance.

“Ser James.”  Sebastian’s voice was scathing.

The Templar’s pock-marked face was twisted into a yellowed sneer of satisfaction.

“Brother Sebastian.” He saluted mockingly and walked off toward the armory.

I’m going to fucking kill him… Sebastian’s anger caused him to dig his fingers into the soft flesh on the inside of Sorcha’s hipbones.  She gasped slightly at the unexpected pain, bringing Sebastian back from his seething.

“I’m going to fucking kill him,” Sorcha hissed.  Sebastian relaxed his grip and chuckled.  He kissed her cheek before he stepped back.  His erection all but killed, he walked over to a barrel and took a seat.

“We might as well begin, Sorcha.  This exercise is to develop balance.  On one foot, begin on the mark directly in front of you, to your right.  Hop then to the left mark, center mark, far right then far left mark without placing your other foot on the ground.  Once you’ve reached the other side, change feet and go again.”

“I love it when you tell me what to do, Sebastian.”  Sorcha grinned wickedly and winked.

Sebastian mirrored her grin, his dimples deep and irresistible.

Sorcha began her exercise and promptly fell on her ass.  Obviously she needed a lot of work on her sure-footedness, which Sebastian was increasingly thankful for.  Watching her breasts bounce with each hop was a fine way to spend a morning. Watching them bounce as she rode me would be better…

Sorcha’s legs began shaking as they tired.  With a final hop she cleared the last of the marks and she let herself fall onto the less-than-soft ground.

“Sebastian…” she was trying to catch her breath, “my legs are like jelly. Is there nothing else I can do to train?”

Sebastian thought for a moment then shook his head, his dark waves loosening from their pushed-back style.

“Would you like to accompany me to the stables?  I’ve been meaning to spend some time with Morchuise.”  The smile on his face was enchanting enough to make Sorcha do anything he wanted.

“That sounds perfect, actually.” Sorcha replied, “I’ve missed my girl, too.”

Sebastian took her hand and kissed the inside of her wrist gently.  “Please excuse me while I go change out of these training leathers.  Meet me at the stables in twenty minutes?” he asked.

Sorcha dipped into a reverent curtsey and winked at her prince.  “Your will be done.”

-------

Dressed in her Trevelyan travelling leathers, Sorcha made her way to the stables.  She looked ever much the seductress, with her tight black leather corset engraved with her coat-of-arms cinched over an emerald green silk blouse, tighter black leather pants that looked practically painted on to her curves, black knee-high boots and bracers.  Her raven hair twisted loosely at the nape of her long neck, and lips tinted by her spiced lip stain.  She was pulling up her riding gloves as she approached Sebastian, who was waiting for her near the stalls.

A low whistle escaped from his pursed lips.  “I knew you were a Desire demon!” The words rolled off his tongue and he smirked wickedly.  Sorcha threw her head back and laughed.  It was music to his ears.

She offered her hand, which he promptly accepted and kissed gently.

“You find me tempting, Brother Sebastian?  Do I haunt your dreams?”

“You haunt my every moment, divine temptress.” 

They made their way through the stable to their mounts.  Sebastian led his stallion to the causeway to groom him, Sorcha followed with her filly.

“I should have guessed that the amazingly beautiful white Imperial would have been yours, Sebastian.”

He smiled broadly, the pride evident.  “He was a gift from my great aunt.  I trained him myself when he was two, and I’d say we make an impressive pair.”  His horse nickered and nuzzled at the prince’s palm for a treat, Sebastian affectionately ran his gloved hand over the horse’s neck.

“Your filly is quite beautiful, Sorcha.  Have you had her long?” 

Sorcha smiled as she brushed the dust off her horse’s back.  Her filly was incredible.  She was tall for a female, her black coat gleamed in the sunlight.  Her mane was the same color as Sorcha’s hair, and the waves flowed long past her neck. “Lumé was born on our estate.  Our stable hand broke her in last year, but she’s shown herself to be…uncontrollable…at times.  It was only logical that the uncontrollable child gets the uncontrollable horse, or so my father said.”

Sebastian chuckled.  “Perhaps the stable hand didn’t have the right touch?”

Sorcha smiled a secret smile, “Oh, the stable hand had a nice touch; that was never an issue.”

He lifted an eyebrow at her, but didn’t ask.

She gently stroked her horse’s muzzle, “She’s been a companion over the last year, and I’ve been quite grateful for her company.  In fact, she was my roommate on the ship I took over here.  Her company was very much preferred over the toothless pigs that manned the boat, so I spent most of my time in the hold with her.”

Sebastian’s nose wrinkled, “That couldn’t have smelled pleasant.”

Sorcha lifted an eyebrow.  “It was better than the sailors.”  Sebastian laughed deeply.  It was music to her ears.

The horses were led from the stable, with both Sorcha and Sebastian perched astride their mounts.  The riders spurred their animals into a trot and left through the front gates of the chantry.  They followed the road to Hercinia for a time before veering off down a less travelled path.  The route led to the shore and was quite steep, winding through palm-shaded terraces and lined with fragrant flowers.  Sebastian and Sorcha guided their horses slowly and cautiously until they reached the beach.

Sorcha was the first to exit the treed path.  She looked back at Sebastian and with defiance in her eyes and trouble on her lips, reigned her horse around in a tight circle before racing off along the beach.  Taking his cue, Sebastian took off after her, the thrill of the chase burning in his veins.

Both riders sat up off the saddles, leaning forward and holding the reigns tight at their horses’ necks.  Beautiful manes and tails whipped in the wind that carried the couple’s laughter.  The horses’ muscled bodies stretched to full length with each stride, kicking up sand in all directions behind them.

They raced down the beach, and for the first time in likely her entire life, Sorcha felt guileless and free.  Her heart was no longer in her chest, but soaring high above her, with the birds.  She was exhilarated.

Sebastian’s smile outshone the afternoon sun as he raced after his demoness, and his eyes narrowed as he closed in on his prey.  He was quite an experienced rider, seemingly more so than Sorcha.  He was able to close the distance between Morchuise and Lumé, and within moments overtook her.

He reached the end of the beach a head faster than Sorcha and Lumé.  Morchuise was slowed and brought around so Sebastian may pull up alongside Sorcha.

The flush of her cheeks and her windswept hair made her look wild and spirited.  Desire rose like wildfire in Sebastian’s chest, he needed to claim her, to tame her, he needed to dominate her.  Maker’s breath, man!  Control your cock!  Pressure growing in his breeches brought his attention to his obvious arousal and he blushed, slightly embarrassed for being turned on so easily.  He laid his hand over his lap and smiled his most handsome smile.

“You put up quite the challenge, dear Sorcha.”

Sorcha was silent, the visage of her prince had stolen what was left of her breath.  The sunlight caused his tanned skin to gleam a deep and polished bronze, his chestnut waves, long fallen loose, were tucked messily behind his ear and rebelliously escaped to kiss his cheek with each rising of the gentle breeze.  His cerulean eyes were alight with a passion Sorcha couldn’t describe, only feel.  That handsome, princely smile had lit a fire in her belly and was spreading uncontrollably.  Fuck, Sorcha! Shake it off!

She caught her breath and grinned widely.  “Thank you, Sebastian, but it seems it wasn’t challenge enough for you.” 

He let out a breathy chuckle, “Perhaps a rematch is in our future.”

Their horses were restless, pawing at the sand and chomping at their bits.  Sebastian smirked and winked at Sorcha.

“First one back to the path wins!”  He spurred Morchuise into a gallop, commanding him to run.

Sorcha laughed like a schoolgirl.  She spun Lumé around and with a quick yell she was barreling down the beach.  Her horse was just getting warmed up, so she leaned forward and let Lumé have the reigns, opening her up for natural, uncontrollable speed.  All Sorcha needed to do was hold on.

She caught up to Sebastian quickly, and Lumé’s speed became evident as she overtook Morchuise to gain the lead.  Nostrils flared and mouth open, Lumé stretched to her full length with every stride and her muscles rippled under her brilliant black coat.

Sorcha didn’t touch the reigns until they reached the edge of the tree line, which was almost a full length before Sebastian.  With shortened breath, and his velvety voice raspy, he said, “I concede!  You, my dear, are a remarkable horsewoman, with a remarkable horse.  Lumé is perhaps the fastest animal I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”

“Thank you, Sebastian. I find that she does best when I trust her enough to just let her go.”  She affectionately patted the horse’s now-sweaty neck.  “Now, since I am the winner, I demand a boon.” She sat stately in her saddle, and lifted her chin defiantly.

The smile on his face could have blinded the sun.  “And what is your demand, my lady?”

“Answers.”

“Oh, is that all?”  Sebastian chuckled.  “Please, ask away.”

They had spent a lot of time together over the last few days, and Sorcha had thought about keeping things casual (and sexual), but she inexplicably found herself wanting to learn more about the man she couldn’t get enough of.

“Favorite color?”

His eyes roamed over her green silk blouse. “Emerald.”

She smiled at his obvious flirting.  “Age?”

“Sixteen.”  He sat taller in his saddle and rolled back his shoulders, as if trying to show that he was more of a man than his age would suggest.

“Birthday?”

“In two weeks.”  Sorcha smirked and made a mental note to give him a nice gift.

They started walking their horses along the treed path back up toward the Chantry.  Sorcha’s questions had been short and simple, and his answers mirrored.  He was slightly thankful that she asked the easy ones.

“Education?” 

Sebastian had to laugh at this one, it was like she was trying to size him up for marriage.

“Quality.”

She shot him a look that meant he’d better elaborate.  He smiled at her frustration and continued his answer.

“I’ve had the best tutors from across Thedas since I was four.  I’m learned in history, politics, military strategy and combat.”

Sorcha chuckled under her breath when he mentioned the tutors.

“Why are you laughing?” he asked, “Do you find my education lacking?”  His brilliant blue eyes glinted mischievously.

“I broke my politics tutor’s nose when I was nine,” Sorcha confessed.  “We argued over how men are chosen to lead over women.  I felt that women could lead better than men, and he called me an idiotic idealist, so my fist crushed his stupid nose.”

Sebastian laughed so hard at the image of a child-sized Sorcha ramming her fist into a grown man’s face that he almost fell off of his horse.  This woman is amazing…

“Now, where were we?” Laughing nearly as hard as he, Sorcha attempted to redirect the conversation back to the topic of the prince.  “How many fights have you been in?”

This one was to be a little more difficult to answer.  As the “unnecessary” prince, he had always been a target for slurs from other noble children and was easily provoked, so there were many, many fights throughout his life.

“Um, you may want to be more specific, my darling.”  He chuckled as he continued, “I’ve had reason to be in many fights throughout my life.”

“Okay, then…” she pondered for a moment, “last fight?”

Their horses weaved through the winding path, and they had almost reached the Chantry.  The sun was beginning to make for the horizon, and they would be back in time for evening service.

Sebastian’s grip tightened on his reigns and he clenched his jaw at the memory of his travel from Starkhaven.

“An attempt was made on my life not three weeks ago.  We were ambushed just a day before we arrived in Hercinia.”  His eyes narrowed and spoke through gritted teeth, his voice low and venomous.

Sorcha brought her hand to her mouth in surprise.  She brought her horse alongside his, and reached out to place her hand gently on his forearm.

“Sebastian, I’m sorry.  Were you injured?”

He let out a breath he hadn’t been aware he was holding.  “I lost two men, but it could have been much worse.  Myself, I was shot in the hip with an arrow; luckily it was a shallow wound.”  His eyes were lowered and his voice was gravelly.  Sorcha noticed his anger, and did not press.  She pulled back on his arm so he would stop his horse.  She leaned out of her saddle and reached her hand from his arm to his sad face.  She turned him to face her and looked into his piercing eyes, trying to express her compassion and concern with her own.  She spoke to him in such a soft and sincere voice that his expression softened.

“Well, I for one, am thankful for that luck.”  She gave him a soft smile and a wink.

Her efforts roused a smile to his face and he raised his hand to his face and held hers in his palm.  He dropped the reigns and with his free hand reached to cup the back of her neck.  He drew her in and with his amazingly soft lips, gave her a lingering kiss.  Her mouth parted slightly as his tongue gently played with her upper lip.  He accepted her invitation and his tongue met hers, their chaste kiss deepening into one of desire, sending bolts of passion throughout them both.  Sebastian felt his arousal pressing against his breeches to the point of near pain.  He could tell by Sorcha’s fevered kiss that she was turned on as well.  He needed to have her, hold her, to be on her, inside her.  Fuck Sebastian!  Quit making it worse!

Their horses did not seem to appreciate the standstill, and grew restless.  The couple reluctantly withdrew from their kiss with groans of protest and continued their ride back to the Chantry.

They rode through the gates within a half-hour and walked their mounts back to the stables.  After returning their horses to their stalls, Sorcha wove her arm around Sebastian’s.

“Sebastian, may I ask you something?”  He nodded and she continued, “Would you show me your quarters?  You know where I live, yet I don’t know the same about you.”

He raised an eyebrow and looked at her.  “You would have me show you where I am forced into shared accommodation with cretin Templar recruits and other Brothers?”

She gave him her sweetest, most innocent smile.  “What if I ever need to come rescue you?”

Fucking smooth, Sorcha!

Sebastian laughed and rolled his eyes. “Well, in that case, right this way, my lady.”

His quarters were in the Templar barracks, which were located across the gardens from Sorcha’s quarters and between the healer’s building and the armory.  The main floor was (conveniently for Sorcha) reserved for the Templar recruits, commanding officers and Chantry Brothers.  He couldn’t take her inside without arousing suspicion, so he took her around the back of the great stone building, where great, ancient trees provided both shade and cover.  They stopped at the third window from the right.

“Should you ever need to rescue me,” he gave her an exaggerated wink, “this is my window.”

She rose up onto her toes and placed a soft kiss on his lips.  She felt him smile into her kiss before she pulled away and smiled herself.  “Walk me home?”

They arrived at Sorcha’s quarters and were met by Sister Amy, who has a message to relay.

“Sister Sorcha, I was told to remind you that tonight it is your turn to help serve the evening meal.”

Sorcha bit her lip in frustration.  She had been told yesterday by Sister Rose that she was scheduled to help with tonight’s meal, as it was the lay Sisters and Brothers who usually had the duty, she had just been too preoccupied to remember.  “Thank you, Sister.”

She turned to Sebastian who had an amused look on his face.  He thinks this is funny!  Just wait until it’s his turn to do this shit!  She flashed him a playful glare.

“Thank you, Brother Sebastian, for today’s training and for escorting me to my quarters.  I must prepare for tonight’s duties, so here is where I bid you good-night.  I will see you at training in the morning.”

He bowed deeply and glanced up at her delicious pout.  With a heart-stopping smile, he looked in her eyes and purred, “Your will be done.”

 

Chapter Text

Sorcha threw herself down on her cot, utterly exhausted.  She wasn’t raised so noble that she’d never done a day’s work, but serving meals to a hundred people at one sitting was unexpectedly tiring.  She laid there limply for a few minutes before she forced herself out of bed.  She had preparations to make and a long night ahead of her.

She had noticed Sebastian watching her keenly during evening services, dressed in a sinfully sexy charcoal grey tunic and tight black trousers.  He was grinning at her, fucking grinning!, the entire evening, with a pompous smug on his ridiculously handsome, sculpted face.    Apparently the eye-daggers she was shooting back at him had done nothing more than make him grin harder and snigger.  

She shuffled to her mirror and made a face at her disheveled hair and dark circles under her eyes.  Fuck, Sorcha, you look like shit.  She lifted her arm, turned her head, and took a sniff.  She made a gagging face and shook her head almost violently. You smell like shit, too.  Making sure she had extra water in her room, she undressed and stepped into her ceramic basin for yet another not-really-a-bath bath.  After rinsing away her verbena and spice soap, and one final smell-check of her arm, she stepped out of the basin to air dry her soaked skin.  Combing out her hair, she noticed in her mirror the reflection of something lying on the grey stone floor under her open window.  She stopped and turned to walk over to whatever it was, a wide smile spread across her heart-shaped face as she bent to pick it up.  She had been too tired after evening service to notice the lily lying on her floor, Sebastian must have left it while she was occupied working in the dining hall.  She closed her eyes as she inhaled deeply its creamy, sweet scent, and her smile grew.  What a sweet, sweet man… but I’m still going to kill him.

It was a few hours until dawn broke, so she had little time for anything to go wrong.  He’ll never see this coming!  My vengeance will be merciless…  She braided her raven hair and allowed the plait to hang in front of her shoulder.  After applying spiced oil to her still damp skin, she dusted herself with talcum powder and strapped into her black training leathers.

She snuffed her candles and crept out of her window (which she was an expert at) and stealthily made her way to the barracks, carefully avoiding the glowing lantern light of the walking paths.  She kept to the shadows and tread with silent steps.  She rounded the rear corner of the barracks and counted three windows in.  It seemed she failed earlier to realize that his window was considerably higher than her own, even for a ground floor. She tried standing on her toes to reach it, but she was about four inches short.  She attempted a standing jump, but couldn’t get enough of a vertical to gain a solid grasp on the stone ledge.  Oh, for fuck’s sake!  She would need a running start.

She stepped back nearly ten paces, blew out a few quick breaths and sprinted toward the stone wall.  She launched herself at the right time to just reach the bottom of the window, but she quickly learned that she greatly lacked the upper body strength to pull herself up.  She brought her toes up against the stone and mortar, and tried to gain leverage with her feet as she pulled up with her arms.  Vengeance…merciless...must…get…vengeance…fuck!  This is fucking ridiculous!  Her shaking arms were trying to pull up a fatiguing body, and her clumsy feet were kicking off pebbles noisily.  She was gritting her teeth in preparation for one final lift, when she felt someone looming.  She looked up to the window above her to see a very shirtless-- Holy shit he has no shirt on!  Look at those shoulders!  I had my legs thrown over those fucking shoulders!  She shook the divine sight from her mind.  Fuck, Sorcha, focus! --Sebastian peering down at her, his wavy hair tousled from sleep and his muscular arms crossed over his superb chest.

“Sorcha, honey,” he whispered hoarsely, “What are you doing?”

“I’m here to rescue you!  Now help me up!”

He grabbed her flagging wrists in his impossibly strong hands, and lifted her effortlessly through his window and onto the sill.  She jumped from the perch and landed on her feet silently in front of him, her hands still on his shoulders and his on her waist.  He was wearing only loose linen trousers which hung teasingly below his hips. Sorcha could not keep her eyes from roaming over him, or her hands to herself.  His erection was very obvious but he was too confused to notice or to care.  She was captivated by the sight of his toned, muscular body.  Only at the sound of his sleepy voice did she move her devouring eyes from his flesh.

“Sorcha,” he asked again, “what are you doing?”  His lidded gaze flitted over her face.

Don’t fuck this up, Sorcha!  Vengeance is merciless!

Sorcha slapped a half-panicked look on her face and her eyes darted around his room like she was searching for someone or something.

“I’m here to rescue you! Are you alright?”

He lifted an eyebrow at her and the look on his face was of sheer confusion.

“Of course I’m alright.  What are you ‘rescuing’ me from, pray tell?”

She scanned his room and made sure that his back was to the door.  She needed to stay in front of the window for this to work. 

“Sebastian, baby!  I’m rescuing you from…”  Her hands left his shoulders and gently made their way down to his waistband, “…the terrible and evil and merciless …” Her expression changed from panicked to predatory.  She reached down into the front of his pants and gently grasped his very hard and very large cock, “…morning wood.”

Sebastian’s jaw dropped as he realized what was going on.  He raised a muscular arm and put his hand behind his head, supporting it as it rolled back, and a hushed moan escaped his parted lips as Sorcha began slowly stroking his hardness.  He brought his head up and with a delighted smile he leaned in, grabbed her face with both hands and he pushed his tongue deep into her mouth, meeting hers with an impassioned caress. He kissed her hard, inhaling sharply through his nose when she gave his throbbing cock a gentle squeeze. 

She pulled back, and with a demon’s smile on her red and kiss-swollen lips, she proceeded to get on her knees, trailing soft kisses and gentle bites as she went down.  Sorcha pulled his trousers down just enough that his cock could escape its confines.

Sebastian untied her braid and fisted her raven waves, his eyes never leaving her gaze as she kneeled before him.  He watched as she caressed him, but his eyes rolled back in his head when she took one of his jewels into her hot mouth.  He moaned loudly, almost too loudly.  He bit down on the knuckles of his free hand to keep from waking his neighbors.  Shut the fuck up, Sebastian, you jackass! Do you want her to get interrupted?!

She couldn’t believe what a beautiful cock he had.  It was silken and smooth, not too long and impressively thick.  She pressed her tongue flat and trailed along the underside of his shaft from base to tip, with one hand gently teasing him, her wrist twisting slightly with each rise.  His hips rolled with each stroke, a silent plea for her to take him into her mouth. 

Her tongue swirled slowly around his tip, teasing out the first glistening drops of his seed.  She kept it at his tip as she opened her mouth to accommodate his thick and impossibly hard member. Holy shit, will this even fit in my mouth?  She slowly and very carefully wrapped her lips around his quivering head and closed her mouth around him, moving as far down on his cock as she could.  His body shivered and his legs trembled, the hand wrapped in her hair urged her to take him deeper.  She flicked her wrist as she stroked him, his member glistening from her wet, sucking mouth.

“Fuck, Sorcha, honey…I love your mouth on my cock!” he moaned in a whisper.  He started fucking her mouth slowly, then more fervently as he learned her limits. She moaned while sucking him, sending shockwaves of pleasure to his core.  He leaned forward and braced himself against the stone wall with his free hand, fisting Sorcha’s hair and guiding her bobbing head.

His breath was quickening and the muscles in his legs and back were tightening and twitching.  Sorcha didn’t have much time left, she needed to make him come, and soon.  She sucked his cock hungrily and caressed his leathery man hamsters.  She moaned when he pulled her hair, and lifted her gaze to meet his limpid blue eyes, which were filled with lust and adoration.  She bobbed faster, tightening her lips around his shaft, sucking lightly each time she reached the tip of his cock.  She pulled back from her ministration and ran the tip of his member along her lips. 

She smiled and locking her eyes on his, begged in her most sultry, throaty voice, “Please come for me, Sebastian. Please come in my mouth so I can taste you, I need to taste you Sebastian! Please come, baby!”

The begging drove him crazy.  The heat coiled at his core rose quickly and he pushed his cock back into her mouth.  He moved his hips faster and pulled her hair harder as he came closer to release.

“Shit, Sorcha, you’re going to make me come, baby...Oh, Maker, Sorcha, don’t stop!”  Sebastian hissed.

With that, Sorcha took a deep breath and took even more of his perfect cock into her mouth.  It almost felt like her jaw was dislocating, but she took him in farther, slowly moving her tongue around him as her swallowing motion was providing perfect pressure for his release.  He bucked his hips forcefully and she almost gagged from his length being rammed down her throat. Gonna have to work on that reflex, Sorcha! 

Sebastian threw his head back, his entire body tensing and twitching.

“Oh Sorcha… I’m coming…oh Maker! ... Shit!” He gasped and moaned loudly, too loudly.

She felt the first spurt of his hot seed crash into the back of her throat.  She teased his seed out and sucked him gently until she had swallowed every last drop.

His body twitched uncontrollably, and he would have collapsed if not for the wall still holding him up.  She brought his trousers back up over his perfect manhood, and rose from her knees to meet his lips.  His hand still in her hair, he pulled her face up to his and kissed her deeply.

A broad smile graced his handsome face, making Sorcha smile warmly.  She loved his dimples.

“Mm, what was that for, darling?” his voice was a raspy whisper.  His heavy-lidded eyes roamed over her impossibly beautiful face.

In that moment, she heard a door close out in the hallway.  Perfect! She waited a moment, and…

The knock on the door startled Sebastian out of his afterglow.

“Vengeance…” she whispered.

“Brother Sebastian! We heard noise from your room that sounded like you were hurt. Is everything ok?”

His attention turned to the door, and at that second, Sorcha jumped out of his window. 

As she ran around to the front door as fast as her cramped legs would carry her, and she quickly tied her hair with an extra ribbon from her pocket.

Fuck, please let this work!

She knocked loudly on the door of the barracks, which was answered by a lay Brother still in his sleep clothes.

“Pardon me, Brother, I realize that it is very early, but, I am concerned for Brother Sebastian.  He was to meet me in the training yard at dawn to begin the day’s practice, but he has not yet shown!  He was injured yesterday during our sparring.  Could you please check if he’s okay?”  Sorcha crossed her fingers that the Brother would be too sleepy to catch her in a lie.

The man just blinked at her, and then motioned for her to enter.  “You may follow me, we shall make sure that Brother Sebastian is alright.”

Sorcha laughed maniacally in her head.  She bowed to the man who led her down the hallway.  They came upon Sebastian’s room where a few Brothers had already gathered.

“Brother Sebastian?  We are coming in!”  One of the Brothers opened the door, genuinely concerned that Sebastian had not answered them when they called.

Sebastian tried to straighten himself at the sight of the Brothers entering his room, but his body was not yet cooperating.  He looked surprised to see so many people, but then he saw Sorcha and his eyes narrowed.  Minx! What the…! How the hell does she look so perfect?

Sorcha’s eyes met his, and with a wickedness she winked.  “Brother Sebastian!  Are you okay?  When you didn’t arrive for training, I became very frightened for your well-being!  After your injury yesterday, I was worried that you may not have recovered fully!”

Demon!  His gaze was burning a hole through her laughing eyes.

“You were hurt Brother? Should we get a healer?” His neighbors seemed genuinely concerned.

“Uh, no..no!  No, thank you, Brother.  I am, and will be, just fine.” Sebastian hoped they would just leave.

“We heard sounds coming from your room, it seemed like you were in pain. Are you sure we can’t get you a healer?”  The Brother’s insistence made Sorcha snigger.

Come on, Sebastian!  Say something useful!

“Cramps!” he blurted out.  “Bad cramps, is all.”  He lurched and grabbed one of his unbelievably sexy thighs, as proof, of course, that he was pained but it was minor.

Sorcha’s hand went to her mouth as she held back a giggle.  She took a deep breath, smirked at Sebastian and winked her most devilish wink.

“I am gladdened to see that your affliction is minor.  May I ask if you will still be training me today?”

He looked at her with a mix of astonishment and concession.  Well played, demoness, well played.

“Um, yes, I will still be able to work you today.” A smirk grew on his own face.  “I will meet you in the training yard presently.  My apologies for worrying you.”

Sorcha’s smile could have lit the night sky.  “Until then, Brother,” and satisfied with her revenge, she turned on her heel and exited the barracks.

My vengeance is merciless…

----------

Sorcha was perched comfortably on a barrel when Sebastian finally came sauntering up to the training yard.  She couldn’t help but laugh when she saw the look of feigned indignation on his face.  He couldn’t keep a straight face either, and started laughing unabashedly.  He walked to her and took her by the hand, leading her around the back of the armory.

They stopped once they were sufficiently hidden from prying eyes by the canopy of tree branches, and Sebastian took her face in his hands, gazing down into her twinkling hazel eyes.  Sorcha had never seen that look in a man’s eyes before.  He seemed so confident and serene, his brilliant eyes were smiling.

“My darling Sorcha, my demoness, you are…” he slowly placed his full, soft lips over hers in the most intense, lingering, gentle kiss that Sorcha had ever known.  He pulled away slowly and smiled so warmly, so sweetly.  “…amazing,” he kissed her forehead, “funny,” he kissed her cheek, “beautiful,” he kissed her nose, “formidable,” he kissed her chin, “and perfect.”  He kissed her lips again, this time his tongue ran gently across her lip, asking silent permission to go deeper.  Her lips parted, allowing him kiss her so deeply, so slowly, that she thought she would burst from all of the butterflies rising from her belly.  He broke the kiss gently, and put his forehead to hers.

“I didn’t get the opportunity to tell you how wonderful that felt this morning.  I would also like to admit that I know when I have met my match, and I absolutely deserved your revenge.  I bow to you, my lady.”  He backed away from her and placing his hand over his heart, bowed deeply.

Sorcha blushed like a schoolgirl.  When he stood, she ran and jumped into his arms, wrapping her legs around him and peppering him with kisses.  He laughed again, wrapping his arms around her and enjoying every moment that her lips touched him.  They embraced for a little while longer before they heard people milling about inside the armory.  She slid down from Sebastian’s arms and sighed.

“I suppose we need to go train or something…”

“Indeed we do.”  He gave her a quick kiss on her forehead before walking out to the yard.

Sorcha began working on her agility and footing, while Sebastian trained with his bow.  She was so impressed by his skill as an archer that she kept messing up her footwork drills because her attention cast to watching him shoot.

“How did you learn to shoot so well, Sebastian?  You really are amazing.”

He fired his nocked arrow and lowered his bow, he smiled a wide, genuine smile that crinkled his eyes.

“My grandfather began training me as soon as I was strong enough to pull a bowstring.  As the youngest son, it was to be my duty to lead the militia.  I didn’t show much strength for swordplay, too much getting hit.  He said that a bow is a wise man’s weapon, you could defend your city without opening its gates. I practiced, day and night, until I was able to shoot an arrow from atop the ramparts through the eye slit of a helmet.”

Sorcha smiled in confident warmth at his revelation.  “It seems he saw greatness in you, even then.”

Her words were so kind and genuine, he knew then that there is much more to her than the demoness who effortlessly aroused unquenchable desire.  Sebastian had felt so drawn to her from the moment they met, and he couldn’t stop thinking about her.  For the first time, he had met someone worthy of holding his attention.

 

Chapter Text

Sebastian found himself missing her.  Their Chantry duties had kept them apart for the last few weeks, only seeing each other in passing.  She had always given him a secret smile and a wink whenever she caught his gaze before hurrying away to work.  He was missing her scent, her touch, and her sweet and gentle kisses.  Last night he had dreamt of them walking along the shore, her hand in his.  He turned his head to look at her as they moved together down the beach. The morning sun was casting her perfect skin in a golden glow, and her heart-breakingly beautiful face, framed by wispy waves of raven black hair swept up by the coastal breeze, beamed with the beautiful smile of a goddess, meant just for him. The scent of verbena and spice was lifted on the breeze and lingered in his nostrils, and the sound of the birds faded when the sweet song that was her laugh caught in his ear.

He awoke that morning with the sound of her laughter still fresh in his memory.  He smiled groggily and resolved to hold on to that music.

He was in the dining hall now, as it was his turn to help serve the evening meal.  He caught Sorcha’s eye from across the room, and she flashed him a smile so beautiful that he forgot he had a basket of bread in his hands.  He blushed slightly when he realized that he had been staring, then he turned to place the basket on the table.  He glanced back to see that she was still watching him, a smug and pompous smirk on her face.  Her eyes roamed over his body, and she began nodding slowly and silently mouthing the words, “Love the apron”, as she mimed to her waist with her hands.  She gave him a thumbs-up and winked at him, and covered up a giggle when he rolled his eyes at her and smiled.

He returned to his quarters later to find a note wrapped around a stone, lying on the floor under his open window.  He smiled affectionately as he read its elegantly curved script.

“Reflection pool at highest moon.”

He quickly stripped out of his clothes and walked to his wash stand.  He looked in his mirror and made a face at his dirty hair and shadow of whiskers.  No time to shave, get moving, you ass!  He lifted an arm, turned his head, and took a sniff.  He lifted an eyebrow and inhaled again, and he shrugged his shoulders in indifference.

He placed his basin on the cold, stone floor and stepped precariously inside. He poured just enough water to wet himself, and set the pitcher back on the stand.  He reached for his soap of lavender and cloves, thankful the crushed pumice within would grind out the day’s dirt from his skin.  He lathered, first his hair, then quickly ran the bar over his goose-pimpled flesh.  Hoping the lather running down from his hair would be enough to scent him, he poured the remaining water over his head, face and shoulders. 

After wiping the water from his eyes and replacing the pitcher onto the stand, he lifted his arm for one final sniff-test.  Satisfied, he stepped gingerly from the basin to the cold stone floor and began to dry himself with a linen towel, which after towelling his hair he wrapped around his hips and tucked in the corner.  He stood in front of his mirror, admiring his nearly-naked reflection in the candlelight.   He flexed each muscle group concurrently, beginning with his calves, tightening them into solid masses of muscle, shifting his pose so they were more visible in the mirror.  Moving to his thighs, he hardened them into corded ridges that bulged from his knee to his hip.  He swiveled his hips and swung his knee from side to side like he was grinding something into the floor, smiling as he watched his sculpted legs ripple with sexiness.  Making a dramatic expression of surprise, he looked into the mirror and covered his mouth with his hand in feigned shock. 

“Oh, Sebastian!” he said to his reflection, in an exaggerated feminine voice, “What big thighs you have!”  His expression changed to a predatory gaze.  He smirked at his refection and waggled his eyebrows, “All the better to plow you with, my dear.” he said in his deepest voiceHe lifted his arms parallel to the floor, bent them at the elbow and rolled his shoulders back.  His biceps bulged, and he posed himself like a sculpture. 

“Oh, Sebastian!  What big arms you have!”  He moved to an alternate pose, and pursed his lips into a kissable pout.  He planted a quick peck on his flexed bicep and winked at his reflection.  “All the better to…” he changed poses a second time, flexing another muscle group in his upper body, “plow you with, my dear.”  He relaxed his arms and rolled his shoulders, shaking out his muscles.  He flexed his torso, making his taut abdomen flow like a wave on the beach of manliness.  He put his hands behind his head and swiveled his hips in a circle.  “Helloooo, ladies!”  He turned his back to the mirror, his eyes glanced over his shoulder, and he flexed his rear under his linen.  It was a short wrap, barely reaching past the bottom of his firm and remarkable assHis muscles bounced on command to yet another silent song.  This ass deserves only the tightest of pants! Satisfied with his physique, he nodded to his reflection, turned and dropped his towel.

He reached for his scented oil and poured more than a few drops over his chest, letting the beads trickle down his magnificently sculpted torso. 

“Dessert is served, come and get it, ladies!”  He rubbed a bit more between his palms and began smoothing it into his still-damp skin.  He ran his hands over his strong arms and shoulders, his chiseled chest and impossibly hard abs.  Adding more oil, he bent to smooth some over his impressive thighs and muscled calves, down to his perfect feet.  He rose and held his hands in front of him in defense.  

“Ladies, ladies!  No need to fight!  There’s plenty to go around!”  He chuckled at himself as he placed his oil back onto the table.There wasn’t much more of a turnoff than a man with dry, scaly skin.  He looked in the mirror as he fixed his hair, warming some wax between his hands and smoothing back his rebellious, rich chestnut waves.  He applied talcum powder to his entire body before walking to his trunk to choose his attire. 

He settled on a fitted black linen tunic and tight, deep grey leather trousers that required a few squats to stretch them out, for good measure.  He laced into black leather boots reached the crest of his calves, snuffed out his candles and leapt out his window.

He landed silently on the ground, and crept to the edge of the building, peering around the corner looking for anyone that might notice him.  His eyes adjusted to the dimly lit courtyard, and that’s when he saw her.

His breath left his body at the vision before him.  She sat back, leaning on her arms, on the lip of the pool, under an amber colored lantern which cast a holy glow about her.  Her brilliant black waves hung loosely down her back, silver and sapphire earrings dangled from her beautiful ears.  She wore a gown of black velvet with a deeply plunging neckline, and the long chains of silver filigree around her graceful neck drew his attention to the swell of her breasts, partially revealed by the cut of the sensual fabric.  She wore delicate sandals instead of boots, and he was intrigued by the rings adorning her pretty toes.   It was a clear night, and her head was tilted back while she gazed up at the stars.  He was spellbound by her beauty.  He didn’t even realize that he had left the shadows until he was sitting next to her.

She made no move to look at him, she just kept staring at the sky.

“I miss you.”

A dreamy smile spread across his face and he placed a hand over hers.

“I miss you, too.”

Her head turned and she looked at him with mischief in her sparkling eyes.

“Follow me.”

Rising from her seat, she took his hand and waited for him to follow.  They dashed quickly back to the shadow of the tree canopy and Sorcha led them through the trees along a winding footpath.  A moment later they came upon a seemingly unused stone building.  It was in a far removed corner of the Chantry grounds, within dense trees, brush and wildflowers.  Its walls were overgrown with moss and ivy, the wooden shingles were falling off and its foundation was beginning to crumble.

He raised an eyebrow at her, but remained silent.  She pulled him to the back of the building and nodded with a sideways move of her head that he was to follow her.  She climbed atop barrels that were left there, and pulled herself to the roof.

She must have been training, she wasn’t able to do that before!  Sebastian smiled as he watched her pull herself to waist level with the roof, swing a shapely leg over the top and climb the rest of the way up.  He quickly followed suit, climbing the discarded barrels to the roof.  Once he was fully at the top, his eyes widened and his mouth dropped open at the surprise Sorcha had prepared.

Not only did they have an unobstructed view of the night sky, there were pillows, soft blankets, a plate of fruit, and a couple bottles of non-Chantry wine.

“Sorcha, how?  Why?”

“I miss you, to both.”

He wrapped his arms around her and held her in a tight embrace.  No one had ever done anything like this for him before, the other women had been interested only in his position.  Now in the Chantry, he had no real position, he was not in line for the throne, nor did he lead Starkhaven’s militia.  She did all of this for the man, not for the prince.

His eyes were closed, and he nuzzled at her neck, taking in the enrapturing scent of her honeyed skin and raven hair.  One limpid blue eye opened as a thought came to him. 

“Sorcha, honey, how did you get the wine?”

She chuckled into his shoulder, but didn’t move her head away as she spoke.

“I had to make a trip into the city with Sister Amy to deliver supplies.  I ducked into the tavern while she was busy talking with the healers and refilling their stores.  I didn’t have any money on me, so… a round of cards later I had won two bottles of their most decent vintage and hid them in my pack before Sister Amy even realized I was gone.”

A flutter arose from his belly and he grinned widely.  Clever, clever girl.

She leaned up on her toes and placed a tender kiss on his unshaven cheek.

“Let’s get to enjoying this while we have time.”

Sorcha was the first to break away.  She took his hand and led him to the pile of pillows.  She bent down to her knees to spread them around, and motioned for him to take a seat.  She poured two goblets of the Antivan wine and offered him one once he was seated, before she placed the fruit between them and took a seat herself.

The full-bodied wine felt celestial on his tongue, and each bite of fruit was like tasting the sweetness of honey for the first time.  He watched her, saw her, the way her hands moved as she told a story, the way she licked her lips after taking a sip of wine, the way her mouth wrapped around the fruit as she ate.

“Sorcha?”

“Hmmm?”

“What’s your favorite color?”

She smiled and met his eyes.  “Blue.” Then she smirked, gave him a wink, and poured him more wine.

He blushed slightly at the obvious flirt.

“Age?”

She sat straight and tugged at her neckline. “Nineteen.”

He chuckled at the obvious mimicry of his earlier reaction to her same question, and poured her more wine.

“Birthday?”

“14 Guardian.”

“Education?”

“Quality.”

Now it was Sebastian’s turn to shoot her a look that meant she’d better elaborate.  She laughed at his expression and took a sip of her wine.

“I am learned in politics, history, language, and… Diamondback.”

Sebastian laughed but tried to stifle it, lest the sound carry on the open air and draw unwanted attention.

“Last fight you were in?”

A flash of pain crossed Sorcha’s face, and her troubled eyes fell to her cup as she clenched her free hand into a white-knuckled fist.

“A couple months ago, a drunken dipshit that I beat at cards came after me to get his money back.  I had to defend myself, but the idiot was so drunk that he tripped over his own feet and fell on my sword.  He bled out in front of me, and there was nothing I could do.”

Sebastian reached for her and placed a gentle hand on her knee comfortingly.  It was his turn to be there for her.

“As luck would have it, he was a Fereldan cousin of the Guard-Captain.  I was thrown in jail and had to spend a week in the cells.  My parents came to the guard station not to have me released, but to tell me that I had been ruining their lives for years and that I was being sent here.” 

A tear trailed down her cheek, and Sebastian lifted his hand and wiped it away softly with his thumb.

“I, for one,” he said softly, “am thankful for that luck.”

He leaned in and placed a sweet kiss softly on her trembling lips.  She sighed and gave herself over to him completely; she set down her cup and took his face in her hands, kissing him deeply.  He, too, set down his cup, and never breaking their embrace, tenderly laid her back upon the pillows. 

He parted her legs with his knee and lowered himself onto her.  Sebastian lost himself in the moment, slowly rolling his hips against her.  His kisses slowed and deepened, and the only things he noticed in the world was her scent of verbena, her taste of wine and apples, and her touch so electric he thought his heart might stop.  He wove his long fingers through her thick hair and tilted her head back as he unhurriedly kissed his way passed her throat, lingering along her collarbone before trailing down to the perfumed flesh exposed by her open neckline.  His tongue danced over the skin between her breasts, leaving a trail of goose bumps. 

Her hands were tangled in his thick waves before she freed one and ran it down his back to his grab rounded ass.  She shifted her hips to meet him as his arousal pressed harder against her core, and a long groan escaped his mouth.  As he bit teasingly at the sensitive skin on her neck, she moaned softly and tugged on her lip, and her eyelashes fluttered against her cheeks.  He discovered her bare, silken leg; and he drew his fingertips lightly along her thigh to rest at her hip, his thumb teasingly close to her slick and waiting folds. 

“My darling Sorcha, you are a goddess.”  He couldn’t hear the sounds of the night around him for the breaths and moans of the woman in his arms.  His exploration of her form found her naked breast, and his fingers skimmed over a pert nipple.  He took it into his hot mouth, his tongue rolling over the pebbled flesh before he surprized her with a gentle nip and her back arched deeply, lifting her torso off of the pillows.  Her fingers clawed desperately at his tunic, aching to feel his warm skin on hers.  He leaned up from her writhing body and pulled his tunic off up over his head, tossing it to the side with a smirk.  Her hungry eyes fixed on his noble physique in admiration and in need; he was a man more beautiful than anything she could ever dream of.

She pawed at his waistband, tearing at the laces frantically. “These tight pants drive me crazy.” she breathed.   He gave her a dangerous smile, and pulled at the laces himself.  He peeled himself out of his trousers, freeing his throbbing erection which achingly twitched with each blood rush.  Every fiber of his being was craving her wholly, longing to be inside her, filling her emptiness in every which way he could.  She gazed at him adoringly, her eyes dark with desire, and something else…  Sebastian couldn’t quite place it. 

“Maker’s breath, Sebastian,” she whispered, “You are…” Her eyes danced over him like his body was a masterpiece. “…so beautiful; I feel I want to cry just looking at you.”  She sat forward, her hands caressing him compulsively and reverently, worshiping every taut muscle, every inch of tanned flesh, and a small but very recent scar just under his hipbone.

He reached to her waist, untied the sash that held her dress closed in the front and smirked, “Hmmm, is this for me?” he asked and slowly opened her dress like unwrapping a gift.  She was totally nude underneath, save for a thin silver chain draped around her middle.   His breath hitched when he saw her natural beauty, and his brilliant blue eyes roved hungrily over her delicious nakedness.

“Happy birthday, my prince.”  Her voice was dazzling, like liquid gemstones and starlight.

“Oh, Sorcha… honey, you are perfectly amazing.” His voice was so low, so velvety and dripping with lust.   “How the Maker has blessed me.”  She blushed as she looked up at him and bit her lip playfully.  His hands caressed her form gently, worshipping every curve of her shapely legs, her rounded hips, her smallish waist, and her perfect breasts. 

The scent of her arousal was intoxicating, connecting him to a primal, aching need to be inside her.  Kneeling between her inviting legs, he grasped his hardness and held it to her slick opening, circling it and teasing it mercilessly.  She whined in protest at his hindrance.  He reached back with his free hand, lovingly grasped her foot, and placed it on his shoulder.  He peppered kisses on the inside of her ankle; a glistening trail from his flicking tongue followed his swollen lips along her calf to her knee. She rolled her hips into him, hoping to push herself onto his waiting cock.  He raised an eyebrow at her and shook his head slowly to chastise her for her impatience, and his lips lingered on the sensitive flesh of her inner thigh. 

With his hardness still teasing her opening, he wrapped his arm around her leg and pulled her closer.  Her hands flew up over her head, surrendering herself to his will.  Cock in hand, he entered her with just his tip.  She moaned in anticipation, but hissed in disapproval as he removed himself again. 

“Sebastian! If there were such thing as a Tease demon, you would be it!”  He smirked handsomely at her frustration, and entered her shallowly a second time before quickly exiting. 

“Sebastian!” 

She was almost yelling her whispers now, her voice breathy and low with arousal and impatience.

“Hmmm?” he answered pompously, his smirk spreading into a wide smile.  She made a pouting face and wiggled her hips in a silent plea for him to end the torture.  He gave her thigh one last heated kiss before lowering her leg from his shoulder.  He shifted his body and held himself over her, kissing her deeply as he entered her longing core.  He took his time, pushing himself inside slowly, savoring every beautiful moment.   She gasped and cursed in blessed pleasure.  She bit his lip as his hardness parted her, stretched her.  He moaned into her mouth as she accepted his entirety, feeling like she was made just for him.  She arched her back and mewled as he swiveled his hips while deep inside her, filling her, completing her. 

He placed his lips to her ears and whispered, “If I never live another day, Sorcha, I will die a happy man.”

They moved slowly and together, hands and lips worshiping, tasting, their hips rolling with one another.  She wrapped her legs around his waist, taking him deeper, urging him to go faster.  He shook his head and put a hand on her hip, slowing her, his heavy-lidded eyes watching her bitten lips, her dancing eyes, and her heaving chest.  He moved his hand along to her center, the perfect pressure from his thumb drawing circles threw her into unfathomable pleasure.  She had never had this feeling before in all her life. 

He felt her tightening around him, squeezing down on his hardness.  His voice was raspy with arousal, “Not so fast, my darling.”

He withdrew his thick hardness from her tight sheath and her body collapsed in concession.  Trailing kisses down her neck and chest, he licked his way to her hard nipples, blowing over them gently with each tease of his talented tongue.   She wove her fingers through his hair as he ran his tongue to her mound, his breath teasing her as his mouth hovered over her center.

Looking at her with spirited eyes and a demonic smile, he opened his mouth wide and ran his flattened tongue along her slick folds, lingering at her center with gentle sucking.  With two deft fingers, he entered her, curling them up slightly to press on her love spot.  Her body shook with ecstasy; her knees jerked and nearly knocked him in the head.  A devilish grin spread across his face as he lapped up her wetness.

“Have I discovered my demoness’ weakness?” he purred before he licked her like the frosting on a frilly cake.

A deep moan from the bottom of the Void itself rumbled from her chest, over her parted lips.  “You are my weakness, Sebastian…” she tugged at his hair and pulled his face closer, “It will always be you.”

He savored her taste like a delicacy, rolling his tongue over her center as he worked magic with his talented hands.  She was so slick, so hot, and tightening with each curl of his archer’s fingers.

He pulled them from her quivering core, and slowly licked off the slick juices as he climbed back onto her waiting body.  With a hard thrust, he entered her deeply and held himself there as she lifted her hips to take more of him.  He moved himself slowly at first, pulling out almost entirely before shoving himself back into her sweet core.  His pace quickened slightly, his rhythmic thrusts teasing small squeals from Sorcha’s lips.

She mewled and reached up, grabbing the back of his neck, pulled him down into a kiss that had her seeing rainbows behind her closed eyelids.  “Come with me,” she begged.  It was the sound of her pleading, throaty voice that uncoiled his passion.  Her breathing quickened and her body tensed, and she tugged on her bottom lip as she whimpered.  He could feel her muscle contracting around him, and he swallowed her moans as she came with a fury, digging her fingers into his strong shoulders.  She purred his name breathlessly, running her fingers through his hair, and clenching him with her legs, she kept him deep inside her. 

 “Sorcha, honey, I…”  He kissed her from the depth of his soul, his moans muffled by her divine lips.  His release was so strong that he saw stars behind his closed eyes.  His whole body quivered as he filled her accepting body with his seed.  He collapsed on top of her, struggling to catch his breath, wrapping his arms around her and nuzzling her sweat-dampened neck.  He opened his eyes and lifted his head to see her smiling reverently at him, her eyes dancing over his face and her fingers teasing his hair.  He managed a weak smile.

“That was…” he began.

“The first of many, I hope?” she asked.

“Perfect,” he continued, “And the first of very many.”

He slid out of her and rolled to her side, and held her in his exhausted arms, her head rested on his shoulder as she draped an arm and a leg over him.  They laid there for moments or an eternity, he knew not which, embracing one another under the endless and eternal stars.  Sebastian kissed the top of her head, and thought about how lucky he was to have met her.  He thought back to the very first day that he had seen her, and how the power she had over him was immediate.  Silently thanking the Maker, he smiled as he looked up to the stars, and noticed one streak across the darkened sky.  In that moment, a prince’s wish was made.

 

 

  

Chapter Text

In the following months, Sorcha and Sebastian were nearly inseparable, except for those unfortunate days when their requisite Chantry duties pulled them from each other.  Proverbial peas in a pod, they found in one another a familiarity and a comfort; they had the same thoughts, feelings, opinions and tastes on almost everything.

Sorcha had come to think of Sebastian as not only a lover, but her best friend.  She had no one to leave behind when she left Ostwick; her parents had sent her away as an answer to their problems, and she had no friends to speak of- only people that she drank with regularly, gambled with often, and slept with occasionally; she had many acquaintances, but none whom would miss her. 

She knew that Sebastian had always been surrounded by people, but he was a clever man; clever enough to know that none of them were genuine and all wore a mask of one kind or another.  It was his honesty with her that she clung to; no one had ever treated her with such respect and compassion before, and he was always truthful and unmasked with her.  Everyone else had been a liar in some way, but not him. 

Sebastian was surprised to find himself caring about another person, someone other than himself.  He wanted to make her smile like a star on the blackest night, make her laugh like her spirit was soaring, and comfort her like a lover when she was hurting.   He never held regard for anyone in Starkhaven, because he knew that no one truly cared about him-- the unnecessary prince.    But Sorcha was different, she was real and honest and kind and… his. 

They spent most of their days together in the training yard, sparring with the Templars or honing their techniques; Sorcha had quickly become lethal with a dagger, and her agility had improved.  She was beautiful to watch, and watch her, he did.  She had become more graceful and sure on her feet, and her limbs began to obey her wishes and increasingly moved with precision.  She almost danced across the training yard when she manoeuvered around the mannequins.   Watching her body move as she sparred with the Templars was beautiful, and Sebastian enjoyed the show.  He had taught her how to wield daggers and throw blades; she was even decent with a bow, but her strength lay with a sword and shield.  He knew little of using a sword; only enough that he could potentially survive in a fight if those were the only weapons available to him, but Sorcha was becoming a formidable swordswoman.  She had taken to training with the rest of the Templar recruits under Ser Emeric, even though she was not joining the Order herself.  Sebastian didn’t mind Ser Emeric; he noticed her aptitude and understood the importance of inclusion, and he was a respectable and honorable man.  He knew that Sorcha wasn’t at the Chantry by choice, and he allowed her to train with the recruits. 

Their nights were spent in the secret comfort of each other’s arms, and morning always came too soon.  Sebastian would sneak out of his quarters regularly, only to climb through her darkened window and into her warm and welcoming bed.  They had grown practiced in quiet lovemaking, and waking up before dawn to sneak back to their own rooms. 

On the clearest nights, they met on the rooftop of “their” hidden building, and embraced under the light of the uncountable stars.  They talked while they gazed at the twinkling sky, and shared everything openly and honestly; Sebastian had learned about Sorcha’s family and her past, and Sorcha took comfort in knowing that Sebastian’s life before she met him was strikingly similar to hers; they had both arrived at Hercinia’s Chantry with emotional tethers, and neither of them had expected to find liberation.

On the lucky days when they were slated to trek into the city together, Sorcha and Sebastian actually enjoyed performing their Chantry duties.  They would load Lumé and Morchuise with supplies and walk out of the gates together.  After delivering the herbs and poultices to the healer’s canopy, they frequented the tavern to “administer” teachings of Andraste and the absolution of sins for the patrons, who were usually having a private card game in a back room to which the noble couple had a standing invitation.  Sebastian’s family gave him a regular stipend, which he was all too happy to spend on pampering his lover; he had rented a permanent room at the tavern, and after they had reveled in some wine and gambling, he and Sorcha would enjoy a few hours of reveling in one another, without the need of silence. 

It was during one of their trips into the city that they had encountered conflict for the first time since arriving at the Chantry, and began earning the trust of the citizens of Hercinia.  A woman, battered and bloodied, staggered through the streets looking for help.  She stumbled into the healer’s canopied stall just as Sebastian and Sorcha were preparing to depart, Sebastian had managed to just catch her as she fell.

“Maker’s breath, what happened?” he asked the near-unconscious woman.

“B—bandits, my lord, outside…city.  My c—caravan, my lord…” was all the injured woman could manage to speak before she collapsed in his arms.

Sebastian lifted her to a bed and called for the healer to attend her.  He looked at Sorcha, who was already on her horse and holding Morchuise’s reins, waiting for him to follow suit.  With haste, he mounted his horse and together they spurred their beasts on into a gallop as they rode through the winding streets of Hercina.

They didn’t have to go too far from the city to find the bandits still attacking the caravan.  There were bodies strewn across the bloodied ground, crates and barrels decimated, and carts overturned.  The bandits were small in number, but lethal to a group of unarmed merchants.

Sebastian was quick to draw his bow and begin firing his righteous arrows into the necks and chests of the offenders.  Sorcha did not carry her sword or her shield, but she did have two daggers in her boots.  She was not an expert with the blades, but months of training had made her a challenging opponent; certainly more of a challenge than unarmed merchants.   Leaving the reins free about her horse’s neck, she jumped from Lumé’s back and drew her weapons.

Without a second thought, Sorcha leapt at the back of a man who was attacking a woman, and with surprising ease buried the daggers to the hilt into his lungs.  She pulled them from his body and stared at the blood pool that began to form which colored his leathers a deeper, darker brown.  She froze and could not tear her gaze away from the man that she had just killed.  Awareness had returned to her only after another body fell dead at her feet, with a war axe in his hand and two arrows in his back.

She whipped her head to the side to see Sebastian lowering his bow and looking down at her from the back of his horse.  She smiled slightly as she crossed her arm over her chest and covered her heart in a gracious salute; he just grinned and winked before reining his stallion around.

It seemed a matter of moments before the bandits were dead, and the remaining merchants were safe.  Sorcha wiped the blood from her blades on the shirt of a bandit’s corpse, and placed them back in her boots.  Sebastian tethered his bow to his back, dismounted, and walked hurriedly over to her.

He picked her up in his arms and she winced, a pained expression flashing over her face.  He immediately set her back on her feet.  “Maker, Sorcha! Are you injured?”  His eyes softened.  “Are you…okay?”  She knew what he meant with that last remark; the only other time she had killed a man was by accident, and he was dutifully concerned for her well-being.

She put on a brave face; she gave a little chuckle, and rubbed at her shoulder.  “I’m fine, Sebastian.  Really.  I think I just pulled something… that’s what I get for trying to impress you.  How are you? No injuries?”

He smiled and kissed her dirt-streaked cheek.  “They didn’t even get near me.  I’m an archer, remember?”

They took stock of the damage caused by the attack; almost every cart was destroyed along with most of the goods.  It seemed a typical raid, yet there was something that didn’t sit well with Sorcha.

“How is it that this was allowed to happen so close to the city?  We are only minutes from the gates,” she wondered.

“These bloody guards are as corrupted as the Blight,” one of the merchants stated, “They’ll charge you for rescuing you.”

“Well, shit.”  Sorcha was not unacquainted with dirty guards, but allowing innocent citizens to die seemed extreme.  She secretly hoped that the time would never come where she would need help from them.

After checking for wounds and satisfied that neither of them was hurt, they attended the surviving merchants who needed to get to the healer.  They placed the most wounded atop their horses, and walked with the victims to the healer’s stall.  As the last of the injured found their way to a bed, Sorcha looked at Sebastian and smiled.

“I really, really need a bath.  Not a not-a-bath bath, but a real bath, with a tub, and hot water.  Can we go to our room?”

Sebastian beamed at the thought of her naked in the steaming water; this was a request he could not (or would not) refuse.

“We will have to make it quick, my darling, we don’t want anyone coming to look for us.”

Sorcha nodded in agreement and quickened her pace toward the tavern.  They reached the whitewashed stone building and handed their horses off to the stable hand in the livery at the rear.  They requested from Allan, the barkeep, that their tub be filled and heated, and after tipping generously they sat in the private gambling room to enjoy a drink while they waited.  A few brandies later, the serving woman notified them that their bath was ready and they made their way to their little slice of heaven.

The room wasn’t much to look at, but they had made it their own.  They had small tapestries of sage green and white, a large double bed with fresh, stark white linens, a toiletry cabinet filled with their favorite scented soaps and oils, and copies of their favorite books.  Behind the privacy screen of sage and silver was a real bathtub, large enough for them to both fit into.  It held steaming water, deliciously scented by their favorite oils, and Sorcha was almost completely free from her travelling leathers before Sebastian had even locked the door.

The light from the still-high sun filtered in through the window, past the sheer curtain, and illuminated the copper tub like a beaconing treasure.  Multi-faceted reflections bounced the redirected sunlight throughout the room, casting a warm, ethereal glow about their sanctuary.

Sorcha sank into the tub and her eyelids fluttered at the decadent feeling of soaking in the hot water.  She leaned back and submerged herself entirely, coming up only just before her air ran out.  Sebastian watched her adoringly while he removed his dragonbone breastplate and travelling leathers, preparing to join her in the heated water. 

They had seen each other nude more times than was countable, but Sebastian couldn’t help but feel that he would never tire of her beautiful form, and he would gaze upon her reverently until the end of time.  Sorcha watched him undress, and it was like watching a god emerge from mortal trappings.  He was the most breathtaking being she had ever seen, and she would never tire of his beautiful form. He slid into the bath behind her, legs around her hips, and pulled her into him.  He wrapped his strong arms around her and closed his eyes as he held her, and he counted his blessings for every moment he spent embracing this magnificent woman.

She was leaning back against him, resting against his sculpted chest.  He tilted his head forward, placing soft kisses of worship on her graceful neck and strong shoulders.  She sighed in enjoyment and lifted a dripping hand, reaching back to lovingly twirl his wavy hair around her fingers.   He gave her a sharp little bite before he reached for her lily-scented soap, which he lathered in his hands and masterfully applied to her hair, massaging her scalp and neck like a servant for a queen.

She moaned in her relaxation, thoroughly enjoying every movement of his expertly talented fingers.  He reached for the pitcher, and guiding her forward, he held her head back and rinsed the lather away with a gentle pour.  He placed the pitcher back on the wash stand, and after squeezing the excess water from her raven locks, he lovingly applied her spiced oil to her soaked tresses, gently combed it out with a silver comb, and braided it into a simple plait.  As he attended her hair, she lathered her body with her spiced soap and an ocean sponge (a gift from her prince), ensuring the chaos of the day got stripped from her honeyed skin.   He kissed her the back of her neck before placing her braid over her shoulder, and she pivoted in the warm water to face her lover.

Sorcha moved her legs to be on the outside of his, reached for his waist to pull him closer to her, and lifted herself on top of his impressively sexy thighs.  She kissed him deeply before she guided his head back and into the water.  He rose up and before he could clear the water from his eyes, she lowered herself onto his thoroughly aroused manhood.  He wrapped his arms around her and moaned deeply as his hardness filled her to the hilt.  Her lips on his, she reached for his spiced soap, and lathered it in her hands as her forearms were draped over his shoulders.  She set it back onto the stand and gently ran her fingers through his hair, washing him as she slowly rocked her hips and kissed him deeply. He couldn’t describe what he was feeling; it was beyond divine, more than euphoric, and he wished he could stop time and live in that moment for eternity.

She rinsed his hair with a gentle pour and massaged spiced oil into his scalp while she bit his bottom lip playfully.  He had his hands wrapped around her hips, and he guided her along his shaft in slow and steady movements.  She grasped his lavender soap and lathered it onto the ocean sponge before she leaned back to wash his body.  She ran it over his neck and shoulders, and very slowly lathered over his remarkable chest.  He took it from her and softly ran it very slowly over her collarbone, her sternum and her perfect breasts.  The sponge was dropped into the water and they moved the lather over one another with their bare hands.  She massaged his shoulders and chest while he thrust gently within her, and he ran his hands over her breasts in veneration while she arched her back deeply in carnal bliss.

She wrapped her legs around his hips, and rocked herself at a quickened pace.  His breath hitched and a low growl escaped his full and beautiful lips.  She moaned loudly and clenched down on his throbbing manhood before throwing herself into his arms.

Wrapped in the tightest and most passionate embrace, they crested the peak of their passion together, like they were of one body.  They shared a tender kiss before Sorcha rose from his lap and exited the now tepid water.  He, too, rose from the water and after setting his still-shaking limbs on the floor, walked over to his lover and lowered himself to his knees, took her oil in his hands, and worshipfully applied it to her goddess-like flesh.

“My dear, sweet Sebastian, you are too good to me.  What I could have done in this life for the Maker to bless me like this, I’ll never know.”  She bid him to stand and when he did, she took his hand into hers and kissed it lovingly.  He lifted her chin and gazed into her alluring eyes, his brilliant blues flitting between them.

“My beautiful, darling Sorcha, you are a goddess walking upon this world.  Your light, your beauty, your heart, all so glorious and honorable and blindingly bright.  I truly am not worthy of your affection, but I cherish every moment of it.”

He leaned in and placed his sweet lips over hers, and they both inhaled sharply through their noses the moment their lips touched.  It was a perfect kiss, so perfect that spirits wept at its beauty; the heavens opened and the light of the Maker shone upon them in divine blessing; and every songbird in the world sang the music of their embrace.

Sebastian pulled his lips from hers and brought their foreheads together.  He was speechless, spellbound, silent, and smiling. 

Sorcha fought back tears, but one escaped her and trailed down her cheek.  She needed him like she needed breath, she revered him as a god among men, and she longed for an eternity in his arms. 

She let out an exasperated sigh. “I suppose it’s time to leave.”  She very much disliked the idea of leaving their room and returning to the Chantry.

He just held her tighter and kissed her neck gently.  “I suppose it is.”

They reluctantly redressed in the same clothes and exited their room, feeling sated and yet perturbed that they had to sneak around.  Sebastian passed Allan a few extra gold coins for the good care, and the couple left for the Chantry.

-----

Three mundane weeks had passed before they were to venture back into the city, and Sorcha was going to make this trip exciting.  They had both tired of the routine of Chantry life; wake up at dawn, go to morning services, train, maybe have lunch, train some more, attend evening services, go to bed.  Day in, day out.  Every day.  On this day, some variety would be added to their lives.

Sorcha had been informed of their duties the night before, and that clever mind of hers formulated a wicked plan.  She had gone to the healer’s building and requested that the supplies she was to take in the morning be prepared that evening, so she “may leave at the earliest of light”, or so she told the healer.  She crossed over to the stables after lights out and tacked up Lumé and Morchuise, strapping the cargo to their backs.  Once they were loaded, she snuck to Sebastian’s window, and with much greater ease than her first attempt, climbed in to his darkened room over the open sill.

She was greeted tonight by a feast for her eyes.  He was dressed only in loose breeches, doing push-ups, and he seemed to be in the middle of a particularly large set of repetitions.  His breathing was heavy and his wavy hair hung loose around his face.  She watched the muscles of his back and shoulders ripple with each exertion, and the sound of his panting breath gave her shivers of arousal.  He raised his eyes and winked as he continued his set.  She walked over to him, and by placing one foot directly in front of the other her hips swung widely with each step.  She straddled him and sat down on his back, then she picked her feet up off the floor and set her full weight upon him.  He grimaced and groaned, and his arms shook before he pretended to collapse under her weight.  She gasped and smacked him on the ass, “Yah, mule!”

He chuckled and continued his set with her on his back; she could feel his taut muscles flexing with each repetition, hear his breathing deepen, and see sweat beginning to form on the back of his neck.

When he finished, he fell to the floor, which unbalanced Sorcha.  She began to teeter and as she put her feet back onto the floor, he flipped over onto his back, though she managed to keep upright.  She straddled his hips and he gave her a smirk as he lifted his torso and began to do sit-ups.  The pressure of his manhood against her aroused core caused her to tug at her bottom lip and whimper.  He lifted himself and wrapped his arms around her, pressing her harder against him.  She held his face and kissed him deeply and slowly; she was about to let him start undressing her before she remembered her plans for the night.

She broke away from his pouting lips and grinned like the cat that ate the canary.  She stood and blushed at the sight of his obvious arousal. 

 “Hurry up and get dressed,” she tossed him his tunic, “Let’s go.”

He raised an eyebrow and looked at her coyly, and rose to his feet.  “Your will be done,” he said with a flourished bow.  He dressed and grabbed his coin purse and weapons before retreating out of the window behind her.

“Sorcha, honey…have you been scheming?”  His whisper barely escaped his lips before she turned around and pounced on him, peppering him with fervent kisses.  He smiled like the sun and wrapped his arms around her as she perched herself upon his hips.  He managed a few steps before his toes found an exposed tree root, and they both went tumbling across the leaf-covered ground.

“Well, my dear,” he managed between giggles, “it seems I have fallen for you.”

She rolled her eyes and smacked him playfully in the chest, “Oh, how original!” she chuckled, “Come on, let’s hurry.”

They found their footing and brushed the dirt and leaves from their clothes.  He followed her to the stable and was almost surprised to see their horses packed for a trip into town.  He had spent enough time with Sorcha to know that she was predictably unpredictable.  He had accepted the fact that she was prone to doing crazy things, and if he were to be honest, he enjoyed her eccentricities.

She handed him Morchuise’s reins and motioned for him to follow, and together they led their animals past the sleeping Brother at the gates and along the winding path which led to the peacefully lit town.

“We have to bring supplies in the morning,” Sorcha started, “but no one said what time of the morning.  We are going to drop these off with a nice letter saying ‘sorry we missed you’ and then… the night and day are ours!”  She let out a maniacal little giggle and tented her fingers in front of her.

Sebastian vehemently approved of her plan.  It had been way too long since they were able to let loose and have some actual fun, and not Chantry fun like “Who can stay silent the longest?” and “What would Andraste do?”

He took her by the hand and they walked the path together to the healer’s canopy.  Leaving the supplies out of sight from thieving eyes, they attached the note written in Sorcha’s beautiful hand and quickly made their way to the tavern.

They entered through the back entrance, and after visiting Allan for a couple of brandies, they entered the back room to join in the revelry.  Sorcha and Sebastian had felt quite comfortable at the tavern; most of the townspeople adored them enough to keep quiet about their presence, and they paid the tavern keeper well enough that he would never think about betraying his most illustrious benefactors.  Here at the tavern, they were less inhibited and more themselves.

They sat at the card table and bought in for the next round of Diamondback.  The drinks were flowing, the purse was growing, and the mood was heating up; Sorcha could barely keep her hands off of Sebastian; while she drank with one hand, she grabbed his cock with the other.  He was only a man, and a man could not tolerate that kind of teasing for very long.

“You will suffer for your actions, Lady Trevelyan.” He whispered into her ear, as he grabbed her hand and moved it over his erection.

Her cup to her lips, she smirked and grasped his cock through his trousers, squeezing just enough to make him bite his lip and shift in his seat.

“Are you threatening me, Lord Vael?” she breathed into his ear, her voice raspy with desire.

“I don’t threaten…” he bit her ear as he moaned softly, and she had had enough.  Unwilling to wait a moment longer for his cock to fill her, she folded her terrible hand, grabbed a bottle of whiskey and Sebastian’s arm, and began making a bee-line for their room.  Sebastian rose from the table (never more thankful for an untucked tunic) and bowed graciously to their hosts before very quickly following her.

As soon as their door was locked, Sorcha was ripping at Sebastian’s clothes, frantically trying to expose his divine flesh.  He stood still, refusing to help her.

“You have no idea what I’m going to do to you, demoness.”

Her gaze turned predatory.  “Why don’t you enlighten me then?”

He moved a hand to the back of her head and fisted her long, loose waves, pulling her hair hard enough to elicit a hiss from her glistening lips.

He angled his head and whispered into her ear, “Are you sure this is what you want, my darling?” he tugged her locks just a bit tighter, making sure that she understood his point.  “I do not intend to be gentle.” 

She nodded vehemently, her chest heaving for breath, “Maker, yes. Command me.”

He placed a kiss on her temple before pulling away from her, his expression now one of power and dominance.

“Your clothes.  Take them off.  Now.” He growled with his teeth bared.

He held fast to her hair as she unhooked her corset and slid her dress from her shoulders; the fine fabric pooled on the floor in a crumpled heap.  She stood before him in only her smalls and a breast band, her head tilted slightly from his fist in her hair.  She eyed him defiantly and hungrily, needing him to take her in the most savage of ways.

“All of them.”  He nodded to her underclothes and she obeyed with feigned unwillingness.  She suddenly felt vulnerable, but that was quickly overtaken by her arousal, spurred by Sebastian’s tongue running over his perfect lips and the gleam of insatiable desire in his piercing blue eyes.

She reached for him, but he stepped back and slapped her hand away.  “I will make you beg for it.”

A smirk rose on her lips and she held his gaze, a fire burned in her eyes the likes of which he had never seen.  His cock throbbed at the thought of quenching her hot, delicious desire.  He let go of her hair and walked over to the table, grabbed a glass and as he poured himself a whiskey, he commanded her again.

“Get on the bed.”  She turned to walk to their bed but his regal voice stopped her stone still.

“Do not turn your back to me!  I am your prince!  Who do you think you are?”

Sorcha almost couldn’t hide how much that turned her on, she turned and bowed deeply in deference and in her softest, most innocent voice, she replied, “I am your dirty little whore, my lord.”

Sebastian gripped his glass so tightly that it should have shattered.  His heart nearly leapt from his chest and his breathing quickened.  He almost couldn’t hide how much that turned him on.

Sorcha slowly stepped backwards toward the bed, still bowing and holding out her hands in obeisance.  Once the backs of her knees touched the soft bedding, she climbed backwards onto the bed, her gaze never faltering.  She was laid out for him like an offering to the god of carnal pleasure, propped up on her elbows and staring at him smolderingly.

Sebastian did not move a step toward the bed.  He leaned against the table, his arms were folded over his chest and legs were crossed in front of him.

“You have been misbehaving.  What do you think we should do about that, my dirty little whore?”

“Punish me, my lord.”  She tugged at her bottom lip and caressed her perfect tits with a freed hand.

“Put the pillows behind your back,” he ordered.

She bowed her eyes reverently and propped herself up against their pillows.

“Open your legs, my dirty whore.”

“As you command, my lord.”  Sorcha put her fingers lightly on her knees, and very slowly parted her legs until her outer thighs rested on the mattress.

His eyes roved over her so hungrily that she thought he was going to rend her flesh.

“Now touch yourself.  Slowly.”

She lowered a hand to her core and cupped her mound with her palm.  Her fingers slid effortlessly over her slick opening and into her glistening folds.  Her eyes rolled back in her head at her hot wetness as she created perfect friction.

“Eyes on me, whore!”  Sebastian’s demands were making her delirious, his voice was making her so wet that her entire hand was coated in her slickness.  She lifted her eyes to meet his, her gaze begging him to take her.

Sebastian poured himself another drink very nonchalantly, and he turned back to her with feigned indifference.

“Fuck yourself.”

For the first time in her life, Sorcha was going to allow someone to say that to her without breaking their teeth.  With one hand pinching and teasing her hard nipple, she entered herself with the other, her two pretty fingers fucking herself slowly while the prince of Starkhaven watched.  Her back arched and her eyes closed in her bliss, her fingers shining with her wetness.

“Look at me!”

His gaze was feral; her beautiful face was flushed and her lips were twisted in pleasure, and he could barely hold himself together.

She moaned his name, and the prince had had about as much as he could take.  He finished his drink in one final swallow, and set his glass on the table.  He began removing his own clothing without his eyes ever leaving the magnificent woman lying on the bed in front of him. He leaned down to remove his boots, and the sight before him was indescribable.  He was at the perfect position to watch Sorcha pleasure herself, seeing her opening stretch each time she pushed her fingers in deeper, and he watched her glistening juices trail slowly from her slit to her ass.  He fumbled with his boots for a moment before standing to remove his shirt, which he tossed across the room, and his trousers and smalls laid crumpled on the floor beneath him.

He climbed onto the bed and rested on his knees next to her face, he stroked his impossibly hard cock while he watched her intensely.  He leaned closer to her, the tip of his manhood was almost touching her lips.

“Open your mouth.”

She smirked and obeyed.  She licked his tip and her tongue swirled over his slit.  He stroked himself slowly as she wrapped her lips around him, sucking gently as her tongue danced over his sensitive flesh.  A guttural moan close to a roar burst from his lips as he thrust his cock deeper into her mouth.  She whimpered as he grabbed her hair, her fingers still working her wetness, circling her center with perfect pressure.

“Do you want this cock, little whore?”

“Maker, yes, I want it!” she gasped as she came up for air.

“It won’t be the Maker fucking you until you scream.  I say again, do you want this cock, little whore?”

“More than anything, my lord, I want your cock.  I need you to fuck me!”  She sucked him harder and faster, taking him deeper until her jaw popped.

“I think you’re lying, whore.  I don’t believe you.” His breath hitched and he bit his lip.

Sorcha begged and pleaded, “My lord, please, please, I’m begging you!  Please fill me with your huge cock! Please, my prince!”

Sebastian smiled a devilish smile.

“On your knees. Now.”

“As you wish, my lord.”

Sorcha rolled over onto her hands and knees, her face on the bed and her ass in the air.  Sebastian positioned himself behind her and teased her impossibly wet opening, his length throbbing in response.

Sorcha whined in protest, “Fuck me hard, my lord. I’ll scream your name as I come on your cock!”

“Yes you will, dirty little whore.”  He slapped her ass and she squealed in painful pleasure before he drove himself into her so forcefully that her neck craned against the bed.

Sebastian was animalistic; he grunted and hissed with each thrust into her tight, wet core.  Sorcha gasped and mewled each time his balls slapped against her center, and he fucked her so hard that she had nearly been shoved off the bed.

Sorcha couldn’t control herself any longer, she felt herself tightening around him, and she quivered and moaned loudly.

“Did I say you could come before me?”  He slapped her on the ass again, leaving a reddened hand print, and reached forward to grab her hair, which he pulled back just enough to lift her torso off the bed.

“No, my… FUCK!  No, my lord!” She couldn’t take much more of this before she would lose herself.

“You come when I tell you to, whore.”  Sebastian quickened his pace and increased his ferocity.  Sorcha’s moans quickly became screams of pleasure that rose over the sound of flesh slapping against flesh.  “Your climax is mine, just as YOU are mine!”

He drove himself deeper and fucked her harder until he felt the hot tension uncoil from his loins; he reached around with his free hand and worked her center as he pulled on her hair.

“Scream for me as I come inside you!”  Sorcha didn’t need to be told twice.

Her voice rang free and loud as they came together.  She screamed his name as he filled her with his hot seed, and his moans carried as loudly as hers.

They both collapsed on the bed, deliriously satisfied.  They laid there facing one another, and Sebastian lifted his hand to move a stray lock of hair from across her face.  His expression was filled with awe and his lidded eyes flitted across her smiling face.

“I didn’t hurt you, did I?” 

“Fuck no! We need to do that more often!” she giggled.

He chuckled softly and pulled her close.  “Whatever you wish, my darling. I am yours.”  He kissed her sweetly and held his forehead to hers, she closed her eyes and a contented sigh passed between her perfect lips.

They fell asleep in each other’s arms, blissfully unaware that in a few short hours they would have to return to their prison of propriety.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The ride back to the chantry that afternoon went much too quickly; it seemed to them that only moments ago they were wrapped in each other’s arms and sleeping peacefully.  As they begrudgingly entered through the gates, they were met by Sister Clara, who was tasked with informing them of their shared kitchen duties in a couple of hours.

“Ugh.” Sorcha’s shoulders dropped as she expelled all of her breath in disgust.

Sebastian, however, was ever the gentleman and still possessed manners, “Thank you, Sister.”

Sister Clara perked up like a chipper bird and flitted off to do whatever it was that chipper Sisters did.  Sebastian and Sorcha just looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders in unison, and made their way to the stables to take care of their horses, which they did quite slowly, as neither of them wanted to be on kitchen duty tonight and they were in no hurry to get there.

“Well, my darling, I guess we need to change into something less yesterday,” he said with a light chuckle.

“Ugh. I guess.”  Sorcha was definitely pouting now.

He drew her into a quick hug and kissed the top of her head, “At least we are suffering together.”

That thought was almost comforting to her.  She could face the Void itself if he were with her; maybe tonight’s kitchen duty might not be so bad, after all.

---

Preparing and serving the food was as tiring as ever, and Sebastian wanted nothing more than to sit in a hot bath with a strong drink and his sexy lover.  He watched adoringly as she bustled around the kitchen, laying out food trays and filling goblets like a pretty food fairy.  She threw the dishtowel from her shoulder at his face, startling him, and he hadn’t realized that he had been staring.  He smiled broadly, his dimpled cheeks rising to crinkle his eyes, and he tossed the towel over his own shoulder and went back to work setting out plates and cutlery.  As he brought out the first basket of bread and leaned across the table to place it down, he got this disturbing feeling that he was being watched.  The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, and tension coiled like a viper in his stomach.  Without raising his head, he lifted his eyes and scanned the great room for the source of his anxiety.  It didn’t take him long to see Ser James glaring at him.  Fucking creepy bastard…   Sebastian continued on like nothing was happening; he crossed the kitchen to grab more bread baskets, and looked for the man again.  This time, the Templar’s eyes were on Sorcha, his gaze leering and menacing; I’m going to fucking kill him!  Sebastian had to summon all of his will to not run over there and smash the lecher’s teeth in.

After the evening service concluded and the kitchen had been cleaned, Sebastian escorted Sorcha and Sister Clara back to their quarters.  Sister Clara thanked him for the company and went inside to her room, Sorcha gave him a little curtsey and a wink, and he smiled and bowed to her deeply.  The couple said their goodnights, and reluctantly parted.

Sebastian slept fitfully that night, his arms were missing Sorcha and he couldn’t shake this anxiety—or the bad feeling he had earlier.  He sighed in frustration and rolled over to find a comfortable spot to try to fall back asleep.  The moonlight illuminated his nightstand, and he smiled as he reached over and fingered the silver filigree chain which was draped over the handle of his candlestick.  It was a chain that Sorcha had worn around her graceful neck that night on the roof, under the stars.  He could still picture how elegantly it hung, and how beautifully the stone sat between her perfect, naked breasts as she was lying beneath him.  He held the stone gently in his fingers and brought it to his lips, placing a kiss of veneration upon its crystalline surface.  After he placed it back onto his nightstand, he closed his eyes again for sleep, but this time a small smile lingered on his tired face.

The road under his feet seemed to stretch on endlessly.  He walked purposefully, but couldn’t remember what his destination was.  The path before him was rocky and pitted, and wound along a stony shore.  The endless ocean crashed upon the rocks in relentless waves, the scent on the breeze was sharp, like sage, and sweet like verbena.  He looked upward to the red sky, following the movement caught by his eye. 

A raven soared overhead, its large gleaming form sailing effortlessly on the wind.  In its talons something writhed.  The bird opened its claws and released its cargo, which fell directly at his feet.  He looked down to see himself standing in a pit of snakes; vipers and asps slithering around his ankles, hissing as they wound themselves around his claves and climbed up his thighs.  He was suddenly aware of a presence…something had his arm.  His head turned to see Sorcha next to him, her naked body enveloped in serpents, a look of panic in her dark eyes, she opened her mouth to scream but it was not noise that escaped her bloodied lips, but a viper, fangs bared and striking at him.

He stumbled backward and lost his footing, falling…falling…farther, faster… it was getting darker, colors fading to black.  His descent ended abruptly before he was impaled upon countless pikes, and he hovered above the death bringers, his mouth agape as severed heads with long, black hair, skewered by each pike, came into focus from a retreating cloud of smoke, their faces distorted and decomposing.  He floated over them, and an eternity later his bare feet touched down onto cold stone, slick and tacky, staining his soles with spilled blood. 

The sky above him was clear and starry, the moon was indescribably large and silver and bright.  The tall grass around him rustled with not just the breeze, but creatures also.  A fox crossed in his path; it stood menacingly in front of him, hackles raised and snarling.  He felt the air shift, suddenly heavy, and his skin crawled with the legs of a million ants.  The fox growled, grew large, distorted, and took the form of Envy. He had never encountered a demon before, but he knew one when he saw one.  Envy took a step towards him and he took a step back. 

“So you are the one they envy so… how interesting. The man wants the power of the child, the one sworn wants the one taken.  You can show me much.”

He tried to scream at the demon, yell with all his might to banish the foul creature from his mind, but his voice was lost.  His mouth was full of…things, small things that he could push around with his tongue.  He spat them to the ground…his teeth laid before him in a pool of blood.  He felt something materialize in his clenched palms, he looked down at his heavily scarred hands and saw his grandfather’s bow in one and a fine silver filigree chain in the other. 

Sorcha… 

A voice in his ear, a sweet whisper, he knew it well.

“Fight,” she told him.  He raised his ancestral bow and aimed a righteous arrow; the demon flickered and vanished a moment before the arrow would have pierced its head.

He lowered his bow and followed the stone path to a great stone building, now crumbling and skeletal.  The black clouds covered the red moon, and the glowing sky held the shadows of countless flying creatures, some flew slowly and others flitted like startled insects.  He climbed the forgotten stairs, and with each ascending step his naked body chilled further as the heavy air around him grew cold enough that his breath was released as a visible fog.  He stepped into a vaulted room, lit by the glow of green fire and brutally cold.  Across from him, at the back of the room, was a marble altar.  He walked toward it and before he could approach, a fox darted out and ran into the shadow.  He raised what he thought was his bow, but his weapon was there no longer. 

In its place, a bouquet of flowers, lilies and roses and wildflowers.  He stepped to offer the blooms at the altar, but then he froze stone still.  On the altar was a broken, bloodied mess of a human; limbs were twisted and long black hair was torn and matted.  Her head was turned away from him, blood pooled under her mangled body; a dagger stood from her chest.  He stepped closer, forcing his eyes to look.  Her flesh was flayed from the waist down, and into her chest was carved a sword of flames.  He raised a trembling hand and turned the face of the dead toward him.  That beautiful mouth, fixed into the contortion of her final scream, those silken cheeks, crushed and hollow, and those eyes, those endearing and loving eyes, now lifeless and grey, clouded by suffering and death. 

Yes, he knew that face, he knew it well.

“My last living word was your name.  I called for you.” The voice in his ear returned.

The chamber filled with screams, and his chest was pounding with the pain of a thousand heartbreaks.  He could not tell if the screams were in him or around him, but he wailed at the loss of his world.

Sebastian’s own terrorized cries woke him from his nightmare; he was soaked with sweat, his heart was pounding, and his face was wet from his tears.  He leapt to his feet but it took a few moments for him to realize that he was in his quarters, that he was awake, and it had all been a dream.  He sat on the side of his bed, and buried his face in his hands.  He wretched and heaved and vomited onto his floor.  He sat there and wept until the memory of the nightmare had passed, and he could no longer recall the heart-wrenching detail of his broken lover.

After dousing himself with fresh water and scouring his floor, Sebastian laid back on his bed, but he dared not sleep. He knew that it was only a nightmare, that it wasn’t real, but the anxiety would not abate.  He put his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling.  Night became day, and he watched as the line blurred between the two.  There was too much daylight to go to Sorcha now, but he needed to escape his quarters and the memory of his haunted sleep.  He dressed and walked aimlessly from the barracks.

He found himself in the Chantry proper, kneeling alone amongst the maple pews.  It was the first time since his arrival that he had entered the prayer chamber of his own volition.  He lowered his head and prayed, really prayed, for the strength and courage to protect Sorcha, from anything and everything.  His heart still ached from his dream, but, if he were honest with himself, a few moments of prayer did help to ease his mind, if only a little.

He made a silent retreat from the vaulted chamber and wandered to the dining hall for some breakfast.  Many people had already gathered for the morning meal, but he did not see Sorcha among them.  He found Sister Amy and quickly made his way through the crowd of people to ask her where Sorcha might be.

“I’m sorry, Brother Sebastian,” she said, “I haven’t seen Sister Sorcha yet today.  Perhaps she is still in her quarters?”

He bowed in gratitude and hurried to her room; he knocked loudly, and the door was answered by Sister Clara.

“Pardon me, Sister Clara,” he said as he bowed deeply, “Might Sister Sorcha still be here?”

The Sister lifted an eyebrow at him, “I have not seen her, Brother Sebastian, but if you give me a moment, I can check her room.”

Sebastian waited by the door, he tapped his foot in impatience and almost jumped out of his skin when Sister Clara returned.

“I’m sorry, Brother, but she is not here.  Perhaps she is tending to duties?”

He should have guessed that himself, but he could not shake the ill feeling he had.

“Thank you, Sister.  If she returns, please tell her that I will be awaiting her at the training yard.”   He gave her another bow before he set off at a quickened pace.  Maybe she is already waiting for me.

He arrived at the armory, but did not see her.  He was really hoping that perhaps they had just been missing each other, and that she would find him if he would just stay in one spot.  He pulled his bow from his back and began target practice; he needed something to occupy his mind while he waited for her.  About an hour later, he heard footsteps falling behind him; he smiled and turned to find not Sorcha, but Ser Emeric, who held a missive in his gauntleted hand.  His smile dropped and the bad feeling became one of dread.

“Pardon me, Brother Sebastian, but this arrived for you this morning.”  Emeric handed him the note and Sebastian tore it open almost viciously.

His face paled, his fists clenched and he gritted his teeth so hard that it was audible.  His heart was pounding so fast that it caused his chest to heave for breath.  He looked at Emeric with such intensity that the Templar could not hold his gaze.

“Who delivered this to you? I need every detail!”  Sebastian growled.

“It…it was a slight man, a eunuch I think, he arrived during morning services.  He knocked on the door of the barracks and handed it to me, saying it was ‘for prince Vael and no other’.  And he had a guard with him.  They just turned around and left.”  Emeric was feeling quite uncomfortable under Sebastian’s stare; he could feel the rage behind that man’s eyes.

Sebastian’s pallor went from pale to crimson in an instant, and his expression was now murderous.

“Wycome…” he hissed under his breath, but Emeric heard him. 

“Brother Sebastian, what has happened?”

Sebastian thrust the now crumpled missive into Emeric’s chest and ran like mad into the armory.  He grabbed a quiver of arrows and a couple of daggers for his boots, and sprinted off to fetch his armor and his horse.

Emeric watched as Sebastian bolted furiously, and he opened the missive to read what had troubled the prince so.

 

Young Prince Vael,

Of all your riches and your lands and your title, I am holding that which you hold dearest.  Should you wish to see her alive again, be at the docks after nightfall, alone and unarmed, of course.  I wonder, what is the Lady Trevelyan worth to you?

 

 

Chapter Text

No, no, no… Maker please let her be alright…

Sebastian rode his stallion hard down the winding path into Hercina.  He would not wait until nightfall to find her.

He reined in at the tavern and leapt from his horse before running in to the barroom.  He made a fierce beeline to the barkeep; he needed information and Allan was his best option.

A look of concern spread across Allan’s face at the sight of the fully armored Sebastian.  The prince leaned over the wooden bar to speak privately into the man’s ear, who nodded and hastily retreated to the back room.  Moments later, he reappeared with the serving woman and in hushed whispers she told a very angry Sebastian what she knew.

It seems that Sorcha had been seen dropping off poultices at the healer’s canopy just after dawn, and she was escorted by a Templar.  A number city guards approached them and the group walked off together.  The woman didn’t know if Sorcha was in any distress, she just seemed to be dropping off the usual supplies.  What did strike her as unusual, however, was the Templar.  He leered at her, and he was always looming, never more than a pace or so away from her.  That man gave her the creeps, she told Sebastian, and she felt sorry for Sorcha for having to deal with him civilly.  Sebastian nearly crushed his own fingers with the force of his hand clenching into a balled fist.  Ser fucking James.

The server bid him to cast his eyes to a very drunk man sitting alone at a far table. She had told the prince that this particular man was a lecherous asshole, a courier with the city guard, and was always too broke to drink at the tavern… but for some reason, today was an exception. Sebastian recalled what the merchant said about the city guard being corrupt, and his expression darkened.

He passed her and Allan some sovereigns and walked over to the irregular patron’s table.  He sat down across the narrow table from the stranger, leaned back in his chair and slowly removed his gloves one finger at a time.

“I’m told,” Sebastian began without looking at the man, “that you work with the city guard.”

The stranger sneered, “What of it?”

Sebastian now lifted his eyes and burned a hole to the man’s soul with his fierce stare.

“What did you do with the Lady Trevelyan?”

The man’s eyes flitted in a moment of panic toward the tavern door before falling back to Sebastian’s grim face.  “’Haven’t a clue what you’re goin’ on about.”

Sebastian shifted his weight forward and sat at the edge of the chair’s seat, “You don’t?  You seem too important to not know! Why, look how much you are paid… for being a courier, no less!”

“I have nothing to say, now bugger off before there’s trouble.”  The stranger lifted his copper mug of ale to his lips, and in that instant, Sebastian rammed his fist into the bottom of the cup, bloodying the man’s mouth and knocking out teeth.  When the man dropped his goblet in shock, Sebastian lunged at him from across the table and rammed his face into the table top.

“Let’s try this again.  Where is Lady Trevelyan?”  Sebastian’s voice was so menacing that it could barely be recognized as his own.

The man only laughed and spit out his broken teeth, blood pouring from his mouth.  Sebastian smashed the stranger’s face against the wooden table once more, for good measure, before he pulled him off of his chair by his collar, and dragged him into the back room.  

Sebastian threw the man to the stone floor, and out of sheer anger kicked him in the ribs with all the rage of the sea during a storm.  “Where…” he kicked him in the stomach, “Is…”, and in the ribs, “SHE?” he yelled as he kicked the man a final time in the gut.  Sebastian’s chest heaved for breath while the man lay cradling his torso on the bloodied stone; he stepped back and smoothed his hair back into place, which had fallen around his face, and tried to calm himself.  He reached into his belt, produced a vial, and dipped the tip of his dagger into the fluid.  He knelt before the courier and pointed the blade at the man’s neck.

“Darkspawn blood.  Tell me everything, or I swear to the Maker Himself that you will spend your remaining days feasting upon your own flesh.”

The courier didn’t need to think about it.  He lifted his hands in defence, “Mercy, I beg you.  I was given a job, to scout…” he coughed up blood and spit out another tooth, “…scout caves in the cliffs. I found one a few hours walk, east… along the shore.”

“Tell me.”

The man tried to sit up but Sebastian kicked his hands out from under him.  The stranger groaned in pain as he landed hard on the cold stone.

“Halfway up the cliff side, a smaller opening. Opens to a bigger cavern.” He coughed again, “Has an exit tunnel dug. Musta’ been a smuggler hold.” 

Sebastian’s eyes narrowed.  “How many men?”

“Dunno. Some guards for sure.  We’re not paid well by the city.”

Sebastian twirled the poisoned dagger in his gloved palm as he considered his prisoner.  “Out of curiosity, what does it take for a man become involved in kidnapping a noblewoman and Chantry Sister?”

“Gold, and…” unable to keep his drunken mouth shut, “…time…with the lady.  I was told that she’s a screamer.”  He looked to Sebastian’s face and smiled a bloody smile.

Sebastian stepped over to him and held out his hand.  The man’s eyes widened in mistrust, but he reached up reluctantly and took his wrist, anyhow.  Just as he stood, Sebastian twisted his arm and spun him around, holding his poisoned dagger to the man’s throat. 

“The Maker may forgive, but I will not.”  Sebastian hissed into the stranger’s ear. With just enough pressure to break the flesh, Sebastian dragged the blade along conspirator’s jaw, and traced the path of the artery down to his collarbone.  The man started to cry out, but he was quickly rendered silent by Sebastian’s dagger hilt slamming into his temple.  The barkeep ran in at the sound of the commotion.

“I need rope and a bar towel, quickly.”  Sebastian told him.  The man ran out and quickly returned with the requested items.

“Can you tie secure knots?” Sebastian asked him.

“Spent a decade on the sea, my lord, I know knots better than I know my own cock.”

Sebastian nodded, “Have you a horse?”

Allan shook his head.

“Are you squeamish?”

Again he shook his head. Sebastian tossed Allan a heavy purse before he gagged the Blighted courier with the towel and bound him with the length of rope.

“Buy a horse, and take this man away from the city where no one will hear him or find him.  Go to a forest and tie him well to a tree, leaving one arm free enough to move, but not enough that he can escape.”  Allan nodded, and Sebastian stood and took his arm.  “This man is infected with the Blight.  Keep him unconscious until he has been secured, and gagged until he starts to change.  Stay with him until he turns.  You may kill him then, or let him writhe in agony as he gnaws on his own arm out of hunger.  Either way, don’t leave until he is dead.”  Sebastian cast a sideways glance to Allan, “Also, you might wish to know that he was involved in the kidnapping of Lady Trevelyan, should that help you decide how long he suffers.”

Allan kicked the unconscious conspirator in the gut and then nodded at Sebastian’s instruction, obviously not opposed to it in the slightest.

Sebastian turned to leave and paused in the doorway, a look of sincerity in his brilliant but saddened eyes.  “The horse is yours to keep, my friend.  You have treated Sorcha and I well.” 

He left the tavern and leapt atop Morchuise, reined him around quickly, and raced to the shoreline.  He didn’t have much time left before nightfall, and he needed to find her while the sun still shone.

Once he reached the open sands of the beach, he leaned forward in the saddle, loosened the reins about his horse’s neck, and opened the Warmblood into a full gallop.  The stallion’s hooves thundered across the ground as they rode furiously toward the cliffs.

The sky began to blush as the sun dipped closer to the horizon when Sebastian finally spotted the cliffs.  While still at a safe distance, he turned the horse from the beach and walked him down a wooded path that ran parallel to the shoreline.  He dismounted silently and tethered the animal loosely to a tree, hidden from plain view. 

Sebastian wanted to run to her, needed to run to her, to save her, to protect her, for now and for always, but his brain won the battle over his heart.  If he wanted to do anything more than get them both killed he had to exercise caution.

He was a predator; listening and watching for signs of his prey.  He could hear distant voices up ahead, but he couldn’t yet see the sources; he tuned his ear to the sounds, nocked an arrow, and silently made off to meet them. 

Sebastian had keen vision, even in twilight, and noticed the noisy guard’s movement against the stillness of the rocks.  They sky was still too bright to hide in plain sight, and leaving the shadows of the trees would deny him the safety of cover, so he watched and waited with a forced calm until the opportunity to strike presented itself.

Falling pebbles loosened by the heavy steps of a second city guardsman caught the prince’s attention. The men began a conversation that was spoken entirely too loudly, and Sebastian took his cue.  He held his breath, lifted his grandfather’s bow, and drew his arrow.  He stepped out from the shade and within that single held breath, fired two perfectly aimed arrows into the flesh of his enemies.  The guards fell in silent succession, and Sebastian cautiously made his way forward.

He reached the cave entrance, which was partially hidden by tree branches and stone-colored cloth.  He peered around the edge of the entranceway, and the image that met his eyes nearly ripped his heart from his chest.

Sorcha was slumped over, ropes holding her arms behind her, tied to a chair of roughly hewn lumber near the rear of the greater room.  His armor-less and weaponless lover was beaten and bloodied; her hair was torn from its ties and her robes were ripped along seams.  He could see her cut and bruised face, and his fury was uncontrollable.  He lifted his bow and ran into the guarded room; the first arrow running through a guardsman’s head, the second through another’s chest, the third through a robed-figure’s throat, and the fourth dropped from his nerveless hand.  The mage’s lightning surged through his body; it contracted every muscle and nearly stopped his heart.  Sebastian hadn’t considered that there may be mages involved.  He actually hadn’t considered anything at all other than freeing the woman who held his heart.

The mage released the spell and Sebastian fell to the ground, limp and almost lifeless.  The air was thick with the lingering scent of ozone, and small ribbons of smoke rose from his unconscious form.  He was dragged by his collar to a chair, into which he was hoisted and bound.  Being doused by cold water roused him somewhat, and his eyes opened and slowly began to focus.  He noticed he was stripped of his armor and his extra blades.  No sooner than when he lifted his head, he was struck across the face with a gauntleted palm.

“Wake up, you noble asshole!”  Another cold fist met his face.  Sebastian’s head hung limply and he spit blood from his mouth.  His eye had begun to swell, but he could still make out the face of the man in front of him.

“Go fuck yourself!” Sebastian spat as he lifted his chin defiantly and stared the Templar down.

“Mighty talk from a useless prince.  Not so special now, are you?” Ser James circled his prisoner.

“What do you want, you limp-dick lyrium addict?”  He spat more blood onto the cold cave floor.

“At first?  To make you suffer.  Now I want her.”  The Templar looked to Sorcha, still bound but slowly regaining consciousness.  He sneered at Sebastian and continued, “You pompous nobles think that you can have anything, and fuck all the rules… do you really think that no one noticed you noble pricks carrying on with this,” he waved his hand between his prisoners, “whatever the fuck this is, in the house of the Maker?  The profanity of it all is disgusting, and you will burn in the Void for it! Now I get to teach you both a lesson, in the only language a whore would understand."

Sebastian’s glare burned with the fury of a thousand suns and his bloodied mouth twisted into a murderous snarl.

"You touch her and I will kill you.  If it takes me my whole life I will find you and kill you.  You are a parasite, scum, a shit stain on the underside of the Chantry.  I'm not above you because I was born noble, I'm above you because I'm the bigger man, and no matter what you do, no matter how much you hurt others, you will never, ever change that."

The Templar motioned to a guard, who stomped over to Sebastian and kicked over his chair.  He fell to the stone floor with a loud grunt as the air was forced from his lungs and he winced with the pain of broken ribs.   The guard threw all his weight into a solid kick to Sebastian’s stomach, followed by a steel-clad punch to the face; blood poured from Sebastian’s mouth and nose, and the pain was so intense that he almost vomited. 

Ser James laughed at the bleeding prince.  “Seems you need to be knocked off that high-horse.”

He walked to Sorcha with a dagger in his hand.  He grabbed her face and clenched his teeth as he squeezed her jaw so hard that his knuckles turned white.  She let out a sharp whine in pain and unconscious tears began streaking her blood-caked cheeks.  Her eyes opened and she looked around wildly; he let go of her chin and grabbed her hair violently, turning her head to face her lover.

Her eyes widened at the bound and bloodied man before her and she began sobbing, “Sebastian!” she screamed, her voice already hoarse, “Sebastian!”  She was weeping now, her shoulders heaving between breaths.  Through her tears she saw him move slightly, and she called to him again. “Sebastian… Maker, please! Sebastian!”

The Templar untied her from the chair and with her hands still bound behind her, he dragged her by her hair and threw her to the ground at her prince.  She crawled on her knees to him, tears streaming from her eyes and sobs escaping her split lips.  He leaned his head into hers, tears welling in his unseeing eye.  She kissed his cracked and bleeding head and she whispered, “Maker, I’m sorry!” she kissed his swollen eyes, “I’m sorry, Sebastian,” and then she kissed him on the corner of his cut and bleeding mouth, “I’m so sorry, my lo—”

Her head was jerked back as James pulled her hair and dragged her up to her knees.  He held the dagger to her neck, pressing hard enough to draw a trickle of bright red blood from her sensitive artery.   “Let’s see how much of a trophy she will be when she’s tarnished,” he hissed.  He grabbed her hair and set the knife near her scalp.  Sebastian’s eye widened in horror as he watched the deranged Templar began sawing through her raven waves.  Sorcha slumped to the ground next to her fallen locks, deflated and defeated.

“You can never hide from me, you son of a whore!  I will raze the ground and set oceans aflame until my arrow finds your fucking throat!” Sebastian screamed. The Templar laughed cruelly as he wound up and kicked a still-bound Sorcha in the back.  She cried out, her face twisted in pain, and Sebastian was powerless to stop it.  James bent over and struck her in the face, and blood began streaming from her nose and mouth, tears from her eyes.

Sebastian couldn’t scream any louder or fight any harder against the ropes binding him to the chair.  His world was being killed in front of him and he was helpless.  His tears were blinding him, and he cried out to her, but she couldn’t hear.  James kicked her onto her back and drove a heavy boot into her shoulder, popping it from its socket and shattering her collarbone; her screams of agony were drowning out Sebastian’s cries for mercy.

The Templar bent to grab Sorcha by her broken arm and yanked her to her knees.  He put his blade to her neck a second time, and motioned for the guard to draw a weapon.  The guardsman picked up Sebastian’s bow—his grandfather’s bow – and smiled, his lips curling into a sneer.  He drew the string taut and aimed directly at Sebastian’s breaking heart. 

Sebastian could only look at Sorcha, through his cut and swollen eyes he could see only her face; it was bloody and purple and swollen and terror-stricken.  Her bruised and bloodshot eyes looked back at him pleadingly.  Tears rolled down her cheeks, and her bottom lip quivered as she fought to hold back her sobs.  She winked at her prince, and bravely formed a soft smile on her broken lips, comforted in knowing that his beautiful eyes were to be the last thing she would ever see.

“Let’s see this fairy tale end happily ever after…” the Templar sneered as he began to draw the blade across Sorcha’s throat.

Tears rolled down his cheeks and he was screaming with his entire being, every fiber of his body was crying out to her, calling her name.  Her blood started to trickle from her neck and it was at that moment that Sebastian’s heart had shattered and perished.  He didn’t hear the uproar at the cave’s entrance as the arrow pierced his flesh, he didn’t feel the heat of his blood pooling around the arrow’s shaft, he didn’t notice their captors run off as Sorcha fell to the floor, or the sound her limp body made as it hit the cold and bloodied stone.  All he saw were those beautiful, tear-filled hazel eyes looking back at him as it all faded to black.

Chapter Text

Blackness.  Is this what death is?  The eternal darkness didn’t frighten him.  He had accepted his end.  He was just waiting…waiting for his heart to find him, so they may go to the Maker together.

The blackness lifted and wisps of color had taken its place, yellow and pink unfurled against a backdrop of blue and purple.  The sky revealed its secret clouds of silver and gold, and songbirds flitted about on shimmering wings. 

He was laying in the shade of an ancient tree, its branches stretched to the lavender sky, and the tall grass on the ground below it swayed on the gentle verbena-scented breeze.  He was laying on his side, propped up on his elbow and toying with the wildflower in between his fingers.

He closed his eyes as he turned his face to the shining coral sun, and he felt the comforting touch of a soft palm on his cheek.  A voice whispered in his ear… a voice he knew well.

“I’m here, my prince.”

Her hand turned him to her and he opened his eyes.  His heart skipped a beat when he saw her beautiful smile.  A loving grin grew over his face, and he leaned in and placed a chaste and lingering kiss on her lips.  He pulled back slowly and gazed into her eyes, losing himself in the eternity that they offered.

She was whole again, and unbroken.  Here, she wasn’t bloodied and shattered.  Her long black waves were loose and lifting upon the breeze, her face was perfect, and her body was uninjured.  She was his world in life, and together they would go on to the next.

He took her hand from his face and laced his fingers in between hers.

“My darling Sorcha,” he began, “I am so, so very sorry.  I should have known—”

She interrupted him with a soft kiss on his quivering lips.

“Hush, Sebastian.  It’s alright now.”

He thought that he could hear other voices carried on the light breeze, but he couldn’t make them out.  The sky shifted from lavender to white, and the voices were becoming louder, getting closer.  He looked at her and she was still smiling, her eyes filled with adoration, and her touch began to tingle in his hand.

“I have never been happier in life as you have made me,” she said, “and I will always love you, Sebastian, with all that I am, all that I’ve been, and all I would had ever been.”

She wiped a tear from his cheek before continuing, “You must forever remember that, my love.”

The colors around him had begun to fade, and the voices were becoming louder.  She began to fade, along with everything around him.  He could feel himself being pulled away, and he fought.  He would not be without her, not now and not ever.

He reached out to her but she was nearly gone, her form too light to see against the brightness of the sky.

“Sorcha!” he yelled, “Sorcha, please don’t leave me!  Please, my darling, I lo—”

The white sky had become a blinding light and the voices that were on the wind had suddenly become real.

His eyes opened and he blinked hard several times before images began to become focused.  He could hear the voices over him now.

“Go get Her Grace,” the healer said, “Tell her that he is finally awake.”

Sebastian looked around wildly, disoriented and afraid. He struggled against his bandages and began to panic when his arm wouldn’t move.  He tried to escape the confines of the bed, but the pain was unbearable.  The healer attempted to calm him, but her efforts were futile.

“Where is she?” he choked, “Where is she?”

The healer spoke softly, “Hush, Brother.  Please just calm yourself, you are safe now.”

“Sorcha?” he yelled as he looked around the room like a caged animal, “Sorcha!” he screamed.

“Calm yourself, Sebastian.”  A firm, gravelly voice sounded in the bustling stone room.

Grand Cleric Elthina entered the infirmary, accompanied by Ser Emeric.  She sat beside Sebastian and very gently placed her hand on his least-injured shoulder.

“You are safe, Sebastian.  You are at the infirmary.”

He considered her a moment before his gaze tamed, and the broken body that was fighting to flee began to relax.

“Your Grace?”

She nodded calmly to the confused prince.  “Yes, Sebastian.”

He grabbed her hand and with desperation in his eyes and in his voice he pleaded, “Please, Your Grace, please… what of Sorcha?”

His last memory was watching the blood pool around her neck while the light was leaving her eyes.  He shut his lids tight as tears fought to free themselves.

“She was gravely injured, Sebastian.  The healers have done all that they can, but it does not look good.  Her life is in the Maker’s hands now.”  Elthina’s face was compassionate and her voice was soft as she tried to lessen his shock and sorrow.

“I need to see her, now, please,” he whispered, “Please take me to her.”

Elthina nodded and motioned for Emeric and the healer to assist him in walking to Sorcha’s bed.  They carried the broken man into a room at the far corner of the infirmary.  His eyes filled with tears when he saw his lover before him.

Her face was unrecognizable; it was cut, swollen, bruised and misshapen.  Tufts of shorn black hair peeked out through bloodied bandages.  Her neck was wrapped in towels and linen, and her shoulder was held tightly by bandages and splints.

He reached for her and nearly fell to his knees.  Emeric held him as the healer fetched a chair, which she placed next to Sorcha’s bedside.  Sebastian was placed gently into the seat and then given some privacy.

He took her linen-enveloped hand in his, gently leaned in to place his forehead to hers, and sobbed.  He wept the tears of loss and heart break tinged with sorrow and regret.  The salted droplets fell onto her cheek and trickled down to leave a dampened pool on her pillow.

There he sat, unmoving, until the healer returned. 

“Move my bed in here.  I will not leave her side again.”

He did not look at the woman, and his voice was a near whisper, but the intensity of his demand was unmistakable.

The woman left to gather linens and pillows for the bed next to Sorcha.  Sebastian lifted her bandaged hand to his cracked and quivering lips, and placed upon it a soft and gentle kiss as tears escaped his eyes.

“I am so sorry, my darling,” he whispered, “I am so very, very sorry.  Stay with me, love, please stay with me.”

Moments later he had passed out, still holding her hand, and the healer and Emeric placed him into his new bed.   He awoke after a few hours to find warm lantern light illuminating the room and Emeric seated between his bed and Sorcha’s, reading a book in the yellow glow.

“Ser Emeric, why are you here?”  Sebastian’s voice was weak.

Emeric looked at the prince and set his book down near the lantern.  “The threat to you may be minimal now, but I have asked that the two of you be guarded still.  I am taking this watch.”

Sebastian struggled to sit up.  The Templar rose from his chair and helped prop up the prince with pillows.

“What happened, Emeric?  How did we…” he trailed off and looked over at Sorcha with his head lowered, “…survive?”

The Templar handed Sebastian a glass of brandy and sat back in his chair.

“After I read the missive sent to you, I figured you were heading off to rescue her, which you couldn’t have done alone.  I gathered a few men and healers that I trusted to be …discrete, and we mounted up and tracked you to the cave.”

Sebastian just stared into his drink as Emeric continued.

“It was fortunate that I brought as many men as I did; there were still a number of guards left, but those Tevinter mages didn’t know how to handle real Templars, so we dispatched them quickly.”

Sebastian lifted his chin, and his intense stare made Emeric uncomfortable.

“What of the man who shot me with my own bow?”

“Escaped.” Emeric said, “But some townspeople have offered to assist in tracking him.”

The prince’s stare became murderous.  “What of Ser James?”

Emeric cast his eyes downward and wrung his hands.  “He has been dealt with.”

“How?”

The Templar couldn’t look at the man who had to watch his lover tortured by another of the Order.  “I cannot say more,” was all the explanation that he could offer.

In the days that followed, Sebastian was true to his word that he would never leave his lover’s side.  Every ounce of strength he possessed was spent on moving to her bedside.  His wounds healed some, but slowly, although he was concerned only with her recovery.  Sorcha had not awoken in the week since they were rescued, and his heart was crying out desperately for her to hear him when he spoke to her, to see him when he sat with her, and feel him when he held her hand.

Today he sat beside her and took her hand in both of his.  He closed his fingers over hers as his tears fell.  With nowhere else to turn, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and began to pray.

His lips moved silently as he asked the Blessed Andraste to deliver his love from the grip of death, to pull her back to him and return her to his loving arms.  He leaned his forehead upon their clasped hands and swore to do whatever had to be done to protect her and keep her safe until his dying breath.

“Fight, Sorcha.  Please fight.” He whispered.

…………………………….

She was aware of the blackness for the first time.  It was endless and emotionless. Is this what death is?  She had always thought that she would accept her death for what it was, but things were different now.  She thought of Sebastian, the one thing in the world that was worth fighting and living for.  She remembered his smile, and his voice, and his touch.

The blackness lifted to make way for swirls of light and color.  Puffs of yellow and pale green billowed out, seemingly from nowhere, and a tangerine sun hung in the pale sky.  She looked down and found herself reclining in a wooden rowboat, her leg rested on the lip of the port side, and a book of poems held open in her hands.

The orange sun cast dazzling reflections upon the turquoise waters and the songbirds’ melody carried on the gentle breeze.

She looked to the opened page and words began to appear before her eyes.

“The fading seasons may mark the time,

But it is the heart’s yearning that defines a soul.

Life is fleeting for those trapped in mortality,

But true love can make years seem eternal.”

The scent of lavender and spice filled her lungs, and she looked up from her pages.

He sat opposite her, wearing a loose white linen tunic and beige breeches.  The sun kissed his hair with streaks of copper, and his eyes smiled as bright as his grin.  She returned to her book.

“Gold glitters in light yet fades in darkness,

Coin slips through fingers like liquid soft rain,

But love can fight shadows and hold you,

Even when sight and touch no longer remain.”

Thunder rolled in the distance, and the pale sky darkened.  She looked to him, but the end of the boat where he sat was now empty.  The darkness had begun to creep back in, enveloping all of the light and sound around her.  A voice whispered in her ear.  She knew it well.

“Fight…” he had told her, and the darkness then consumed her.

………………………………………

Sebastian had taken to helping the healer tend to Sorcha’s wounds now that his had begun healing.  He assisted with changing bandages and checking stitches, applying poultices and compresses.  He still would not leave her; for as long as she lived he would be there for her.

On this day, he sat in his wooden chair beside her and read to her from The Adventures of the Black Fox.  He remembered how much she loved listening to his voice.

“His initial exploits involved ridiculing the tyrannical and powerful lord of Val Chevin. Wearing a mask, he would appear in public and disrupt the lord's plans …”

…………………………………………….

She had walked this path countless times, from her home to her stables.  The tall, blue grass danced in the gusting wind and the violet clouds rolled across the silver sky.  She followed the yellow cobblestones to the wood and stone building, now crumbled and burned.  She heard rustling from the feed bags, and out ran a small fox.  It stood in her path and snarled and growled at her.  It shifted, distorted, grew larger and more disfigured.  It took the form of Envy.  She had never known a demon, but she knew one to see one.

“So this is the holder of the heart,” it began.  Envy took a step toward her and she took a step back.  “They envy him so, but it seems you would be a prize most coveted.” 

She felt something materialize in her hands, and she looked down to find her sword and her shield.  Her courage wavered, but then the voice she knew so well spoke in her ear.

“Fight…” he had said.

She steeled herself and raised her weapons.  She leapt at the demon, aiming her gleaming blade at its black and terrible heart.  It flickered and disappeared a moment before her blade would have run it through.

She dropped her weapons and looked to her feet.  Lilies grew, for as far as she could see.  A voice, soft and lilting, carried on the lavender breeze.

The blackness was spreading over the fields and was about to overtake her as well.  It coated her in darkness, and before she was pulled into it, she heard it again, “Fight, Sorcha…fight!” said the voice in her ear which she knew so well.

………………………………………………………

He sat with her and held her hand to his heart while he stroked her forehead with the other.  A smile ghosted his lips, and he looked upon her so reverently; she was still so beautiful, so perfect.  His spirit was aching for her, for some sign that she would live.  His soul called to her from across the eternity of dreams, and he waited for her to hear him.  He would wait until she answered.

He didn’t know why he did it.  Perhaps there was a thought that it would reach her, or perhaps there was a thought that it would soothe them both, but he began to sing to her; softly and sweetly.

Spirit of the air, lift my essence quietly 
So high above that gathering, and from this cold world be borne,”

Tears trailed down his cheeks as he caressed her face and sang the melody.  He was sure that his voice would reach her soul, and his heart was bursting with anticipation and fear and longing.  He laid his head next to hers on her pillow and with his lips next to her ears, he continued.

Your song will be my guide, if it please thee that I might spend eternity at your side.”

He gently placed a lingering kiss upon her bruised temple, and began to beg and plead in hoarse whispers.

“Please, my love, stay with me.  I cannot walk this world without youI have never been happier in life as you have made me,” he said, “and I will always love you, Sorcha, with all that I am, all that I’ve been, and all I would be.”

It was soft and very, very light; so gentle that he almost didn’t notice it.  Her hand, still in his, moved.

………………………………………..

The next couple of days saw the infirmary a veritable hive of activity.  Sorcha hadn’t yet awakened fully, but she was beginning to respond to external stimuli. 

Sebastian’s wounds were healing quite well, and he could have returned to his room at the barracks, but he stayed with Sorcha, still.  It was on this day that the Grand Cleric came to speak with him.

“Sebastian,” she began, “there are matters that need to be discussed, now that Sister Sorcha has begun recovering.”

He rose from his chair beside Sorcha’s bed and bowed deeply to Elthina.

“Your Grace. Of which matters do you speak?”

She took the chair beside his bed and motioned for him to return to his seat.

“Sebastian, what happened to the two of you was horrific indeed.  I feel, however, that it may not be the last time you two will be targeted.”

A look of confusion crossed the prince’s face.

“Your Grace?”

She sighed, and in a softer voice, continued, “It is no secret, Sebastian, that your family has enemies, that you… have enemies.  It is also no secret that you are romantically involved with a woman from another noble family, which likely also has enemies of their own.”

Sebastian clenched his fist; he did not like where this lecture was going.

The woman continued on, “How long before your enemies hurt her again to get to you, Sebastian? Or attack you to get to her?”

Sebastian rose to his feet and glowered at the Grand Cleric.

“Are you suggesting what I think you are, Your Grace?”

Elthina nodded sympathetically.  “How much do you love her, Sebastian?  What is her life worth to you?”

His eyes lowered and moved to Sorcha’s resting body.

“I love her with all that I am,” he said, “and her life is worth more than mine could ever be.”

“Then look at her, Sebastian—really look at her.  Look at what loving you has already cost her.”

Tears welled in his eyes as he thought on her words.  It was because of their bond that she was targeted; it was his fault that she stood at death’s threshold for so long.  But wasn’t that more reason to stay by her side and protect her?

“You must leave her, Sebastian.  Let her live.”

He remained silent; if he opened his mouth to speak at this moment, he would have told the Grand Cleric that she could take her speculation to the Void and throw herself into the abyss with it. 

She rose to her feet and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“You know as well as I what should be done.  I have faith that your love for her will lead you to choose wisely.”

She stepped out of the room and Sebastian fell to his knees.  Maker, how could I leave her now?

He openly wept at the thought of leaving her behind, of living without her.  He returned to his chair and held her as tightly as he dared.  He wiped his tears away with the back of her hand, and set his weary head down onto her bed.  He did not move for the rest of the day, and fell asleep with her hand placed on his shoulder.

The air around him was filled with laughter.  He felt both of his legs being grasped.  He looked down to see the smiling faces of two dark-haired little boys, with hazel eyes and dimples, as they clung to his thighs.  He roared as the tiny heroes took down the ferocious daddy-dragon.  He fought a good fight, rolling in the tall, teal grass and pulling each little hero under his giant daddy-dragon body, until their support force arrived.  The mommy-hero leapt atop the daddy-dragon’s back, freeing the tiny heroes.  Daddy-dragon rolled onto his back, overwhelmed by the prowess of the heroes that had bested him.  He closed his eyes and reveled in the laughter and the kisses.

The air suddenly chilled to freezing, and a blood-curdling scream pierced his ears.  He jumped to his feet to protect his family, but he was alone.  He stood shaking in the middle of a familiar cave, his chest heaving for breath.  Sitting in the center of a circle of flames was his world, tied to a chair and beaten.  He could hear her calling for him through her bloodied and toothless mouth, and her cries shredded his very soul.

He tried to cross the azure flames, but they rose higher with each attempt.

“You can’t save her.” Ser James growled.  Sebastian ran at him, but was knocked clear by a shield bash.  The demented Templar laughed cruelly at him.  “I won’t be the last to take her from you,” he hissed, before fading from view.

“This was also not the first,” the voice in his ear had said.

The blackened sky opened, and flying creatures swooped down upon him, clawing and pecking and biting and pinching.  He tried to run, but after a step he felt himself sent into a freefall.

He was dropped into the silver embrace of the vast ocean.  He swam and swam, struggling to surface.  He felt a hand grasp his ankle as he was about to gasp for much needed air.  He was being dragged back down into the abyss and he screamed a muffled, muted scream when he saw what had him.

Her face was bloated and her hair was shorn roughly, her scalp visible and scraped.  He hazel eyes were now the color of steel, lifeless and unfeeling.

“My life was taken to ruin yours,” the voice had said.

He thrashed with all his strength but it was not enough.  He opened his mouth and filled his lungs with water.  He coughed and inhaled more, but he felt himself slipping into the darkness.  He drifted down and found himself suddenly lying beside a pyre.  He forced himself to his knees just as he was dragged by his collar from behind and bound to a wooden chair.

“She envies the love you share.  It appears you would show me much, after all.”  Envy stood in front of him, close enough to feel the demon’s rotted breath on his face.

Sebastian found his voice this time.  “Be gone, demon! You have no power over me!”

Envy’s laugh was deep, and rumbled the floor beneath them. “Perhaps your lover will be more inviting?”

Sebastian’s fury erupted and his bonds disintegrated. “I will do whatever it takes to protect her, beginning with your end!”

 Daggers formed in his palms and before he could think he threw them at the demon before him.  One missed completely, but the other found purchase in the demon’s chest.

It howled in anger and in pain.  It looked to the prince, who was already lifting a bow.

“I will find you again, unnecessary prince, and that which you hold most dear!”

The demon flickered and disappeared before Sebastian’s arrow met its heart. 

He awoke suddenly, his brow drenched in sweat and his cheeks streaked with the salt of his tears.  The early morning sun was filtering in through the lightly veiled window, casting upon his world an ethereal glow.  He held her hand to his lips as he wept over what must come next.

He leaned to her ear and spoke with a voice hoarse with heartbreak.

“I love you, Sorcha. With all that I am, I love you.  I swore to Andraste that I would do that which needed to be done to protect you, for now and for always, until my final breath.  Forgive me, my love, please forgive me.”

He placed a gentle kiss on her lips; and into that kiss he poured a lifetime of love and veneration and happiness.  He pulled away and wiped his tears from her face.

“Goodbye, my love.”

He turned from her, and for the first time, the final time, he left her side.

………………………………

The blackness lifted and a blinding light came pouring in.  She blinked slowly and opened her hand, reaching for something that she was certain was there.  When her fingers closed around only her sheet, she turned her head and tried to focus her eyes.

She blinked again and saw him standing in the doorway, leaning on the frame for support.  He heaved for breath before straightening himself.

She reached out her hand, and blinking again, watched him walk away.  Her arm fell to the side of her bed and tears escaped her burning eyes as darkness descended upon her once more.   

Chapter Text

Sorcha’s eyes opened slowly, the glow of the lantern gentler on her sight than the morning light had been, and she blinked and waited for her vision to come into focus.  She coughed hoarsely, which brought the healer running, and roused Sister Amy from her sleep in the chair beside her.

“Welcome back to the land of the living, Sister.” the healer said with a smile.

Sorcha looked around wildly, disoriented and afraid.  She struggled to move, but the pain was unbearable.

“You are safe,” the healer whispered before turning to Sister Amy, “Please go tell Her Grace that she is awake.”  The woman nodded quickly and ran off.

“Sebastian? What of Sebastian? Where is he?” 

The healer avoided the question and took a vial from a drawer before trying to calm her.

“Hush now, Sister.”

“Sebastian?” Sorcha’s voice was hoarse and her throat was on fire, but she called for him regardless.  “Sebastian!”  Tears trailed down her cheeks as she strained to find a face that wasn’t there.

A few moments later, Sister Amy had returned to the infirmary.  She had been at Sorcha’s side since Sebastian’s departure two days ago. “Please, Sister Sorcha, calm yourself.” 

“Sister Amy?” Sorcha was overwhelmed.

The kind woman nodded.  “Yes, Sister, it’s me.”

Sorcha wrapped her unbroken arm around the only familiar person in the room and wept into her shoulder, turning an acquaintance into a friend in her moment of need.

“Where is he, Sister?  Why won’t anyone tell me what happened?  Does he live?”  Sorcha could barely catch her breath between sobs.

Sister Amy returned her embrace and stroked her unruly tufts of raven waves.  She spoke softly and kindly.

“He lives, Sister, he lives.”

Sorcha lifted her head and looked hopefully into Sister Amy’s eyes, searching for answers.

“Then where is he?  Why is he not here?”

“Sebastian Vael has left the chantry, Sister Sorcha.”  Elthina’s gravelly voice entered the room before she did, and she walked in followed by Ser Emeric.

“What do you mean ‘he left’?  He wouldn’t just leave me, not ever!” Sorcha’s gaze met the Grand Cleric’s, and neither of them blinked.

“Sebastian did not share his reasons, my child.  He recovered adequately from his injuries and left the next morning.  I am…sorry, Sorcha.” 

“No!” she screamed, “He would never leave me!  Where is he?”  She glared murderously at Elthina.  “What have you done to him?”

The Grand Cleric motioned to the healer, who nodded in acknowledgment and uncorked the vial in her hands.  Sorcha looked at the liquid wild-eyed and shook her head in refusal.  Emeric looked at her apologetically before he reluctantly stepped forward and gently restrained the struggling woman.  The healer tilted her head back, poured the foul contents down her throat and held a hand over her nose and mouth to force her to swallow.  Sorcha choked down the tonic and tears streamed from her eyes.

“Fuck you!” she hissed at the healer before she turned her vitriol to Elthina. 

“Why are you lying to me? Where is he?” she croaked.

Sister Amy averted her eyes, and the healer stood behind Elthina.

“He left you of his own volition, child.  Accept it.”  Elthina didn’t try to disguise her contempt.

She fell back against her pillows.  Her world had gone and left her alone.  She gasped for breath as her heart shattered into innumerable pieces, the air around her became heavy, and the room started to spin. 

“Fuck you all.” 

She fell into blackness.

……………………………………….

She awoke a few hours later to find Ser Emeric seated next to her.  He was silent and his head was bowed in contemplation.

“Ser Emeric, why are you here?” she whispered.

He lifted his head and turned to her with a soft smile.  “I wanted to be here, in case you had…questions.”

Sorcha had many, many questions, but only one escaped her lips.

“Where is he, Emeric?”

He sighed and gently took her hand.  “He has gone, my lady.  He left three days ago.”

Sorcha’s eyes welled with tears as she scanned the Templar’s face for signs of deception.  She could find none.

“He really…left me?”  She still couldn’t believe that he would walk away from what they had.

Emeric just nodded slowly.

“Where? How? Why?”  Her tears were falling in a steady stream and pooled in her ears before dampening her pillow.

“He told no one, my lady.  The prince kept his reasons to himself.”

She removed her hand from his and pointed to the bottle of brandy on the side table.  He quickly poured her a glass but she refused it.

“The bottle,” she said.

He wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to pass her the entire bottle, given the state that she was in, but Andraste help him if she didn’t deserve it.

He helped her up to sitting and gave her the brandy, which she promptly put to her lips and tipped back.

Once her insides were well heated, she turned to the Templar.

“Will you tell me what happened? All of it?”

He nodded, and proceeded to fill her in about the ransom missive, the prince setting off to rescue her, and his men rescuing the both of them.

She looked nowhere but at the bottle as he spoke.

“What of the men who nearly murdered us?” Her eyes were unmoving.

Emeric’s posture deflated slightly.  “The guard escaped, but people are looking for him.”

He secretly hoped that her questioning would end there, but he should have known that it wouldn’t.  She looked at him fiercely.

“What of that shit-stain of a Templar?”

Emeric cast his eyes downward, unable to meet the gaze of the woman who was tortured by one of the Order.  “He has been handled, my lady, and I cannot say more.”

…………………………………………

The next morning, with the help of Sister Amy, Sorcha was finally able to stand from her bed.  Her first steps were painful, as unsure as a newborn fawn, but she had grown sick of staying still.  She wanted to run, needed to run, hard and fast and away to somewhere other than where she was.  Tears formed when the realization set in that until she was strong enough, she was a captive.

With a crutch under her unbroken arm, she hobbled to the wash stand and clumsily poured some water into the cold basin.  She splashed water over her face with her one good hand, and lifted her eyes to the mirror.

Sorcha stared at the reflection of a stranger.  Empty eyes stared back, unblinking. Her pretty face now bore the scars of insidious zealotry.  Scars would soon run along her temple and jaw, across an eyebrow and over a cheekbone.  She lifted her chin to inspect the smile carved into the flesh of her throat, ensuring that one would no longer form on her lips.

Her eyes shifted to her unruly tufts of black hair; short, uneven and uncontrollable.  She had patches where hair was missing completely and her scalp had been scraped at the back of her head.  That, too, would scar.

She watched her tears fall and she bit her quivering lip.  She understood it all now.

There is no way he could care for something so hideous, you disgusting bitch.  Of course he left you.

  

Chapter Text

Being on her own wasn’t quite as lonely as being in the Chantry; at least she didn’t give herself pitiful looks or condescending glares.  She didn’t whisper behind her own back about the “salacious whore” or the “blasphemer”.  She had enough depreciative thoughts of her own to keep her company as she travelled aimlessly.  Anywhere but here…

Sorcha had resumed her wild and crazy ways after escaping the drudgery of the chantry; there was nothing holding her back, after all.  There were no longer a pair of strong arms wrapped around her keeping her from reaching for the bottle, or limbs tangled with hers keeping her from running, or whispers  of happiness and promises of a future keeping her from the beds of others.  No, there were no more distractions or misdirection; there was nothing keeping her from her life any longer.

She walked across the ship’s hold to the stairs that lead up to the deck, dodging the other passengers who lay asleep on the floor.  As she passed by the washing room she caught her reflection in the chipped and ancient mirror.  She stopped for a moment and stared in contempt, still unaccustomed to the imperfect face of the person who glared back at her.

It had been months since she was in death’s cold grasp, and some of her grievous wounds had healed well.  There were, however, some which had not.  Her face bore marks of the deranged Templar’s gauntleted knuckles--three small, parallel scars lined one cheekbone, the permanent smile from the dagger drawn through the tender flesh on her throat, and her head held some spots in which the hair hadn’t completely grown back.  Fucking hideous…  She wrapped her scarf around her neck and lifted her hood before climbing the wooden stairs.

Sorcha had been stuck on this boat for entirely too long.  She was unable to step off in Ostwick and had to wait aboard at port with her horse while everyone one else took a day of leave, thanks to her “banishment”.  They were only a few days from Kirkwall now, and even the sting of the biting sea wind and gazing into the vast night sky did little to assuage the claustrophobia.  The stars looked like this from our rooftop…

…………………………………………..

Sebastian glared at the runner standing in the foyer.  “I must have misheard you… you did what?”

“I, uh… we, um… we lost her, my lord... but--”

“You ‘lost’ her?” he snarled, “You had one job, one fucking job!  How did you fucking lose her?”  His jaw was clenched as tightly as his fists, and his piercing eyes burned a hole through the runner’s head.

“She snuck away from the chantry in secret, my lord… while everyone slept, my lord, but...”  The runner kept his head bowed, he didn’t dare meet the prince’s gaze.

“The point of hiring people to watch over her is to have people fucking watch over her!”  His booming Starkhaven brogue echoed throughout the front chamber.

“You will find her,” he hissed, “before my arrow finds you!

“Yes, my lord, but if I may, there is more to the report.”

Sebastian rolled his eyes and rubbed his temples, “Maker, what is it?”

The runner bowed lower before raising his eyes, “The Lady Trevelyan had been located earlier this week, my lord.  She booked passage on a ship, headi—”

The prince snapped his eyes forward and his hands left his head. “What is that ship’s destination?”

“Kirkwall, my lord.  She will arrive here in a few days.”

Sebastian stood taller and began pacing the room nervously, with one arm crooked behind his back as the other ran through his hair.

“You are certain of this?” he asked.

“Yes, my lord.  She will be here.”

The prince stopped pacing and gazed without focus out of the amber Serault glass window.  It had been months since he set his eyes on the heart he left behind in Hercinia.  With a perfunctory wave of his hand, he dismissed the runner and walked with determination up the stairs toward his room.

“Sebastian, will you be joining us for refreshments?” Lady Harimann called to him as he passed through the parlor.

He was already to his door before he realized that he was being addressed, but he ignored his hostess, for his mind was reeling from the news.  She will be here…what would I say to her?  Could she ever forgive me for my mistake?  Would she even want to see me after what I did to her?  He sat on the edge of his bed and held his head in his hands.  Maker, I am such a fool…

………………………

The boat finally docked in Kirkwall, and Sorcha nearly sprinted down the loading ramp for it had been a week since she had stepped foot on solid ground, and she was beyond anxious to take a real walk.  Her feet touched pitted yet solid stone, but she didn’t give herself time for her legs to adjust to unmoving ground and she nearly fell.  She had never been to Kirkwall before; the massive statues that lined the seaway cliffs to the harbor gave the city an ominous feel, but anywhere was better than where she had been.

She must have looked the part of the lost lamb when she heard a melodic voice pipe up from behind her.

“The Hanged Man is in Lowtown, and about the only place to hole up while we’re here.  Come, I’ll take you.”  The very pretty ship captain smiled and took Sorcha by the hand, leading her to the Lowtown tavern.

The moment she entered the questionable establishment, she was slapped in the face with the lingering odor of piss and stale alcohol.  It was a familiar stench, not unlike the tavern she used to frequent in Ostwick, and it stirred something within her.  A smirk began to form on her lips and she gave the captain’s hand a little squeeze.  The attractive woman just smiled and winked at Sorcha, and pulled her towards the bar.

The cheap ale was bitter on her tongue, but the buzz it afforded was worth it.  She stood alone at the bar and her eyes swept the room.   It was a busy place, and there seemed to be not a sober patron present.  She tipped her mug back and finished it with a hard swallow before ordering another.  A boisterous laugh caught her attention and she turned to see the captain seated at a Diamondback game.  Ah, perfect! My purse is feeling a little too light for comfort…   She walked over and sat in the seat next to the woman before she turned to the dwarf dealing the cards.  She considered him a moment, and her eyes settled on his broad chest and his magnificent chest hair.

“Deal me in,” she said as she lifted her eyes from the blond chest pelt and tossed a couple silvers into the pot.

…………………………………

He had ruminated for days over what he would say to her.  Sebastian was sure that she wouldn’t even wish to see him, but he had to make sure that she was okay, he had to see it with his own eyes.  He needed her to know all of the things that he should have told her then, when he still held her in his arms and kissed her lips.

He checked his reflection for what seemed the fiftieth time, frowning at the scars on his cheekbone and bottom lip left from the guard’s fist.  He smoothed back his hair and tucked it behind his ears before he stepped out into the courtyard.  With earnest strides he made his way toward Lowtown.  I will make this right…

He had never been in The Hanged Man before, but it had a familiar feel to it.  Even the stench of the piss and stale ale that punched his nostrils only added to the ambiance of the place.  He manoeuvred through the groups of patrons to make his way to the bar when a familiar and intensely missed laugh caught his attention.  He leaned past a couple standing near a pillar and trained his eyes in the direction of the beautiful sound that he knew so well.  A moment later, he felt that he was about to fall to his knees; he reached out to grab the bar for support, and the pounding of his heart silenced the din of the crowd.

There she was, sitting just across the room from him, with a mug in one hand and a pile of coin on the table in front of her.  She was laughing at something the dwarf at her table had said, and a beautiful woman had a hand on her arm as she laughed with her.  The song in his soul had returned, and there was suddenly nothing else in the world but her.

Before he knew it he was walking toward her, but he stopped himself as he ventured closer.  He could see that she was different; she looked different, and she even held herself differently… he saw the marks on her face that matched his, he saw the scarf that was tied loosely around her neck and the hood which covered her head; he noticed how one shoulder sat slightly lower than the other and one hand remained gloved in worn leather.  Her posture was deflated and it seemed like she was trying to make herself seem smaller and unnoticeable.  Her beauty, her spirit, her entire life… were all changed because of him.  Look at what loving you has cost her…

He clenched his fists and cast his eyes downward, he felt unworthy of looking upon this goddess now.  He turned on his heel and ran silently from the tavern before she could notice him; he would never hurt her again--for as long as he walked this world, he would never hurt her again.

……………………………

Highever was as pretty as a painting, but the cold and the rain of the season had chilled her to the bone.  She had stabled Lumé at the livery and had taken a room at the tavern to escape the relentless deluge.   She had taken to leaving her scars uncovered now; her appearance did a fine job of deterring people from approaching her.  She sat alone at a wooden table in the corner of the barroom with her back to the walls, and watched the patrons amble about.  A pretty red-head was running a table on the other side of the room, but Sorcha wasn’t feeling up to playing cards on this night.  She brought the goblet of brandy to her lips – this tastes like the brandy we used to drink in our room – and contemplated her next move.  She was grateful to the ship captain for providing her with the names of the towns and lodgings around Ferelden who tended to not ask a lot of questions.  She was considering moving west when her attention shifted from her cup to the card table.

Three men had the pretty red-head backing herself against a wall.  They were apparently unsatisfied with the outcome of the last hand they just played, and thought to intimidate the dealer into returning their hard-lost coin.  The red-head was trying to hold her ground, but the fear was apparent in her eyes as the men moved to cover her escape.

Just like the old days…

Sorcha rose from her table, finished her brandy with a hard swallow, and walked casually over to stand behind the cowards that would team up against a small woman, and gave the lithe ginger a wink.

“Now what in Andraste’s name could this lovely creature have done to force three large men to bully her?”

The men turned to see what kind of bitch would have the audacity to confront them.  They looked surprised to see those kinds of scars on a woman, but the shock didn’t last long.  One of them laughed and turned to the other two, after gesturing dismissively toward Sorcha.

“We don’t need to tell her anything boys, looks like she’s already been told once,” he cackled and nodded to her scarred face and throat.

Sorcha rolled her eyes at the terrible joke; it had lost its effect after the tenth time hearing it, and it just annoyed more than angered her.

“Last warning, leave her be.”

The red-head slowly reached behind her back, ready to grab her daggers.  Sorcha lifted an eyebrow and returned her gaze to the men in front of her.

“And if we don’t?  What are you going to do?  Nag us to death?” a second man snickered to the others.

Sorcha didn’t have time for this.  She lunged forward, landing a powerful jab to the first man’s nose.  Before the others could draw their swords, the red-headed rogue had sliced multiple cuts into the back of the third man’s thighs.  Sorcha punched the first man so hard in the stomach that he doubled over, and then his face met her siverite shield as she bashed him hard enough to flip him onto his back.  Both women turned to the second man, who was still too slow on the draw as his hand hovered over the hilt of his sword.  Sorcha drew her blade and together the women pointed their steel at his neck.  He threw up his hands in surrender and backed away from them slowly.

With the offenders taken care of, the women sheathed their weapons.  The red-head looked at Sorcha and smiled widely as she held out her hand.

“Thank you for that, truly.  It would have been hard-fought for me alone.”

Sorcha considered her a moment before clasping the other woman’s wrist.

“Assholes like that turn into the ones that do this…” she pointed to her neck, “I was happy to help.”

The red-head nodded as she shook Sorcha’s hand, “Elissa.”

 “Sorcha.”

Elissa turned and kicked the first man that was still unconscious from the blow of Sorcha’s shield to his face.  She then turned back to the woman beside her.

“Should you ever be in need, Sorcha, the Couslands will assist.”  Elissa smiled before offering Sorcha a cup of her wine from her table.

Sorcha gave her a small smile and lifted her hand to refuse the cup. She picked up the nearly full bottle instead, and nodded as she raised it to her lips.  Elissa grinned and raised her cup to drink as well.  Sorcha gave her a wink before turning to retreat to her room for the night, bottle in hand.

The fire burned around her as she stood in the middle of the obliterated courtyard.  Blood ran through the opulent fountain and the flying creatures in the black and yellow sky mimicked the cries of the dying.  She did not know where she was, yet a familiar feeling was present. 

The wind picked up and smoke billowed up into open air, carrying upon its acrid stench the scent of lavender and spice.  She turned to walk out of the fire and with her first step, she tripped over something that snapped as it caught her foot.  She hit the cerulean flagstones and when she lifted her head, the pain of a thousand heartbreaks escaped her chest as an undying scream. 

She was looking into the lifeless eyes of her lover, her best friend, her heart, her world.  Arrows riddled his body and he was laying with four other corpses.  Tears streamed from her eyes as she forced herself to her feet, dragging with them the entangled object which caused her fall.

A small fox darted out of the flames to hide in the shadows, but it lingered in her path.  She felt a weight around her ankle and she looked down to see his grandfather’s bow, twisted and broken and wrapped through her legs.  The fox let out a low laugh before running into the darkness. She dropped to her knees by her lover’s side, and wept.

She was awakened by her own wailing, her face was wet with tears and her heart felt like it would beat its way out of her chest.  She sat up in her rented bed and swung her legs off of the side.  She sat with her head in her hands, weeping and retching.  She vomited into the chamber pot, and she was shaking uncontrollably as she sobbed.  Once there was nothing more to empty from her stomach, she breathed deeply for a few moments and reached for the bottle, taking a few large swallows before returning to her dampened pillow and closing her eyes.

She made her way to the livery in the grey light of the rainy morning, intent on heading west.  She strapped her provisions to her saddle and climbed atop Lumé, her only friend left in this Maker-forsaken world.  She lifted her scarf over her face and her hood over her head, and spurred her mare out of the stables into the cold and steady rain.

She had no destination in mind, and was in no hurry to decide on one.  The open road had allowed her some peace, and living off of the land was effective enough in distracting herself from the near constant thoughts of Sebastian.  She wanted to see him again; she wanted to make sure that he was okay, and she wanted answers, but at the same time she knew that the very sight of him would crush her already broken heart.  Maker, I love that man…

She travelled parallel to the Imperial Highway, keeping off of the main road and away from people.  She kept nearer to the coast as she approached Lake Calenhad, away from the circle; she had had enough of Templars to last lifetimes. 

Jader was a nice enough city, smaller than Highever, but more importantly it was drier, which was something that Sorcha found quite relieving.  As she rode down the central street toward the Inn, she passed a Chantry, with welcoming cage doors and oppressive safe and secure walls.  She wished that she could glare the building to death, razing it down to its foundations.  Fuck the Chantry…fucking hypocritical assholes…

She left her horse as the Inn’s livery and walked the short distance across town to the tavern.  The captain had said that the food at this tavern was decent, and the drink was cheap, which sounded exactly like what Sorcha sorely needed.

The fish pie was delicious, and the wine was cheap enough that she ordered it by the bottle.  With her hunger sated, she sat back and finished the bottle of Antivan red.  There was a game going on a few tables away from her, and tonight seemed as good of a night as any to refill her purse.

The dealer’s eyes danced over her scars briefly as Sorcha sat across from him, but they didn’t linger.  She paid the buy-in and was dealt her hand.  Luck was on her side tonight, and she won three straight games, increasing the weight of her purse nicely.  The player seated to her right, however, was quite unhappy with losing his month’s wages in less than an hour.  The man went to reach for his blade, but Sorcha had learned the hard way that there was always one sore loser at every table.  She had her dagger pulled from her boot and pressed into the man’s ribs before he could even grab the hilt of his sword.

“Never bet what you’re unwilling to part with,” she growled, “be it money, or your life.”

The man’s eyes met her steely glare, and he swallowed hard.  Her empty eyes reflected the soul of someone who had nothing left to lose, and those paths were the most dangerous to cross.  He slowly pulled back his hands and raised them in defense before rising very slowly from the table and backing away.  Satisfied that he wouldn’t be more trouble, she tucked her dagger back into her boot, and nodded to the dealer as she gathered her winnings and left the table.

She bought herself a bottle of brandy to take to her room and walked out into the clear, Orlesian night.  It wasn’t long before she heard heavy footfalls behind her.  She tuned her ear to them and was suspicious when they didn’t change direction.  She stopped abruptly and turned to face an empty street.

“Quit hiding, you step heavier than a horse,” she barked.

A low laugh came from the darkness of a shadowed alley.  “They said you were bold.”

Another gravelly voice chimed in, “I can’t tell if she’s bold or just stupid.”

They stepped from the shadow into the amber light cast by the street lantern.  Sorcha’s breath hitched at the sight of the two Templars, and her adrenaline began to course wildly through her veins.  She flexed her sword hand in preparation of a quick draw; she only hoped that her arm was faster than the Templars’.

“Is there something I can help you cretins with? Or do you just prefer to approach women as they walk the dark streets alone?  Afraid to meet them when there are witnesses?”

The taller Templar chuckled cruelly, “We have orders to return the ‘Lady’ Trevelyan to the Chantry, but no one said how gently.”

The other scoffed, “I don’t see a lady here.”  His eyes narrowed as he stared her down, “All I see is a whore.  Being a prince’s slut might have afforded you protection then, but there is no one watching over you now, blasphemer.”

Sorcha tossed her wine to the ground and with deliberate slowness, pulled her shield from her back before grasping the hilt of her sword.

“Why would degenerates like the two of you be sent to retrieve a lay Sister?  Does bullying women turn you on?  Has the lyrium kept your dicks too limp to get your rocks off otherwise?”

The second Templar hissed, “Your fat, over-privileged father has demanded your return, and the Chantry feels that he is to be appeased.  It’s sickening, really, but it lets us take your sacrilegious ass back for the punishment that you deserve.”

Sorcha’s mind flashed back to the cave Ser James had held her in, and the degrading things he had said and the violence he had done to her.  Tears of anger formed in her eyes and she clenched her teeth as she unsheathed her sword.  She would remain free of the Chantry, or die trying. 

She assumed a fighting stance and growled, “I will fight you until my last breath, you disgraces to the Maker.”

The Templars drew their blades and approached her.  She knew that she couldn’t win against two of the Order, but Maker help her if she wasn’t going to take one of them down with her.

She attacked first, slamming her blade into the shield of the first before ducking the shield bash of the second.  She would use the fact that they were to capture her alive to her advantage; they were unprepared for a real fight and didn’t even feel that apprehending her required the protection of helmets.  She side-stepped the second Templar and spun to back-hand him in the head with her shield.  It dazed him long enough that with a forceful cry she was able to kick him in the knee and send him down to the ground, evening the odds for a moment.

The first Templar struck at her with a powerful swing, which she blocked with her shield.  She was unable to press forward against his blade, however; the shoulder of her shield arm was the one crushed by Ser James and it didn’t heal with the same strength it once had.  The man bore down on his blade, and she had to reinforce her defence with her sword arm.  He took that opportunity to kick her leading leg, and knock her off balance.  She rolled as she fell, but righted herself quickly.  Her chest heaved for breath and the pain in her shoulder was already making her see stars, but she would fight or fall.  She lunged again for the first Templar, but she fell to the ground disoriented and breathless before she could reach him.  Her vision focused and she could make out the second Templar standing to the side, his hand was brought to his forehead and his eyes closed.  He fucking…smited…me? 

Both men walked to her, and the first lifted her to her knees by her hair.  She tried to grab at his wrist but her limbs were still useless.  Tears formed in her eyes, but she would not let these men see them fall.  She hadn’t yet begun to regain control over her legs, and she fell back onto the ground.  That’s when she heard a powerful voice booming from the darkness.

“Explain yourselves, now!”

The Templars didn’t even acknowledge that they were being spoken to, and bent to lift Sorcha from the ground.

“You will cease, immediately!” The voice grew impatient and much louder.

The second Templar barked toward the shadow, “Chantry business is not your concern.  Now fuck off before there’s trouble.”

Seconds later both men were on the cold ground alongside her, writhing in their own agony.  Their flesh was turning red and Sorcha could feel the heat radiating from their bodies.  After a moment, they lay motionless on the ground next to her, and only the sound of their breathing was proof that they still lived.

A pair of strong arms scooped her up and carried her across the street to sit her upon a merchant’s wagon.  A pair of gentle, gloved hands lifted the spout of a water skin to her lips and tilted it back slowly.  Sorcha took a few sips and as her comprehension returned to her, and she nodded graciously to her rescuer.

“Thank you, truly,” she managed hoarsely, “I don’t want to think what would have happened to me if they would have taken me.”

“You are no mage, why were these Templars after you?”

Sorcha looked to the ground, and couldn’t help but notice the shapely legs standing before her.

“I’m an escaped lay-Sister whose father apparently still has enough influence with the Chantry to demand a search and retrieval…”

She heard a frustrated breath escape the lips of the person in front of her, and then felt a hand gently cover hers.

“What is your name, Sister?”

Sorcha balked at the idea of revealing too much of herself, but this person had just saved her from Templar clutches, and she felt like they deserved her honesty.

“Sorcha Trevelyan.”

Her rescuer leaned forward into the light just then.  Sorcha found herself momentarily speechless.  She was looking into a pair of fierce but warm brown eyes that served to both comfort and rally her.  Her eyes moved from the woman’s face to her lustrous black hair pulled into a low bun, her olive skin and her reassuring smile.

“Well, Lady Trevelyan, it appears it is no longer safe for you to be travelling alone.  You will join me.”

Sorcha just nodded, even though she had no idea what she was getting herself into.  She rose to her still-unsteady feet and looked at the formidable woman beside her.

“Very well, I’ll ride with you.  May I know your name?”

“Cassandra Pentaghast.”

 

 

 

 

      

Chapter Text

Sebastian had now been a fully-pledged Brother for two years and ten months; and it had been three years since he had last seen his love. 

He had despised himself since the day he left her behind without a word of reason, and the guilt that plagued him served to catalyze his self-loathing.  The decision to give himself completely to Andraste wasn’t a light one to make, but after looking upon the woman whose love for him had twisted her into a shell of her former self, he felt that he had deserved to give up his life for the pain that his love had inflicted upon hers.  In desperation, he had sought redemption in the Chant, hoping that giving himself to Andraste would stop the relentless nightmares that plagued him since his cowardly failure to give Sorcha the answers that she rightly deserved at The Hanged Man.  He had sworn to himself that he could become a better man under the forgiving eyes of the Prophetess; he had to believe that he could atone.

This fateful day had begun like any other.  After he led the morning chant and had taken breakfast, he made his way toward the dais and the uncomfortable wooden pews in which he would sit for hours in contemplation of his many sins.  He was nearly across the vaulted chamber when a gaunt man wearing Starkhaven regalia, being followed by three anxious Sisters, stumbled into the Chantry only to land breathlessly at the prince’s feet.

Sebastian’s brow furrowed as he looked at the royal messenger; the man looked panicked and exhausted, like he had been running for days without rest.  He started to get a very bad feeling about this.

Sebastian offered his hand and helped the runner to his feet before he spoke in an unintentionally agitated tone.

“What is wrong at the palace? What news do you bring?” He began to feel anxious about the circumstances surrounding the runner’s arrival.  After a moment of finding his breath, the weary man finally spoke.

“My lord,” he panted as he handed him a sealed missive, “Your family, my lord, were attacked.  I’m so sorry, my lord, but none survived.  You are the last.”

Horror moved over Sebastian’s face before he dropped to his knees onto the cold stone of the Chantry floor.  With shaking hands, he opened the letter and bit his lip to keep it from quivering as he read.

“My lord…”

“Leave me,” he quietly told the messenger.

“If my lord requires--”

“Leave me!” he bellowed, his grief echoed off of the Chantry walls.  The messenger bowed deeply and backed away from the prince slowly.

Sebastian’s posture slumped as he knelt before the gilded and glowing figure of Andraste.  His head was bowed and his shoulders shook as he sobbed silently as read the letter.  After what had seemed an eternity, his fist clenched around the parchment and his body hardened as his grief turned to anger.  His eyes narrowed and his gaze steeled, and he lifted his head as he forced himself to stand.  With fury burning through his veins, he quickly made for his quarters. 

Without regard to his own privacy, he untied the satin sash of his grey Chantry robes and let the heavy material fall to the cold floor at his feet.  Completely nude, he walked over to his wardrobe and yanked open the mahogany doors.

Hanging in the closet before him was his past, and his future.  He reached with both hands to grab the gleaming white dragonbone breastplate with his family’s crest emblazoned onto the cold metal.  He ran his hand gently over the drakes and chalice before reaching into the wardrobe for his stark white leathers.  He dressed hurriedly and placed his folded robes in a drawer; he would not need them again.  Around his neck hung a chain of silver filigree, which he tucked into his tunic; he grabbed his bow and quiver from under his cot, and before leaving his room, he placed the crumpled parchment open across his pillow.

Prince Vael,

  I pray that this message reaches you.  The palace has been infiltrated and your family killed as they slept; your parents and brothers have all perished.  It is yet unknown who perpetrated this heinous act, but it is my intention to find out.  Send word and I will be at your service again.  I am sorry, my lord.  May they find peace by the Maker’s side.

Your humble servant,

Leonal

He crossed the vaulted chamber at a near run, ignoring anyone who called to him.  Grand Cleric Elthina left the side of the weakened messenger and stepped to the lip of the dais, her chest lifted with breath as she clung to the railing.

“Have faith in the Maker to punish the wicked, Sebastian.  Do not turn your back on him!” she yelled.

Sebastian stopped before the massive doors, and turned a murderous glare toward her.

“I will seek my penance once the murderers pay theirs…” he growled before pushing them open with an angry yell.  He charged out into Kirkwall, not as the devoted Brother, but as the vengeful prince.

 ………………….

“Brother Sebastian, that ‘woman’ has requested to see you,” the Sister chirped, “She is waiting near the dais.”

Sebastian lifted his eyes from his letters and glanced at the woman before him.

“That ‘woman’ is Marian Hawke, and she’s as honorable as they come, Sister.  You would do well to remember that.”

“Of course, how foolish of me,” she replied with an eye-roll before leaving his room.

Sebastian left his correspondence on his desk and left to meet Hawke in the front room.

“I got your note, Sebastian.  What is going on?”  Marian asked, and she extended her hand as he approached her.

Sebastian smiled as he clasped her forearm in a greeting between friends.  Since she and her people had taken care of the Flint mercenaries responsible for murdering his family, Sebastian had grown to consider her a friend over the last few years.  They were a good group whom Sebastian had come to respect.

“It’s good to see you, Marian, and, thank you for coming.  You’ll pardon me if I get straight to business;  I’ve learned of those responsible for hiring those mercenaries, and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to handle this alone.  I was hoping that I might ask your assistance.”  Anger flashed in his eyes and his lip curled ever so slightly in disgust as he went on to explain the situation.

“The Harimanns were close friends of my family, until they ordered the slaughter of my kin, that is.  They had been decent people…but they now need to be dead people.”

Hawke didn’t even need to give his request a second thought, “Of course, Sebastian, we’re with you.”

He nodded his gratitude and said, “I need some time to prepare.  Let’s meet at Fenris’ place after dark, the Harimann estate is near his.”

Hawke agreed and left the Chantry to make preparations of her own.

The sun had almost reached its final depths as Sebastian opened the door to the elf’s dilapidated mansion.  The lingering sunlight behind him cast his form in an ethereal glow as he crossed the threshold into the front room.  All eyes were on him, for he truly looked the part of a righteous spirit of vengeance.

Isabela’s jaw dropped at the vision standing before her.  She had seen the prince before, but had never really seen him.  He wore his gleaming breastplate and white leather vest, and his ridiculously tight, charcoal grey leather trousers which accentuated his muscled thighs; his rich, mahogany waves reached the middle of his neck and were tucked behind his ears, and his full and meticulously kept beard, which was as dark as his hair but with flecks of copper that glinted when the light was just right, drew her eyes to his hansom and noble face.  His brilliant blue eyes held fierce determination, and his expression was of steely resolve.

She hadn’t realized that she had been staring like a lecher until Hawke’s elbow jabbed her ribs.

“What?” the pirate said as she turned to her friend, “Don’t say you wouldn’t ride him into the sunset.”

Hawke just rolled her eyes and laughed.

Sebastian raised an eyebrow to the women and cleared his throat.

“I thank you all, truly.  I can’t say that I know what kind of resistance to expect, but we will crush it.”

“I hope this offers you some peace in the future,” Anders began, “I know what it’s like to look over your shoulder with every step you take.  You seem like a decent man, Sebastian; decent people don’t deserve to be hunted.”

Sebastian cast his eyes to the floor in contemplation of the mage’s words.  No, I deserve far worse…

He lifted his gaze to meet the tired, brown eyes of a man who had seen entirely too much in his life, and he shook his head.

“I am not that man you believe me to be.”

Hawke raised an eyebrow at his statement but did not press the issue; everyone had a past, and Sebastian would be no exception.  Here was a prince who had taken vows of chastity and poverty, after all, so there must be more to it than he had let on.

He gave them a soldier’s bow before turning back to the door.  Hawke, Anders, and Isabela fell in behind him and the party made for the Harimann estate.

They walked purposefully across the courtyard, and Sebastian unclasped his bow from his back before they reached the estate.  With his hand on the door, he looked for signs of readiness from each of his companions before entering.  He was shocked into momentary silence after he stepped into the front room.

“Something’s not right…” he began, “Where are all the guards?  Lady Harimann would not leave her house unlocked and unguarded.”

Sebastian had a bad feeling about this.  He motioned to Hawke with a finger to his lips and nodded toward the stairs.  She gave a nod of acknowledgement, and in silence the rest of them drew their weapons.  Sebastian and Isabela hung back a moment and crept to the far staircase, while Hawke and Anders took the lead as they climbed the main stairs.  

No sooner than had Hawke and Anders stepped atop the second floor hallway, they heard the shattering of glass and were predictably surrounded by a cloud of heavy smoke.

Half a dozen sell-swords fell upon them, and within moments a giddy Isabela joined the fray.  Sebastian was about to release his arrow when one whirred past his shoulder; it narrowly missed him and embedded itself into the railing.  His eyes tracked to the source of the arrow that was shot at him, and his jaw dropped in disbelief.

It had been years since he had last seen her or held her in his grip, not since that fateful night which he had been desperately trying to forget.  But there she was in front of him, his grandfather’s bow, as strong and beautiful and limber as she had always been…but sadly, she was also not on his side in this fight.

“You should have died that night, you useless prince,” the mercenary sneered, “A mistake about to be remedied.”

He knew that voice, he remembered that face, and in that moment, he called upon the pain of those memories which haunted him night and day for the strength to end the man who had nearly ended him with his own bow.

Sebastian had lost all concern for his party; his only focus right now was the ex-Hercinia guardsman.

He bolted after the man, who fled down the hallway and toward the cellar.  His heart raced and his blood burned, and his mind was in a fog.  His muscular body made him the faster runner, and he quickly gained on his quarry.  As soon as he was within reach, he leapt from full speed and tackled the mercenary to the floor.  The pair tumbled across the tiles from the force of his impact; the assailant had ended up straddling the prince and landing a hard punch to Sebastian’s mouth.  Blood spurted from his split lip.

“Just like old times…” the ex-guard laughed.

 Sebastian shot out with his arm and pushed with his powerful leg as he leaned into a roll.  The mercenary became unbalanced, and the prince managed to wrestle his way on top.  He pummeled the face below him relentlessly, his speed and power fueled by his rage and his grief.  He reached for an arrow lying near them on the floor, gripped it and drove it into his attacker’s heart with his bare hands.

“The Maker allowed me to live that night,” he hissed, “but tonight is your time to meet Him.”

He watched as the arrow pulsed in time with the dying heart, clenching his fists and grinding his teeth as he seethed.  His chest struggled for breath, but he steeled himself after a brief moment.

He leaned down and said maliciously unto the dead ears, “May you burn in the Void, you soulless fuck.”

Sebastian crawled away from the corpse of the man who almost killed him in Hercina, and wrapped his shaking hand tightly around the familiar grip of his grandfather’s bow before he forced himself to his feet.  He drew his fingers lightly over her wooden curves and her taut string.  She felt like home in his hands again; he lifted his eyes to the heavens and offered a silent prayer of thanks and praise to the Maker for returning her to him.  After his supplication he cast his eyes upon the cooling corpse at his feet.

He pulled his leg back and landed a full-force blow to the head of the lifeless man.  “That was for Sorcha!”  He kicked the corpse in the ribs, “That was for me…” He lifted his foot and stomped heavily on the dead man’s chest, “…and that was for my bow!”

He straightened himself, and with his free hand he smoothed his hair back and out of his face as he caught his breath.  He turned to find three pairs of eyes staring at him with expressions of curiosity and, in Isabela’s case, burning lust.  Clearly they had no difficulty dispatching the other mercenaries without him.

“Who is Sorcha?” Hawke asked.

Sebastian turned his back to them quickly, lest they see the tears forming in his sad eyes.

“Everything,” he replied softly, before retreating down the hallway.

The other members of the party just looked at each other and shrugged in confusion before following him into the corridor.

They had walked into, around, and through numerous rooms across the estate; there were still no signs of the Harimanns, and Sebastian had begun to think that they had gone into hiding… until a scream from the parlor caught their attention.

Sebastian was the first to run into the room and he stopped in his tracks so abruptly that the others nearly ran him over as they ran in after him.  His head tilted and his expression was one of extreme confusion; in the middle of the room was a makeshift smelter, with Brett Harimann feeding into it every scrap of gold he could muster.  Watching Harimann’s every move with interest was an elven man who held a dagger to a servant’s throat.  The panicked woman saw an opportunity.

“Please, my lord!  They’re going to kill me!” she cried.

“Stop this, Brett!  What in the Maker’s name are you doing?” Sebastian yelled, but it fell on deaf ears.  Brett Harimann didn’t even acknowledge Sebastian’s presence.

“We need more logs, it must get hotter!” the mad man surmised before looking over to his servant.  “You’re going to be so beautiful,” he told her, “It won’t hurt you!”

“Maker, he can’t even see that we’re here…” Sebastian muttered. 

In that moment, the man with the knife lowered his blade and moved to confront the prince.  He didn’t get the opportunity, however, as Sebastian pulled back his arm and knocked the man out with a powerful right hook as soon as he stepped close enough.  The woman ran into the prince’s arms, and she held him tightly as she shook with shock.

“They went mad, my lord, the lot of them!  Please, I need to get out of here, before they come back!” she sobbed.

Hawke took her gently by the hand while Sebastian placed his hands softly on either side of her face, forcing her to look at him.

“Please,” he said calmly, “What happened here?  Where are they?”

The servant’s eyes flitted across his face and she took a cleansing breath.

“I don’t know how it happened, my lord, they all just started going mad.  There have been noises—terrifying noises, coming from the cellars.  Please, my lord, may I go now?” Tears were trailing down her pale cheeks, and she still hadn’t stopped shaking.

“Of course, of course,” Sebastian said softly, “Have you somewhere safe to go?”

The woman shook her head; she had lived as a servant at the estate for a decade and she had no family in Kirkwall, aside from the other servants in the house.

“You may seek refuge in the Chantry, it is a safe place,” he offered. She nodded and ran out of the room as quickly as her legs would allow her to.

“So, it seems it’s time to go down,” Isabela purred.  The other three looked at her blankly, to which she replied, “To the cellars? Hello?”  They all raised an eyebrow at her before turning to follow Sebastian to the lowest level of the house.

When they entered the cellars, they found much more than wine barrels.  A massive hole had been knocked into the wall, and from the abyss beyond came the faint glow of greenish blue light.

“How very passé,” Hawke sighed as she considered their discovery, “this hole has nothing on a good tapestry.”  

“I don’t know about that,” Anders said, “I’ve always liked a nice hole.”  He gave Hawke a wink and she rolled her eyes and smacked him in the chest.

“Come on, whatever is down there can’t try to kill us if we stand around up here,” she said.

Sebastian pulled the filigree chain out from under his tunic and placed a reverent kiss upon the crystalline surface of its stone before he tucked it back into his shirt and stepped into the inky darkness.

“You can kiss me too, I’m really lucky!” Isabela called out after him.

“You are, or you’re trying to get?” Anders quipped.  Isabela just waved her hand dismissively at him, “Semantics,” she said airily before following Sebastian into the forbidding depths.

The group followed the path of ancient stone staircases and hallways, which were all eerily illuminated by odd flames contained in sconces.

“How is it that these can stay permanently lit? Or does someone stalk these dark halls in secret and re-light these once they go out?” Hawke asked.

“I remember reading of something like this once, back in the Circle.  I think its Veilfire-- ancient magic.  I wonder how old these ruins really are…” Anders said. 

“They look Tevinter,” Sebastian said.

“They look creepy,” Anders shuddered, “Let’s hurry so we can go somewhere nice, like the Hanged Man.  I’ll need a drink or seven after this.”

Sebastian stopped abruptly and motioned for silence.  He tuned his ear toward the open tunnel before them; the muffled sound of women’s voices carried on the darkened air.

He looked back at the party and held up two fingers before he drew his bow and crept off to find the sources of the voices.  After a few minutes, they entered a vaulted room, lit with veilfire along the ancient stone walls and decorated with human bones piled on the cold, grey floor.

The prince’s eyes narrowed and his lips curled into a sneer when he recognized who one the voices were coming from.  He approached them with ferocity and vitriol, and his companions followed closely behind.

“You sold your soul to steal Starkhaven, Lady Harimann?” he said to the familiar woman, who stood next to a floating Desire demon.

“I hope you can get a refund, bitch,” Isabela added.

“Sebastian? You—you’re not supposed to be here!” the blood mage hissed.

“He lived—you won’t.” Hawke crouched into an offensive stance, ready and willing to run the old woman through.

The demon laughed and eyed the prince like he was meat hanging in the market.

“I merely nurtured that which was already there; she was very willing to do whatever it took to seize that which she desired.”  An expression of recognition then spread across Allure’s face.  “So you are the subject of so much envy,” it purred as it floated toward him, “I understand now, the fascination it holds.  Tell me, hansom prince, would you see your throne restored?  I can help you take back what was lost.  I can give you that which you desire most…”

The blood mage began to protest, but the demon motioned for her silence.

It floated around him, dragging its clawed finger along his broad shoulders and whispered into his ear, “She can be yours again… to have as your wife, to hold until you die, to cherish for eternity… she would give you heirs to the throne you fought so hard for… you need only say the word.”

For a moment, Sebastian actually considered the demon’s offer.  What he wouldn’t give to hear Sorcha’s laugh again, to gaze into her sparkling eyes, to kiss her soft, sweet lips with the passion of an enraptured soul.  Most of all, he dreamed of the day when he could tell her how he loved her more with each passing moment, and that he would walk through the Void itself to keep her from harm. 

His eyes darted in contemplation, and he tugged at his lip before meeting its alluring gaze.

“I need only to say the word?” he asked.

Allure smiled seductively and said, “Say the word.”

Sebastian’s gaze narrowed and he smirked at the lavender fiend before him.

“Die,” he hissed.

At that moment, Isabela’s dagger whirred past his head and landed squarely in the demon’s skull with a sickening sound.  Allure fell dead at his feet and disassociated into a sticky puddle.

He looked back at Isabela, who just shrugged her shoulders.

“What?” she asked, “You said the word!”

The prince gave her a small nod of thanks before lifting his bow and training it on Lady Harimann’s head.

He stood tall and lifted his chin as he stared the old woman down.  “Have you anything to say?”

The blood mage looked at him sheepishly before her expression turned to murderous.

“I should have paid the Flints better to make them more thorough,” she spat before she lifted her staff to cast.

A violet glow surrounded her and her body contorted and convulsed; her staff fell to the stone floor and she screamed in pain.  Sebastian looked over to Anders, whose hand was extended and whose staff was glowing a blinding blue as his lips moved with an incantation.

The prince looked back upon the woman imprisoned in Anders’ telekinetic spell; with the demon dead, she had lost her source of power, and she became completely susceptible to incapacitation.  He took a breath and pulled his bowstring taut.

“Johane Harimann, you are charged with treason and the murder of the Vael family. As the only survivor of your treachery, I, Prince Sebastian Vael, the rightful prince of Starkhaven, hereby judge you as guilty.  Your punishment is death.”

He loosed his righteous arrow and it found its mark in the traitor’s forehead.  Johane Harimann fell lifelessly to the ground and Anders released his spell.

“It is done,” Sebastian said as he lowered his head to look upon the woman that his mother had once considered a friend, “my family has been avenged.  Perhaps tonight’s sleep will be peaceful.”

“Sounds lonely,” Isabela purred, “I could help with that, you know.”  She cocked her hip and gave him a wink.

Sebastian just shook his head and said softly, almost reflectively, “I have made a vow.  I belong to another, and will until the world ends.”

Isabela made a disgusted noise and threw her hands into the air, “Why does Andraste have to have all the best men? It’s so not fair…”

Hawke slapped her in the shoulder, “Not Andraste, you ass…” she sighed, “Maker’s breath, Isabela…”

“What? Oh…” a look of understanding crossed her face and she turned to Anders, “Um, about those drinks…”

The group made their way back to the cellars, and once inside they were approached by Flora Harimann, who was visibly distressed. She fell to her knees before her prince.

“My lord, please have mercy.  That demon enthralled us all, we had no control over ourselves.  I’m sorry can’t begin to adequately make up for what happened.  Please, spare my family.”

“Your mother is already dead, Flora.  I have no desire to spill more blood because of her,” he said, “Mercy will be granted.”

The woman at his feet began to weep, “Thank you, my lord, thank you!  Please, my lord, allow me to offer all that we have to aid you in reclaiming your throne.  I know that my mother was not the only one vying for it, but the Harimann’s will stand with you, my lord.”

Sebastian just nodded wearily, and his face seemed to have aged in just minutes.

“I will summon you when you are needed,” he said before making his way up the stairs.  Hawke, Anders and Isabela followed him until they exited the estate and entered the courtyard.

He turned to his companions and bowed deeply.

“I thank you, my friends, for your help…but Flora was right.  There are certainly more traitors who would take advantage of Lady Harimann’s death and try their hand at stealing my throne.  I must make preparations to return home shortly.  I need to head back to the Chantry, but please come see me soon, so I may reward you for your service to Starkhaven.”

Hawke bowed deeply in return and extended her hand to the prince.  He smiled and clasped his hand around her wrist.  “Thank you, my friend,” he said softly, before he turned and left for the Chantry.

………………..

Sebastian had just opened the letter from his steward when he was summoned to the Grand Cleric’s chambers.  He left the parchment on his desk and made his way to Elthina’s office.

He knocked on the open, solid hardwood door, “Your Grace, you asked for me?”

“Yes, Sebastian.”  Elthina set down her quill and frowned.  “The Divine is concerned about the situation here in Kirkwall.  She does not want to see the Free Marches become another Imperium.  She has sent an agent to…assess the danger.  I need you to meet with this agent, Sister Nightingale, and convince her that the Divine need not march on Kirkwall.”

Sebastian was taken by surprize at her statement about the Divine.

“Surely she wouldn’t allow the deaths of so many innocents because of their proximity to the troubles?” he asked.

Elthina just looked at him stone-faced.  “She will do what needs to be done to protect the faith.”

His fists clenched as his anger rose from his chest.  “It may not have had to come to this, if you would have publicly declared support of a side, Your Grace.  Your voice could have been enough to silence the unrest before it grew into something of concern to her Most Holy.”

“My voice, Brother Sebastian, is busy serving the Maker.  I will not give either side more power by offering Chantry support.  The Divine’s agent will meet you in the Viscount’s keep tonight.  I trust you to persuade her that Kirkwall is worth saving.  Now go.”

Sebastian’s jaw tightened as he bowed shallowly to Elthina before leaving her office.  Her inaction would cause a greater reaction than she realized, and he was now just beginning to see it, himself.  He had a couple of hours until the rendezvous, so he returned to his room to dress in his tight, Starkhaven leathers and grab his weapon, before setting out to seek his companions.

He found Hawke at her home in Hightown; she was playing Diamondback with Isabela and Varric, and judging by the look of pain on her face, he surmised that she was losing miserably.

“You going to buy-in, Choir Boy?” Varric asked as he shuffled further down the bench to make room for the prince to sit.

Sebastian chuckled as he took a seat.  “I’m afraid my days of wine, women and cards are behind me, my friend.  Besides, I wouldn’t want to take all of your money… it wouldn’t be the pious thing to do.”

Isabela lifted an eyebrow as she poured herself another glass of wine.  “Why couldn’t I have met you back then?” she sighed before taking a drink.

He smiled politely as he changed the subject, desperately trying to keep the memories of his happier days from creeping into his waking thoughts.

“I came to seek your assistance once more.  The Divine has sent as agent to Kirkwall to assess the unrest between the Templars and the mages.  I am to meet with her tonight and persuade her that Kirkwall does not need the Divine’s forces to quell its disquiet.  I would appreciate it greatly if you three could join me.”

They all agreed in unison, preventing the destruction of Kirkwall didn’t require second thoughts or persuasion.  The determined group rose from the polished table and grabbed their weapons before setting off for the Viscount’s Keep.

They entered the viscount’s throne room and were approached by a mage, who was clearly intent on doing things the hard way.

“So, even the Divine fears us now… she should,” the blood mage sneered.  “Kill the spies!”

Before Sebastian could explain that they were not agents of the Divine, the mage and her companions began hurling fireballs and spears of ice at him and his party.

He dove out of the way and rolled to take cover behind a pillar.  Isabela tossed a smoke bomb and disappeared into the fray, only to reappear behind the blood mage and drive her daggers into the woman’s back as she was casting.  The maleficar screamed in agony as she fell to the cold stone of the keep’s floor. 

As Hawke charged forward with a howling battle cry, which startled the two mages in front of her just enough that she could swing her axe in a wide arc and cut them down, Varric let Bianca sing a sweet song of arrows that rained down upon their opponents. 

The battle seemed over before it began, until Sebastian noticed a chilling, static tingle to the air around them.  He lifted his bow and peered around the pillar.  The blood mage had not died from Isabela’s blades, but seemed to have used the wound to power a spell. 

Her hand glowed with an eerie silver light, and she rose from the floor and aimed for the beautiful pirate.  Before the spell was completed, however, Sebastian loosed his arrow and it struck true, penetrating the mage’s head and killing her dead.

As he watched the blood from the felled mages seep into the cracks of the floor, he felt a presence enter the room.

He turned to see a lithe red-headed woman, flanked by two escorts.

“The Resolutionists…” she said in a lilting Orlesian accent, “I had expected them to have a hand in this.”

Sebastian bowed to the rogue, “Sister Nightingale. I am Prince Sebastian Vael, and I act on behalf of Her Grace, Grand Cleric Elthina.”

It didn’t escape his notice that one of the agent’s escorts clenched her fists tightly at the mention of Elthina’s name.  He straightened himself and considered the women before him.  The pretty rogue wore the finest quality leather armor, and her daggers were of dragonbone.  Sister Nightingale had a dangerous look to her eyes but they also held compassion.  Her escorts wore tight, black leathers and helmets which covered their faces completely, except for the eyes. The woman with the soft brown eyes carried an Ironbark longbow, and the other, with angry, hazel eyes, carried a dragonbone sword and a silverite shield.

He found that his gaze lingered on the second escort; she met his piercing blue eyes with a fierce stare, and he felt smaller under her glare.  His heart began to beat harder in his cage of a chest and his mind quietly sang an old song.  He quickly turned his attention back to the agent.

“Sister Nightingale, Her Grace has asked that the Divine spare Kirkwall from annihilation.   She feels that the unrest can be quieted without the Divine’s forces,” he said.

“You may call me Leliana, and I’m afraid that Kirkwall may no longer be safe.  Please, tell the Grand Cleric that if she values her life, she should depart for Val Royeaux as soon as possible.”

 He glanced to the escort’s hands again, which were clenched so tightly that they shook.  How curious…

…………

She followed Sister Nightingale through the keep and toward the throne room.  She could feel the magic in the air, but it dissipated quickly, as did the sounds of battle from within.  Leliana opened the doors and they walked in to find four people standing over the corpses of rebel mages.

Her eyes were drawn to the stark white armor of the rogue with the bow. Maker, only one man would wear pants that tight to a fight…  She seethed as she looked him over for the first time in nine years.  She had made it a point to forget about his brilliant blue eyes, his rich, mahogany waves — which are now considerably longer than she remembered  –  his hansom face — Maker, that beard was beautiful –  his perfect physique — he’s grown larger, more broad in the shoulders now, and those thighs…she stood taller and lifted her chin.  He means nothing now, forget him… you don’t need Sebastian Vael!

Her eyes drifted over to his companions, and a spark of recognition illuminated the darkness of her memories.  She remembered the dwarf from her night in Kirkwall all those years ago; she smiled behind the metal mask of her helmet when she glanced down to his marvelous chest pelt.  She didn’t recognize the woman standing nearest Sebastian, but she understood her to be the Champion of Kirkwall.  Finally, she looked over at the bronzed pirate and felt her smile reach her eyes.  It was the pretty captain who had given her passage when she left Hercinia, and who gave her the names and locations of the safer places for people like her to lodge.  Her smile faded quickly, however, once Sebastian began speaking.

Contempt coursed through her heated veins at the mention of Elthina, and Sebastian’s reverent way of speaking of the woman only served to add disgust to her burning anger.  She clenched her fists and her jaw every time that woman was mentioned, and she even went so far as to flash Leliana a sideways glare when the agent suggested that the useless woman leave the city, as a safety precaution.  Her fists were clenched so tightly that her arms were shaking.

Let her stay…and let her suffer…that bat wants to be a martyr, but she’s no saint.

 …………

Sebastian’s gaze shifted to the second escort once more.  His eyes roamed over her figure in those tight pants and vest.  He looked to her eyes again; they were such a familiar color.  He pretended to listen as the Divine’s agent was talking to Isabela, but he couldn’t help himself from staring at this woman.  He couldn’t control his eyes, or his breathing, or his racing heart, or the quiet song in the depths of his being.  He noticed that her shield shoulder sat just a bit lower than her sword arm, and the realization hit him like a shield bash to the face.  Maker! Could it really be…?

His eyes met hers again, and all at once it made sense.  His soul knew it was her before his mind did.  Standing a mere few feet from him was the woman that he was in love with, the woman whose spirit sang to the depths of his soul, the woman whom he would give his life for a thousand times over.  Sorcha was within an arm’s reach, all he had to do was throw himself at her feet and beg for her forgiveness.  He could tell her everything that he had meant to in Hercinia; he could profess his undying devotion and unwavering loyalty, explain his heartbreaking decision to leave her behind, pledge the rest of his life to making amends…he could do it all, she was standing right there…

But she gave no indication that she would welcome such actions.  His face was not concealed behind a helmet; she knew it was him the very moment she walked through those massive doors, and yet she chose not to acknowledge him.  He understood why, and could not fault her for it in the slightest.  

He was vaguely aware that this meeting was over.  His eyes left Sorcha and he looked back to Sister Nightingale and agreed to speak to the Grand Cleric about fleeing Kirkwall.  He bowed and glanced to Sorcha’s clenched fists. Why does the mention of Elthina anger her so?

He turned to leave and he met Sorcha’s eyes one last time.  He gave her a sad smile, a knowing and sorrowful look, and then walked out of the throne room.

……………….

She was relieved that the meeting was over; when his eyes met hers for the final time, his brilliant blues glistened with emotion and remorse, and she prayed that he didn’t learn who hid behind the helmet.   She watched him as he left, and a flash of déjà vu hit her like a shield bash to the face.  For the second time, she watched as Sebastian Vael walked away from her.  This time, though, she chose to let him. 

………………….

Sebastian returned to the Chantry alone and saw that his escort to Starkhaven had finally arrived.  He went inside and relayed the advice of Sister Nightingale to Elthina.  He wasn’t really concerned with her decision to stay, his mind was still reeling over seeing Sorcha again.  He gave the Grand Cleric a deep bow and turned on his heel to retreat to his quarters.  As he passed through the vaulted room, he motioned to his steward to follow.  Once the men were inside the prince’s room, Sebastian closed his door and spoke in a hushed tone.

“I saw her, Leonal, she was here as an escort for an agent of the Divine.  The Most Holy is thinking about marching on Kirkwall; if Sorcha is working for her in any capacity, she is in great danger.  I want more eyes on her, she needs more protection, do you understand?”

The steward nodded and bowed deeply to the prince.  “Your will be done, my lord.”

Sebastian let out a breath that he wasn’t aware that he had been holding.  “Now, Leonal, please fetch the coachman and begin loading my belongings onto the coach.”

The steward bowed once more and retreated from the room.  Sebastian took a last look around at his life of “quiet contemplation” before retrieving his satchel from under his cot.  He straightened and stood tall as he slung it over his shoulder, and exited the room as the ruler of Starkhaven.

The Grand Cleric was waiting by the Chantry doors to see the prince off on his journey home.  She blessed Sebastian and his men, and he bowed in thanks before descending the cold, stone steps to his waiting horse.

He sat tall in the saddle upon Morchuise’s back, and without looking back, he reined his horse around and set off to lead his loyal men in retaking their home, and take his place as the rightful Prince of Starkhaven.

Chapter Text

The walls were grey stone and mortar set into mottled patterns of slate and smoke.  The shadows cast by the amber glow of lantern light advanced and retreated over the slab and cement mosaic like the tide.  Roughly hewn wood was bent and bound into a modest bed and chair, and polished hardwood was cut and carved into a nightstand and footstool.  Beyond the panes of ice-covered glass howled a winter storm so fierce even the wolves resigned themselves to refuge.

Cassandra rose from her chair and added another log to the fire, its disturbed embers flaring to kiss the roof of its stone cage.  The delicious heat was warm and comforting, and cut through the chill of the moonless and blustery night.  She raised her palms to the dancing flames to chase away the numbing cold before reaching for the raw, woolen blanket draped over the armor stand beside her.

“How long do you think she can endure?” she asked the red-headed woman as she set the heavy material at the foot of the bed.

Leliana turned her stormy, blue eyes up to Cassandra and gave a small shrug of her petite shoulders, “Solas assures me that he is doing everything that he can, but this is unfamiliar to him.  He has made her comfortable, for now.”

Leliana dipped a cloth into warm water and wrung out the excess, before she gingerly dabbed at the sweaty brow of the unresponsive woman lying in the bed before her.  “Sorcha,” the rogue whispered as she gently swept a sweat-soaked lock of raven hair from her friend’s clammy forehead, “please wake up.”  She bent and placed her forehead to Sorcha’s as she offered a silent prayer for her friend’s recovery.

Cassandra returned to her hardwood chair at Sorcha’s bedside.  She stared bitterly at the verdant glow that peeked out from behind the frayed linen wrappings which swathed her friend’s left hand. The chill in the air had become palpable; she shivered before she covered herself with the warm wool of the standard-issue blanket. 

With shared concern over the life of their friend, both Cassandra and Leliana settled in for another night of vigilance and prayer.

As the golden rays of the rising sun reached to kiss the show-covered world below, the silence of the mountain morning was broken by the violent hissing and snapping of the chartreuse mark, and by the agonizing cry of the woman who bore it.

The Right and Left Hands shot from their seats and descended upon Sorcha, who now sat upright and wide awake in her bed as tortuous screams tore from her chest.  Cassandra sat next to her, took her terrified and suffering friend into her arms, and attempted to calm her.  Leliana gave the Seeker a quick nod before bolting from the room to bring the mage who had been monitoring the effects of the mark.

The screaming echoes faded from throughout the village; before help could arrive, Sorcha had slid back into the blackness of unconsciousness.

A day later, she roused again, the blackness slowly making way for the light, and she scanned her environment through lidded eyes.  Sorcha blinked a few times, trying to focus on the person sitting next to her. 

Cassandra smiled and set aside her book.  “Be easy, Sorcha, you are safe.”  The senior Seeker reached out and gently took Sorcha’s hand.  “I’m here,” Cassandra said softly, “Do you know where you are? Do you remember what happened?”

Sorcha sat up and shook her head slowly as she tried to recall her last memories.  A pang of pain drew her attention to her left hand.  She stared at it a moment, and her face turned panicked as she noticed the green glow emanating from behind the linen wraps.  She turned her eyes to her friend in search of answers.

“Cass?” she asked in a hushed whisper.

Cassandra nodded and looked at Sorcha sympathetically, “Do you remember the Conclave?”

Sorcha nodded faintly as her gaze fell to her hand.

“Do you remember the explosion?”

Sorcha’s eyes widened in disbelief, and Cassandra took that as a sign that her friend could not recall the events that led to her ending up in the small mountain village.

“We are in Haven now.  There was an explosion, and everyone at the conclave was killed… except for you.”

Sorcha’s eyes began to stream tears of loss and overwhelming anxiety.  “The Divine?” she asked solemnly.

Cassandra’s eyes met hers and she blinked back tears of her own.  “Gone,” she answered.

Sorcha broke down and started weeping.  In between sobs, she asked, “What happened, Cass?  And what the fuck is this?”  She raised her left hand and waved it through the air.

Cassandra sighed.  “It… it would be easier if I showed you. Can you walk?”

Sorcha shrugged and swung her legs over the side of her bed.  “When did you get back from Kirkwall, Cass?”

Cassandra offered her arm.  “The day before last, hours after the explosion.  We saw it before we heard it, and we rode hard to reach the Temple.”  She accepted Cassandra’s arm and rose to stand shakily like she was using new legs for the first time.  After a moment of adjustment, she straightened and stepped carefully to find her footing.  Feeling confident, she released Cassandra’s arm and nodded to the Seeker, who then led her outside.

She stood in front of her cabin with her mouth agape and eyes wide with astonishment and horror, as she looked to the glowing green hole in the sky.

“We call it the Breach,” Cassandra began, “and somehow it was caused by the explosion at the Conclave.”

The fact that the glowing mark on her hand looked eerily similar to the glowing hole in the sky did not escape Sorcha’s notice.  She stared at the light escaping from behind the wrappings.

“We are not sure how, exactly, but we believe that the mark on your hand is connected to the Breach,” Cassandra continued.

Sorcha was about to ask how that conclusion was drawn, when the Breach flared in the sky and the mark on her hand answered in kind.  The surprise and the pain sent her to her knees.

The flare ended and Cassandra helped Sorcha to her feet.  “We want to see if this mark can be used against the Breach, would you be willing to try?”

Sorcha nodded, “Of course.  I’ll help however I can.”

The two women walked side by side along the path to the outer gate.  Cassandra looked to the guard and issued the order to let them pass.  As they made their way to the forward camp, Sorcha noticed that the people they passed stopped and stared at her with suspicion.

“They seem wary of me…why?” Sorcha asked.

“After the explosion, you just appeared…seemingly from nowhere, bearing that mark,” she nodded towards Sorcha’s hand, “Our people found you unconscious and brought you back to the village.”

“Surely no one believes that I had anything to do with what happened?”

“Most don’t know what to believe, they are frightened, and we have no answers yet.” Cassandra replied.

They stopped at the armory, “You will need your weapons and armor,” Cassandra said, “Not only is there a tear in the sky, but there are smaller tears that we call rifts, spawning demons from the Fade.”  Sorcha picked up her dragonbone sword and silverite shield and strapped into her black leather and dragonbone hauberk.  “We need to meet up with Leliana at the forward camp.” Cassandra continued, “She will debrief us there.”

Sorcha nodded as she flexed her sword hand and rolled her shoulders. “I’m ready.”

The women marched past displaced farmers, soldiers, and Chantry clerics.  They exited the gates of the perimeter wall and followed along the path to what was once the Temple of Sacred Ashes.  It wasn’t long before Sorcha faced the dangers of the rifts. 

“Quickly,” Cassandra yelled to Sorcha, “There’s fighting up ahead, we must help them.”

“Who’s fighting?”

“You will see,” was Cassandra’s answer.

Sorcha gripped her sword tighter and held her shield higher as she ran to join in the fray.  She jumped over a crumbled stone foundation and leapt off of a mound of rubble toward a scout who was parrying blows from a shade.  She quickly ran the shade through with her blade, and moved on to help a bald elf that was keeping a demon at bay with icy blasts from his staff.  She moved herself in between the elf and the demon, and with her shield she blocked the oncoming swipe of the demon’s razor-like claws.  She pushed up on her shield to deflect the strike, and as the demon’s hand met her shield her sword met its torso.  It shrieked in agony before crumbling into a pile of dust.   

“Quickly! Before more come through!”  The elf grabbed her shield hand and raised it to the undulating rift.  There was a sudden pain throughout her arm, as the mark hissed and flared to life.  A ribbon of energy connected the rift to her hand, and moments later, as she felt an overwhelming energy fill her left side, she pulled back her hand and clenched her fingers into a fist. The rift flared once more and then dissipated into nothing.  She stared at the elf and then back to her hand before she looked about for her comrade.  She was relieved to see Cassandra sheathing her sword after a crossbow bolt finished off the last of the shades.  The senior Seeker walked over to Sorcha, and was joined by a familiar-looking dwarf.

“And here I thought we would be ass-deep in demons forever.  Varric Tethras: Rogue, storyteller, and occasionally unwelcome tagalong,” the dwarf with the magnificent pelt of chest hair said. He turned his elegant crossbow over in his hands before shouldering it, her gleaming mechanisms catching and reflecting the sunlight. “Or in this case prisoner.” he added.

Cassandra loomed over Varric, “I brought you here to tell your story to the divine.  Clearly that is no longer necessary. You are free to go.” 

Varric flashed Cassandra a winning grin, “Yet here I am. Lucky for you, considering current events.”

Sorcha gave him a friendly smile.  “Seeker Sorcha Trevelyan, and this isn’t the first time we’ve met, Varric, although I don’t expect you to remember back to a decade ago.  It is good to see you again, however.”  Sorcha took his hand in greeting and she could tell that he was trying to place her face.

The elf gave Sorcha a small smile, “You may reconsider that stance in time.”

Varric clutched his chest in feigned heartbreak.  “Aww. I’m sure we'll become great friends in the valley, Chuckles.”

Cassandra loomed taller over the dwarf, and waved her hand as she shook her head in denial.  “Absolutely not, your help has been appreciated, Varric, but—”

“Have you been in the valley lately, Seeker?  Your soldiers aren’t in control anymore, you need me.” Varric lifted his chin and smirked. Cassandra huffed.

“My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions,” the bald elf said, “I am pleased to see you still live.” 

“He means to say that he kept that thing in your hand from killing you as you slept,” Varric added.

Sorcha met the elf’s stormy blue eyes.  “You seem to know a great deal about all of this.”

Cassandra looked over to Sorcha.  “He’s an apostate who seems well-versed in such matters.”

“Technically, all mages are apostates now, Cassandra.” Solas corrected her before continuing, “My travels have allowed me to learn much of the fade; far beyond the experience of any circle mage.  I came to offer whatever help I can give with the breach.  If it is not closed we are all doomed, regardless of origin.”

“A commendable attitude,” Sorcha said.

“Merely a sensible one,” the mage replied, “although sense seems to be in short supply right now.  Cassandra, you should know, the magic involved here is unlike any I’ve seen.”

Cassandra gave him a solemn nod.

“I am in your debt, Solas,” Sorcha said before she bowed to him deeply, “but how did you know that this mark would close that rift?”

Solas offered her a small smile, “I had the opportunity to observe the mark while you slept, and it quickly became evident that it was connected to the Breach.  We had already surmised that the rifts were linked to the Breach, so it seemed logical that the mark was tied to them as well.  I am relieved to see that the theory proved to be correct.”

“We must continue to the forward camp, Sorcha.  Let us hurry,” Cassandra said.

“Bianca is going to have a great time down in the valley,” Varric chuckled.

“Ugh,” Cassandra said as she rolled her eyes, which made Varric’s smile widen.

“Your assistance would be greatly appreciated, Varric,” Sorcha said, “Thank you for staying.”

“The forward camp is along this path,” Solas said as he motioned to a ladder, “We need to hurry.”

The group made their way along the winding, snowy trail, killing any demons they came across.  Their progress was impeded by a rift in front of the gates to the Valley of Sacred Ashes, but they had little difficulty with their opponents.  As Cassandra, Varric and Solas battled the creatures spawned by the rift, Sorcha worked on using the mark to close it. After only minutes, the rift was no more and the demons were gone.

“You are becoming quite proficient at this,” Solas told Sorcha as the glow from his staff receded.

She flexed her hand that held the mark.  “It still hurts,” she said, “but at least now I know what to do.”

“Well, let’s hope that it works on the big one,” Varric muttered as he looked to the sky.

They sheathed their weapons, crossed the threshold of the gates and entered the forward camp.  Leliana ran up to Sorcha and embraced her.  “Sorcha!  I’m glad to see you up, my friend.  How are you feeling?”

Sorcha offered her a warm smile, “I’m ok Leli, but this whole ordeal is a bit overwhelming.”

Leliana took her hand, “I know.  It’s been difficult for us all.”

“We must prepare to battle our way to the Breach,” Cassandra said, “There are supply chests with potions and tonics here, I suggest we stock up. Let’s meet at the final gate in fifteen minutes.”  Solas and Varric nodded before leaving to restock their supplies.  As the three women walked toward the gate, they were approached by a man in Chantry robes.

“Chancellor Roderick,” Leliana said, “This is—”

“I know who she is, Sister, and I demand that she be taken to Val Royeaux to be executed for the murder of the Divine!”  He pointed a crooked finger at Sorcha.

“You think I had something to do with all of this?” Sorcha asked incredulously.

“It cannot be coincidence that you lived!  You will pay for this sin!” Roderick shouted.

Sorcha straightened and her eyes narrowed as she glared at the red-faced man.  She clenched her fist and with her other hand drove her finger into his chest.

You will remember your station and shut that flapping mouth of yours.  You are nothing but a glorified clerk, a bureaucrat, who is using the loss of the Divine to further your position.  I serve the Maker and his Bride, not some ridiculous man who thinks he can order Seekers around.  Is this how you would honor the memory of the Divine?  Shameful,” she hissed as she looked at him with disgust.

“Humph! What’s shameful is how you serve the Maker; on your knees, as a prince’s whore!” the deflated man huffed as he lifted his nose to the air.  Cassandra and Leliana tried to make a grab for her but she was too quick.  Sorcha darted forward and slammed her fist into the Grand Chancellor’s nose.  He doubled over, put his hand to his face, and attempted to stem the gush of blood that poured from his broken nose.  Sorcha was about to shove him over before the Left and Right Hands reached her and held her back.

“You disgusting shit!  The Divine has been murdered, hundreds of other innocent people are dead, the world is in fucking chaos, and demons are plaguing the land because of a huge fucking hole in the sky, and the only thing you care about is pointing fingers and trying to insult me like a petulant child?”  Sorcha looked to Cassandra and Leliana and relaxed her arms; they took her cue and released her.  She stepped toward Roderick and he scampered backward, but fell over a bench and landed on his back.  She stood over him and looked down upon him.  “You are a shit-stain on the Chantry--every word out of your sour mouth is blasphemous.  Say whatever you want about me, I don’t give a shit.  My acts will be judged by the Maker, not by a piss-ant like you.  Use your station to help the people of Thedas, not climb out of this Void-taken hole by stepping on their backs.  Honor the life and the work of Divine Justinia, instead of working to destroy everything that she had fought for.  Serve the Maker, and not your own fucking agenda.”  She offered him her hand and he reluctantly took it.  She helped him to his feet and he hurried away like a startled rat.

Cassandra and Leliana both coughed back a laugh and the three of them continued on to business.

They walked to a table which had a map of the area open tacked to its scorched wooden top.  Leliana pointed to two trails marked onto the faded parchment.

“This path, through the ruins, is the quickest way to the Temple.” Cassandra said as she traced the map’s line.

“But not the safest,” Leliana interjected, “Our forces could create a distraction here while we take the path through the mountain.”

“We lost contact with an entire squad on that path, Leliana,” Cassandra argued.  Solas and Varric rejoined the women, having refilled their supplies from the crates.

“We should take whichever path will allow the greatest chance of success that Sorcha reach the Temple.  We need to use her mark on the Breach,” Solas said, having overheard the women’s conversation.

“Solas is right, Cassandra.  Let me send some of my best scouts with you through the mountain.  I will remain here and take the rest of my people to join with Commander Cullen,” Leliana said.

Cassandra sighed.  “With our current numbers, we can also lead a direct assault along the base path and get there sooner.  We can take Leliana’s scouts and bolster the Commander’s force, here, and push our way through, here.” The Seeker traced their route on the map with her gloved finger.  “Sorcha, how should we proceed?”

“You would defer to me? You are superior in rank, Cassandra, why have me be the one to choose?”  Sorcha asked.

“Because we cannot come to an agreement on our own,” Leliana said, “and we trust your judgment.”

“Then I agree with the direct assault.  Leliana, please gather your people and prepare them to join the Commander’s forces.” The red-head nodded before leaving to relay the orders to her scouts.

They left to join up with the front line forces.  The sounds of fighting grew louder and carried across the battlefield.  Sorcha crested a small hill and paused took in the sight below her.  Men and women were fighting demons and shades spawned by a nearby rift; each soldier fought for the person beside them, and each person fought for their life.  Sorcha steeled herself, looked to Cassandra beside her, and pushed a fierce battle cry from her chest as she led the charge into the melee.

Her team clashed with the Fade creatures, supporting the tiring front line and rallying their inner reserves.  The soldiers regained the upper hand, and fought with renewed vigor.  Sorcha found herself fighting next to a man who wore a silverite helmet with a face guard resembling a lion, a large fur pauldron which looked like a mane, exquisitely tight black leather pants, and a red cloak.  She considered him for a moment: he fought valiantly and he fought well.  A Templar…   She moved to his back and intercepted an attack by a shade, blocking it with her shield.  He turned in surprise and she could see wild, amber eyes staring at her from behind the helmet.

Sorcha nodded to him in greeting, “Commander,” she said as she ran an oncoming demon through with her blade.

His eyes swept over her and he nodded in reply, “Seeker,” he said from behind the face guard as he decapitated a shade.

“Get me to that rift, Commander.  I need to end this!” she yelled over the death scream of another demon.  He nodded and ordered his men to clear a path.  Now able to get closer, Sorcha cleaved her way through a couple more demons before she lifted her hand to the rift and willed the mark into action.  She cried out as she drew the power from the undulating tear in the Veil, and just before she felt darkness claim her, she clenched her hand into a fist and pulled back on the ribbon of energy that connected her mark to the rift.  The tear flared and then dissipated into nothing, and the remaining creatures perished with it.

A cheer of victory rose from the hearts of the exhausted soldiers, and they turned to their reason to celebrate.  Sorcha looked over the faces that were now smiling at her and rallying with her.   The Commander walked over to her and removed his helmet before he offered his hand in greeting.  His blond curls were soaked with sweat and stuck to his head, and his beard was a few days old and streaked with silver.  A smile of relief graced his handsome face and Sorcha couldn’t help but let her eyes linger on the scar that decorated his lip.

“That was magnificent timing, Seeker.  I am Cullen Rutherford, Commander of these forces.”

Sorcha lifted her eyes from his lips to his eyes, and nodded as she took his hand and shook it.  “Sorcha Trevelyan.  It is a pleasure, Commander, to meet the Templar who saved Kirkwall during the revolt.” A small smile escaped her lips as he blushed slightly and released her hand to rub the back of his neck.

“That… seems like a lifetime ago.  I am no longer a Templar,” he told her.  She raised her eyebrow at him.

“You left the Order?  That is a story you must share, Commander, once we have a chance to talk.”

Cullen met her eyes and smiled.  “Who am I to refuse a Seeker of Truth?”  Now it was her turn to blush.  An intrusive cough interrupted their conversation, and both Sorcha and Cullen turned to see Cassandra staring at them blankly.

Cullen cleared his throat, “Yes, well… how are we to proceed?  The way to the Breach is mostly clear now.”

“Are there any Templars among your ranks?” Sorcha asked.

Cullen nodded.  “There is about a dozen of the Order that followed me from Kirkwall.”

“Are there any mages?  We could use the help of barriers and elemental attacks.”

“There may be a handful,” Solas said as he joined them, “But they will do whatever is asked of them.  They are loyal to the cause.”

“Very well, send the wounded to camp for healing.  I will take my team and Leliana’s scouts up the path to the Breach.  You may bring up the rear with anyone you have that is not already exhausted, as well as the Templars and the mages, Commander.  We will rendezvous at the temple in two hours.” Sorcha told them.  Cullen nodded and left to give the commands to his soldiers.

Sorcha’s group approached the ruins of the temple, and she stopped in her tracks as her hand covered her mouth.  Everywhere there were corpses, seared and charred, rotted and twisted.  They walked slowly to what was left of the temple entrance.

“This is where they found you,” Cassandra said, “you jumped out from a rift and collapsed.  They said a woman could be seen standing behind you.”  Sorcha looked at her friend, confused.

“A woman?  Who was she?” Sorcha asked.

“We cannot say for sure, but some believe that it was Andraste herself.” Cassandra answered. 

“And what do you think, Cass?”

“I believe that you were spared for a reason, Sorcha, and that the Maker works in many ways.”

They were interrupted by Leliana and Cullen, approaching with the remaining forces.  Cassandra met they eyes of each of the leaders, and turned to Sorcha.

“Are you ready, my friend?”

Sorcha nodded and flexed her glowing hand.  “Let’s end this.”

They all walked into the ruined temple and toward the very large rift that sat under the Breach. 

“This rift was the first, and it may be the key.  Seal it, and perhaps we seal the breach as well,” Solas said.

Sorcha nodded.  “Let’s get down there then.”

Cullen gave the Templars their orders, and Cassandra told the mages where to position themselves.  Leliana and her archers took up the high ground, and the remaining forces were with Sorcha and her team at the front line.

“The rift is stable, but it is not sealed.  I believe that you can use the mark to disrupt it so we may close it permanently, like the smaller rifts.”

“That means demons,” Cassandra yelled, “Everyone be ready!”

The ground forces surrounded the rift.  Once Sorcha met their eyes and got the all-ready from Cullen, Leliana and Cassandra, she lifted her hand to the rift and allowed the flow of energy to open the tear in the Veil.

The rift flared to life along with the viridian mark on Sorcha’s hand, and moments later a massive Pride demon entered their realm.  Sorcha gave a rallying cry, and the attack had begun.

She focused on closing the rift while Solas kept a barrier up around her.  The other mages hurled fireballs at the Pride demon and icy spears at the shades that followed.  Varric laid down cover fire for Sorcha, and Leliana’s archers let loose their fury and pierced demon flesh.  Cassandra and Cullen battled anything that got too near to her, and the soldiers hacked away at the towering demon’s legs.

The drain on Sorcha was enormous.  Just before she became overwhelmed, Solas reached into his pack and uncorked a stamina potion for her.  Her arm was searing with pain, and she was screaming along with it.  Finally, when it felt like this rift would kill her, she willed all of her strength into pulling on the ribbon of energy.  She saw the enormous rift flare up as it sealed, moments before she saw nothing but blackness.  The exertion of sealing the rift overwhelmed her and she collapsed, falling into unconsciousness again.

++++++++++

Sebastian had no desire to stop riding, but he knew the horses wouldn’t make it much farther without rest and water.  He reined his horse off the road and led his troops to a riverbank.

“We camp here tonight!” he barked to his men.  He dismounted his horse and went about setting up his tent.  He lit his lantern and laid out his bedroll next to the brazier.  He sat down, exhausted, before he reached into his breastplate and pulled out a crumpled missive.  He opened the letter and read its contents for the hundredth time.

Sent to Conclave.  Extra security detail.  Will follow and send update.

The prince had barely slept, or eaten, in weeks.  He had been personally overseeing the search for Anders, and in his pursuit of justice, it had been months since he had been in Starkhaven.  The day after he learned that Sorcha had been sent to the Conclave was the day he learned about the explosion.  He gathered some men and they left the field mere hours after he received the report.  He tucked the parchment back into his armor and shouted to his men.

“Rest well! At dawn we ride hard for Haven!”

 

  

Chapter Text

Sorcha could hear the sound of light footfalls around her, and the tinkling of glassware.  The darkness lifted and the light of the afternoon sun brightened the backs of her eyelids and she saw a field of orange with her closed eyes.  She fought to lift her heavy lids and eventually her vision sharpened.  She focused on the stone walls and heavy oaken beams of the ceiling.  She heard the crash of glass and the tumble of wood and metal.  She quickly brought herself to sitting and scanned the room, searching for the source of the noise.  Her eyes fell upon a very slight and timid elven woman, who dropped to her knees in obeisance.

“My Lady!” the woman exclaimed, “My humblest apologies for disturbing you.”

Sorcha swung her legs off the side of the bed and leaned forward on her hands for a moment before standing.  “Am I still in Haven?” she asked the woman on the floor.

“Yes, my Lady.  I should inform Seeker Cassandra that you have awoken, she would wish to know immediately.”

Sorcha walked to the pine side table and dipped her shaking hands into the cold water of the copper wash basin.  She stared at the green glow that shimmered under the icy liquid until she snapped back into herself moments later.

“You may go,” Sorcha said, “and tell the Seeker that I will join her in the Chantry presently.”  The woman nodded and nearly tripped over herself trying to exit the room.  Sorcha turned back to washing and stared at her reflection in the round mirror that hung from a nail in a wall beam.

Her short, raven hair was disheveled and her face was tired.  Dark circles encroached upon her mirthless eyes and the scars on her gaunt cheeks made her look older and more severe.  She splashed water over her skin and wet down her hair, and then she wrapped her green scarf over her scar before she put on her tight black vest emblazoned with the all-seeing eye.  She sat back on the edge of her bed and pulled on her tall boots.  She rested her elbows on her knees and hung her head.  Spared for a reason…

She could hear a clamor outside her door, and with forceful steps she crossed the room and picked up her sword and shield, strapping them to her back and hip.  Sorcha opened the door and stepped out in front of what had to have been the entire population of Haven.  Each man and woman had their heads bowed in veneration and an arm crossed over their chests, hand over their hearts.

“Herald,” the first soldier said in greeting.  Sorcha lifted an eyebrow and nodded.  She started walking toward the Chantry and became more confused and overwhelmed with each step.  The people of Haven, every soldier and volunteer, lined the route to the large stone structure, right up to its massive hardwood doors, and every one of them was venerating her.  She could hear whispers amongst the crowd: “Herald of Andraste” and “Andraste’s Chosen”; she was hoping, with her whole being, that they weren’t referring to her.  Two Sisters opened the doors for her, and she marched inside the cavernous hall to meet with Cassandra and hopefully get some answers.

The senior Seeker was standing in the vaulted chamber, and Sorcha could see that she was in deep conversation with a very pretty woman in a very loud dress.

“Ah, Sorcha,” Cassandra said to her as she approached the two women, “allow me to introduce Josephine Montilyet, our Ambassador.”  Josephine gave her a smile and a low bow.

“It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Lady Trevelyan.  Or, I suppose it’s now ‘Herald’,” she said with a lilting Antivan accent.  Sorcha smiled and bowed in return.

“About that,” Sorcha began, “I had the strangest walk here from my quarters.  Every person in Haven was lined along the pathway, and they were saluting me in obeisance.  I could hear some of them calling me ‘Herald of Andraste’.  What is going on?”

“You remember how you were told that some believed it was Andraste herself standing behind you as you jumped from the rift?” Leliana asked as she emerged from the shadows to join them.

“Yes…”

“Well, after you sealed that rift yesterday…anyone who did not believe it then certainly does now.”

“And we are certainly not doing anything to dissuade anyone from that theory,” Cassandra said.

“The people see you as Andraste’s Chosen, Herald, and they need to place their faith in something, or someone, especially now,” Josephine added.

“You would have me lie to the world about being Andraste’s Chosen?” Sorcha asked in utter disbelief.

Cassandra took her by the shoulder and looked her squarely in the eye.  “Absolutely not, Sorcha.  These people saw you battle demons and seal rifts with a mysterious light from your hand.  You were spared death when all others perished at the Conclave.  You jumped out of the Fade and a woman was seen with you.  Who is to say that it wasn’t Andraste who saved you?  Can you say with certainty that it was not Her?”

Sorcha shook her head.

“The Maker works in many ways.  You were spared for a reason.  You are exactly what we needed, right when we needed it.” Cassandra assured her.  Sorcha’s gaze fell to the floor as she reflected on her friend’s words.  She knew, deep down, that Cassandra was right.  Who was she to question the will of the Maker?  She may not deem herself worthy of such a position, but what if she really were chosen? She wouldn’t defy her duty.

“Come, there is something we need to show you,” Cassandra said as she led Sorcha to a room at the rear of the chamber.  It was brightly lit with torches, and in the center stood a huge wood and resin table with a map of Thedas on its top.  Cassandra walked around to the other side and Leliana followed to stand with her.

“This,” she said as she produced a heavy volume that was carefully wrapped in silks, “is a writ from the Divine, granting us the authority to act.  At this moment, I declare the Inquisition reborn.  We will close the Breach, we will find those responsible, and we will restore order, with or without Chantry approval.”

“The loss of the Divine has been very difficult for many people,” Leliana added, “and the Chantry is floundering.  There is a power vacuum, and their priority right now is themselves, not the Breach.”

“Or the people,” Cullen said as he stepped into the room and took a spot at the war table.  “Every day we receive more refugees who are fleeing from demons and other creatures, and the Chantry refuses to help.”

“Do we have any assistance, at all?” Sorcha asked. 

Josephine shook her head.  “At this moment, we are on our own.  We have neither the influence nor the resources to petition the Crown or the Empress to aid us.”

Cullen turned to the Ambassador.  “We need to approach the Templar Order, or what’s left of them.  I know that they would not be content to remain idle while Thedas burns.”

“Or, we could seek assistance from the mages.  There are many among them who would seek to remove the stain on their reputation caused by that apostate when he started the rebellion,” Leliana added.

“Both points are valid, but unfortunately they are also moot.  Neither group will speak to us yet,” Josephine pointed out.

Sorcha mulled over what she had just heard, trying to come to terms with the whole situation.

“So what you’re saying is, we, and our small contingent of soldiers, are the only ones defending Thedas from demons, and we are alone in humanitarian action?” she asked.  Cassandra nodded.

“And neither the mages nor the Templars will address us?” she asked.  Josephine shook her head.

Sorcha clenched her fists and rolled her shoulders before she turned to leave the room.

“Then we make them talk.  The Inquisition will not be ignored.”  She marched from the room and her advisors followed suit.

The leaders of the fledgling Inquisition emerged from the Chantry with renewed purpose.  Varric and Solas joined the others as they stood before the great stone building, surveying the village around them.  As Cullen posted the first proclamation to the hardwood doors, everyone watched as an Inquisition banner was unfurled from the steeple.

The clipping sound of riders approaching along the frozen, rocky path turned their attention toward the gates. 

“Ambassador, were we expecting anyone of note?”

“No, Herald,” Josephine answered as she rifled through the papers on her clipboard.

Sorcha couldn’t see any standards or pennants being carried, but she didn’t have long to wait before finding out who it was.  A stable hand came running from the gates, and he looked to be in an excited state.

“Herald, Ambassador,” he huffed through a heaving chest, “A royal—”

The mere mention of the word “royal” sent Josephine into a flurry.  She sped down to the gates, muttering Antivan curse words under her breath.  Sorcha remained with Cassandra and Varric in front of the Chantry, until she looked down the path to see exactly who it was that Josephine was ushering up the trail.

Her lips pursed and her eyes narrowed as her posture changed to reflect her current state of undeniable aggression.  She clenched her fists at the sight of his chestnut waves, his handsome beard, and his stark-white armor over his broad shoulders and muscular thighs.  Her chest tightened as she watched him look around the village as Josephine was attending him, his eyes darting from face to face, searching.  She released the breath that felt like it was burning in her chest and made her way to greet the Prince of Starkhaven as the Herald of Andraste.

Varric and Cassandra watched as Sorcha strode confidently toward their royal guest.  Cassandra raised an eyebrow once she realized who had arrived, and Varric squinted in disbelief.

“Choirboy?  I thought he was busy casting a net of vengeance out for Blondie.  Why would he be here?” he asked no one in particular.

Cassandra’s eyes narrowed and she crossed her arms.  “I do not know,” she replied honestly.

They looked on as Sebastian held a deep bow before Sorcha.  He rose and they began to talk within the group at first, and then Sebastian gently touched her on the arm as he motioned with the other, indicating that he wished for them to step aside for some more privacy.  Varric leaned back on his heels and lifted his chin.  He crossed his arms over his chest and with a smirk, leaned nearer to Cassandra.

“Five sovereigns says she’s giggling and blushing within two minutes,” he bet.

Cassandra lifted an eyebrow at him and asked, “Within two minutes?”

He rocked back on his heels and smiled confidently, “Choirboy had panties tossed at him left and right in Kirkwall.  The man left a trail of spontaneous orgasms behind wherever he walked.  He’ll have our Herald purring like a kitten in no time.”

A smirk grew on her lips.  “I’ll take that bet.”  Varric looked at her with surprise.

“I’ll start timing,” he replied.

They watched intently as Sebastian and Sorcha stepped off of the trail to continue their conversation.  Varric smiled as Sorcha tilted her head down, almost coyly.  Cassandra smiled as Sorcha balled her hand into a fist.  They both jerked back slightly and covered their mouths as Sorcha cocked her arm back and landed a right hook on the Prince’s jaw, sending him reeling back a few steps.  Without looking or speaking, Cassandra opened her hand and Varric deposited five sovereigns into her palm.

The arrival of the Prince would certainly make things interesting for the members of the fledgling Inquisition.

 

 

Chapter Text

Sebastian took a moment to recover from the shock. When he did, his hand slowly crept up to his sore jaw, and he tested his teeth with his tongue before glancing to Sorcha. She was shaking out her hand, like it had hurt her as much as him. Her teeth were clenched and she looked absolutely furious. Her chest was heaving up and down. She took a step back from him and dropped her shoulders. Sebastian saw two of his soldiers move to intercept her, but he waved his hand to interrupt them, giving a soft shake of head.

“Spies, Sebastian? You’ve been stalking me?!” Sorcha yelled. She was staring at him with fire in her eyes, and he heard the venom on her lips. “It wasn’t enough for you to leave me alone to rot in that wretched place, but you had to watch my suffering from the comfort of your throne?! Fuck you, Sebastian!” Every word was like another slap in the face. She turned away, unable to look at him, and he stared, unable to speak. “Fuck you.”

Sebastian reached for her, and tried to grasp any part of her that he could.  He grabbed her hand--her left hand, and immediately felt a sensation of pins and needles trail up his palm to his wrist.  It startled him and he looked down to where they were joined, but he did not let go.  He would never let go again.

“Sorcha, please wait,” he said calmly but there was a sense of need in his voice, he needed her to understand. “It wasn’t like that, just let me explain!”

She whipped around and glowered at him.  She looked down at his hand holding hers; the expression on her face soured and her eyes narrowed as she slowly lifted her glare to meet his eyes.

“I did wait.  For months, I waited.  While they all called me a whore behind my back, I waited.  As they looked down their noses at me, I waited.  After they ostracized me, I waited.  And you never came back.”  She pulled her hand free of his.  “I waited then, but I won’t now.”

She turned her back to him and stalked over to Josephine.  “Ambassador, please see that the Prince is made comfortable during his—” her eyes darted back to him as she continued talking, “brief—stay with us.” The Antivan woman, still speechless from the exchange she had witnessed, could only give a curt nod of her head in reply.  Sorcha left the group and continued down the sloped path toward the training yard.   Sebastian took a step to follow after her, but he was stopped by a strong, leather-clad arm across his chest.

Seeker Cassandra gave him an angry glare and shook her head.  Ever vigilant, she had begun to make her way down the snow-covered slope from the Chantry doors as soon as Sebastian had grabbed for her.  He took one look into the Seeker’s brown eyes and immediately recognized the threat she posed.  Sebastian held his hands up in concession and took a step back.

“Please, Prince Vael,” Josephine said diplomatically as she began to usher him toward the Chantry. “Allow me to show you to your room.”  She turned away, beckoning for him to follow, and so he resigned himself to doing so. But as he was led away, he chanced a look back and caught sight of Sister Leliana hurrying after Seeker Cassandra in the direction of the main gate. He sighed, turning back, and grimaced. That had gone more poorly than he had expected.

++++++++++

The Inquisition training dummies had seen better days. Straw was poking out from mended stitching, and the leather was beaten into near transparency. When she was done with them, they’d need even more patching. There was a loud smack as she swung at her target again.

Sorcha shook the sting from her knuckles, still sore from hitting Sebastian earlier. Adrenaline raced through her body as she took aim again.  He was fucking spying on me?  For all these fucking years? She tried to calm herself, but it came out as a roar of rage, and she stabbed the dummy again.

“You know,” came Cassandra’s flat tones, “there are other people who need to use those dummies.” Sorcha looked up with surprise, feeling a bead of sweat roll down the side of her face. She glared.

“Fifteen years, Cass,” she said through strained breath as she slashed through the leather and straw of the training dummy, “Spying…” she stabbed into its chest, “Arrogant…” she rammed her shield into its face, “UGH!” she yelled as she spun, and with a swing that harbored a decade of anger and heartache, lopped the head off. Cassandra watched it roll away, then sighed and shook her head. Sorcha glared after it.

Cassandra picked up a shield and tossed Sorcha a wooden sword.  “Did he say why?” she asked as she knocked her sword against her shield to indicate she’s ready.

“I didn’t give him the chance,” Sorcha replied as the two women began to circle one another. “I don’t need to hear his excuses.”  She lunged at Cassandra, who deflected with a graceful block. “There’s nothing he can say that will fix it.” The wooden weapons came together in a hollow crash as she parried a strike from Cassandra’s sword. The Seekers changed direction and continued their dance with expert footwork.

“He is a fool,” Cassandra said as she and Sorcha met shield to shield.  With a grunt, she surged forward and pressed Sorcha back, causing her feet to slide along the frozen soil.  A look of consternation set across her weary face; Sorcha stood straight and dropped her weapons to the ground before dropping herself onto the muddied snow. She wrapped her arms about her knees, setting her chin on her chest and glowering at her toes.

“Why is he here, Cass?”  She spoke softly and sadly, like a heart defeated. About her flurries were beginning to fall, the telltale sign of snows to come.

Cassandra set her shield down and crouched down next to her, wooden sword still held loosely in her hand.  “That, I cannot say.  He is arrogant to think that he needs to swoop in and rescue you, all these years after you truly needed him.  He has given little thought to the formidable woman that you have become.”

Sorcha drew the dagger from her boots and hunched over, scratching at the hard ground. She gave a short sniff.  “Well, someone needs to tell him that swooping is bad.”  She grimaced and impaled the frosty dirt with her blade, eyes hardening as she did so.  “Fucking dick.”  Cassandra set down the sword.

Cassandra clasped her friend’s shoulder with her gloved hand. “Indeed,” she said simply. “Perhaps a distraction will prove useful. I followed you down here to inform you there has been news from the Hinterlands. Leliana has requested a meeting to discuss the implications.” Sorcha’s hazel eyes fixed on Cassandra’s gaze a moment, and she sighed, unfurling. Cassandra nodded, more to herself, and rose to her feet, offering her hand.  Sorcha grabbed her wrist and Cassandra helped her up.

Sorcha brushed the muddy snow from the back of her trousers and grimaced, then heaved a sigh and bent to slip her dagger back into her boot. At least if she was busy in meetings she would not need to see him, or think about him, or have anything to do with him. At that, she almost smiled.

+++++++++++++

Josephine had ushered him into a comfortable room that was accessed from the immense, vaulted chamber of the Chantry.  There were no windows, but it was warmly lit by the amber glow of lanterns and adequately warmed by a quaint fireplace, in stark contrast to his dark mood.  His belongings had been brought in not long afterward, and he sat now at the table nursing an untouched drink when someone knocked at his door. He ignored it.

“I know you’re in there, Choirboy. I followed the trail of shattered ego to your door.” Varric’s voice was muffled through the thick door. For a moment, Sebastian did not move. Then he ran his hand through his hair and pushed himself up, taking his glass with him. Drink in hand, he let the disreputable storyteller in.

“Varric,” he said plainly, and turned from the opened door without another word.

“Come now,” Varric said as he sank into a seat at the table, “Is that anyway to greet a friend?”

Sebastian said nothing. He just set his drink down on the table and took another spotless glass and the decanter of fragrant, amber brandy from the wooden shelf, keeping his back to the table as he poured a second glass. It was more a matter of courtesy than anything; it meant he did not have to speak again yet. But the glass was soon full and his excuses had run dry, so he turned and slid the drink across the tabletop to the dwarf before reaching again for his own. This time he drank. The brandy was smooth on his tongue, and at last he found his voice again. “No, it isn’t, but it’s the best that I can do right now.”

Varric raised the glass in gratitude and took a sip.  His lips pulled back across his teeth and he hissed as the brandy went down.  He leaned back in the chair and rested his ankle atop his knee. Sebastian watched him with a flat gaze.

“You know, most good stories have more than one word, and I'm sensing a good story here. So start at the part where she hit you. And we'll go from there.”

Sebastian sighed and sat across from Varric, leaning forward, planting his elbow on the table.  He leaned his forehead into his hand, avoiding the dwarf’s gaze a moment, trying to work out the best place to start. And then he raked his fingers through his hair, lifting his head.  “I deserved it,” he said, drink cupped in his hand. “That and more.” His gaze flickered down to the amber liquid. To the Void with it. He swallowed his entire drink and put the glass down on to the table with a heavy hand.  Varric raised an eyebrow, silently compelling the Prince into a confession.

“Sorcha and I met a long time ago, when we were both serving at the Hercinia Chantry,” he said, turning to stare off into space. 

Varric drank down his own glass and nodded as he reached across the table for the bottle of brandy. The dwarf refilled both their glasses. Sebastian tipped his hand in a thanks and glanced back to the amber liquid sparkling in the candlelight.

“I was immediately enraptured by her, Varric. She was a creature unlike any I had ever seen.  It was like I could feel her before I could see her.”  He gave his head a little shake, then finished his drink in a single swallow again. The glass made a heavy thunk as it hit the wood of the tabletop again. “You should have seen how beautifully she smiled at my terrible attempts at flirtation,” Sebastian himself smiled faintly at the memory.  He was lost to his thoughts; images of Sorcha—so young, vibrant, and happy—danced across his mind like pieces of a dream. Her hazel eyes shining in the light of the practice yard. The way she moved against him when she had met in the morning to train. Her sable waves spilling down her back over that velvet gown. Maker...

Varric looked surprised.  “You? Terrible at flirting? The panties of Kirkwall would beg to differ.”

Sebastian blinked, realizing that he had trailed off.  “She almost died because of me.” His voice was hard and cold now. He pushed the glass away. “Her life was in danger as long as I was with her.  So I left.”

Varric leaned further back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.  “That would definitely explain the right hook,” he mused. Sebastian nodded solemnly and reached for the decanter. He pursed his lips as he poured another drink. 

“Maker, I am such a fool. I should have known.” He did not drink this time. He simply capped the decanter again and then sat with the glass in both hands now, following the grain of the tabletop with his eyes. “She was hurt once because of me. I won’t let that happen again.” His eyes crept up to Varric, and the dwarf was watching him with a curious look, like he had never seen Sebastian so determined before. Sebastian was quiet a moment, staring back, listening to the sound of his own breathing.

You almost lost her. Never again.

“I know what I need to do,” Sebastian said coolly, rising and pushing his still full glass away. Varric reached for it to catch it before it could spill on the table, blinking.

“What?” He rose. “Choirboy, you’ve got that look in your eye. Don’t do anything stupid. Are you sure this is a good idea.” Sebastian reached for the wooden door, eyes set.

“Varric, I have never been so sure of anything my entire life.”

++++++++++++++++

The Herald and her advisors surrounded the enormous war table for the briefing.

“Suggestions on increasing our influence?” Sorcha asked.

“Mother Giselle has information on those who are publicly opposing us within the Chantry,” Leliana said, “She can provide names. She is tending the wounded in the Hinterlands, and has asked for you directly.  She is well respected and having her as an ally will be beneficial to our reputation.”

“Very well.  What else?”

“We need agents who can carry our influence past the borders of this valley,” Josephine said.

“We also need to add to our ranks,” Cullen added, “We lost many good soldiers in the valley.” The door swung open, clattering, and a gust of cold air blew over the table, threatening to scatter the maps. The main Chantry door still stood open at the far end of the hall. Sorcha and her advisors looked back, and when she saw who it was, Sorcha felt a wave of anger wash over her.

“I believe that I may be of assistance in all of those areas,” Sebastian said in a smooth, lilting voice.  Sorcha watched Sebastian enter the room with a confident swagger and cross to brace both hands on the war table, considering her advisors. “My apologies for entering without invitation.”  He added that like an afterthought. He bowed his head to her advisors and turned to meet her gaze then.  His brilliant blue eyes danced between hers, and they gleamed with audacity.  She felt a flicker of anger and pursed her lips. He gave her a deep bow and her gaze narrowed in suspicion, but she gave him a curt nod.  He rose and continued with his offer.

“I have influence within the Chantry, loyal agents in my employ, and a militia at my command,” he told them all.  “As the ruler of Starkhaven, I pledge my name and my forces to the Inquisition, to aid however I can.  You may seek volunteers and soldiers from among my people, and my lands will welcome your presence.”

Josephine was so excited at the unexpected offer that she ruffled like a grouse and nearly dropped her document board and quill.  “A very generous offer, Prince Vael.” She bowed and turned her eyes to Sorcha, as did the other advisors. They were all awaiting her response.

Sebastian’s gaze fixed on her like she was the only person in the room. He slowly extended his hand to shake and waited.  She considered him for a moment. Her eyes bored a hole through his like she were trying to see straight into his soul.  What she really wanted to do was to take his arm, rip it from his body and beat him with it.  Fortunately for him, what she wanted was not what they needed.  They needed allies and Sebastian would indeed be a powerful one. She could not overlook that based on personal reasons. She scowled, but reluctantly, she took his hand. 

“The Inquisition accepts your aid, Prince Vael, and is pleased with this alliance,” she said, sounding as displeased as possible. He gave her a slight smile and she sharpened her glare, releasing his hand quickly and turning to her advisors. “Inform our people that we leave for the Hinterlands at dawn.”

They nodded at their orders. She turned to leave the room, eager to be gone.

“Herald,” Sebastian said as he reached for her arm. “If I may have a moment of your time?”

With clear discomfort, Sorcha looked down at his hand on her arm.  She shrugged him off and her lip curled in contempt as she answered him.

“My apologies, Prince Vael, but I am quite busy.  Whatever your needs are, I assure you that Ambassador Montilyet will do her best to ensure that they are met.  Now, if you will excuse me?”  She tore away from him, stepping back, and then marched out of the war room into the common chamber. But he was not so easily deterred. She heard his footsteps on the flagstones.

“Sorcha.” He reached for her again, but she pulled from his grasp, long strides carrying her across the Chantry floor. “Sorcha, please. Will you please hear me out?” She froze, drawing a heavy breath, feeling the cold wind blowing through the open doors onto her face. Snow was starting to pile in the doorway. Beyond, the snow flurries had turned into a snowstorm.

She was aware of dozens of eyes watching their exchange, and closed her own eyes a moment, gritting her teeth. The desperation in his voice pulled at her heartstrings.  She locked that feeling away quickly, however… she would not be pulled back into feelings for him. 

“You have thirty seconds, Sebastian,” she said, her voice dangerously low. She did not turn back. “Make them count.”

He crossed to stand before her, meeting her eyes. His brilliant blue gaze was serious now. He drew a breath, the wind at his back, and she watched the snow gather in his dark waves and the wind whip the fabric of his tunic against his muscular body.

And then he sank to his knee before her, there before all the Chantry. He covered his heart with a trembling hand and took a deep breath.

“I, Prince Sebastian Vael, pledge on my honor to serve and protect you, Sorcha Trevelyan, Herald of Andraste, with my bow, my body, and my life, until the end of my days.”

Outside, the blizzard howled.

Chapter Text

Maker, please don’t let this be real… Sorcha’s lip curled in confusion and across her face crept the deep crimson blush of embarrassment.  She looked around nervously, intentionally avoiding the many pairs of eyes that were on her and Sebastian. Half of Haven was watching with great interest as the Prince of Starkhaven threw himself at their Herald’s feet.  Sorcha could hear a murmur work its way through the crowd.  Some women even clutched at their chests with sweet expressions on their faces like they were watching a romantic play.  Well, shit…  She took a calming breath and turned her eyes back to Sebastian, who was still on his knee in the gathering snow.  She clenched her jaw and pasted the biggest and fakest smile across her lips.  He fucking did this on purpose…

“I am honored, Prince Vael,” she said through her teeth, knowing that there was no way that she could possibly refuse him now, “that you would give yourself for my protection.  I graciously accept your kind offer.  Your skill and your mettle will be a welcome addition to the Inquisition’s forces.” She met his gaze as he rose to his feet.  Lifting herself to her toes, she leaned in close to his ear and hissed through his wind-tousled waves, “Too bad it’s fifteen years too late.”  

His smile faltered momentarily at the sting of her words.  He turned his head slightly to speak softly to her ear. 

“Please, Sorcha, grant me the opportunity to explain,” he pleaded quietly through his smile.  He closed his eyes at the familiar and long-missed scent of her hair and her skin.  His lips longed to graze the soft flesh of her neck.  She sat back on her heels and glared up at him, her smile was now a sneer, and his stomach dropped.

“Too…late…”  He watched her disappear into the whirling snow with her advisors following closely behind.  He was left standing alone at the Chantry doors as the biting cold embraced him.

+++++++++++++++++++++

Her team had almost reached the outer gates of Haven when she heard the hollow clicking of hooves on the frozen trail behind them.  Sorcha shifted in her saddle and turned to see who was approaching.

“Oh, for shit’s sake,” she groaned and turned back around with a discernable scowl twisting her face.  Cassandra moved in her saddle to see for herself who the riders were.  She turned back with a grimace and made a disgusted noise under her breath.

Sebastian ordered his men to fall in as he rode ahead to join Sorcha and the others.  He reined his stallion in beside Sorcha and offered her a nod in greeting.

“A beautiful morning to be out in the field, isn’t it?” he mused.  Sorcha shot him a glare that would have scorched the earth. 

“I don’t recall your presence being requested for this mission, Prince Vael.”

“I swore an oath to protect you, Herald, and so I shall, whether you invite me or not.”  A bright grin spread across his face and his eyes twinkled with mischief.  “You’re stuck with me now, Sorcha.”

“Ugh.”  She rolled her eyes and sat taller in her black leather saddle, squeezing her heels into her horse’s ribs to urge her forward along the frozen ground. The guards opened the wooden gates at her approach, and she and the team rode through.  Sebastian spurred his stallion on to catch up to her.

“That can’t be Lumé, is it?”

Sorcha looked over to him out of the corner of her eyes.  She turned her nose in the air and sniffed haughtily.  “As a matter of fact, it is.”  She dipped her head slightly and her glare softened as she reached down to pat her mare on her neck.  “I’m surprised that you remembered her.”

Sebastian’s smile grew so wide that his eyes crinkled.  “I remember a great many things, Sorcha.”

She turned her head to look at him.  The fluffy snowflakes had begun to gather in his dark waves, and his eyes twinkled like shining beacons in a storm.  His smile was so warm that it could melt the coldest of hearts.  His body was turned slightly toward her; his left hand held his reins and was draped over his horse’s withers, and his right hand rested on his muscular thigh.  His fur-lined cloak hung across his broad shoulders with a regal grace, and its heavy-weight wool settled along his strong arms.  Sorcha snapped out of her mindlessness and intensified her glare.

“Pity that those great many things didn’t include me,” she huffed as she pulled back on her horse’s reins.  Sebastian’s smile fell as she held back and moved in on the opposite side of Cassandra, putting the other Seeker between herself and the prince.  Sebastian looked simultaneously lost and sad for a moment before composing himself.  He looked to Cassandra and gave her a friendly smile.

“Seeker Pentaghast,” Sebastian began, “since we will be working together, perhaps—”

“No.”  If Sorcha’s glare could scorch the earth, then Cassandra’s could freeze it solid.  Sebastian shuddered as he turned in his saddle and kept his eyes forward.

Varric and Solas rode behind in silence, watching the awkward dynamic between the Seekers and the Prince.  The elf looked confused and the dwarf saw an opportunity.

“The frigid temperature is nothing compared to the cold shoulder Choirboy is getting from the Seekers,” Varric chuckled.  He shivered and pulled his woollen cloak tighter around him, and leaned closer to Solas.  “Two sovereigns says that both women take a round out of him before this trip is over.”

Solas raised his eyebrow at the offer and looked ahead at the silent trio.  “You hold your friend in such low regard, Varric?”

Varric just smirked.  “What can I say? It’s just a matter of time before Scary Seeker punches him out, too.”

Solas lifted his chin and sat back in his saddle.  “Instead of placing bets on the Prince’s folly, Varric, perhaps you should assist in its prevention.”

The storyteller shifted in his seat.  “Come on, Chuckles.  Where’s the fun in that?”

++++++++++++++++++++

Dusk arrived and the sky was aglow with the sun’s last wisps of tangerine and magenta, and the party milled about making camp.  As the shadows of night descended, Sorcha and her party took seats closer to the warmth of their fire.

The hot mug of tea that she held helped to warm her hands against the chill of the night.  She inhaled deeply at the sweet, floral scent of the steaming liquid, her nerves were calming slightly with each sip.  Cassandra was next to her, outlining the plan for the following day, but Sorcha had barely heard a word.  Her eyes kept finding their way across the fire, to the man reclining on the other side of the flames.  He was lying on his left side; his long, muscular legs were stretched out before him, and he was propped up on his elbow as he read a book by the flickering amber tendrils of the firelight.  She watched in a trance as the shadows danced across his face.  His brows furrowed in concentration, and he worried his lip as he read.  Rebellious mahogany waves fell loose from behind his ears, and he absentmindedly pushed them back with his free hand, tucking them into place.

And then he glanced up from his pages and his dazzling cerulean eyes met hers across the flames.  A tiny smirk formed on his lips and Sorcha, embarrassed about being noticed, narrowed her gaze into a chilling glare and turned away.  A soft chuckle rose from his chest, and he shook his head slowly before he rose from his leisurely reading.  Sorcha watched from the corner of her eye as Sebastian approached his guards.  After issuing what she assumed to be instruction, he swaggered back and stood in the comforting heat of their fire for a moment before clearing his throat. 

“One of my men will assist with first watch,” he stated. “I shall retire now to take the next.”  He nodded to the rest of the party, but to Sorcha he gave a deep bow, and rose with another damnable smirk on his face.  “Sweet dreams, Herald.”

Sorcha would not be softened by his supercilious attempt at charming her.  It was said that time heals all wounds, but since his arrival the pain that she endured years ago now felt fresh again in its torture.  Her lips curled into a sneer and the venom in her voice was clear.

“We shall see you in the morning, Prince Vael, provided you don’t leave while I am asleep.” His smile faded, and she saw the words sink into him. A flicker of a smile touched the corner of her lips as she turned her face away. She brought the mug to her lips and took another sip of her tea, focusing her attention on the sweetness. She heard the sound of footfalls as he turned away, and listened to the sound of him retreating to his tent with a sense of dark satisfaction.Content that he limped away like a scolded dog, she allowed herself to feel the calming effects of her tea. 

She became very aware of the silence in the camp.  Feeling like she was being watched, she glanced around to find that, indeed, she was. Cassandra, at least, had the decency to keep her eyes averted, and she said nothing about the exchange. Solas was still pretending to read his book. Only Varric had no shame, and he stared at her intently, as if waiting for her to offer commentary or an explanation.  Sorcha stared back at him and shrugged.

“What?” she barked at him.  He leaned back and raised his hands.

“Nothing!  It’s nothing,” he shrugged his shoulders and smirked.  “I’ve never seen Choirboy just roll over and take it, is all.”

Sorcha huffed and rolled her eyes.  She rose from her seat on the log, stretched her limbs like a cat after a nap, and brushed the dried bark from her rear.

“Well, now that you’ve had your evening’s entertainment, I’m going to turn in.”  The rest of her party replied with their “good-nights” and “sleep wells”, which she received with an obligatory wave over her shoulder, and then reached to open the flap to her tent and step into the darkened chill.

++++++++++++

Sebastian laid silently in his bedroll with his arms behind his head as he stared through the darkness at the canvas roof above him.  His heart still ached with the sting of her hurtful words.  How could he tell her everything if she would not listen to anything?  His lips tightened and he exhaled a breath of frustration through his nose as he rolled over to settle in for sleep.  Lying on the hard, cold ground next to him was his armor and his bow.  He reached out into the darkness and felt around with searching fingers, pulling out a silver filigree chain from across his breastplate.  He ran his thumb reverently over its stone, its face--highly polished from years of gentle caresses--now glinted even in darkness.  A silent prayer formed on his lips as he brought the stone to his forehead in veneration, before placing it back across his breastplate.  Tomorrow I will try again, and every day after until she hears me…  He closed his eyes, and sleep was quick to find him.

The canvas flap of his tent opened slowly and he sensed someone enter.  His eyes flew open and he trained his ears to the sound of hushed footfalls as they grew nearer. He silently braced himself in the darkness, lying in wait for the intruder. As they knelt beside him, his arm shot up and his hand closed around a throat.

“Sebastian,” he heard in a strained whisper.  Recognition dawned in him and he released his grip, propping himself up on his elbow.

“Sorcha?”  He gently moved his hand from around her throat up to her face, cupping her cheek in his palm.  She leaned into his touch and grasped his wrist, kissing it softly.

“My Prince, how I’ve missed you…”  She trailed kisses down the inside of his bare arm and lingered at the crook of his elbow.

Sebastian pushed himself up slowly and with his free hand, placed his closed fingers gently under her chin, lifting her face to his.  In the distance, he could hear an orchestra playing a beautiful ballad.

“My darling Sorcha, my beloved, I’m sorry.”  He leaned in and hungrily claimed her soft lips.  “I’m so sorry…” he whispered into her kisses.

She placed her thumb over his lips.  “Shhh, my Prince.  Let’s not speak of this now.”  She kissed him softly.  “I need you, Sebastian.” She trailed soft bites down his neck to his bare chest, and danced her tongue back up to his mouth, teasing his lips apart.  He kissed her with a fervent passion, and she gasped as he laid back onto the bedroll and pulled her atop him.  She tasted of apples and wine, and he breathed in her verbena scent as he worked her shift from her trembling flesh.  He moaned as she leaned back and ground her sensitive bud along his aching cock.

“Maker! Sorcha…” his breath hitched as she dragged her nails over his bare chest.  She gasped as he explored her naked breasts with his hands, gently pinching the pebbled flesh of her nipples.

“It won’t be the Maker’s name you’re calling when you come, my Prince,” she purred.  His hips bucked against her and she mewled as he sat forward and took a sensitive nipple into his mouth, sucking gently and rolling his tongue over her pert and sensitive skin.  Sorcha threw her head back and fisted his hair with both hands.

“Take me, Sebastian.  I need you inside me.” She lifted his face and gazed into his eyes.  In the rose-colored glow of the candlelight, he could see her exquisite features.  Her expression was filled with adoration and veneration, and it flamed the fire in his core.  “Please…” she whispered.

He wrapped his arms around her and in one swift move flipped them both over.  She languishedunder him. Her legs roamed over his hips, and her fingertips trailed a lingering heat over his shoulders and chest.   He took her knee under his arm and pressed it close to his body while his hand moved over her hip and grasped the soft flesh of her ass.  Her teeth grazed her lower lip as he leaned down closer to her, his twitching cock waiting at her slick entrance.

“Whatever you wish, my darling. I am yours…” he murmured against her glistening lips. She arched into him, and their mouths met, deep and sweet, above and below, as he sank into her waiting core.

A very loud and very intrusive cough from outside shattered him from his dream.  He snapped his eyes open, then took a moment to adjust to the darkness, looking about. Over the sound of his own panting, he heard the footfalls of the patrol on first watch, and the nighttime sounds of the Hinterlands.  He roused further and realized, to his extreme disappointment, that he was in his cold field tent, completely alone and painfully aroused. He closed his eyes again.

Buried under the warmth of his blankets, the Prince tossed and turned, trying to reclaim sleep and that wonderful world of his dream. But the ache of his erection was too strong for him to ignore, and he had not allowed himself the pleasure of...pleasure...in a very, very long time. He groaned softly. He wanted her presence again, his Sorcha—who loved him and wanted him and needed him. Seeing her beauty, hearing her melodic voice, catching her subtle verbena scent on the breeze...he could not afford to lose control of himself now.

His fingers crept into his linen trousers and he took firm hold of his cock, a quiet, breathy moan escaping him.  He bucked his hips into his fist and hissed with each long stroke of his rigid, velveteen flesh.  His memory strayed back to Sorcha; he moaned gutturally at her hungry mouth kissing him greedily, he gasped for breath at her nails leaving red crescents and welts along the length of his back, and he lost himself at the sound of her voice crying his name as she crested.  Every muscle in his body tensed and trembled.  With a final flick of his wrist, he felt the heat rise from his belly and overtake his entire being.  He arched his back and as his climax washed over him, and her name escaped as a reverent murmur from his lips.

Sebastian relaxed into his bed and caught his breath, watching stars dance behind his closed eyelids.  He cleaned off his hand on the grass beside him, physically satisfied but still longing for the bliss he had felt in her arms.  He forced himself up and exchanged his loose linen trousers for black leathers.  Then he splashed his face with icy water from his waterskin, smoothing back his hair before strapping into his breastplate.  He grabbed his bow and quiver, since he was now decided that he would get no further sleep, opened the flap of his tent, and stepped into the frigid night, ready to relieve the guard of first watch earlier than scheduled.

The aroma of fresh Antivan coffee wafted across the camp, and Sebastian felt that it was certainly a good night for the heavy brew.  He pulled the pot from the cooking grate and poured a mug full, savoring the bitter taste on his tongue as the steaming drink warmed him from the inside.  He drank it down quickly, needing the shock of it, and after that cup was finished, he walked the perimeter of the camp to scan their surroundings. But while he peered into the wooded hills of the Hinterlands, his mind was on other things.

He could not escape the softness of her voice in his memories, a stark difference from the cold brush of her words in the waking world. He thought of moonlit nights in Hercinia and grimaced against the dull pain of the loss. She would not even hear him.

But he had made a promise to protect her. He had meant it. And one way or another he would find a way to make it right. It may cost him a year of sleepless nights to do it, but she had to hear the truth.

At that thought, he realized a single cup of coffee was not going to be enough. He turned from the perimeter and headed for the fireplace to fill his mug again; he took his coffee and posted up in front of Sorcha’s tent, wishing more than anything that the flap would open and she would invite him inside out of the cold and into her waiting arms.

+++++++++

Sorcha pulled back the tent flap to find the sun kissing the horizon. There was a chill in the air in the shadows, but the sunlight was warm on her skin. She almost smiled, and then she noticed who it was standing guard beside her tent, watching her with intense blue eyes. She blinked up at him a moment, then scowled. Has he been out there all night? She stepped through the tent flap and let it fall closed behind her, rising to her full height and giving him a dismissive glare.

“You’re still here.” Part of her had known he would be. He had made a promise after all. But the other part had been certain she had done enough to drive him away, now that the crowds could not see. No such luck.

He simply gazed back at her, and gave a curt nod. She turned and began to untie the tent strapping and begin the act of breaking camp.

“I thought you would have snuck off in the middle of the night and returned to your cushy throne,” she snipped, determined to make his morning as irritating as hers. From the corner of her eye she watched as he shifted uncomfortably. She felt a cold smile touch the corners of her lips and struggled to hide it.

“I am not the man you believe me to be, Sorcha,” he told her in a quiet voice after a moment’s pause. His hands were clasping a mug of coffee, and he dropped his eyes to examine the contents, like he was the wounded party. Sorcha’s lips twisted into a sneer. She scoffed.

“So you’re not a sadistic coward who would leave a gravely wounded woman - whom he supposedly cared for - alone without a friend in the world, and then, for fifteen years, watch her wretched life unfold from the comfort of your palace walls?” she snapped, tearing at the tent flaps and watching the entire shelter collapse in on itself in a heap.

Something in Sebastian snapped. He hurled the coffee mug into the fire with as much force as he could muster, scattering ashes and embers into the air. Sorcha shot around, staring, and then her hazel gaze focused on him, alarmed and defensive, like a cornered animal. For a moment neither of them spoke, his eyes full of an anger she had never seen there before.

“How could you possibly know what I fucking did, Sorcha?  You won’t give me the fucking time of day, let alone fucking time to talk to you!” His voice carried, dangerous and sharp, and she stilled under his glare. He stared at her, his eyes flashing with fury and impatience, until he recognized the tension between them. She watched as he fought to bring himself back to calm, his gaze flickering into the woodlands a moment as he drew a deep breath.   Then he fixed her with a cold look. “All I’ve been asking for is time to speak with you, to explain everything. Yet like a selfish, petulant child you refuse to even acknowledge me. You are not the only one to have suffered in life, Sorcha.”

She couldn’t believe that he had the audacity to call her selfish.  She stomped over to him and raised her hand to slap the ignorance from his mouth.  He caught her wrist before she could make contact, and he fiercely stared her down.  Her frigid gaze was met with the turbulent sea of his blue eyes.  Her chest heaved as adrenaline sped through her veins, and she clenched her jaw in frustration.

“You dare to call me selfish?” she spat. “I didn’t leave you lying half-dead in the healer’s ward!”

He shoved her hand away from his face, and a sadness crept over his eyes.  “You would have died if I had stayed.”  He turned from her and stalked back to his tent to begin his tear down.  She turned back to her own canvas, refusing to let a single tear fall,and began to gather the pieces of her fallen tent together.  She heard footfalls on the rocky ground behind her.

“Would you like me to run him through?” Cassandra asked, only half-jokingly, taking a knee beside her. Sorcha huffed apathetically and rolled the tent canvas up in a violent flurry.

“Run him off, maybe,”she grumbled.  She was having difficulty processing his words.  She gave up on the tent, forcing it from her, and bowed her head, leaning her elbows on her knees a moment.“Am I selfish, Cass?  Should I hear him out?”

Cassandra grabbed a strap and helped untie the canvas.  She reached for the half-furled tent and carefully finished the job with practiced hands, tying the end result together with the canvas straps. Sorcha watched her a moment, and Cassandra’s gaze met hers in the morning light.  “Would you feel better hearing what he has to say?”  Sorcha’s brow furrowed at the thought of hearing him out.  She chanced a momentary glance in his direction and found him ripping through his own tent with a quiet anger.

“I honestly don’t know.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The arrival at the Crossroads was a very welcome event for Sorcha and her party.  Since the second morning of the mission, the air around them was palpably tense, which served to make for a long trip.  They reached the Inquisition camp on the outskirts of the Crossroads by mid-morning, and Sorcha was eager to complete the business of meeting with Mother Giselle. 

Scout Harding briefed Sorcha and the others of the current situation; she was not surprised to hear that the unrest in the area was dangerously violent and widespread.  The fact that both Templars and mages were attacking indiscriminately made Sorcha uneasy, for that meant many innocent casualties.  Not wanting to waste another moment, the party armed themselves and prepared for battle before heading down the hill.

The sounds of fighting could be heard as they neared the village, and the presence of magic could be felt as they descended the winding path; with deep, cleansing breaths and silent prayers on their lips, the Seekers steeled themselves to fight against mage and Templar alike.

The once sleepy little village had indeed been turned into a vicious battlefield.  Villagers’ corpses lay strewn across the bloodied ground alongside Templar and mage, overturned wagons burned and livestock lay dead and bloated.  Sebastian and Varric perched themselves atop the high ground, and Solas cast a barrier over the front line while the Seekers lowered themselves into an offensive stance before running into the fray.

“Stand down!  We are neither Templar nor mage!” Sorcha barked as she ran up to a mage engaged in battle with a Templar.  Instead of complying, the Templar swung his sword at her and the mage flung a fireball at Cassandra.

“It seems that they do not care, Herald!” Solas shouted as he reinforced his previous barrier to absorb the damage.

“Fool!” she hissed at the Templar before bashing him with her shield.  As he staggered backward, she lunged forward with her sword and struck where the armor was weak.  She turned her attention to the mage assaulting Cassandra.  The other Seeker could be heard shouting for the rebel to desist as she deflected each spell with her shield, but her steps toward the mage never faltered.  Sorcha was about to join her when she heard the whistle of an arrow piercing the air, and she felt the gust next to her ear.  The clang of metal hitting the ground behind her caused her to turn and see a fallen Templar with an arrow protruding from the eye slit of his helmet.  She glanced back up to the rocky high ground to Sebastian slowly lowering his bow.  He gave her a curt nod before training his arrow on the mage in front of Cassandra.  But, before he could fire, the mage crumpled lifelessly to the ground with a crossbow bolt through her head.

“Can’t let you have them all, Choirboy!” Varric yelled from atop an outcrop.  Sebastian smirked as he loosed an arrow into the chest of an approaching mage whose hands were glowing with icy magic.

“Better keep up then, dwarf!”

The two expert archers rained bolts and arrows down into the skirmish while the Seekers fought with dragonbone against steel.  The rogue Templars were no match for Cassandra and Sorcha, who were an indomitable force as they fought side by side.  Solas finished the last Templar with a final flourish of his staff, and the rebel mages, too, fell to the combat skill of the Inquisition.

Sorcha had just sheathed her sword when the tingle of magic stood the hairs on the back of her neck on end.  A mage stepped out from behind the rubble of a collapsed house and unleashed his fury with lightning from his fingertips, enveloping the archers in violet ribbons.  Sorcha dug in and ran toward him with her sword drawn and her shield tilted downward.

“Stop, mage!  This is your only warning!” she ordered, trying to become the target of his ire.

He glared at her maliciously and laughed before continuing his attack on Sebastian and Varric.  Knowing that she would not reach him before he killed them, Sorcha stopped in her tracks and took a cleansing breath to focus.  Her eyes, dark and reflective, locked onto the mage and in an instant he released his spell and fell to his knees, crying in terror.  She looked to the high ground and watched as Solas and Cassandra ran to aid Sebastian and Varric. 

“They are alive, Herald,” Solas yelled down to her, “They will recover.”   A wave of relief washed over her.  Sorcha was fully aware that there was always the chance that one or more of them would not make it back to Haven, but that did not mean that she was prepared to lose anyone.  She nodded in acknowledgement before marching over to the incapacitated mage.

“Maker be merciful…” she muttered as her gloved hand tightened around her sword’s grip.  She raised her arm and with one powerful swing, removed the mage’s head from his body.  Glancing back up to her party, she met Sebastian’s gaze; his piercing eyes regarded her with curiosity, and something else that she could not quite place.  She was snapped out of her staring by Cassandra’s hand on her shoulder.

“It was just, Sorcha.  You warned him, and he did not comply.  You did what needed to be done.”

Sorcha’s eyes glazed over in disassociation and her expression hardened.  “I know.”

++++++++++++++++

During the past week, the Inquisition had worked to gain influence and support within the Hinterlands.  Darkness fell upon the rolling hills as they returned to the outskirts camp, exhausted from closing rifts and procuring supplies.  Sorcha was about to crawl into her tent for the night when she was intercepted by a messenger from the village.

“Beg your pardon, Herald,” the woman began, “the villagers have a gift for you.”  Sorcha was falling asleep on her feet and wanted nothing more than to tumble into her bedroll, but she knew how grateful the villagers were for the Inquisition’s assistance in stabilizing the area. 

“Thank you, but you really didn’t need to bring it to me tonight. I know how busy everyone is in the village.”

The messenger looked at her thoughtfully, and a great smile beamed from her face.  “Oh, I didn’t bring it to you, Herald, I must bring you to it.”  Sorcha raised a questioning eyebrow, but gave her a small smile and followed her to the village.

The messenger led her to a house that had been partially repaired, and ushered her towards the door.  She stepped inside and brought her hand over her mouth to stifle a gasp.  The room was lit with candles and in the corner, behind a partition, sat a wooden bathtub filled with steaming water.  The roof above the bath was open, revealing the multitude of stars dancing in the night sky.

“The people of the Crossroads are very grateful to the Inquisition, Herald.  You make sacrifices every day to help the people, and we wish to repay the kindness.”

Sorcha was at a loss for words.  She had just been doing her duty; as a Seeker of Truth, and as the Herald of Andraste, she did not expect to be thanked for doing her job.  And the more that she thought about it, the more perfect this gift became; it had been weeks since she was able to have a proper bath.  She turned to the woman behind her and offered a genuine smile.

“Thank you, truly.  This is absolutely perfect.  Is there enough water available for everyone?” she asked.  She felt it would be unfair for her to have the only hot bath while her party worked just as hard as she did, and deserved to be treated as well.

“Yes, my lady.  There is enough for you and those with you.  We are grateful to you all.”  She offered the Herald a sweeping bow.  Sorcha immediately undressed and sank into the clean, steaming water with a blissful sigh.

“Might you need anything before I leave you to your bath?” the messenger asked.  Sorcha thought for a moment. 

“Shit!  I didn’t bring soap…” she muttered.  She hadn’t anticipated the opportunity to bathe, so she did not pack any for the trip.

“I will fetch some, Herald.”  The woman turned on her heel and quickly left the room.

Sorcha leaned against the back of the tub, enjoying the tingling numbness of her skin from the hot water.  She let her head fall back and she smiled as she gazed at the giant moon above.  So engrossed was she in the beauty of the night that she was startled by the return of the messenger.

“Herald, I have brought soap as well as a clean change of clothes for after your bath.  Your bedroll has also been exchanged for a fresh one.”  The woman set the simple linen garment and the soap in the chair next to the tub.  She reached down and picked up Sorcha’s gore-encrusted leathers.  “I shall see that your armor is cleaned as well.”

Sorcha looked at her incredulously.

“Won’t that mean that someone will be spending the night cleaning our armor and laundering our clothes?” 

The woman nodded.  “Many have volunteered to tend to the task, in appreciation of all that you have done.”  Sorcha’s heart warmed at the gratitude of the villagers.  She met the mousy woman’s eyes and smiled widely.

“Thank you,” she said.  The woman beamed a smile back and bowed before leaving her to her bath.

Sorcha took the soap from the chair and inhaled deeply the scent of lavender and spice. She closed her eyes as her senses fought to pull the memories from the recesses of her mind.  Images danced across her thoughts like pieces of a dream-- a warm, tender smile; a smooth, dimpled cheek; fingers running through wavy, dark hair; brilliant blue eyes, crinkled at their outer corners by a smile.  Her eyes shot openas the memory solidified, and she could place the scent completely.  Sebastian…

She paused a moment, settling on that thought, and then she carefully drew another deep breath and allowed herself that forbidden moment. The scent of the soap drew her in again, slowly, deeply, and she closed her eyes once more. Her memories were clearer now; the warmth in his smile whenever he looked at her; the deep dimples that formed in his cheek whenever he smirked; the softness of his hair whenever she ran her fingers through his waves; the way his eyes would crinkle as he smiled whenever she kissed him… She opened her eyes again, staring ahead contemplatively.  It had been a very long time since she had let herself think about him, and on the off chance that her mind wandered, she had always forced herself to remember the hurt.  She felt vulnerable, stripped raw by the resurfacing of such enjoyable memories, and she also felt slightly guilty for letting them linger longer than she should have.  She slid under the water to hide, emerging only once she felt her lungs would burst.  She lathered the soap between her hands and worked the scented suds into the grime of her hair.   The water trickled over her short locks as she scrubbed at her tired and aching body.

The warm and familiar scent kept Sebastian on her mind.  She could taste the wine on his lips, hear the desire dripping from his voice, and feel the gentle caress of his hands over her flesh.  The warmth in her belly flashed into flames.  She closed her eyes and let her hands roam over her lathered skin.  It had been a very, very long time since she allowed herself the pleasure of… pleasure.  She worried her bottom lip with her teeth as her hands moved over her breasts, and gasped quietly as her fingers pinched a nipple.  Her other trembling fingers found her core, and she was surprised to feel the slickness of her folds through the water.  Her hand crept from her breasts to join the second, and she hissed as it pressed with perfect pressure against her center.Her memory strayed back to Sebastian; she moaned quietly at the thought of his length filling her, she gasped for breath as she remembered his tongue rolling gently over her sensitive bud, and she lost herself in the echoes of his voice crying her name as he crested. Every muscle in her body tensed and trembled.  She arched her back and sat up out of the water as she climaxed, and from her lips escaped a quiet sigh that was his name.  As her release passed, she leaned back into the water, and against the tub.  With her head resting on the wooden lip and her face to the sky, she watched the stars dance.

Sorcha could feel sleep coming for her, so she lifted herself from the bath and grabbed the clean, dry clothes.  There were no smallclothes, but she did not care.  As she pulled the shirt over her head, she could smell another familiar scent… faint spices.  She was not surprised that it was a man’s garment; the wide collar hung off of one shoulder and it reached to her knees.  She slipped into her boots and opened the door to leave.  A villager approached her and asked her to send the next person for the bath, as they would go prepare it now, should anyone else still be awake.  Sorcha nodded and made her way back to the camp.

She approached the fire and saw only one person who had yet to go to sleep.  She felt a blush creep over her cheeks when Sebastian’s eyes lifted from his book and met hers.  With slow and deliberate steps she forced herself toward him.

He rose to his feet as she neared.  She lifted her face to look at him, for what seemed like the first time in eternity.  Her eyes flitted over his face, noticing the scars on his left cheekbone, the way the firelight brought out the copper in his beard, and how his dazzling eyes seemed tired.  His hair was longer, almost to his broad shoulders, and his waves were less tamed than in his youth.   She lifted her hand and held out his soap.

“Yours, I assume?” she asked as apathetically as possible, hoping that her voice would not betray her.  Without breaking his gaze, he smiled softly and reached for the block in her hand.  His fingertips brushed hers, and her heart jumped at his touch.  He made no move to pull away, but neither did she. For a moment, she did not even breathe.

“How did you know?” His voice was warm and honeyed, like mulled brandy.  She watched the amber light of the fire flicker in his shining eyes.

“Lavender and spice.”

++++++++++++++++++

She remembered...

He met her eyes, dazzled that the firelight made them seem more gold than hazel. Her raven hair, cut short, shone in the amber light. The scars on her face were faint but numerous, adding a rugged beauty to features that had always been noble. And then his gaze fell to her neck.

For the first time he saw the permanent reminder of just how close she had come to death. It stretched like a smile, curling from her left collarbone to the other side of her throat. There was nothing faint about this scar. He watched the blood pulse in her artery, her chest rising and falling with each breath. She knew he was weighing every inch of her then. He had never seen Sorcha so nervous, so uncomfortable...so vulnerable. It made his heart ache.

He would not make it worse with words. He lifted his eyes back to hers instead.

“My shirt looks nice on you.” He noticed a blush tinge her cheeks and could not help but smile.

The block of soap was pushed abruptly into his hand, slippery enough he had to grab at it quickly, and then he met the golden glare a brief moment before she turned on her heel and huffed her way into her tent. Moments later, the canvas flap opened, and he had to lunge again to catch his shirt in mid-air as it came flying back out at him.

A muffled voice came from her tent. “Go take a bath. You stink.”

He chuckled and then shook his head before tearing his gaze away. He pretended not to notice as the tent flap flipped back slightly and she peered out at him with curious eyes. Instead he turned his face away and headed for the path back down to the bath.

One more week left in the Hinterlands. One more week with Sorcha and not the Herald of Andraste. He brought his shirt up to his nose and smiled at the soft scent of her on the linen, faint under his own.

One more week to finally make her see.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

One more week….  Maker, help me…

Sorcha shook the thoughts of last night from her head.  Like a fool, she let her guard down and allowed herself to be civil with Sebastian.  Why didn’t she just throw the soap at him and walk away, like a normal jilted lover?  Why did she let her resolve soften at the memories of him?  Fucking lavender and spice…

She growled as she strapped herself forcefully into her freshly cleaned leathers, heaving on their buckles and yanking the lacing so hard that the clothing creaked and groaned at her level of force.  Now he would think that she would agree to speak with him, and she definitely did not wish for him to be circling about her feet like a puppy seeking attention.  She stomped into her boots, kicking a small cloud of dust up in her tent, which parted for her as she trudged to her weapon stand.  Her chest ached with tension and she exhaled forcefully.  What she really needed was a cup of tea right now; hopefully there would be some water on at the cook fire, even though it wasn’t even quite dawn.  She took her weapons from the rack and reached to lift the tent flap; but withdrew her hand when she heard the low, melodic timbre of voices around the fire.  Curious as to who else would be up before the birds, she shifted herself away from the tent opening, and very slowly peeled the canvas flap open a sliver to peek outside.  Her eyes narrowed at the silhouetted figures of the two rogues sitting with their backs to her tent.  She trained her ear to their hushed conversation.

“So let me get this straight, Choirboy.  She didn’t throw the soap at you?”  Varric sounded as surprised about it as she felt.  She listened harder, knowing now that they were talking about her.

She heard Sebastian’s throaty chuckle.  “I was just as surprised as you, Varric.  She actually held it out for me politely.”  She grimaced at that thought; she definitely should have thrown it at him.

“Did you talk to her?”  The dwarf’s question raised her eyebrow.  She saw Sebastian’s waves shake with his head.

“I lost myself in her eyes and thought of nothing but her beauty.”  Her heart skipped at his words and she felt a blush creep over her cheeks.  Damn Cassandra for making her read those trashy romance serials.  His voice became somber and wistful.  “She has held my heart since the day we met, and I wish that I had at least been brave enough to have told her that. But instead of being the lover that she needed and the man that she deserved, I left her alone.”  Sorcha’s eyes narrowed and she settled back on her heels, watching him with a stony glare as the dwarf nodded at the Prince’s confession.  She felt a knot in the pit of her stomach tighten at the memory of those first days without him.

"You know,” she heard Varric say, “most stories about dashing princes falling in love end in happily ever after. You appear to have gotten the story wrong, Choirboy. Either you're really just that bad at this, or there's a reason you thought breaking a lady's heart would somehow be better than a lifetime of lustful bliss."  She saw Sebastian shift uncomfortably in his seat.  The glow from stoked embers bathed his waves in a copper light and she could see the silhouette of his face as he turned to Varric. Her breathing quickened as she waited for him to respond; she too, would like to know his reason for breaking her heart. She watched as Sebastian looked back to the fire and hung his head. The storyteller shrugged his shoulders.  "But what do I know? My romance serials are the worst."  Sorcha quietly scoffed in agreement.

“The Duke of Wycome learned of our relationship and arranged for her abduction; I was to trade my life for hers.  I had learned where she was being held and went off to be her hero and rescue her.”  He huffed and looked to Varric.  “Just make me the dashing hero in your story, and not the inept one.”  Varric chucked and gave a perfunctory wave in the air.  

“Sure, sure… whatever you say, Ser Gallant.” Sebastian looked back to the embers, his tone turning sour.

“Idiotically, I hadn’t accounted for the Templar that abducted her to have taken our relationship as a personal offense. Then again, I hadn’t considered Templar involvement at all.”  Sorcha saw him hunch over and hold his head in his hands.  She found herself clenching her fists at the mere mention of the man who almost ended her life in that cave.  “He tortured us, and as we both lay dying on that cave floor, the last thing I saw before the darkness took me was the life leaving her beautiful hazel eyes.”  She was surprised to feel a hot tear trickle down her cheek and drop down to her neck.  She forcefully wiped it away with a gloved hand and began to wish that she had not been eavesdropping.

“I awoke in the infirmary first, confused and desperate to find her,” she heard Sebastian say. “They told me that they had done all that they could, and it was in the Maker’s hands then.  The Templar Emeric helped me to her bedside, and there I stayed.  For weeks, Varric, I held her, read to her, sang to her, prayed for her.” He hung his head. “My tears stained her pillow.”  Sorcha watched through emotional eyes as he raked his hands through his hair.  Varric clasped him on the shoulder, and spoke in a sincere tone that Sorcha had never heard from the dwarf.

“But that all sounds like reasons to stay.  Why leave?”  

“The Grand Cleric helped me realize what loving me had cost Sorcha.”  She winced and cast her teary eyes to the floor of her tent as she listened to his side for the first time.  Her fist clenched until her fingernails dug into the palm of her hand, the rage of fifteen years of anguish and loss compounding into one moment. Elthina had never admitted her involvement in Sebastian leaving, instead letting her believe that it was of his own choice. “She almost died, and on the day that she first opened her eyes, I swore to Andraste that I would do whatever was required of me to protect her, even if it meant leaving her.  My heart was ripped from my chest when I kissed her goodbye, and my shattered soul left a trail of shards with each step that grew the distance between us.”  Tears streamed down Sorcha’s face now, there was no stopping the inundation of memories.  Even through her blurred vision, she kept her gaze fixed on him, and muffled a sob so he would not hear.  Sebastian lifted his head back and looked to the morning sky.

“Staying away kept her alive, but it killed me,” he said in a final hoarse confession, like it was to the Maker himself. Sorcha choked back a sob and wiped her tears away with her forearm.  In her mind a tempest raged, filling her with confusion, empathy and regret.  Her heart was breaking for him, and at the same time that old familiar pain was tearing at her soul with ragged claws.

She heard the crunch of footsteps on the path. Her eyes darted to over to where she heard the voices of Inquisition soldiers approaching.  Then they flickered back to the rogues near the fire.

“Well… shit.”  Varric rose from his seat with his hand still on Sebastian’s shoulder. “Come on, Choirboy, let’s go get some breakfast before someone sees us bonding and begins to think we’re actually friends.”  Sorcha scoffed and turned her face away, watching out of the corner of her eye as Sebastian rose from his seat and followed the dwarf down the path to find some food.  It was then that she realized what a state she was in.  She gave herself a moment to feel the stinging pain, like a lash across her heart, before she drew a few deep breaths to gain some semblance of composure and wiped the tears hastily from her cheeks.  Only then, confident she did not look completely in shambles, did she part the tent flaps and step outside into the morning sunlight. She heard the rustle of canvas and glanced up to see Cassandra emerging from her own tent. Cassandra’s eyes were red and swollen too, her cheeks glistening with their own tears.  Sorcha cleared her throat, startling her eavesdropping friend.  Cassandra jolted, seemingly embarrassed at first, but her face quickly softened into a tender expression.  

“Oh, Sorcha…” She covered her heart with her hand and mouthed a silent sigh.  Sorcha just rolled her eyes and shot her a warning look.

“Not a word, Cass!  Not a fucking word…”

 


 

 

Sebastian followed Varric through the canvas flap and into the mess tent.  The heat from the stoves and the aroma of smoked meat and fresh bread embraced him as he entered.  His stomach growled loudly and he realized then just how hungry he was.  He had sat awake in his tent all night, lost within his own thoughts.  Sorcha had surprised him by acting civil; did that mean that he was getting through to her?  Was she beginning to accept him?  He filled his plate, and a faint smile formed on his lips as he thought of those few cherished moments beside last night’s fire.  He grabbed a cup of coffee and followed Varric to a table.

He tucked into his breakfast, grateful that his companion was content with the comfortable silence in which they sat.   He brought his coffee to his lips and grimaced at the bitterness of the dark liquid in his mug.  It was as thick as mud, but he was in dire need of its effects.  He had just tipped back the last drops when the tent flap opened and the room was suddenly illuminated by the morning sun.

She was silhouetted against the white light.  He watched her step into the tent and was momentarily blinded by the radiance.  Another shadow followed her inside, and the opening snapped shut behind her.  His eyes readjusted to the dimness before following Sorcha as she and Cassandra took their meals to the table farthest from him and Varric.  Setting down his empty mug, he took his bread into his hands and ripped off a piece before he felt the eternally uncomfortable, feeling that he was being watched.  He glanced up from his plate to see Cassandra staring at him from across the empty room.  He offered her a friendly smile, which she acknowledged with a raised eyebrow.

The fact that Cassandra was staring at him was not odd. What did strike him as incongruent was the way that she was staring.  The Seeker’s eyes were always narrowed into an icy glare, or rolling in her head, but this time, she was just… staring.  He slowly turned his head, then let his eyes slide down to his hands and dipped his bread into his poached egg.

“Varric,” he murmured, “is there something on my face?”

The dwarf briefly glanced up from his food.  “Besides a fennec? No.”

“Then why is Cassandra staring at me?” Sebastian whispered.  Varric just shrugged his shoulders.

“Beats me.  Seekers are weird.  And they have no friends.”  He tilted his head slightly in contemplation.  “Maybe it’s because they stare a lot.”

The Prince went to wash down his bread, then sighed dejectedly at finding his cup empty.  He forced the mouthful down and then rose from the table to refill his drink.  As he poured more of the strong brew for himself, he glanced over at the Seekers.  Sorcha was watching her plate. Cassandra was watching him.  This was getting ridiculous.  Even dragons did not have to put up with such Pentaghast stares, surely?  Something had to be done, and that meant a distraction.  He reached to the rack in front of him and set two more mugs on the table. One he filled with coffee, and the other with hot water and a steeper of fragrant loose tea.  Then, carrying the extra two by their handles with one hand, he sauntered over to the ladies’ table.

With only a smile, he set the coffee in front of Cassandra, and the tea in front of Sorcha.  Sorcha looked up from her plate and muttered a quick “thank you” before returning her eyes to her food.  Cassandra just kept staring.  He tilted his head in a quick nod and turned from them.

As Sebastian walked back to his table and took his seat, he could hear Cassandra’s frantic whispers.  He chanced a quick glance across the room. Cassandra was reaching across the table to give Sorcha a less-than-gentle slap on her leather-clad upper arm, and motioning to him with her other hand.  Sorcha shook her head vehemently and tried to stab Cassandra’s waving fingers with her fork.  Sebastian raised an eyebrow and watched with curiosity as the Seekers engaged in their hushed argument for a few moments before the tent flap opened and Solas stepped inside, effectively silencing them.

Sorcha shifted in her seat and called the mage over to their table.

Sebastian leaned back and rested his ankle over his knee while he sipped on his coffee.  He was about to make small-talk with Varric when he overheard something interesting in the Seekers’ conversation with Solas.  

“Have you learned anything from the Fade since our arrival, Solas?” he heard Cassandra ask.  Solas shook his head as he lowered himself onto the wooden stool.

“I am sorry, Cassandra.  While this place holds many memories, both ancient and new, my forays into the Fade have not revealed anything pertaining to our mission.”  Sebastian watched curiously as the elf turned his attention to Sorcha.  “I have, however, discovered the location of an ancient elven artifact that, when activated, should work to strengthen the Veil.  I believe it to be worth investigating.”  The Prince noticed Sorcha nod in agreement, and as the Seekers and mage made plans to find the artifact, he turned to Varric.

“Varric,” he whispered, “why are they asking Solas about the Fade like he has a summer home there?”  Varric did not even look up from his correspondence.

“Fade mage.  Remember that kid that Hawke dragged Blondie into the Fade for?  Feyn-something?  Like him, only smarter. And older.”  Sebastian’s brow furrowed as he thought back to his time in Kirkwall, then his eyes widened at the recollection of the warning from Keeper Marethari.

“He’s a Dreamer?  The Keeper told us they were rare.”  

Varric chuckled and rolled his eyes, “Yes, yes… and dangerous... whatever.  But he kept that mark from killing the Herald, so the Seeker was willing to keep him around.”

Sebastian shifted his gaze to the floor, staring at the sand and straw as his thoughts raced through his mind.  As revelation hit him, his eyes snapped up to the mage and a slow smile spread across his face.  He now had an idea to help Sorcha realize what was in his heart.  If she would not give him the opportunity to explain everything-- to tell her that everything he did was for her protection-- then maybe she could be made to see it.  He did not understand how the Somniari worked their magic, but he needed to find out if it could be used to open her eyes to him.  And maybe even her heart once more.  Giving Varric a quick nod, he rose from the table and strode out of the tent, determined to make her understand.  

He stood in the shade of a large tree, nonchalantly leaning against its thick trunk as he waited for Solas. Sorcha and Cassandra appeared first, so he sidestepped to put the tree between them, hiding himself from view. But then Solas emerged, and Sebastian took the opportunity to sidle up to the mage and fall in step with him.

“Pardon me, serah Solas.  Might I have a word?” The mage gave him a sidelong glance.

"The Prince of Starkhaven. What might I do for you?"

Sebastian ushered the elf along a footpath that lead away from the camp, stopping only when he was confident that they were out of earshot.  His pulse quickened and he glanced around nervously, but he pressed on. The mage was watching him with suspicion.

"Is it true what they say? You're a...a dreamer?"

"It is. Why do you ask?"

"I...is it possible for Dreamers to...to bring one person into someone else's dream?"

Solas’ looked at him curiously; then Sebastian saw the mage’s eyes flicker with the arrogance of expertise and ego.   A small smile formed on his lips before he spoke.

"It -is- possible, yes, though not a simple task. We are all connected to the Fade. It simply requires we find the right paths. Is this a hypothetical question, or did you have a purpose for your inquiry?"

Sebastian’s eyes glanced to the ground while he pursed his lips and exhaled sharply.  “Can you bring Sorcha into my dreams?  I need her to see what I see, to know what I know. I hoped..."

"Ah. I see. So then, you are asking for my help." Solas regarded him with interest.

Sebastian was uncomfortable about asking a hedge mage into his dreams, but if there was an opportunity to get through to Sorcha, Maker help him, he would grasp it. Summoning his courage, he cast aside his uncertainty and lifted his gaze to meet Solas’ stormy blue-grey eyes.  “Yes, serah, I am.”

The mage leaned against his staff, and as he considered the request, a slight smile grew across his lips.

“Very well Prince Vael, if you are certain about this, then I shall endeavour to bring the Herald to your dream.”

Sebastian bowed his head in gratitude, and Solas reciprocated before turning on his heel and walking away with long, calculated strides.  He waited until the mage was out of sight before taking a deep, calming breath.  

Maker, please let this work...  

 


 

 

Sorcha stared down at her map, tracing the area with a gloved finger.  Solas had marked on it the vague whereabouts of the artifact, but could not offer more detail.  She lifted her head and looked across the landscape, her hand was shielding her eyes as she squinted against the setting sun.  Thanks to the ambiguity of Fade directions, they had to wander the marked zone until Solas “felt” the presence of the ancient item.  She picked her way over yet another hill, sword in hand, and sighed.  Solas, using his staff as a walking stick, drew up alongside her.  He gazed out at the horizon and smiled softly.

“I am suddenly reminded of my village.  The sun always shone brightly there, as well,” he offered suddenly.  She started, unsure of what to make of his unexpected sharing, as she found him usually quite guarded.  He gave her a warm smile, and she did not sense an ulterior motive to his attempt at conversation.  She returned a smile and he regarded her with quiet eyes.  “You are from the Free Marches, are you not?”

“Ostwick, originally,” she said, scanning the trees on a far ridge for a sign of this elusive artifact.  “But half of my life has been spent... elsewhere.”

“Kirkwall? Wycome?”

She glanced back to him and arched her brow in appraisal.  This line of questioning was very out of character for the mage-- from what she had learned about him anyway.  Normally his conversations were kept professional or were of the Fade.  He did not even offer much information about the mark on her hand, unless asked about it.  His continued probing made her feel uneasy, but she could not find a reason not to indulge him.  She turned her gaze back to the hills.

“Hercinia, for a time...” she said softly, the word resonating inside of her like a tolling bell.  She quieted the wave of discomfort, keeping her voice low, “But, I have travelled a great deal since then.”

“I have found that sometimes it is the earliest places which have the deepest memories,” he said simply, looking to the trees himself.  Then he smiled a little.  “The artifact, Herald. It is over there.”  He motioned into the distance where a small ruin lay nestled into the rocks.  

They descended into the crumbling temple and found that it was not empty.  Demons wandered the hall and the vaulted room which held the artifact.  Sorcha was still impressed by the mage’s combat ability, even though they had fought alongside one another for some time.  The two of them cleared the ruins without difficulty, and at last came to the artifact. Sorcha took the opportunity to view the murals on the ancient and crumbling walls while Solas examined the elven sphere. With a touch of his hand, the globe activated and the cavern filled with green light and a soft hum.

"There," Solas said with a satisfied smile as Sorcha glanced back. "That should help strengthen the Veil.  There should be no further trouble from demons in this area.” She nodded to him in satisfaction.

“Then let’s head back, it will be dark soon.” Sorcha couldn’t keep her mind from wandering, and she was eager to just settle down with a good book and lose herself in the beauty of its words before waking the next morning just to face another day of trials and tribulations.  Solas bowed his head and fell in step behind her as they began to climb the stairs up out of the temple chamber.  The duo reached the doorway and walked out into the warm glow of a Hinterlands evening.  

The walk back to the camp was done mostly in silence.  She was thankful that Solas seemed satisfied with his earlier attempt at small talk, and reverted back to his quiet self.  She was not feeling up for conversation; her mind kept wandering back to her younger self, releasing memories that she had worked hard to imprison.  She had been brazen and uncouth and unrepentant.  She clenched her jaw at the memory of her exile to Hercinia, and how easy it was to attach herself to the most destructive being there--Sebastian Vael.

She glanced sidelong to Solas and caught him regarding her with curiosity in his eyes.  Then he simply turned his attention back to the road ahead, without a single word.  She was left in peace to ruminate over her life and all of the years that she had spent fighting.  With Sebastian, she once felt like she was home, and that he was her destiny.  Until he left her without even a goodbye.  Then she had to fight on her own, survive on her own.  If Cassandra had not found her when she did, she would have died all alone.  She fought back the rising emotions that were clawing their way out of her chest.  There was a time when she thought that her place was by the Prince’s side, but that time had passed. Cassandra had helped her find her purpose, and an outlet for her anger and pain.  She would still fight, but now it was for the people, as a Seeker of Truth.

They arrived back at camp as dusk was pressing into darkness.  Sorcha took her spot on the ground at the fire, and with a book in her hand, propped herself up with one arm and stretched out with her legs beside her.  She managed only a few pages of reading before she felt like she was being watched.  She glanced up to see Sebastian staring at her from across the amber flames.  Her brow furrowed in annoyance, and he just smiled softly before looking away.  He put his hands on his thighs, pushed himself to standing, and looked at her once more.  She could see his brilliant blue eyes this time-- they were thoughtful, but sad.  His gaze lingered a moment and he dipped his head in a small bow before turning on his heel and retiring to his tent. Confident that she would not suffer any more interruptions, she lowered her eyes and searched for her placemarker in the pages of her book.

 


 

 

He slipped into the Fade that night like he had a million times before, feeling the cool sensation of its tingle as it enveloped him.  While standing still in the undulating green glow of the raw Fade, he sent forth tendrils of his magic to seek her out.  He closed his eyes, and drew a deep breath, concentrating on finding some indication of the Herald’s dream.  It was a technique that he had used in the past, always to learn and gain knowledge.  He did not often toy with the dreams of another, but there was opportunity now, and an invitation.

He turned, sensing a hardness or severity that felt like her, and began to walk.  The Fade billowed around his legs with each step, and ribbons of iridescence rose from the ground and danced around his body.

The Fade began to shift. He could see the transparent beginnings of a stable taking shape around him.  The foundation of stone and mortar rose and grew into walls of oak and moss.  A roof of pine and thatch materialized over his head.  He watched the wooden stalls form from the emptiness.  The scent of straw and wood shavings emanated from beneath his feet, and he could hear the soft nicker of a horse from behind him.   

He turned to find Sorcha, holding pieces of apple in her opened hand while she lovingly petted her horse’s neck with the other.  After he picked up a handful of straw, he stepped over to the horse and joined Sorcha in grooming her.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she said softly upon his approach.  He offered her a small and gentle smile.

“So you come to groom horses?”

“Being with Lumé helps to calm me.  You got me thinking earlier, about the past,” she replied, as she brushed the dust from the dark horse’s hind quarters.

“Perhaps talking will help,” he offered.  In silence, she cast a forlorn gaze to the stable floor and absentmindedly ran her hand along her horse’s neck.  She remained quiet a few moments longer and he thought that she may stay that way, but then she lifted her eyes and found his.

“My time in Hercinia… it… it changed everything.”

He felt the hairs on his body stand on end as the Fade began to change around them.  The stable faded away and a courtyard appeared in its place.  He focused on the new images forming from her dreaming mind.  Ahead of them, a Chantry appeared; its grey stone walls were covered with ivy and its spires stretched into the sky.  A field-stone path materialized beneath their feet, and outbuildings formed with them.  This place was unknown to him, so he tilted his head to glance at her reaction.  The corners of her lips were curled downward and her eyes were narrowed into an icy glare.  Such disdain meant that this could only be one place… Hercinia.  He lifted his hand and gently placed it on her shoulder.  She jerked slightly, having been jolted from her daze.  She regarded the Chantry for a moment and then turned her face upward to look at him, her expression was one of shock and confusion.  She stared at him like she had just realized that he was there.

“How did I get to Hercinia?  Why are you here?” Her voice was becoming panicked.  “Solas, what’s going on?”  He gave her a comforting smile.  Reactions such as hers were common.

“This place holds meaning for you,” he replied.  “Come, walk with me, and I will explain more.”

She stared at him suspiciously for a moment before nodding her head and stepping away from him.  He walked alongside her down the path out of the courtyard and past the Chantry proper.  He watched as the Fade transformed into a shimmering garden, with a large reflection pool in the center.

“I’ve dreamed in temples and ancient ruins, and battlefields lost to time.  But this is unfamiliar.  Tell me of this place, Herald.”

She sighed as her gaze flitted across the meticulously kept greenery.  “These are the Chantry gardens.  I used to sneak through here most nights, keeping to the shadows as I moved.”  He watched as her expression became increasingly forlorn.

“What drove you to the shadows?” he asked.  He had a feeling that it had something to do with the Prince, but he had no confirmation.  By guiding her through her dream, perhaps he would be able to glean the truth, without having to blatantly ask.  Sorcha just looked at him with mirthless eyes, and walked away.  He followed her across the garden to another small, stone structure.  Beside it was the practice yard.  She stepped slowly to the wooden railing and lifted her arms over the beam as she leaned on it, staring out at the mannequins.

“I met him on my first day here.  I felt my whole world change the moment I looked into his eyes.”  A silent tear rolled down her cheek at her wistful confession, and she made no move to wipe it away.

“The Prince of Starkhaven?”

She nodded slowly, her eyes never leaving the field.  He leaned on his staff and tilted his head.

“You two became very… close?”

She nodded again as the practice yard faded from view and was replaced by a breathtaking night sky.  He looked down to find himself standing on the wooden shingled roof of a stone building which had clearly fallen into disuse.  He turned to find Sorcha sitting cross-legged on a mound of brightly colored pillows, staring up into the sky.

“He was everything,” she managed in a voice so pained that it was barely above a whisper.  She exhaled a long breath and looked up at him.  “What is going on, Solas?”

“You are dreaming, Herald.”  He watched for her reaction, already knowing what her next words would entail.

“So… why are you here, and why are we having this conversation?”  Anger seeped from her voice, and he could feel her bristling with frustrated energy.  Again, he offered a comforting smile.

“I am here to help you, to guide you, if you would.” He moved to sit next to her, lowering himself onto a free pillow. He met her uncertain gaze with one of calming reassurance. “Pardon my presence. I strayed from the path and found myself here.” She turned away from him and looked back up to the stars. Solas glanced away, choosing his next words carefully.

“You carry a tension in the waking world, an old hurt of injuries from long ago. In your mind, you know the old hurts linger. Emotions, desires...these things all shape the Fade about us. It was the path you made that led me here, Herald. Perhaps, seeing as I am here already, I might help you find some peace.” Sorcha cast him a sidelong glance before nodding slowly.

“What was the cause of your… separation… from him?”

She unfurled her legs and pushed herself to her feet.  He rose to his as well, and as he felt the familiar tingle of the Fade taking shape he saw the appearance of sandstone walls dimly lit by a few meager torches.  The floor beneath his feet was sticky, and a moment later he could see why.  He was standing in a pool of blood, which covered an obscenely large area.  He looked to Sorcha, who was sitting against the wall with her knees pulled to her chest, rocking back and forth as she stared out across the bloody stone.

“We almost died here.  Both of us.  I was taken by a deranged Templar who tortured me for hours before Sebastian showed up.  Then Sebastian was attacked by a mage and captured as well.”  Her hazel eyes glistened with unshed tears which clung to her lashes.  “The sadistic fuck made him watch as he cut my throat.”  The tears that had gathered in her eyes began to roll heavily down her cheeks.  “As I lay there bleeding, I saw an arrow fly into his chest.  We were watching each other die.”  Her voice hitched as she tried to keep herself from sobbing.  

A soft skittering of tiny claws across the stone drew his attention to a small fox which ran from the shadows out of the cave entrance and into emptiness.  He raised his eyebrow and turned back to Sorcha.

“Then how is it that you both survived?”  He regarded her as she sat against the wall, unmoving.  He did not feel that she was nearing waking, but he hoped that he would be able to learn more.  He was relieved to see the room around them change from the cave chamber to that of another building.  Empty cots lined the walls of each room, and the scent of herbs lingered in the air.  He could tell that they were now in an infirmary.

“A Templar named Ser Emeric took some men and followed after Sebastian.  They tracked him to the cave and, thankfully for us, created a commotion during the rescue.”  She stilled in the middle of the room, and had her back to him.  Her fists clenched and he could see her arms shaking from the tension.    “Our would-be murderers,” she continued, “were startled and the Templar’s blade to cut too shallow to completely sever my artery.  The archer who shot Sebastian missed his heart by a sliver.  Emeric had healers along, and they found us just before all life was gone.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the quick movement of the same fox from the cave.  The hairs on his body stiffened again, and he could feel that same familiar cool tingling of a person’s dream.  Just outside of the room that he and Sorcha were standing in, the billowing green glow shimmered like crystals in the sunlight.  The light caught Sorcha’s attention, and she looked over her shoulder to find the source.  Her eyes opened wide and with slow, cautious steps, she moved toward the shimmering barrier.  Her head snapped back to him, and she had that same anger dripping from her voice and that same icy glare as earlier in her dream.

“Why is he here?” she hissed, turning back to watch Sebastian praying over a bed in the infirmary.  He smiled slightly, pleased that the Prince’s dream would be located so near hers, making it much easier to bring her into it without having to search.

“Perhaps,” he said softly, “it is because he belongs here.”  She looked back at him with her brows furrowed and her lips pursed.  She glared at him a moment before shifting her attention back to watching Sebastian.

“Part of finding peace, Herald, is facing what troubles you,” he continued.  He raised his hand to the shimmering light and it flashed brightly before fading to near transparency. “Perhaps now is the time?”

He leaned on this staff as he watched her take a deep breath, and with a look of determination set on her face, step through the barrier and into Sebastian’s dream.

The wall of the Prince’s dream returned to its original state, and he watched as Sorcha walked up to the distraught-looking, dark haired man.  A small smile touched his lips as he focused his mind on the other presence in the dream with him.

“I know that you are there,” he said plainly, his gaze unmoving.

The air around him became heavier. The skittering of paws became the scratching of claws.

“What purpose does the Fadewalker have to be inside these dreams?” Envy growled as it emerged from the shadows.

“My business is my own, spirit. Now begone,” he replied flatly.  He was curious as to why the spirit appeared, but he would not indulge Envy by engaging it in conversation this day.

The demon laughed a darkly gleeful laugh.  “Yes, they will show me much, as your presence has just confirmed, Fadewalker!”  It cackled before flickering and disappearing completely.

Solas stepped closer to Sebastian’s dream and leaned on his staff again as he watched through the barrier.  A sly smile stretched across his face, as he agreed with what Envy had said.  They would show him much.

 


    

Sorcha felt a cool tingle across her skin as she stepped through the shimmering iridescence across the threshold of Sebastian’s dream.  The stark, stone walls were lined with cots, all empty, save for one.  Before her was the Prince of Starkhaven, wearing only linen trousers, and his shoulder was bandaged and wrapped tightly to his torso.  He was kneeling in prayer next to the occupied bed; his body heaved as he wept, and she could hear the desperation in his voice as he fervently prayed to Andraste.

With cautious steps, she drew up beside him, curious about who he was hurting for.  She brought her hand up to her quivering lips, and a strong and sudden pain ripped through her stomach when her eyes fell upon the unmoving body.  Lying on the bed, wrapped in blood-soaked linen bandages, was an image of herself.  

Hesitantly, she turned her gaze to Sebastian.  He was clasping her hand within both of his, holding it to his lips as he wept.  He opened his eyes and Sorcha could see the pain of a man dispirited and demolished.  She watched as he shifted one hand to her face, and softly stroked her forehead and cheek with trembling fingers.

“Fight, Sorcha,” she heard him whisper in a weak and wavering voice. “Come back to me, my darling.”

She choked back a sob as her heart shattered again; until now, she had not known the depth of his pain, only her own.   

She watched as he leaned forward, a grimace of pain on his tear-streaked face, and laid his head upon her pillow.  He continued to pray in hushed whispers as he closed his eyes and nuzzled her ear.

She reached out for him with an unsteady hand.

“The Prince is unaware of our presence here, Herald.”  She was startled by Solas’ voice behind her.  She snapped her head around and considered the mage for a moment.  His gaze met hers; it was firm, but compassionate, as if he knew what it was she would be encountering here.  She then shifted her attention back to Sebastian before she heard Solas continue.  “For the moment, he can neither see nor hear us.”

She withdrew her shaking hand and slowly wiped hot tears from her own cheeks, as she choked down fifteen years’ worth of ire and angst with a hard swallow.

“Can you change that?” Solas was watching her when she glanced back again.  She noticed his eyes draw along her height, as seeming to weigh her request.  He regarded her a moment before finally bowing his head slightly.

“Yes.”  With a single step, he drew alongside her.  His eyes shifted between her and the Prince before he lifted his hand, slightly aglow with his magic.

“Wait!” With expeditious reflexes, her hand shot out and grabbed his wrist before he could cast.  “Wait, please.  I… I… don’t think I’m ready yet.”  She looked up at him and his reassuring gaze helped her to ease slightly.

“Very well, I shall wait.”  He offered her a small smile.  “I am sure that there is much that you can learn merely from observing.”

She turned and sat on the edge of the bed, watching Sebastian’s thumb caress the back of her hand as he whispered into her ear.  She absentmindedly mirrored the motion with her own hand, her own thumb, as if it were her he were touching, not some shade or dream Sorcha.  Through teary eyes, she watched as Sebastian lifted himself up and with quivering lips, placed a tender kiss upon her forehead.  She felt herself smile slightly before she felt the hair on her body stand on end.  Rising to her feet, she glanced around to find that the room was changing, but only slightly.

The cot where she laid remained, but Sebastian faded from view, only to reappear wearing his leathers, and looking to be healed from his wounds.  He was seated in a wooden chair next to the head of the bed, reading aloud to her.  Sorcha scowled as Elthina materialized.

“How long before your enemies hurt her again to get to you, Sebastian? Or attack you to get to her?” she heard the woman say to him.  Sebastian rose to his feet and glowered at the Grand Cleric.

“Are you suggesting what I think you are, Your Grace?”  

“How much do you love her, Sebastian?  What is her life worth to you?”  Sorcha felt her flesh prickle with the heat of a rage she had thought long contained.  Her eyes darted between Sebastian and the woman.  His eyes lowered and moved to her resting body.

“I love her with all that I am,” she heard him say, “and her life is worth more than mine could ever be.”  Tears stung her eyes at the sound of those words leaving his lips.  He had never told her that he loved her.  Now her heart was racing and shattering at the same time.

“Then look at her—really look at her.  Look at what loving you has already cost her.”  Sorcha’s head whipped around and she stared, unable to comprehend the words. Elthina’s mouth moved, but the words seemed disconnected, like it was someone else saying it. But...no… Sorcha could feel blood pounding in her ears.  “You must leave her, Sebastian.  Let her live.”

To Sorcha, it felt like everything around her--that time itself--had stopped.  Her jaw dropped and she stared incredulously at the scene playing out before her.  After all her words of consoling, all her excuses, the Grand Cleric herself had pushed him to leave her.  She had been angry at him for something that he was manipulated into doing.  How would she move past fifteen years of contempt?

She had hated him. She had hated the entire idea of him. And she had hated herself. But she had loved him. Of course she had. How could she not? An entire lifetime of being told she was a disappointment, and then a single shining light, one man who had made her feel wanted and needed and loved. And then he had just gone, as if to say you are worth nothing. Because that had been the truth, had it not? She was worth nothing. Even the Chantry Sisters had agreed, calling her the Prince’s Whore like she had brought it upon herself. Perhaps in a way she had.

Or so she had believed. She had risen above that. She had become a Seeker because it gave her the chance to make something worthy of the shattered remnants of a life, to prove herself someone worth respect, friendship. Love.

She had hated him, but his betrayal had led to a way forward. A chance to fix what was wrong. And now…?

He had been forced from her. He had never turned. Those final days, hours, moments at her bedside--moments she had never been allowed to experience before--had been laced with pure and honest love. And you did not love someone who was not worthy. But she had turned from him in her anger and pain. She had been the unfaithful one.

Unworthy of love. Was her whole life founded on that single lie? She felt raw. She felt angry. She did not even know what to make of herself anymore. And if she did not know, how could anyone know what to make of her?

Tears rolled down her cheeks, and dripped onto her chest, leaving darkened smatters on her vest.  She saw Elthina turn and, before walking away, said, “You know what you need to do.”  Sebastian sank back into the chair, hung his head, and wept.

She had never felt the need to hold him as tightly as she did at that moment.  Before she could go to him, she felt the energy shift again.  Sebastian faded and reappeared in his travelling leathers.  His young face seemed to have aged by a decade, and his eyes were swollen from crying.  She bit her lip as he leaned down to speak to her.

“I love you, Sorcha.” She wept openly now, the ugly kind of crying one does when the pain is unbearable.  She tried to soften her sobs so she could listen to him over the sound of her own whimpering.  “With all that I am, I love you.” she heard him say. “I swore to Andraste that I would do that which needed to be done to protect you, for now and for always, until my final breath.  Forgive me, my love, please forgive me.”

She watched him place a gentle, lingering kiss on her lips, before pulling away and wiping his tears from her face.

“Goodbye, my love…”

Anguished, she dropped to her knees as he turned and walked from her side.  She grazed her lips gently with her fingers, like she was trying to feel his kiss again. A sob escaped her. She clapped her hand to her mouth to stifle the rest that spilled forth. Hot tears streamed down her cheeks.  She buried her face in her hands. And then she felt the energy shift again. She jolted from her daze and looked around, not immediately recognizing her surroundings.  She shakily forced herself to her feet, and wiped her tears with gloved hands.  A hand rested softly on her shoulder, she turned to see Solas looking down at her, and his gaze comforted her slightly.

“The path to peace is quite often paved with our pain, Herald.”

She lowered her eyes and turned her attention to the new surroundings.  Beneath her feet were sticky floorboards.  Around her rose walls of sandstone and supports of gnarled wood.  Tables and chairs appeared, as well as a bar in the corner.  The place was starting to seem familiar to her, but she still could not place it.  She heard Varric’s infectious laugh carry from across the room.  She followed the source of the laughter back to a gambling table.  Around the stained wood sat the dwarf, the pretty ship captain who granted her passage, and another image of herself.

Sorcha froze, staring, and her eyes clouded a moment with tears and weariness. The her that sat at the table with Varric and the ship captain was not the Sorcha she remembered from those days. Instead, she seemed to shine. She had a broad smirk as she laid down her cards triumphantly. Her eyes were dazzling in the dim lighting. She wore the same grey hood, a green scarf that hid the scars, simple fabric that just made her seem more honest and true. The angles of her face held a confidence Sorcha herself had not felt in years.

Sorcha caught her lower lip between her teeth and gave a soft gasp, tears blurring her vision.

Is that how he sees me? she thought. Is that what he saw? The truth of it broke her heart.

“Where are we now?” came Solas’ patient voice from behind her shoulder. Sorcha bowed her head a moment to push away the tears, then glanced back.

“This is The Hanged Man,” she said aloud.  A moment later, he materialized, shimmering into existence wearing tight leather trousers, his white Starkhaven leathers, and an optimistic expression on his youthful face.  He held lilies in his hand and he was making his way toward her with determined strides.  He suddenly stopped, and his expression changed from bright-eyed and hopeful to dark and dejected.  She followed his gaze and noticed that his face fell when he looked at her.  She watched as he underwent some internal struggle. Then he abruptly turned on his heel, forcing his way back through the door of the tavern with his shoulder and out into the daylight of Lowtown.

She followed. She found him with his back to the sandstone wall beside the door under the mural of the hanging man painted in garish colors.

“Damn fool,” he spat, and tossed the lilies to the ground. His foot ground the petals into the pavement. And then he seemed to realize what he was doing, and a tormented look caught at the corners of his eyes and in his snarl. “You are not worthy of her…” he told himself. He ripped his gaze from the lilies and stepped over them, shoving his thumbs into his belt and hunching his shoulders, making his way up the street.

Sorcha slowly bent to touch the battered flowers ground into the earth.

The Fade blurred, then started to reform again, and she looked around at the vaulted stone chamber with its red tapestries. The Kirkwall Chantry.

She and Solas walked along the hallway until they came upon Sebastian in his Chantry robes, helping a weakened messenger to his feet.

“My lord,” the messenger panted as he handed the Prince a sealed missive. “Your family, my lord, were attacked. I’m so sorry, my lord, but none survived. You are the last.”

It felt like a knife in the heart. Sorcha covered her mouth with gloved hands, struggling for the breath that she had so suddenly lost. His parents. His brothers. Gone. How could she not have known?

Her eyes misted with emotion as Sebastian dropped to his knees in his grief. And then she let her hand fall to her side, clenching it into a fist, gritting her teeth.

She turned to Solas, whose attention seemed to be directed at the shadows of a dark corner.

“Solas, I… I think I need to go to him.”

The mage turned his attention back to her, and with a slight nod, he replied, “As you wish, Herald.”  He lifted his hand.

Before he could cast, however, the Fade bristled with change yet again. They found themselves under a night sky, dancing with the light of a thousand stars. She was seated on brightly colored pillows scattered across wooden shingles. And there, right in front of her, close enough she could touch, was Sebastian.

His knees were pulled up to his chest, skinned with tight black trousers. His arms in deep blue tunic sleeves were crossed atop his knees, and he was staring up at the stars with such an expression of longing and desolation it hurt to even look at him. She watched as the Prince exhaled a long, slow breath into the night, then shook his head a little before burying it in his arms.  Then she drew a shaking breath of her own, aware she had forgotten to breathe.

A single tear slipped hot and heavy from the corner of her eye and slid down her cheek. She reached out a hand, careful and uncertain, as if she might touch his arm.

She then drew another breath and actually did.

The dream about them seemed to shimmer with a silver glaze at the point they touched, rippling outward until the air felt lighter, the stars brighter; the room more solid, more real.

Sebastian looked up sharply. There were no words. The scent of him hung in the air, lavender and spice, and she swallowed hard the lump that had caught in her throat as another hot tear slipped out. She met his piercing eyes.

Her trembling fingers slipped up to his face, over his bearded cheeks, the other arm rising to do the same on the other side.  She gasped a soft sob.

“Sebastian…” There were fifteen years of sorrow and regret in his name alone. She felt the weight of it go free. He unfurled, rising instead onto his knees and gathering her into his arms, his hands running up into her hair as he held her gaze. His eyes shone with tears. Her own blurred with them.

She pushed up to her own knees, catching his mouth in hers. It was soft, like an embrace, and warm like mulled wine. His arms came about her, slipping down her back, and she arched against them.  She pressed herself closer, her body ached for the touch that she had forced herself to forget.  His kiss was lingering fire, burning down her defenses.  Maker, she had been so ignorant...   

She felt the energy begin to change again.  She pulled back, tears on her cheeks, and shook her head defiantly.

Everything shimmered with that silver glaze, and then he was gone, leaving her kneeling, panting, eyes aching from too many tears, heart in little pieces all about her. She closed her eyes a moment, hanging her head, and let the tears of the last fifteen years fall free. Her gaze slipped sidelong to where Solas was standing, leaning on his staff, watching her with an unfathomable stare.

“Solas - ” she whispered though hitched breaths.

“I think,” he told her very quietly, “it is time.”

“For what?” she asked him, reaching to push herself up from her knees. As she did so, the world swam a little, grew darker, and the last thing she heard was Solas’ voice across a long distance.

“To wake up.”

 


 

 

She bolted upright in her cot; her heart was racing and she had a remarkable headache.  Her face felt cold, and she brought her shaking hands to her cheeks, finding them wet with tears.  With a sigh she laid back down and curled up under her heavy blanket to make herself small.  Her mind was a whirlwind, all sense of calm lost in the memories of the dream.  She stared at the walls of her tent, and her eyes grewdry from forgetting to blink.  

The campfire burned on, casting its glow upon the front of her tent.  Her gaze was eventually drawn toward the light, and she stared at the flickering of the fire until her eyes burned.  A shadow slowly made its way across the front of her tent, and paused as it reached the entrance.

She could see the silhouette of Sebastian’s hair, tousled from sleep.  He had his blanket over his shoulders, and she watched him as he stood there, unmoving.  What was he doing?  Would he enter?  Surely he remembered her being in his dream.  Would he think that she would run into his arms?  She bit her lip with that thought.  Her heart had been broken, and she knew now that his was as well, but that did not mean that they would pick up where they left off all those years ago.

He raised his hand, and she could see the canvas give slightly under the pressure of his touch.  He ran his fingers down her tent wall, and she watched as his arm fell back at his side.  He turned away and took a step, but stopped and turned back.

“Sorcha,” he said softly, “are… are you awake?”   

Her heart was racing and she was losing her breath, debating on whether or not to answer.  And then she remembered his dream.  His pain.  His loss.  She remembered her regret and her ignorance, and she made a decision.  A deep breath filled her lungs and then she exhaled sharply.

“Yes, Sebastian.”

She saw him straighten at her reply.  He then leaned closer to her tent wall. Closer to her. Why?

“Is everything… alright?” he continued, his voicelow and melodic.  “I could hear you crying.”

She began to panic.  She had been angry for so long, she did not know how to not be any longer.  Her heart raced and all she wanted to do was run out of her tent and off into the darkness, away from the emotions which betrayed her.  But unfortunately for her, what she wanted and what she needed were two different things.  She wanted to fight, to push him away, but she needed peace.  She calmed her breath and steeled her nerve.

“I’m fine.  It was just… a bad dream.  But I’m okay.”

She saw him linger, seeming uncertain of what to do next.

“Alright,” he said.  “Goodnight, Sorcha.”  He turned to leave, and she listened to his retreating steps. He had come to check on her, drawn himself from the warmth of his own bed. Because she was worth the effort. Because she was...worthy.

“Sebastian?” she called out to him, just before his shadow disappeared.  He stopped and turned his head to listen, but did not step back to her tent.  

She smiled slightly in the darkness, thankful no one was there to see it.

“Thank you.”






 

Chapter Text

Leliana,

 We are leaving the Hinterlands camp shortly, and should be home by the end of the week.  We will debrief upon my return.

 On a personal note, I am so overwhelmed by these thoughts that I keep having.  Memories of his laugh and his smile and his touch-- Maker, his touch-- keep invading my mind.  I have no guard against them, and even in the deepest of sleep they haunt me.  I dream of him, of us, and it hurts.  And to make it worse, I know that he dreams of me, too.  Our hedge mage found his way into my dreams, and guided me through the Fade and into Sebastian’s.  I saw everything, Leli.  I saw Elthina convince him to leave, and I felt the pain of his heart shatter as he walked away.  Maker, how could I have been so ignorant?  I wouldn’t give him a moment of my time, and all that he wanted was the chance to explain.  I feel… lost.  What do I do?  How do I turn it all off?  

 Wine.  A lot of wine.  And my friends.  See you in a few days.

Sorcha

ps- Please have Josephine move Sebastian to more comfortable, and… permanent quarters.

Sorcha blew the blotting dust from her last report and pressed her signet ring into the wax.  She considered it a while as it cooled and hardened, gazing at the flaming sword and all-seeing eye imprinted into the malleable crimson seal. The Breach, the war, being named the Herald of Andraste, even this business with Sebastian; it all still seemed so unreal.

Thinking about Sebastian and their altered relationship gave her a headache. Her anger had been a driving force in her life, a source of strength and resolve.  It drove her forward, and fueled her determination. That crutch had been kicked out from under her, and now she was struggling. The impact of reliving that anger being born, and seeing everything again in Sebastian’s dreams, had left her floundering.  She was being dragged under the murky waters of the life she had tried to leave behind. Now she could barely keep her head up, barely breathe, never mind find a shore to reach for.  And now she knew that Sebastian had been drowning, too.

That thought hurt. The implications of all these new feelings in the face of fifteen years of upset were enough to make her headache worse. Everything beat down on her, a thousand different responsibilities, the weight of too many lives, least of all her own. At the moment, there was nothing that she wished for more than a night away from everything, with her friends and a lot of alcohol. Even Seekers needed to unwind every once in awhile.

A shadow crossed over the table, and Sorcha glanced up from her sealed letters to see the raven handler standing between her and the light. With a quick smile, she gathered her reports and turned her attention fully to the scout before her.

“Good morning, Fowler. How is the Baron today?”

Fowler’s brow furrowed with exasperation.  “Oh, he’s just plucky.  Missed my fingers this morning, but he got Gilder’s pinky.”  She sighed and shook her head.  “I swear that bird is a demon.”

Sorcha chuckled as she rose from her seat.  “Sister Nightingale should outfit you with armored gloves.”  She handed Fowler the missive with a guilty smirk.  “Please see to it that the Baron carries this report for Sister Nightingale.  It needs it to fly directly to her.”

“As you wish, Herald.  I shall get Gilder to attach it immediately.”  Fowler assured her, and saluted before marching over to the cages.  

Sorcha chuckled, watching as Fowler relinquished the missives into Gilder’s hands, who then took one look at the addressee and vehemently shook his head in refusal.  His tone changed, however, when Fowler pointed back to her. His eyes followed Fowler’s finger directly to Sorcha, then he sighed, snatched the reports from Fowler’s hands, and rolled it into a transport canister. The look of dread on Gilder’s face as he gingerly reached for the Baron’s wicker cage was priceless, as was his struggle to catch the creature and attach the canister to the ornery raven’s leg without sustaining further injuries.

As amusing as it was to watch the junior scouts try to handle Leliana’s birds, Sorcha did not have the time to linger for further entertainment. She snapped closed the case that held her writing supplies.  Lume was already packed and saddled with her belongings, so she tucked the case into one of the saddlebags as her companions were mounted up and ready to depart. Eager to avoid being the last one, she hauled herself up into the saddle and reined her horse around. Sorcha chanced a final glance to Fowler and Gilder, the latter of whom was still battling with the Baron.

“Fowler!” she laughed.  The woman turned back from the flapping bird and a flailing Gilder.  “Try some cheese, it’s his favorite!” As the scout hurried off to find the Baron’s favorite treat, Sorcha set her eyes forward and urged Lumé forward into step with Cassandra at the fore of the group. Before they began their journey in earnest, Sebastian pulled in on her other side.

He met her gaze and smiled gently, like a silent request for permission to remain next to her. She looked away, stopping herself from looking into his brilliant, blue eyes. She was afraid of losing herself in their depths. Part of her wanted to turn away from him and ride ahead, run away, and hide, but then she was reminded of the image of herself from his dream.  That Sorcha had been strong, and radiated confidence.  That was how he saw her, and part of her was determined to make that vision a reality. She would not be a slave to her fear. She would not be a coward. So she met his eyes, and then, perhaps bravely, she smiled.



It was late afternoon when they reached Haven’s outer gates, and the grooms were waiting at the stables to take their horses. The waning sun was painting the sky with ribbons of magenta and gold, and the pillars of smoke from Haven’s chimneys were lined with violet. A chill was settling in the air, and the horses’ breath came from their muzzles as white puffs. Sorcha swung herself down from Lumé and handed the reins over, wincing at her aching hips as she stretched the saddle stiffness from her joints.

“Tell my advisors that we will convene in the war room in one hour,” she told the nearest scout, who threw a quick salute before hurrying off up towards the Chantry. Sorcha followed the stablehands to retrieve her pack, which she swung onto her shoulder with a low groan at the stiffness in the joint resulting from the long day’s travel. She gathered her sword and shield with her other hand, holding both limply, and then began the long trudge to her cabin. She must have seemed absolutely exhausted, because she had only made it to the inner gates before someone took pity on her and she felt the weight lift from her shoulder. Startled, she twisted back in time to see Sebastian’s warm smile.

“Please,” he said in a velvet brogue, “allow me.” He slipped the pack onto his shoulder like it weighed nothing, and then proceeded up the steps through the gate. Sorcha pondered him a moment before sighing and taking a few longer strides to catch up, taking the steps two at a time.

“Thanks,” she said quietly as she fell in step with him. “It felt really heavy, all of a sudden.” His smile widened and his brilliant blue eyes shone like tourmalines in the evening sun. .

“I am more than happy to help carry the weight of your burdens, Sorcha.” His gaze lingered on hers, and she felt herself falling into those dazzling azure pools.  There was no deception in his handsome face or warm tone; she could tell that he meant every word. Then Sebastian paused, and Sorcha blinked, taking her bearings. Rather suddenly, she found herself at the steps of her wooden cabin without remembering much of the journey between the two. Sebastian was watching her with questioning eyes.

“Shall I carry this inside for you?” he asked. Something settled like a lump of iron in the pit of her stomach.  There was nothing in his voice but the genuine intent to assist her further.  She really had no reason to deny the request, but there was something about allowing him into her home, her personal space, that still sat uneasy with her.

“It’s alright, I can take it from here... thank you,” she replied curtly.  He raised a brow and glanced up at her as he leaned over to roll her pack from his broad shoulders and onto the ground near the door.  With a small bow of his head, he nodded and turned away.  He hadn’t gone more that a few steps when she spoke again.

“Sebastian?”

He stopped and turned his head to the side, training his ear to her voice but not looking at her directly.

“I’ll see you in the war room in one hour.”

His gaze slid sidelong to her then, twinkling, and a small smile played at the corner of his lips.

“As you wish,” he said, bowing deeply, and his eyes fixed on hers.  Her heart lurched at the warmth his handsome face exuded. And then he turned away, adjusting his own pack on his shoulder, and turning towards the steps to the Chantry. Sorcha watched him walk away, but this time there was no pain or malice in her heart as he retreated from her. With a shy smile, she hauled her pack up the last of the steps into the house.

She stayed home longer than she should have, appreciating the solitude of her little Haven house, and trying to quiet her mind. Because of this, she was the last to arrive to the war council that she had summoned.  Josephine and Leliana had their heads together over the pages fastened to Josephine’s clipboard. Cassandra was standing at the table with one arm held across her chest  Her other hand was at her face and her chin rested on her knuckles as she was giving the map a signature glare. Cullen, his hand settled on the hilt of his sword, looked a little perturbed. His gaze was following Sebastian Vael, who had taken her up on the offer to attend and was loitering with his arms loosely crossed at the far end of the room, picking through the map markers. He looked up when she entered though, bright eyes catching hers a moment, and Sorcha almost felt Cullen’s brow furrow from across the table.

Cullen stood straighter and tightened his hand around his hilt, before clearing his throat.

“Herald, while I mean no disrespect, I must ask.  Why is the Prince attending our meeting?”

Sorcha leaned forward, bracing herself with her hands atop the war table beside Cassandra, and considered her Commander.

“The Prince is our ally.  I have invited him to attend these meetings.  WIll that be a problem, Commander?”

Cullen’s hand twisted on the grip of his sword, and he leaned back on his heels.  His chin jutted out in defiance at first, but he lowered his head in a small nod.  “No, Herald.  I will welcome his input.”

Sorcha leaned back from the table, and folded her arms behind her back.

“To business, then,” she said, looking about at all the others. “Where do we stand regarding the mages and Templars? Any luck approaching either of them yet?”

“Neither group has openly conferred with us,” Josephine admitted, “but given our foothold in the Hinterlands, they can no longer deny our presence. That is something.”  Indeed it was. Sorcha gave the Ambassador a curt nod, relieved that their work in the Hinterlands not gone unnoticed.

“Then contact them,” she said simply. “SInce they can’t deny us, they’ll have to face us, and the sooner the better.”

“Of course,” Josephine said. A small smile touched her eyes. “I shall pen the requests at once.” She dipped her quill into her inkwell and for a moment there was only the noise of the quill scratching on the paper. Sorcha’s hazel eyes flickered to Cullen next.

“Commander, what do our troop numbers look like?” There was the shuffling of papers as Josephine went through her papers on her board and drew forth a folded report. Clearly the Ambassador was the one keeping everything organized. Cullen took it and unfolded it, before placing it atop the maps on the table, angling for Sorcha to see.

“The first contingent from Prince Vael’s militia arrived yesterday,” the Commander said as Sorcha bent to the paper. His gaze flickered to Sebastian, and he gave the Prince a courteous nod. “The volunteers and recruits from the Hinterlands have been filtering in for days now. As it stands, our numbers here at Haven have almost doubled.” Sorcha’s eyes slid up from the paper marking down recruit and agent names and general figures and evaluations of their manpower. She was just in time to catch a slightly proud smile on her Commander’s lips before it faded away. “We have,” he added, adjusting his stance, “had to make room for them all. I’ve arranged for the construction of new barracks. Everyone will assist with the building in shifts. If they’re not training, they’ll be working.”

The barest of smiles touched Sorcha’s lips.

“All work and no fun, Commander?” she asked softly, then straightened, tapping the paper before her. “It is good news, though. Thank you.” Her gaze slid to her spymaster who met it with a pensive stare, and Sorcha waited. Leliana considered a moment, then ventured her input.

“I have spoken with Mother Giselle, Herald,” she said. “She has provided us with the names of those who openly oppose us in the Chantry.  It would be beneficial to meet with these people in Val Royeaux before we meet with the mages and Templars.” There was merit in the idea. After all, the Chantry was at the heart of the conflict, and still remained the tie that bound the Templars to their duties and the mages to their Circles.

“I agree,” Sorcha added.  “We don’t need the weight of a broken Chantry on our backs while we’re fighting to gain allies.  Let’s arrange to leave for Val Royeaux the day after tomorrow.” With that decided, she glanced down the table towards Cassandra, who was still pondering the maps with one of her severe looks. “Is there anything else?”

“If I may, Herald?” She was startled to hear Sebastian’s voice calling for her attention. She had fallen into the rhythm of checking with her advisors and almost missed him entirely. She glanced over, and he was still standing with his arms loosely crossed at the end of the table. “My militia,” he told her, “contains a good many rangers. The increase in forces will no doubt be putting a strain on our food stores. With your permission, I might assign a few of them to hunt and forage in the area for food and medicinal herbs?” He had given her the option to say no, but the plan was commonsense. So she gave him a small smile.

“Thank you, Sebastian. That would be most helpful.” Not Prince Vael. Acknowledgement by name. It earned her a warm smile that crept across his lips, and he dipped his head to hide it, giving a small bow. Sorcha leaned back on her heels and smiled.  “As for tonight, you all have the night off.  Relax, unwind, do whatever you need to do to relieve some stress.  Maker knows you all carry enough.”  

At that moment, it seemed that the weight in the room had been lifted.  Everyone’s posture became more relaxed, and the mood became more casual. Even Cassandra stopped glaring at the map. Sorcha gave her an amused look, then grinned. “Ladies night in my cabin in one hour,” she announced for all three of the other women in the room. “Bring wine. Or brandy.” Her eyes settled on Cullen, and for his benefit she added, “Dismissed. Good work everyone.”

She watched her advisors while they filed out past her, as she remained leaning against the table. Sebastian gave her a small smirk that made something ache inside her a moment, then shook his head and drew past her. She took a step to follow him as they moved past and caught his soft chuckle.

“Maker, help us,” she heard him say as he fell in line with Cullen at the door.

“Do you know something I don’t?” the Commander replied, glancing to the Prince.

“Tell me, Commander.  What do you think would happen if you put two Seekers, a Spymaster and a diplomatic Ambassador together for a night with copious amounts of alcohol?” he said, and his glance back over his shoulder told her that he knew she was listening in.

A look of horror struck Cullen’s face.  He sighed and turned his eyes to the heavens.

“Maker, watch over us all…”

“I heard that, Commander!” Sorcha called, then shook her head with a small smile. Finally a chance to relax.


 

The fire that crackled in the small stone hearth kept her cabin comfortably warm.  Its amber tendrils cast the room in an ambient light, and the juniper branches emitted a fresh fragrance as they burned.  Sorcha leaned back in her chair, acutely aware that she had rarely felt as relaxed as she was at that moment.  She glanced at the women sitting around her table, and smiled contentedly.

The second bottle of wine sat nearly finished atop the wooden table, and she had just begun dealing out a hand of cards to Cassandra and Josephine when a knock came at her door.

“That must be Leliana,” Cassandra said casually, as her warm, dark eyes darted over her cards. “She’s always late to the party.”

“Orlesians are always late to the party, Lady Cassandra, one wouldn’t dare show up on time,” Josephine replied without lifting her eyes from the weathered cards in her hands. “It is very uncouth.”

“I just hope that she brought more alcohol,” Sorcha added.  A second round of fierce knocking almost brought her door down. “It’s open!” she yelled.

The door creaked as it swung open within its wooden frame.  The redhead stomped the snow from her thigh-high doeskin boots before stepping across the threshold.  She entered carrying a bottle of Antivan brandy in each gloved hand and a bottle of wine under each leather-clad arm.

“Maker, Leli!”  Sorcha gasped as she scampered around the table to help Leliana with her burden  “How did you manage the door with your hands so full?” She took the wine from the spymaster’s arms and set the bottles atop the table.

“Oh, I had some help,” she mused.  Sorcha turned her eyes back to the door to see a petite brunette enter.  Her hair was long and braided over her shoulder, and her eyes were the warm amber of Antivan brandy.  The woman closed the door behind her, shutting out the swirling snow, and walked up to Sorcha with an easy smile on her lips and yet another bottle of whiskey in her gloved hand.

“I hope that I’m not intruding,” she said in a honeyed voice, as she set the bottle on the table. She removed her gloves and held her hand out to Sorcha, “I am Bethany Rutherford.”  

Sorcha took her hand and immediately sensed the tingle of magic in the woman’s grasp.  Her energy felt calming, and Sorcha gave her a warm smile.  “It’s a pleasure to finally meet our good Commander’s wife.”  She relinquished her hold on the mage’s hand and offered her a drink.  “You are a healer,” she said as the brunette gently took the glass from her hand, “Is that how you met the Commander?”  She offered her guest a chair before she returned to her own seat.

Bethany sat on the chair’s tufted cushion and nodded before taking a sip of the sweet brandy.  She grimaced as she swallowed, but a smile quickly returned to her face.

“We met in the Kirkwall Circle. We had been acquainted with one another before I had been taken there, so he looked out for me.  Well, as much as he could, anyway.”

Sorcha took a long sip of her drink, and her eyes flickered over the mage’s face. “So you got preferential treatment?” she asked wryly. “Meredith had to have been unaware, otherwise neither of you would be here today.”

Bethany’s eyes darted to the floor for a moment, obviously uncomfortable at the mere mention of the deranged woman’s name.

“At first, my ‘preferential’ treatment was out of respect for my sister.  The rest came later.”  She smiled awkwardly as a blush crept over her cheeks, and finished the rest of her drink with a single swallow.

The dog-eared cards shuffled through Sorcha’s practiced hands as she dealt Bethany in for that round.

“Is this Diamondback?  It’s been years since I’ve played.  Varric taught me once but I was never very good at it,” Bethany chuckled as she picked up her cards.

Leliana winked at her. “It is, but don’t worry.  We don’t play for money, only secrets.”   

Sorcha glanced at her new acquaintance. “You’ve known Varric a while?  You don’t sound like a Kirkwaller.”

Bethany took a deep sip of her wine and fanned out her cards.  “I’m from Ferelden, originally.  My family and I left Lothering during the Blight.”

Sorcha nodded.  She had seen the Blight’s devastation during her travels, but she, herself, had been lucky enough to have avoided the worst of it.  She had been in Orlais and the Free Marches while Ferelden burned; only later did she see the Blighted aftermath.

She finished her wine in a single swallow and set the empty glass on the table.  After playing her first card, she reached for the brandy and filled her glass with the fragrant amber liquid.  The others around the table followed suit.

“So, Bethany, how is it that we didn’t meet each other until today?”

“I travel back and forth to Kirkwall.  Since my sister’s rapid departure, I’ve had to manage our estate.  Our friend Aveline helps me out with that, though; she keeps an eye on our property.  You were still in the Hinterlands when I returned.”

“Your sister’s… rapid departure?  Did something happen?”  Sorcha played her second card, and brought her glass to her lips, emptying half of it with one swallow.

Cassandra scoffed.  “The bomb in the Chantry happened.”  The Seeker played her card and tipped back the last of her wine.  She, too, reached for the brandy and filled her glass.

“Were you close to the fighting, Bethany?” Sorcha asked.  She was genuinely curious to hear a mage’s view.

Bethany nodded solemnly as she played her card.  “I fought alongside my sister.  And Cullen, too, when Meredith tried to kill everyone.”

Sorcha’s lips tightened into a small frown.  She wanted to hear more, but knew all too well how it felt to relive something tragic and painful.  Swallowing down the last of her brandy, she grinned as she tossed her card onto the pile.  The other women booed at her winning hand and flung the rest of their cards onto the table.

“It seems, ladies, that this round is mine.  Pay up!” Sorcha laughed as she pulled in the strewn cards.

“Alright, alright,” Josephine sighed.  She cast her eyes down to the table and a blush crept over her golden skin. “I have a doll collection.”

Sorcha nearly spit out her drink, and Cassandra nearly choked on hers.  Leliana giggled hysterically and Bethany just looked confused.

“Are we really playing for secrets?” the mage whispered to Leliana.  The rogue only nodded, unable to speak through her laughter.

Cassandra finished her drink and set the glass down with a huff.  “I’m addicted to one of Varric’s serials.”  Then she glared at everyone individually.  “If that ever leaves this room, I will hurt you all.”  She kept her gaze stern as she sat back in her chair, unwavering as she poured another drink.  Everyone stared at her incredulously for a moment before breaking out into fits of shrieking laughter.Cassandra just sat there, looking unimpressed. Once the laughter calmed, Leliana spoke up.

“I,” she began, “sniff all of my shoes regularly.”  She looked around the table and met everyone’s disbelieving stares.  “What?” she shrugged.  “I like the smell of the leather.”  The laughter that erupted from her unabashed confession was so loud and raucous, Sorcha was sure they could be heard in Antiva.  Through her tears, she could see her friends doubled over off the sides of their chairs, with their own tears streaming down their red faces.  This, she thought, was the stress relief she needed

“I gave the senechal numbing cream for his crotch rash rather than ointment.  On purpose.” Bethany spoke, and the rest of the women broke out into another fit of laughter. She blushed slightly with embarrassment, but felt a little better after downing the rest of her wine.  “In my defense, he was an dolt.  He was totally rude to my sister,” she added. “If Anders noticed the wrong jar missing, he didn’t say anything.”

Sorcha wiped the tears from her eyes, and choked down the last of her brandy.  She was about to pour another when a thought came to her.

“Wait,” she said to Bethany, “you don’t mean the Anders, do you?”

Bethany nodded.  “The one and only.”

She glanced down to the empty glass in her hands.  The wheels in her head were spinning.  Now everything was starting to fit together.  Bethany traveling to Kirkwall on family business, her sister’s unplanned departure, being closely acquainted with Anders… Her eyes snapped up once the connection was made.

“What was your maiden name?”

A small, knowing smile formed on Bethany’s lips.  “Hawke.”

Sorcha’s eyes grew wide with interest.  “So your sister…”

The brunette eyes lowered as she toyed with her empty glass on the wooden tabletop.  A moment later, she lifted her gaze to meet Sorcha’s.  “Is the Champion of Kirkwall.”

Sorcha stared at her for a time before snapping her head around to Cassandra.

“Cass!  You knew the Champion’s sister was here?  Weren’t you looking for…”

Cassandra interrupted her with a perfunctory wave and a sigh.  “Yes, I was.  It seems the Champion has hidden herself from her sister, as well.”

Sorcha looked back to Bethany with a raised brow and a sly grin.  “I imagine you have some really good stories.”

"That I do, Herald”  She tucked a rebellious strand of hair behind her ear.

Sorcha raised her glass to Bethany’s, and clinked them together.  “Call me Sorcha.”

 


 

A half dozen empty bottles sat atop the table and the reasonably full ones sat in the center of their circle.  The party had moved from the table to the cushions around the fire; a wise move, considering that they were all too inebriated to stay seated in a chair.

“Never have I ever…” Bethany began, “slept with a woman.”  Everyone shot back their brandy, except for Cassandra.

“Really, Lady Cassandra?” Josephine giggled.  “I had you pegged as an equal opportunist.”

Sorcha let out a belly laugh while Cassandra blushed slightly.  “I can admire beauty without having sex with it, Ambassador.” She poured everyone another drink while Josephine giggled into Leliana’s shoulder.

“Never have I ever…” Josephine said, “Had sex in a public place.”  Bethany, Leliana and Sorcha drank.

“Bethany?  Seriously?  You were in the Circle!”  Cassandra asked.  The brunette giggled.  

“After Cullen and I were married, and he was Knight-Commander.  We were having sex on his desk when we heard someone approaching the door.  I rolled off and hid under his desk, while he planted himself into his chair and pulled it under as far as possible so no one could see him bare-assed.”  She giggled as she continued.  “So while I was down there, I made use of him being out of his trousers.”

“You didn’t!” Leliana squealed.  Bethany nodded.

“He barely got the Templars to leave the office before he lost his resolve.  I could hear his voice hitch a few times as he issued orders.  I just wish I could have seen his face.”  Sorcha belly-laughed.  She would never look at their Commander the same way again.  Bethany poured another round.

“Never have I ever…” Bethany said, “Slept with two men at once.”  Everyone drank but Josephine.  Sorcha’s liquor sprayed from her mouth and onto the floor.

“Cass! What the fuck?”

Cassandra just shrugged at her friend.  “Remember Lewis and Adams?”

“No waaaaay!”  Sorcha’s jaw hung so low that it nearly hit the floor.  “Serault?”

The other Seeker grinned and nodded.  “Seekers need to unwind every once in a while, as well.”

Sorcha just shook her head, and feigned a sob.  “I thought I knew you, Cass.  And now you tell me that you’re a kinky sex fiend!”  She broke character and laughed at Cassandra’s expression.

“Oh hush, Sorcha,” she laughed dismissively, “that was long ago.  I’ve calmed with age.” She gave Sorcha a sly wink and refilled their glasses.

“Never have I ever…” Bethany began through her giggles, “Gone a long time without sex.”

“Wait,” Josephine interjected, “How long is a long time?”

The brunette shrugged.  “I don’t know. Two years?”  Everyone drank but Sorcha.

“Are you serious, Sorcha?”  Bethany asked incredulously.  “Nothing within the last two years?”

Sorcha nodded, and lifted her glass up near her lips.  “It’s been much, much longer than two years.”  She shot back her brandy.  Cassandra and Leliana looked at her tenderly, knowing full well it had been ages since she had last known the touch of a lover.

Bethany, genuinely curious, had to ask.  “How long has it been?  You are too beautiful to not have people clamoring for your affection!”

Sorcha looked down into her empty glass, her eyes fixed on the the light from the fire as it danced through the glittering vessel.

“Fifteen years.”  Her voice was soft and reflective, like it was leaving her to travel back into the past.

Leliana tilted her head questioningly.  Her brows furrowed and she pursed her lips.  “So, that means that your last was….”

Sorcha refilled her glass and nodded.  “Sebastian.”  

Josephine’s eyes widened in surprise at her confession, but very quickly softened into a sympathetic gaze.

Bethany turned to Leliana, and whispered at her ear,  “Do I know this man?  You all seem to.”

The redhead nodded.  “I should think that you would,” she replied.  “He spent time around your sister in Kirkwall.”

Bethany’s jaw dropped instantly, and she brought her hand up to cover her mouth.  She slowly turned to face Sorcha, who was still staring into her glass. She lowered her hand, but her eyes were still wide.

“It was you!  Maker’s balls, he meant you!”

Sorcha glanced up from her daze.  “What?”

The brunette clutched at her chest, covering her heart with her hand.  “This has to be the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard!” she cooed.  Sorcha raised a brow.

“Bethany.  You’re drunk.  Fifteen years of celibacy is not romantic.  It’s pathetic.”

Bethany shook her head vehemently.  “No! No, you don’t understand.  I know Sebastian Vael!  He was a friend of my sister’s in Kirkwall.”  She threw her head back and laughed.  “Maker, this all makes sense now!”  She looked back to Sorcha.  “You are the Sorcha!”

Sorcha exhaled in a long and drawn out sigh, then turned to Leliana.  “Care to help her make sense?”

Leliana chuckled softly and picked up a small cushion from behind her. She whomped the feathery implement against the mage’s head, tousling her hair.  “Start at the beginning, Beth.”

Bethany glared at Leliana as she smoothed back her disheveled mahogany locks.  Her chest rose with a deep breath and she turned back to Sorcha.

“Sebastian and my sister were friends.  They would call on one another’s help from time to time.  When he learned who had killed his family, he asked for Marian’s help in ‘confronting’ them.”  She looked around for a moment and took another deep breath.  “Now, I wasn’t with them, but she told me about it after she got home.  It seems, the Harimann’s hired mercenaries to kill the Vaels.  Sebastian, Marian, Anders and Isabela entered the Harimann estate and were ambushed by these mercs.  She said that Sebastian was about to fire on one when an arrow flew past his head.  She saw the look on his face, it was a rage so immeasurable.  He left them behind to fight without him while he ran off after whomever shot at him.”

Sorcha’s eyes had grown dry from forgetting to blink.  “And then?” she asked, leaning forward on her cushion.

Bethany finished her drink.  “Well, Marian said that when they caught up with him, he was kicking the shit out of a mercenary’s corpse.  He was growling, shouting, even hissing through his teeth.  He was saying, ‘This is for something,’ and then he’d kick it again, ‘This is for another thing,’ and then, she said, he wound up and kicked the corpse in the head, nearly knocking it from the body while saying, ‘That, was for Sorcha.’.  When my sister asked him who Sorcha was, he just turned from her and said, ‘Everything.’”

She smiled tenderly at Sorcha.  “He had meant you.”

She heard a sniffle from beside her, and she turned to see Cassandra wiping tears from her cheeks.  Her eyes were rimmed with red and her cheeks were glistening.  She turned and saw Sorcha watching her.  Her expression softened and her bottom lip quivered.

“Oh, Sorcha…” she sighed dreamily.  “How romantic!”

Pooling tears stung her eyes, and she looked around the quiet room, suddenly aware of the eyes on her.  This information was too much, just too much. Her mind was spinning from both the revelation and the alcohol.  Air. She needed air.

She rolled on to her knees and forced herself to her feet.  With unsteady strides, she walked to her bed and ripped the cover off, then staggered toward the door.

“Thanks for the fun, ladies,” she said as she grasped the handle, “but I need to clear my head.  I’ll be back later.”  And with that, she pulled open the wooden door and stepped out into the chilling darkness of the night.

 


 

The blowing snow swirled around her shaking legs as she shuffled past the gates.  They closed behind her with a loud bang, the movement causing the whirling snow to fly higher around her.  She shrugged deeper into the blanket wrapped around her shoulders, feeling her private tears sting her face in the biting wind.  The stable seemed so far away, a light in the distance, but she pushed herself toward it.

The door to the stable was heavy, and she swayed as she tried to force it open.  Finally, she shifted her weight to fall forward as she swayed, and the door swung open under her. Caught off balance, she toppled in head first  She crashed to the stable floor, unaware of how lucky she was that the unforgiving stone was covered in straw.  She laid there for a moment, her body only halfway over the threshold.  

The noise that she made as she fell startled the horses, and the commotion of them restlessly moving about and whickering their displeasure drew her foggy mind back to her position.  Sorcha rolled to her aching knees, forcing herself to her feet.  She stumbled again, and fell. This time she did not even try to find footing again.

She crawled along the aisle, on her hands and knees, until she came to Lumé’s boxstall, where she lost all balance again.  Sorcha reached up from the floor and felt for the door panel’s lock.  Fumbling with it, she finally slid it back and the door swung open. Breathlessly, she pushed herself to her knees and shuffled through the straw and into her horse’s stall.

The black mare lowered her head, and nuzzled at her mistress with a soft whinny.  Sorcha placed her trembling hand on Lumé’s soft muzzle, and cried anew.  She struggled for breath in between sobs, feeling herself becoming dizzy.  The room began to spin.  

She fell from her knees onto her hip and clawed her way through the clean straw to the corner of the stall.  Drawing on her strength, she pulled herself to sitting and backed herself against the rough wooden walls.  Sorcha threw her head back, hitting her skull against the wall.  The pain was sharp, short, and she did it again.  And again. She stopped once she could feel the pain in her head radiate to her teeth.  She leaned her head against the wall, and it lolled against its hardness. Her head hurt more that it ever had in recent memory, from the brandy, from the tears, and from the wall behind her. With shaking hands, she pulled her knees to her chest. She closed her eyes and dropped her head her knees, burying her face in her arms.

Why did everything have to hurt so much?  Why could she not just stay angry all of the time?  Why did Bethany have to tell her those things?  That was what hurt the most.  Knowing that while she was detesting him, Sebastian was still devoted to her.  

 Lumé’s soft nicker caught her attention.  She kept her head down, but she listened to the sound of the stall door opening wider, and of muffled footfalls approaching.  A blanket that smelled of brandy and straw was draped over her, and a warm body slid down the wall and sunk to the floor next to her.  A strong arm reached around her shoulders and pulled her close.  She caught his scent in between sobs.  Lavender and spice.  She slowly lifted her face from her tear-stained knees, and looked up at him.

Sebastian’s eyes were beacons in the storm,  They drew her in and she followed them home.  He lifted his hand and gently brushed her hair from her face.  A loving smile graced his handsome features, and she began to feel a sense of tranquility within her fractured soul.  Her bottom lip quivered with the emotions she had managed to choke back.  

Sebastian leaned in, and placed a lingering kiss to her forehead.  She closed her eyes at the sensation of his lips on her flesh.  After so many years, they still felt like heaven.  She could not take the pain anymore; the confusion. Why did his touch still feel like that?  Was that music within her soul? She had not known her spirit’s song since he last held her in his arms.  Maker, was she going insane?

When his lips pulled away she opened her eyes.  Through the blur of her tears, she could still see the love in his azure gaze.  It broke her.  She threw her arms around him, and he wrapped his more tightly around her, drawing her into his lap.  She buried her head into the crook of his neck and wept.

She cried until all energy left her, and the sweet oblivion of sleep beckoned to her. Maker, did she ever wish for its embrace.  Sebastian’s arms held her close, and she could feel his heartbeat against her chest. Safe. She smiled into him. Home. The darkness came and she did not fight it. She drifted off to sleep in his arms, like she had always been meant to do.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Sebastian’s heart was racing and soaring at the same time, thundering through space like a warhorse. Painful years of yearning-- for her smile, her laugh, her scent, her touch-- suddenly faded from existence, like they had never been.  Butterflies swarmed his stomach at the realization that Sorcha was indeed in his embrace, and he drew his arms tighter around her. Never again would he let her go. Never again, in this life or in the next, would he leave her. Not even the Maker himself, could drag him away.  He breathed deeply the familiar scent of her hair as he bent to place a kiss to the top of her head.  He closed his eyes as his chest filled with the sweet warmth of verbena and cloves. As he let the breath go, he turned his gaze to the heavens, and smiled gratefully.  

He knew that she had fallen asleep by the slow rhythm of her breaths.  Turning his head, he rested his temple atop her raven waves and closed his eyes.  A soft melody was sounding in the depths of his soul, peaceful and familiar.  He realized it to be the song he had sung to her fifteen years ago, as he held vigil by her bedside.  He smiled as he found himself quietly humming along, and he began to sway gently, rocking Sorcha in his arms. His heart calmed its thunderous charge, and his breaths slowed to match pace with hers.  The sweet silence of sleep beckoned to him, and he followed its call.  Before he could fall into its gentle hold, a soft nicker from Sorcha’s horse pulled him from the edge of slumber.

A frown tugged at the corners of this lips, and he reluctantly opened his eyes. While he longed to hold her until his final breath, he knew that he needed to get her home.  It would not do, to have the Herald of Andraste found drunk in the stable, and in the arms of the Prince of Starkhaven.  He had sworn to protect her, and that included protecting her reputation.

He gently brushed Sorcha’s hair back and placed a last, lingering kiss to her forehead. A small smile grew on his lips as she nuzzled closer. Making sure that the straw-covered blanket was draped snuggly over her, he shifted his legs under him, and leaned back on his heels.  He held her tightly as he brought a knee up and pushed himself to standing, careful to not disturb her rest.  Lumé nickered again at the movement, and stepped quietly over to the couple.  She gently nuzzled Sorcha’s back, and then raised her muzzle to Sebastian’s face.  He winced, waiting for the inevitable bite, but instead she just nibbled his nose.  He stood there a moment as the horse lifted her mouth to his cheek, continuing her inspection.  He shuddered as she huffed a hot breath into his ear before turning her attention to her feed bucket.

Sebastian stepped carefully through the threshold of the box stall door and down the alleyway, stopping at the stable door.  Luckily, the door had a faulty latch and had not closed completely after he entered the wooden building looking for Sorcha.  Balancing on one foot as he held a sleeping Sorcha in his arms, he wedged his toes between the door and its frame, and pulled it open.  The icy chill that blew in through the opened door bit at his flesh. He cradled the Herald of Andraste in his arms and crossed the threshold into the swirling snow of the black, Haven night.

Drifts had risen along the path toward the inner gates, and the rocky ground beneath them was slick with frost.  He stepped carefully, having Sorcha’s safety foremost on his mind.  The loose corners of her woolen blanket whipped against his legs as the wind howled around them.  He clutched her tightly to his chest, trying to put himself between her and the wicked elements.  As he climbed the icy steps to the wooden gate, he lifted his eyes to the guard tower. Squinting against the icy pellets that blasted against his face, he searched the wall for someone that would acknowledge his arrival and open the gate.  He could make out a shadow as it darted away from the wall, and a moment later the gate opened.  The Prince gave a relieved nod to Cassandra, who had been watching the gate herself.

“Quickly,” she yelled over the noise of the wind, as she held the gate open, “Before we are seen.” Sebastian nodded his agreement.  Sorcha was the Herald of Andraste, a symbol to the people, and they needed her to be strong and righteous, not drunk and unconscious, being carried home in a prince’s arms.

Sebastian passed the gates and quickened his pace, and with careful steps he rounded the path to Sorcha’s cabin. Cassandra caught up to him within seconds, and with a sweep of her arm, pushed open the pine door to the comfortably warm cabin.  Carefully sliding sideways through the narrow wooden frame, he carried the still-sleeping Sorcha across the room and laid her gently upon her bed.  As he knelt at her feet to unlace her boots, he glanced sidelong to Cassandra, who was leaning over the stone fireplace and stoking the embers of the now-diminished fire.

“Seeker Cassandra?”  His voice was soft and low, so as to not wake Sorcha.  She turned her gaze from the coals to him.  “Will you tell me what happened?”  His eyes fell back to the beautiful woman asleep on the bed.  “I doubt she’ll remember everything in the morning.”

Cassandra merely shrugged her shoulders and went back to stoking the fire.  “She said that she needed some air, to clear her head,” she said quietly.  Her voice was low and contrite. “When she is upset, usually the fresh air is calming for her.  When she did not come back right away, I sought your help in locating her.”

Sebastian considered the Seeker for a moment before turning back to removing Sorcha’s doeskin boots.  With a slight tug, he slid the first one off, and gently placed it on the floor next to him.  As he worked the laces of the second, he glanced back to Cassandra.

“What could have upset her so much?” he asked, his tone was heavy with worry. “Is there anything that I can do to help?”

Cassandra seemed lost in thought as she watched the low flames begin to catch on the newly added log.  She turned to him and her stern expression softened slightly.

“It no longer matters,” she said, “What is important is that you found her and that she is safe.”  She set the iron poker back against the warm brick of the fireplace, and stepped over to Sebastian.  She lifted her hand and clasped his shoulder.  “You may go.” Her voice had softened and become comforting, “I will take care of her.”

Startled by the contact, Sebastian’s head whipped to look at Cassandra’s hand on his shoulder.  For a moment, he was confused by her actions, but quickly realized that she held no ill will in her touch. He lifted his eyes and considered her briefly, before meeting her gaze. “I would like to stay with her.” His voice was almost pleading, nearly desperate. His attention settled back to removing Sorcha’s boot. He gently pulled it off of her foot and dropped it to the floor before turning his face upward to meet Cassandra’s eyes again. “Please.”

Cassandra blinked slowly and the barest of smiles crossed her lips.  “I know. But, now is not the time.”

He slowly rose to his feet and allowed his eyes to take in Sorcha’s peaceful form for a few moments longer.  He had always loved watching her as she slept.  He smiled as he remembered how her lashes would flutter against her cheeks as she dreamt, how her brow would crease slightly as she turned over, and how the corners of her beautiful lips would curl up as he drew her closer.  He wanted to lay by her side, now and for always. But Cassandra was right. It was not the time.

He moved to the head of the bed, and lowered himself onto one knee.  Taking Sorcha’s hand in his, he held it to his lips for a moment before leaning in and placing a lingering kiss to her temple. She stirred at the contact. With a look of peaceful contentment on her face, she squeezed his hand and turned over in her sleep, draping his arm across her. For a moment he was still, unsure of what he should do. He would give anything to crawl into bed behind her and just hold her. And then he remembered that Cassandra was standing over him, watching, like a guardian. Again, he was reminded of her words.  His eyes darted up to the Seeker, who blushed slightly and turned away.  Thankful for the moment’s privacy, he leaned in and embraced Sorcha once more, drawing her nearer with the arm that she had wrapped herself in.  He nuzzled the back of her neck and kissed it softly before carefully withdrawing himself from her grasp. He lovingly tucked a stray lock behind her ear, and rose to his feet.

“I wish to talk with her tomorrow,” he said softly, his eyes still dancing over Sorcha. He needed to know if her earlier acts were intentional, and what they meant.  It seemed clear to him that she welcomed his comfort, but her inebriation was obvious as well.  Although he reveled in her attention, he knew that it was just too early, too improper, to consider her actions tonight as more than what they were.  Reactions.

He tried to rein in his growing anticipation, but his emotions were betraying him.  He sighed softly, annoyed at the struggle between his heart and his head. Cassandra turned to face him again, and with a sidelong glance, he saw her nod in agreement to his request. Reluctantly, he removed himself from Sorcha’s bedside and made solemn steps toward the door.  His hand had just grasped the iron handle when he heard the Seeker’s voice behind him.

“Thank you, truly, for finding her,” she said softly. “It was best that it was you.”

He glanced back at Cassandra, offering her a small bow before opening the door and stepping from the warmth of the cabin into the chill of the night.

 


 

 

Morning’s early rays sliced through Sorcha’s eyelids like daggers, and the searing pain shot straight into her head. She shut her eyes tightly and buried her aching face into the soft cradle of her down pillow with a groan, cursing the lack of dark curtains on her window.  After deciding that breathing was more important than hiding from the sunlight, she lifted herself off from the pillow and forced herself upright.  Sitting on the edge of the bed, she let her legs dangle as she blinked slowly to gain her bearings.  As her rising lids scraped like sand against her eyes, she was immediately aware of the scorching desert that was her mouth.  Her vision was still blurred, but she could make out the godsend of a pitcher on her nightstand.  Nearly falling onto the floor as she reached for it, she brought the entire pitcher to her parched lips, deciding to forego the nuisance of using a glass.  Relieved that it was water in the pitcher and not more alcohol, she moaned softly as she swallowed down the contents of the entire container.  She tossed the empty jug back onto the foot of her bed, and just sat, dazed and wondering about the events of last night.

Flashes of card games and cushions whipped through her mind, and she could remember the loud laughter that came with them. She recalled something about leather shoes and… desk sex?  She chuckled to herself and winced, bringing her hands to her pounding head and resting her elbows on her knees.  A soft noise from across the room drew her attention to her reading chair.

She opened her eyes and stared ahead, forcing them to focus on the source.  She could make out a mound of blankets, but as her vision sharpened, she could also see tufts of black hair and a long, leather-clad leg hanging over the chair’s arm. Why was Cassandra passed out in her reading chair? She winced at her headache. It hurt to think. She needed something for the pain. A potion. Adan! She needed to get a potion from Adan.  She pulled her boots on, and not bothering to lace them, she rose from her bed. On shaky legs, she crept across the room, and careful to not wake her friend, grabbed her warmest coat and pulled open the door.

The blinding sun nearly knocked her to her knees. She brought her hand up to shield her sensitive eyes from the assaulting light, and exited her cabin.  After quietly latching the door behind her, and struggling to put on her coat, she trudged along the path to the healer’s building.  She shivered in the morning chill, but the crisp, fresh air was helping to clear away the fog surrounding her memories of the night before.  She took a deep breath, and smiled at the recollection of Cassandra’s addiction to Varric’s books, and as she recalled Bethany’s story of the desk debacle, she laughed aloud, drawing odd looks from the people she passed along the trail.  

Stifling her giggles, she pressed on.  She acknowledged each person that she met with a wave or a nod, but it did not take her long to realize that each person had also looked at her with confused or questioning eyes.  Unconcerned with their reasons, she just kept walking.  There was nothing that she needed more in that moment than a potion to cure her tortuous hangover. The path was frosty, so she kept her eyes to the ground in front of her, being careful to not slip on the rocky surface. As she neared Adan’s, she was jolted from her unfocused steps by a run-in with a broad and muscular chest. The force of the collision sent vials and bottles scattering across the snow-covered ground around them.  She bent quickly to help gather the wayward glassware.

“I’m so sorry,” she mumbled without lifting her eyes as she reached for a rolling vial, “I should have been watching where I was going.”  A soft, lilting chuckle from above her caused her to still.  Slowly, she tilted her face upward and her gaze was immediately drawn to Sebastian’s brilliant blue eyes.

The morning light crowned his mahogany waves with an amber glow, and his smile was warm enough to melt all of the snow on the mountain top.  Her heart lurched as the the faint scent of straw and the sound of horses came back to her.  The stables!  Last night she had been at the stables...  Suddenly, she could remember the warmth of his body as he sat with her, the comfort of his arms as he held her, and his shining eyes her light in the darkness. Last night she had run from her feelings, hiding from the reality that some still held purchase in her heart. And Sebastian had been the one to find her. Had he also been the one to get her home? Blushing slightly, she failed at suppressing a smile at that thought.  And as quickly as the warmth had come, the shame followed; she had acted like a drunken fool.

He crouched down next to her, his muscular legs flexing visibly under his leather trousers.  He slowly closed her fingers around one of the vials, clasped her elbow gently, and helped her to her feet.  The corners of his eyes crinkled as he smiled, and she was mesmerized as she lost herself within those deep, azure pools.

“I was on my way to see you,” he admitted.  “I thought you would want something for your headache this morning.”  He glanced down to her hand, with his own still cradling her elbow..

She opened her fingers and there, in her palm, was the potion that she had been seeking for herself.  A smile tugged at the corners of her lips, and spread widely as she looked back up to his handsome face.

“Thank you,” she chuckled. “I was actually on my way to get one of these.”  The butterflies swarmed her stomach as she watched a nearly unnoticeable blush creep across his bearded cheeks

He opened the flap of his black leather sachel and placed the vials inside. With his gaze still on hers, he motioned for her to wait as he bent down to pick up a handful of snow.  It melted in his bare hands, and he reached toward her hair.

“May I?” he asked, his voice was low and melodic. Sorcha could do nothing but nod.

He ran his wet hands over her tousled hair, smoothing the flyaways and gently placing the rebellious strands back to order. That must have been why people were flashing her the confused looks, she probably looked like a complete mess! His hands lingered by her jaw as he tugged the final locks into place. Her breath quickened at his touch on her face, and her head swam with emotions that were both once forgotten and now welcome.

“Would you join me for breakfast?”

His invitation was irrefusable. She was starving. Again, all she could do was nod. He placed his hand on the small of her back, and with a warm smile, ushered her toward the tavern.

 


 

 

It was wonderfully warm inside the Singing Maiden, and the lingering scent of fresh baking reminded Sorcha of just how hungry she was.  The thought of warm bread and wildberry jam made her mouth water and her stomach growl.  Sebastian guided her to a table in the corner of the room and thoughtfully pulled out her chair.  She smiled graciously at his manners; of all the things he may be, Sebastian was a gentleman first and foremost.

Before he had even taken his seat, the server hurried over with a platter of food and two mugs of coffee.  Sebastian was about to ask that Sorcha’s coffee be exchanged for tea, but she just raised her hand in declination.

“It’s fine. This is a coffee morning,” she said as she poured the contents of the vial into the bitter, black liquid. Tipping back her mug, she grimaced and choked down the vile mixture, thankful that it was hot enough to scorch her tastebuds.  As she set the cup back onto the table, her eyes and met Sebastian’s questioning gaze.

“Helps kill the taste,” she said with a shrug.

“Of the coffee? Or the potion?” he asked.

“Both,” she chuckled.

The smile he gave her was dazzling, and Sorcha could not look away from his handsome face. She felt a smile tug at the corners of her own lips, as she wondered if he still had dimples underneath that rugged beard.  

Sebastian ran his hands through his chestnut waves, pulling them back into a looped bun and securing them with a leather tie, before reaching for the platter. He tore the loaf of bread in two, and placed each half on a plate. Like the gentleman he was, he filled both wooden trenchers with fruit and kindly placed one in front of Sorcha. But, she did not reach for it immediately; she was too distracted by how incredibly attractive he looked with his hair tied up.

He brought a peach up to his mouth, and she watched as he placed his perfect lips onto its soft flesh. He bit slowly, guiding a small piece onto his tongue. A drop of juice escaped the ripe fruit and trickled onto his whiskered chin.  He sucked the rest of its juice from the bite, and Sorcha found herself suddenly wishing to be that lucky peach.  Whispers and stifled giggles from a few tables over drew her attention to its occupants. Her eyes darted around the room, and nearly everyone was staring at Sebastian wantonly. Apparently, she was not the only one thinking lecherous thoughts about the handsome Prince. Who wouldn’t? He was a perfect gentleman, wealthy, kind, loyal, single and utterly gorgeous. She could not help herself from shooting glares at his admirers. The sound of his voice reined her in; she looked back to Sebastian, and noticing that his attention was on her, and her alone, she felt the corners of her lips curl into a smile.

“So,” he said quietly as he turned the peach for another bite. His voice was soft and low and like a spirit’s song to her soul. “Last night was--”

“Embarrassing as hell,” she interrupted.  Her eyes fell to her hand as she toyed with the spoon in the pot of jam. Not only was it inappropriate to think that Sebastian would just accept her throwing her drunken self into his arms, but she was a figurehead now. She was more than Sorcha, more than a Seeker. She was the Herald of Andraste. And she would do well to remember that. Exhaling sharply, she glanced back up at Sebastian.

“I apologize,” she admitted before averting her gaze, “for forcing you into that position. It was wrong of me to…” Her voice trailed off for a moment as her thoughts turned to the fleeting memories of his embrace that were dancing alongside those of his touch.

“Sorcha.”

Her eyes rose from the table and met his. He reached out to still her fidgeting, and she felt his fingers twitch from the energy of the Mark as they closed around her gloved hand.

“I swore an oath to you,” he said, “My bow, my body, and my life are yours. And I meant every word.” He gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “Whenever you need help, with anything, I am yours.”

She blushed and withdrew her hand from his grasp. How had she garnered such loyalty and devotion from the man whom she had blamed for everything that went wrong in her life? She felt confused and unworthy of such attention. She was about to dismiss his reassurances when she was reminded of what Cassandra had told her. You were spared for a reason. Was the Maker giving her a chance to make things right?

“Ride with me to Val Royeaux?” she blurted out, forcing herself to ask before she lost her nerve. His eyes burned with a low smolder, fixing on her across the table and giving her butterflies once more. He tilted his head for a small bow.

“As you wish.”



Chapter Text

The sound of armored steps on the flag-stone street echoed throughout the walled corridor along which they walked. This was the first time that Sorcha had returned to Val Royeaux since the death of the Divine, and the loss could still be felt in the air.  Normally loud and boisterous, Val Royeaux now seemed muted and uneasy. They were nearly at the Summer Bazaar when an Inquisition scout approached, followed by an Elven mage.

“Greetings, Herald,” the scout said as he gave Sorcha a soldier’s bow, “This woman requests an immediate audience. She is--”  

“Grand Enchanter Fiona,” Sorcha interrupted, “How kind of you to finally meet with me, although I must ask, why is it here in the street?”

“Templars in the city, Your Worship,” the scout added. Fiona nodded before glancing around warily.

“I had heard that the clerics were gathering to meet with you, and I wanted to see the fabled ‘Herald of Andraste’ with my own eyes,” the petite mage began, her voice was soft and her accent distinctly Orlesian. “The Templars’ arrival was unexpected. You will forgive me if I do not wish to linger where I may be seen.” Fiona looked around nervously before meeting Sorcha’s gaze. “If it’s help with the Breach that you seek, perhaps my people are the wisest option. Please, allow me to extend an invitation to Redcliffe, so we may talk in a less… public place.”

Of course it was dangerous for the leader of the rebel mages to be anywhere that Templars may be, so Sorcha completely understood the woman’s need to leave quickly. She gave the mage a curt nod before replying.

“Your invitation is graciously accepted, Grand Enchanter. We will meet with you in Redcliffe.” The mage lowered her head in a small bow before taking her leave. Leliana turned to her scout.

“Send a message back to Haven. Tell them all that you’ve seen here.”

The man saluted before running off to carry out the spymaster’s orders. Sorcha shifted her shield on her back.

“Cassandra,” she said, “What do you think the Templars are doing here?” The senior Seeker’s brow furrowed as she narrowed her gaze.

“That, I do not know, but I am sure that we are about to find out.”  

The group stepped from the side street and into the open square of the Summer Bazaar. It was a busy place, lined with merchants’ stalls and crawling with people. As they approached a cluster of merchants, Sorcha heard a melodic and distinctly Orlesian voice call for her. She looked past the people ahead of her to see a merchant flagging her down. She strode up to the woman’s table, and was greeted by a warm smile.

“Miss Trevelyan, it’s been too long,” the Orlesian sang, “I was happy to hear that you finally got yourself out of Ostwick.”

It took a moment for Sorcha to place the woman, but when she did, she smiled warmly.

“Belle,” Sorcha mused, “It’s great to see you. And you’re right, it has been too long.”

The merchant grasped Sorcha’s hand tenderly. “Is it true, Sorcha?” she asked, “Is the Inquisition going to fix the hole in the sky?” Sorcha nodded.

“That’s what we’re attempting, yes, but a little help would go a long way. We’ve come to appeal for aid; hopefully some within the Chantry have their heads out of their asses.”

The Orlesian smiled. “Your camp will need food, and I have contacts. We can arrange for deliveries to begin within a few days.”

Cassandra eyed her suspiciously before raising a brow. “You want to help the Inquisition?”

The merchant nodded. “Yes, Seeker. I’ve never been part of something this big before,” she replied before turning back to Sorcha, “but your Inquisition is the only one doing anything, and I want to help.” Sorcha gave her a small smile, mostly out of relief. She was always happy to gain more agents, especially skilled ones.

“Then welcome to the Inquisition, Belle. I’ll see you back at Haven.”

Belle gave her a small bow before gesturing for her to wait. The woman quickly disappeared behind a shelf, reemerging a moment later with a parcel in her hands.

“For you, Sorcha,” she said as she offered it to the Herald, which Sorcha accepted graciously.

“Safe travels, Belle. And thank you.” The two women exchanged bows once more and Sorcha left the stall, tucking the gift into her purse.

“Friend of yours?” Sebastian asked as they continued walking across the square. She gave him a sidelong glance before smirking mischievously.

“She and I were close for a time,” she said, “She was my mother’s seamstress. Had an eye for fine fabrics and was very good with her hands.” Recognition flickered across his face; now it was Sebastian’s turn to smirk mischievously.

“So I have her to thank for those tantalizing silver lace smalls you used to have?”

Sorcha gave him a coy smile and continued along the street. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, until they happened upon a crowd gathered in front of a dais.

“Now, it may be just me, but an angry lynch mob present for our meeting with clerics doesn’t seem like a good sign,” Varric muttered. Sebastian gave his friend’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze.

“Perhaps a story told by the famous author will appease them,” the Prince joked.

“More likely to disperse them,” Cassandra scoffed. The dwarf turned to look up at the Seeker, his eyes glinting with mischief.

“Aw, come on now, Seeker. I have it on good authority that you are a fan,” he chuckled. Cassandra looked horrified. “I’ve even ordered my out-of-print copies, just for you.” Cassandra turned her murderous gaze to Sorcha. She shook her head vehemently and raised her hands at the angry woman. A chill ran down her spine as Cassandra’s glare narrowed into daggers. All Sorcha could do was mouth silently, “He’s fucking with you.” Cassandra just stared at her a moment longer before turning her ire back to Varric.

“Thank you, Varric. I was beginning to run low on kindling.”

The storyteller feigned a broken heart, and Cassandra rolled her eyes. Sorcha just shook her head at the banter and scanned the crowd ahead of them. They certainly seemed uneasy, but not riled up enough to be violent.

A revered mother, flanked by a handful of clerics and a trio of Templars, stepped onto the ornate wooden platform. Before Sorcha approached, she pulled her shoulders back and lifted her chin, trying to appear confident in her role as the Herald of Andraste. She glanced at Leliana and Cassandra, who each took their positions on either side of her. They indicated their readiness, and she stepped forward.

“Revered Mother Hevara,” she called to the woman on the dais. The gowned figure turned to face her, a look of contempt cemented to her features as she looked down her nose at Sorcha.

“Ah, if it isn’t the rebel Seeker,” she said airily, “How kind of you to take time from your treason to grace us with your blasphemous presence.” She gave Sorcha an exaggerated bow, which served to greatly annoy the Seeker. Sorcha’s jaw tightened and she clenched her fists at the immature display.

“Your Reverence,” she said in voice of steel, “I was spared an agonizing death at the Conclave for a reason. Andraste herself saw me fit to aid her people in the fight against the Breach, and she delivered me from the Fade. I was given the tools to close the rifts. All by Andraste’s grace.”

A flicker of dissonance in the Revered Mother’s eyes let Sorcha know that she had hit on a nerve. Hevara’s actions were predictable. She was afraid. With increased resolve, Sorcha raised her voice and continued.

“Your heart is closed, Your Reverence. The Divine is dead and rather than honor her legacy of peace and unification, you seek to work against it.” Sorcha shifted on her feet and addressed the crowd. “This Inquisition was formed to protect the people of Thedas from the Breach's wrath, and seek out the ones responsible for it creation. WE are fighting the demons. WE are closing the rifts. WE are providing aid to the suffering. WE are taking in refugees.”

She spun back to face the woman on the platform, her eyes narrowed and her chest heaved out of frustration. “What have you done to help? What has the Chantry done to ease the hearts of frightened people? What have you done to support peacekeeping efforts?”

She stepped closer to the wooden rise and sharpened her focus on the Revered Mother. “Have you even left the comfort and safety of the Valence Cloister? You run the very same Chantry lead by Dorothea before she became Divine, but you sorely lack her compassion." Sorcha’s voice and expression softened.

“Look at the faces of your flock, Your Reverence. They look to you in their time of need. In their fear and their doubt, they seek the comfort of Andraste's guidance. They seek her words and her wisdom, her light and her blessings. Not the bitterness and coldness entrenched in the hearts of her messengers. You have a duty, to spread Andraste's ideals, and to care for her faithful. The people who are dying by the scores are her faithful, too. Do not forsake them out of spite for the Inquisition. Help us to help them."

A slow clap sounded from the shadows, and Sorcha’s head snapped to discern the source. The Lord Seeker stepped out into the square, and made his way to the platform, still clapping his slow, supercilious applause. He climbed the wooden steps, followed by a dozen Templars. As he crossed the platform, one of the Order struck the Revered Mother with his gauntleted hand, rendering the woman unconscious. The Lord Seeker seemed unconcerned.

“Lord Seeker!” Sorcha shouted. The middle-aged man turned slowly and glared at her with cold, hard eyes. She flinched slightly at his threatening scowl, as he was her superior, leader of the Seekers and the Templars, but she did not falter. “Your man attacks a defenseless woman of faith and you do nothing?”

An indignant sneer spread across his pock-marked face. “Her claim to ‘authority’ is an insult, much like your own,” he said matter-of-factly. He tossed a disgusted glance to the unconscious woman before stepping down from the dais. He managed only a few steps before Cassandra waylaid him.

“Lord Seeker Lucius,” she began, her voice was firm but Sorcha could detect its desperation, “It is imperative that we meet--”

“You will not address me!” he boomed. His direct dismissal stopped her in her tracks. She stared at him a moment with her brows knitted in confusion.

“Lord Seeker?” she asked, shocked by his blatant refusal to hear her out. He crossed his arms over his chest and lifted his chin.

“Initiating an heretical movement, declaring a “prophet of Andraste”, you should be ashamed,” he hissed at the Divine’s Right Hand. He tilted his head to speak over the din of the crowd. “You should all be ashamed! The Templars failed no one when they left the Chantry to purge the mages!” Lucius focused back on Cassandra, and pointed an armored finger at her. “You are the ones who have failed. You, who would leash 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!”

Sorcha looked at Cassandra, who was both confused and infuriated. She could see the deep angry crimson creeping over her angular face, and her fists clenched so tightly that her arms shook. She knew that she needed to act quickly if she were to prevent Cassandra from saying, or doing, something she would later regret. Sorcha took a deep breath and stepped in front of her friend to address the Templars.

“Have any of you paid attention to the suffering happening around you?” she began, the frustration in her voice was becoming more evident. “How can you call yourselves Andrastians when you turn away from your brothers and sisters who are dying at the hands of demons? There are good people within the Inquisition. People who help to feed, clothe and shelter refugees. People who get their hands dirty helping to heal wounds. People who pick up a weapon and stand with their brothers and sisters to fight against the darkness. People who are no different than you or I. The Breach endangers all of Thedas. How much longer can you ignore death at your doorstep?”

She scanned the faces of the crowd and the Order, desperately hoping that she had had appealed someone’s sense of duty. Her searching gaze landed on Sebastian’s handsome face, and what she saw helped to lift her spirits and steel her heart.

He was standing next to Varric, watching her with profound pride and admiration. His eyes shone with such fondness, she could actually feel his adoration. He gave her a nod and she couldn’t help but feel bolstered by his support. She knew that he would have her back; her mind was hesitant to trust him again, to place faith in the man who she believed had forsaken her, but in her soul, she knew. He would be there. She stepped up to the speechless Templars, and looked each and every one of them in the eye.

“We seek aid in closing the Breach,” she said firmly. “The faithful need to band together to end this threat that looms over us all. Templars, will you help us?”

“Enough!” ordered the Lord Seeker. His face was twisted into a scowl and his hand was clenched around the hilt of his sword. “You will not lead these righteous men and women astray.”

“Astray?” she asked incredulously. “I am going to lead them astray? I am only asking for help to end the danger that affects us all! If anyone is leading them astray, Lord Seeker, it is you.” Out of the corner of her eye, Sorcha could see Cassandra vehemently shaking her head and motioning for her to step back. She knew that her friend was right, of course, but she could not stand idly by while the Templars abandoned their duty. She opened her arms, imploring the Order to listen.

“You are Templars!” Sorcha’s voice carried across the square, clear and powerful. “You are strong and you are fierce. You are faithful and you are dutiful. But you are also protectors. I implore you, rise above the excuses of war and protect the people. Help fight to save us all!”

A murmur writhed amongst the crowd, and she could see doubt beginning to fill some of the Templars’ eyes. They turned to one another questioningly, and a young knight approached the Lord Seeker.

“Sir, what if she really is sent by Andraste?” she heard him ask. She turned and faced Lucius.

“Help the Inquisition close the Breach, Lord Seeker. Let the Order do their duty. Let them protect Thedas.” Sorcha tried to hide the desperation in her voice, but her confidence was waning.

Lucius stared her down, his grey eyes as cold and unforgiving as stone. “Arrest her!” he barked.

Sorcha’s jaw dropped. Arrest her? Obviously her actions could be construed as insubordinate, but surely the Lord Seeker could see that these were desperate times? A half dozen swords lifted to her neck, so she slowly raised her hands in deference.

“Lord Seeker,” she began, “Surely there is no need for this? I am duty bound to protect the innocent, and I am the only one who can close the rifts. Demons will run free if I cannot help, and many innocents will die!” Her pleas fell onto deaf ears.

“I could kill you now, Seeker.”

The Lord Seeker’s contempt made it impossible for Sorcha to gauge whether he would actually execute her in the middle of the Summer Bazaar or not. She could not take the chance. The mark on her hand was Thedas`only hope. She met Lucius`glare and returned one with ferocity of her own.

“There is no need for violence, I come willingly.” Her heart was racing, but compliance was her only option.

Behind her, she could hear the hushed whispers of the crowd as Sebastian made his way forward. He stepped to her side and quickly found swords pointed to his neck as well.

“Lord Seeker Lucius,” Sebastian called. “I must insist that I be allowed to accompany the Herald. I am her sworn protector.” His gaze held a fierce fire that Sorcha had not seen since that night in the cave as they fought for their lives. It was the same fire that burned as he cursed their torturer. And it was the same fire she watched be extinguished as they lay dying on that cold, stone floor. Lucius slowly moved to the Prince, and a crooked smile stretched across his thin lips.

“And if I refuse?” he hissed. Sebastian stood to his full height and lifted his chin defiantly.

“I am Prince Sebastian Vael, ruler of Starkhaven.” His lilting brogue was regal and confident, demanding of attention and respect. “I have pledged to protect the Herald of Andraste, with any and every means at my disposal. Unless you desire my military as your enemy, it would be best that I be allowed to accompany her.”  

The Lord Seeker’s eyes glinted with amusement at the challenge. He considered the Prince for a moment before turning on his heel. “Very well.” He motioned to his men and they fell into order behind him.

Sorcha stared at Sebastian, unable to believe that he offered himself up as well. Templars were not known for being particularly kind to their prisoners. The fact that she was a Seeker afforded her some protection, but the Prince had none. He must have noticed the trepidation in her eyes, because he just gave her a knowing look and a slight nod of reassurance. She had to remember that he was the leader of a kingdom, leader of an army, and a very cunning man. He knew what he was doing, and she would trust his judgment. She turned back to her party.

Leliana was tending to Mother Hevara, and watching the happenings from the corner of her eye. Cassandra, her jaw clenched and her brows furrowed, was trying to make her way to her superior, and Varric, most unsuccessfully, was trying to hold her back.

“Lord Seeker Lucius!” Cassandra bellowed as she stalked up to the man. “You cannot arrest the Herald of Andraste! She is the only one that can close the rifts!” Her eyes held a coolness that made even Sorcha shiver. “Think of the people!”

Lucius glowered at the Divine’s Right Hand. “You should have thought of the people before you raised a false prophet.” His eye twitched as he stared Cassandra down. “But I am not without mercy,” he continued. “Her trial is next month.”

Cassandra stared at Lucius in disbelief. Sorcha could see her friend’s faith in their Order wavering. She and Sebastian filed in with the Templars, and as she passed her friend, she leaned in to her.

“I’ll figure it out. More eyes couldn’t hurt though,” she whispered. Slowly, Cassandra nodded her understanding. Sorcha knew that scouts would soon be following their every move. Now, if only she could learn of the Lord Seeker’s.

The cadence of two dozen heavy boots echoed across the square as they made for the city limits. Sorcha did not know where they were going, since the Templars technically no longer had a command center, but she felt little worry. She looked to the brave man walking beside her. Sebastian marched at his full height, with his head high, and showed no fear. Just his presence alone was enough to reassure her. She would have walked through the Void with him by her side. And then she thought about it. Maybe that was exactly what she was about to do.  






Chapter Text

Sorcha awoke from her restless sleep, still unaccustomed to the pitch and sway of the ship. Her jailors had arranged marine passage out of Val Royeaux, but she still had no idea where they were going. And to make matters worse, she still had no clue what was going on with the Lord Seeker. Lucius had been considered, until recently, a decent and just man, from what Sorcha knew of him. There had never been talk amongst the Seekers about his coldness or harshness. Never would she expect him to endorse an assault on a Revered Mother, or lead the Templars away from their duty. No, these were not the actions of a man who was head of the Seekers and the Templars. There was something not quite right here, and she was determined to get to the bottom of it.

She sat up in her bunk, and glanced at the shadows that filtered in from under her cabin door. Two Templars stood at her door, day and night. Why she was under such heavy guard, she did not know; they were on a ship in the middle of the Waking Sea, where was she going to go?

She made herself presentable and shuffled across the wooden floor to her door. She was allowed three hours of fresh air per day, and she would not forfeit them. She was locked in her cabin for the remainder of the time, but thankfully she was allowed guests. She opened her door quickly, and was met by the only thing that would make this ordeal tolerable.

Across from her door and the guards, Sebastian leaned against the wall, his arms were crossed and his eyes were set in a piercing glare aimed at the men flanking her door. These days, the mere sight of him coaxed a smile from her lips, and she was powerless against it. His expression immediately softened and he stood to his full height when she exited her cabin.

“Prince Vael,” she said, “do you never sleep?”

“Your safety is more important than my sleep, Herald,” he said as he gave her a small bow, “Rest well?” His voice was music to her soul, and with each moment together, the song grew sweeter. She had forgotten that feeling long ago, but now that her spirit had tasted it again, it was ravenous for more. They had been travelling together for over a week, and she had been blindsided by how welcoming her heart was to his presence. Forcing herself to pay attention to the situation at hand, and not the one of her heart, she met his brilliant blue eyes and shook her head.

“Not even close, but thanks for asking.” Respectfully, she turned to acknowledge her jailors before making her way to the stairs. Sebastian joined her at her side.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I wish there were some way that I could help you sleep better.”

She gave him a small smile. “Don’t worry yourself, there’s nothing that you can do.” ...while we’re trapped on this boat… She blushed and averted her eyes, flustered by the lustful thoughts that had been crossing her mind as of late, and climbed the creaking wooden steps onto the deck.

The rays of the early morning sun reflected off the surface of the water, shining like mirrors under the sea. Sorcha settled on leaning against the railing on the bow, facing into the headwind and the morning light. She breathed deeply the sea air, and her mind was carried back to Hercinia. So much had happened in her life between then and now, but there was one thing that was there in both present and past.

She looked at Sebastian fondly. He was leaning against the railing next to her, and she thought that she had never seen him more handsome as at that moment. There were lines around his eyes as he squinted to peer out into the distance. The wind tousled his dark waves around like pennants. The muscles of his arms strained against his tight grey linen sleeves, and his--she leaned back a little to get a better view--backside looked impeccable as he leaned over in those Maker-sent tight pants.

“Like what you see?” he asked as he shifted his weight to his other foot, creating an even more marvellous view of his rear. Sorcha felt the inferno of embarrassment creep over her face, and nervously cleared her throat.

“Of course I do. The sea is beautiful in the morning sun.” Nice save, Sorcha. Sebastian flashed her his warmest smile.

“The sea isn’t the only one,” he said, his voice was low and melodic. Sorcha’s heart almost fluttered its way out of her chest, and she blushed yet again.

“Get a room!” one of the Templars hollered from somewhere behind them, inciting raucous laughter from some of the sailors. Both Sorcha and Sebastian shook their heads and turned back to the sea ahead of them.

She preferred to gaze eastward, where the view was not marred by the sky’s unholy wound. But she forced herself to watch the sunset, so the Breach would remind her of her duty, urging her to move quickly to remedy the issue of her imprisonment.

“Two days eastward already. Any guesses?” Sebastian whispered to her as he kept his eyes forward.

“Too hard to tell,” Sorcha replied, “Hopefully I’ll learn more once we dock. Any leads as to what their plans are?”  She, too, kept her gaze ahead.

“Nothing concrete,” he said, “but something is very off about this group, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.”

Sorcha had indeed noticed that things were off with the Templars around her. While some of them were pleasant and respectful, there were others that were ignorant and boorish; which was abnormal behavior for a Templar toward a Seeker. And she noticed something else, too. Those that were dismissive of her position seemed more aggressive and short-tempered. Many had fatigued eyes, rimmed in red, and looked like they had not slept in days. And they felt strange. Once Sorcha became a Seeker, she noticed that Templars had an energy or aura about them, from the lyrium. But to her, these men had felt different, and she could not explain why.  

“Keep working on those few you mentioned,” she said. “They seem wary of the situation and are bound to talk.”

“As you wish, Sorcha.”

She filled her lungs once more with the calming sea air, and straightened. She had been outside for an hour and a half, and she was saving the rest of her outdoors time for sunset. She looked once more at the Prince, and silently thanked the Maker for sending him.

“It’s time to eat,” she said. “Join me?”

He pushed off from the railing and tucked his windswept hair behind his ears. “I wouldn’t miss it.”


Sebastian and Sorcha rode together on the back of an old plough horse, and he swore that this was the best idea he had ever had. The Lord Seeker had assigned them two of the homeliest animals he had ever seen when they were in Denerim. An hour into the ride, Sorcha’s horse had become lame, so Sebastian suggested making her nag the pack horse, and she ride with him. As she sat in front of him, her perfect rear nestled snugly between his thighs, he was definitely proud of his suggestion. He guided the aging mare with one arm, and held Sorcha with the other. Their riding posture allowed for the natural movement of the horse’s gait, so for the entire day he had been feeling her rocking against him. Maker, it was torture, but it was glorious.

“I’m not holding you too tightly, am I?” he asked her, hoping she would say that he was not.

“No, it’s fine,” she answered, “It’s just right, actually. Quite comfortable.”

“It is, isn’t it?” He had to agree, it did feel unequivocally right. He looked around, checking to see if any Templars were within earshot. “Are you any closer to figuring out where we’re going?” he whispered into her ear. He could feel her body stiffen slightly as his lips grazed her lobe, which he did absolutely by accident, of course. She turned her head slightly, and he could see a faint smirk on her beautiful lips.

“It has to be Therinfal Redoubt,” she replied. “That’s the only fortress within a few days ride south of Denerim.”

“Do you think the others have figured that out, as well?” he asked, concerned that the Inquisition had yet to find their trail. “I haven’t seen any scouts.”

Sorcha stifled a yawn and then chuckled softly. “I’ve seen three since we docked. They will know where we are going, don’t worry.”

“Sorcha, we still have a few hours until we camp. Why don’t you get some rest?” He held her closer, a sign that she was safe in his arms. She must have trusted him, because she nodded and leaned back, turning her head to the side as she rested it against his chest. He felt her breathing slow, and her posture relax. Tilting his head down, he breathed in the scent of her shining, raven hair. It was not perfumed with her usual verbena and spice, but he felt the floral fragrance quite suited her.

“Sebastian,” she murmured, half asleep, “Are you sniffing my hair?”

He felt a blush creep over his cheeks. “Uh… no?”

Sorcha laughed then, and it was music to his soul. With each moment together, the song grew sweeter, and his spirit lifted. He gave her a little squeeze and she quickly drifted off to sleep.


Dusk had arrived, and Lucius called to make camp. Sebastian and Sorcha dismounted their sway-backed steed and worked at untying the leather straps which secured the tents to the saddle. Sebastian lifted the canvas from the horse’s back and followed Sorcha to where she wanted it pitched. They spoke in hushed whispers as they worked to raise her shelter.

“There are three men who clearly disagree with the Lord Seeker’s actions,” he said. “I feel that with the right support, they could be swayed to our side.” He glanced around, making sure to keep up the appearance of setting up the tent. “There are two more who are unsure,” he continued, “But they don’t appear to have the conviction that the other three do.”

Sorcha tugged at the tent strapping, and her teeth toyed with her lower lip as she concentrated on tying secure knots. Sebastian could not help but watch, enraptured.

“I still can’t figure out what’s wrong with those four that I told you about,” she whispered. “They barely even feel like Templars to me anymore. And their behavior is becoming more erratic. Even the other men are avoiding them.” She dusted off her hands after tying her tent to the last peg. “I don’t like this.”

Sebastian had to agree with her. He did not like it, either. Over the years, he had grown very familiar with the Order, and he could tell that something was wrong with these men. The way that they looked at her reminded him of the man that nearly killed them, and he was terrified. Memories of the Templar’s knife slicing her throat still tore at his guts with claws and teeth, and the images of the light leaving her beautiful, hazel eyes shattered his heart a million times over. He had not slept in days, and he was exhausted, but he would be vigilant. He would protect Sorcha, until his dying breath.

They moved on to setting up his tent, and just as the last peg was driven into the ground, the heavens opened and a downpour began. He ushered Sorcha into her tent before taking shelter within his own. The opening of his tent faced hers, so he could still guard her while he sat out of the rain. He wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, pulled back the canvas flap and posted up for his watch.

The sound of the rain falling in the darkness of night was lulling him to sleep. There were a few times where his chin had fallen to his chest, and he snapped his head back up, widening his eyes and blinking the exhaustion from them. This would not do. He needed to be out there. He focused his eyes on the Templar guarding Sorcha. It was Ser Barris, one of the three men who opposed the Lord Seeker’s actions. Sebastian pulled the canvas back further, and peered out at the camp.

The torrential rains prevented fires from burning, and it seemed that every other man was keeping warm and dry within their shelters. He looked back at Barris, who was exposed to the elements and shivering as he blew into his hands, trying to keep them warm. Sebastian exited the refuge of his tent and stepped out into the freezing rain.

“Pardon me, Ser Barris,” he said as he approached the cold and wet Templar. The young man had to shield his eyes from the rain as he raised his head and looked at the Prince.

“Prince Vael?”

“Why don’t you let me watch over her?” Sebastian asked. “You will freeze out here.” The Templar seemed as though he was going to accept his offer most readily, but shook his head.

“I’m sorry, Messere, but this is my task tonight,” Barris replied. “You should get some sleep, ser.” Sebastian realized that he would have to appeal to this man’s sensibilities. He drew closer and lowered his voice.

“She is the Herald of Andraste. She is brilliant, kind, trustworthy and honorable. I swear, Ser Barris, that she will not run.” Sebastian could see that the Templar was considering his words. He placed a hand on the man’s heavily-armored shoulder.

“You seem to be a good and honest man,” Sebastian continued, “and I know that you believe in her. She would sooner sit herself in front of your tent, in this Void-driven rain, so as to save you from suffering it. On my honor, we will not run.” The young Templar turned to Sebastian and gave him a soldier’s bow before retreating to the comfort of his own tent. The Prince sat in the soaked earth at the front of her tent, and as the rain soaked him to the core, he remained vigilant.


A hoarse cough roused Sorcha from yet another terrible sleep. Unable to slow, her mind just kept spinning, trying to deduce the reason for Lucius’ lunacy and the wrongness of those Templars who follow him without question. Another cough sounding from outside her tent drew her from her bedroll altogether. She knew that voice, and she knew it well. She turned up the flame in her lantern, and reached for her tent’s canvas flap. Drawing it open, she saw Sebastian huddled over and shaking like a leaf. His hair was sopping wet and he was wrapped in a soaked blanket.

“Maker’s breath, Sebastian!” she hissed. “Get in here!”

He did as he was commanded, and as Sorcha saw him by the pale flame of her lantern, she gasped. Besides being soaked to the core, he was as pale as the dead, his perfect lips purple and his brilliant blue eyes bloodshot and set in shadows.

Sorcha pulled the water-logged blanket from his shoulders and set about grabbing dry ones from beside her pile of armor.

“Get undressed,” she ordered as she turned her lantern higher and dug some candles from her pack. She turned back to throw a dry blanket over him, but when she saw him, her heart nearly stopped.

He stood before her, wearing only soaked leather trousers which clung beautifully to his muscular legs and sat just below his hip bones. Her eyes roved over his bare, sculpted chest which was decorated by a fine silver chain. She admired his broad shoulders, and his chiseled abdomen. He must have noticed the appreciation in her eyes, because he stood taller, despite the fact that he was shivering and his teeth were chattering, and reciprocated her gaze. As she stood there, heat rising to her chest, she remembered that he was standing there, freezing. She picked her jaw up from the ground and draped the blanket over his strong shoulders. She lifted her face and was met with the most exhausted, but most reverent expression etched into the most handsomest of faces.

She averted her eyes and for reasons beyond her control, they landed on his chest. It took every ounce of strength she had to not reach up and run her fingers over his amazingly well groomed chest hair. During her moments of lecherous gawking, she realized that the thin, silver filigree chain that he wore around his neck, looked strangely familiar. This time, she allowed herself to reach out. And then it dawned on her.

“Is… is this mine?” she asked him incredulously. It was inconceivable that he would have it, especially after so many years. Through chattering teeth, he gave her a heartwarming smile.

“I hope you don’t mind,” he said, his voice was low and raspy from the cold. Maker, the things that his voice did to her, were quite obscene. She quickly backed away from him and reached for a second blanket.

“Trousers, too. Take them off.”

“Yes, dear,” he chuckled. Sorcha rolled her eyes and pulled another blanket out of the pile. Logic would dictate that she prepare herself before turning back to the Prince, but at this moment, logic was failing her miserably. Her heart nearly stopped a second time as she turned to see him standing before her, with his trousers pulled down to his knees.

He wore no smalls, and because he was covering his manhood with both of his hands, the blanket from around his shoulders had fallen to the ground. His indescribably amazing thighs were bare, wet, and glistening in the warm glow of the lantern’s flame.

“Um…” his voice shocked her back into her body, “it seems that I am in need of assistance. My fingers are too cold to work the lacing of my boots.” Sorcha turned ten shades of red before stepping over to him, and lowering herself to her knees.

“My my,” she purred with a false confidence as she untied his laces. “Do you normally go to such-” she glanced up at his hands, “...lengths… to get a woman on her knees?” Even through his chilled flesh, Sorcha could still see the blush rising over his face. Sebastian nervously cleared his throat.

“Some women are worth going to any length for.”

Now it was her turn to blush like a Chantry virgin. She finished loosening his boots and picked up the blanket as she rose to her feet, draping it over his shoulders again.

“Just… sit on my bedroll. But put this around you first.” She tossed him the second blanket, but his reflexes faltered, and it fell to the ground. He gave her an apologetic look as she rolled her eyes and retrieved it. She positioned the blanket behind his back, and reaching around his waist, she wrapped the heavy fabric around it. She took a step back and admired her work. During her life, she had seen many, many men in skirts, but none looked as fine in one as he did.

He lowered himself onto her bedroll, and she pushed her lantern as close to him as possible. The five small candles from her pack were lit from the lantern flame, and placed in front of the shivering man as well. It was not the best heat, but it was better than nothing.

As she worked to wring the water from his clothing, she glanced back at him.

“What were you doing outside of my tent in the pouring rain?”

“Protecting you, of course.”

“How can you protect me if you’re dead from pneumonia?” She squinted as she watched him from the corner of her eye.

Shrugging nonchalantly, he turned his nose to the air. “I would have figured something out.”

She laughed and Sebastian chuckled softly through chattering teeth. Sorcha set his clothing around to dry.

“Are you feeling warmer?” Once look at him gave her the answer. His lips were still purple and he was shivering uncontrollably. She moved to her bedroll and lifted one side of the blanket covering his body.

“May I?” she asked. He gave her a small smile and nodded. She slipped under the blanket behind him, and after passing him the edge again, wrapped her arms and legs around him. It felt like hugging a snowbank, but she would suffer through the discomfort if it meant helping him.

She turned her head and rested it on his broad, muscular back. She could hear his heartbeat quicken, and she smiled to herself. He shifted as he crossed his arms over his chest, and while still holding the blanket ends, grasped her hands in his. Her own pulse quickened, and her smile grew. Closing her eyes, she let herself be lulled by the sound of his beating heart. It began to slow, as did his breaths. The Prince must have felt the warmth in her embrace, because she could feel his shivering begin to calm. She gave him a squeeze with her arms, and he replied by caressing the backs of her hands with his thumbs.

Being this close to him, touching him, holding him, smelling the lavender on his skin, was driving her insane. Too tempting was the thought of pressing her lips to him, kissing the smooth and fragrant flesh of his back. All she had to do was turn her head.

The memories of a year of happiness came flooding back, inundating her. Every smile, every laugh, everything she had ever looked forward to, was because of him. The only time in her life where she had ever experienced utter joy, was in that year she spent with him in Hercinia. Her courage mustered like it had been rallied by the Maker himself. Slowly, she turned just enough that her lips grazed his skin. She took the plunge by placing a soft, lingering kiss to his back.

Her heart was pounding against its cage, but so was his. Through his ribs, she could feel his pulse racing and his breathing quicken. Sitting taller, she stretched her neck out, reaching to kiss his shoulder. Their hearts were thundering together, like warhorses across a battlefield.

Sebastian turned his head to her, and leaned back to reach her. Slowly, so slowly, she brought her lips to his. Their first kiss in the waking world was softer than silk, barely there, yet held the power to show her the stars. She released his hand and brought her trembling fingers up to his bearded cheek, tilting his face closer.

A sudden hunger washed over them both, and their kisses became more fervent, more passionate, more… familiar. She teased at his lips with a soft swipe of her tongue, but they needed no coaxing to part. He accepted her deepening kiss, and moaned softly as she explored the depths of his mouth. Her body remembered this, craved it, screamed for it, and her soul sang out for it.

Sorcha loosened the heavy blanket at his waist, slid from behind him, and crawled onto his lap. His legs were still cold, and the sudden chill that permeated through her shift sent shivers along her spine. She lifted the thin linen to her hips, and set the bare flesh of her thighs atop his.

Sebastian’s strong arms wrapped around her drew her close. She immediately felt the result of her touch, and the pressure of his erection pressing against her mound sent pangs of coiled heat shooting from her core.

It had been so long, much too long, since she had felt such yearning. She had never desired another, and she knew now that she never would.

She lifted her hands to his face, and cupped his jaw. His gaze was filled with adoration, and she lost herself in the brilliant blue pools of his half-lidded eyes. He leaned forward and claimed her lips like they were his, and his alone. His strong arms pulled her hips into him, and she could feel his manhood pressing against her slick opening through her smalls. Had she not been wearing them, she could have easily moved herself along his thick shaft and left it glistening.

At the pressure of his hardness against her center, she whimpered into his kiss and shifted her hips against him. He inhaled sharply through his nose and gently bit her lip before pulling back.

“Maker, Sorcha, I miss you,” he whispered, “so much.” His eyes, misted and glistening, danced over her face, and reflected the glow from the small flames like mirrors.

She gave him a small smile. “I’ve tried not to, but I… I miss you too.” A weight seemed to fall from her shoulders as she confessed the truth. For months her mind had been in a conflict with her heart and her spirit. Her head forced her to remember the pain, her heart ached for his love, and her soul screamed for its mate.

Sebastian grinned and placed a chaste and lingering kiss to her quivering lips before peppering her face with gentle pecks. She giggled softly as his beard tickled her skin, and she could feel him smile as he kissed the scar at the corner of her eye.

“Can we...would you…” a blush crept over his face as he struggled to find his words, “I mean…”

Sorcha raised a brow, and Sebastian took a deep breath before cupping her cheek and holding her gaze.

“Lady Sorcha Isobel Trevelyan, Seeker of Truth and Herald of Andraste, may I have the honor of courting you?”

A coy smirk grew on her lips. “Prince Vael, I’m afraid that I don’t have any pants on for you to get into. There’s no need to try and woo your way in.” Her witty comment earned her an earnest smile.

“I mean it, Sorcha,” he said, “I would give anything just to be able to start over with you. I should never have--”

She put her finger over his lips, silencing him. She had forgiven him the moment she saw the truth from his dreams. “Shh,” she whispered. “Not now.”

She leaned in and pressed her lips to his, tracing their crease with her tongue. He opened his mouth and with fervent and unignorable passion, kissed her slowly and deeply. She moaned at the sensation of his tongue dancing with hers, and immediately her hips took on a personality of their own.

They swiveled slowly, moving her bud against his erection in agonizingly pleasurable circles. She swallowed his moans and her body shuddered as his hand fell from her face, and found her breast. He slid his fingers slowly past the open neckline of her shift and she gasped as they grazed the sensitive, pebbled flesh of her nipple. She bit his lip and moved her slickened core along his length. Moaning into her mouth, he smiled against her.

“Is this a yes?” he asked breathlessly.

“Yes,” she whispered.

With ravenous hunger, he claimed her. Her head was thrown back as he took her pert nipple into his hot mouth, and she ran her fingers through his wet and tousled waves. The soft whiskers on his face tickled her skin, and she keened when he took her between his teeth, thankful that the storm outside was masking her noises of pleasure.

With a final dance of his tongue over her sensitive flesh, he pulled her into a deep kiss while his other hand moved to her hip. He slid his thumb past the the seam of her smalls, and pushed the hindering fabric aside.

Sorcha hissed when his long, deft fingers slid along her wet folds, and she nearly lost her mind. She could feel the coiled tension in her belly snap and the heat instantly began to rise to her chest. Release was inevitable, and very near. She reached down and wrapped her hand around his impossibly hard erection, whimpering when two of his fingers entered her. Squeezing him gently, she moved her thumb in small and gentle circles over his cock’s slicked head, smiling at the long moan which escaped his lips.

“Sorcha,” he could barely manage a whisper, “It’s...I’m…”

“Me too,” she breathed, “Me too.”

She saw a lightning storm behind her eyes as he worked her opening, and the moment his thumb placed pressure on her center, there was no going back. Her body tensed and she grabbed the back of his neck, holding him firmly in their kiss. He swallowed her moans and her mewls as she came, clenching around his fingers and shuddering in his embrace. At the same time, with what could only be described instinct, she flicked her wrist and twisted her hand around his shaft in the same manner that he once loved. Her actions had to have been directed by her subconscious memory, for she certainly would not be able to recall such a thing. Sebastian drew in her bottom lip, and held it in his teeth as release came upon him. He fisted her hair and held her face to his, moaning loudly into her kiss as his body quivered and released his hot seed onto his stomach.

Breathing heavily, they separated their kiss-swollen lips and placed their foreheads together. They sat in silence, as they had no need of words to express their feelings.  

“You need sleep,” Sorcha whispered.

“I have all that I need, here in my arms.” Sebastian placed a lingering kiss to her smiling lips. “And your safety is more important than my sleep, Herald.” He winked at her, and the butterflies in her stomach nearly carried her off. With trembling hands, she tucked his unruly waves behind his ears.

“Let me protect you right now,” she insisted. “It will be dawn soon, and I won’t have you collapsing from exhaustion.” A smile crossed his lips as she caressed his cheek. “Please?”

Sebastian nodded his concession as he crawled into her bedroll. She placed a soft kiss to his forehead, and covered him with both blankets after wiping him clean.

“And when you wake up,” she whispered, “you can enlighten me on what happened to the guard that should have been posted outside?”

He chuckled, “As you wish.”

She crawled up beside him, and lifted his head to rest on her thigh. Smiling her first genuinely happy smile in years, she stroked his hair as she watched him fall asleep. It took mere moments for the Prince’s chest to rise and fall with the slow, rhythmic movements of rest. Her mind began to drift to their younger years, and she could not control the images brought forth. Joyful memories were tainted by flashes of her scars, her broken body, her deformations. How could he possibly find her beautiful anymore? She certainly did not look like she once had. And then she remembered Sebastian’s perception of her from his dreams. She had been glowing, buoyant and confident. If that were truly how he had seen her, then maybe her appearance did not carry as much weight as she once thought. She was a woman now, no longer the naive girl. She had found her faith and a sense of purpose. And she did that with her scars, her broken body, and her deformations.

Perhaps he was sent by the Maker, just for her, to help her climb out of the pit of despair. Perhaps they had met for a reason all those years ago. Maybe this was their second chance. Maybe it was all planned this way, that she would become the Herald of Andraste. And maybe, the Herald of Andraste would need her Prince by her side to triumph over the darkness. As she ran her fingers through his damp hair, Sorcha smiled a knowing smile at the thought, and sighed quietly.

Her Prince.






Chapter Text

By thick, rusted chains, the great iron portcullis was raised; its eerie, grinding screech assaulted the ears like a shrieking demon. Riding into the shadows as they passed beneath the intimidating walls of Therinfal Redoubt sent a chill down Sebastian’s spine. Anxiety sprang from its tethers and scraped and clawed its way through his chest. He felt Sorcha’s body stiffen as well, and perhaps to comfort himself as much as her, he whispered into her ear, “We’ll be alright.” She gave his thigh a gentle squeeze and responded to his consolation with a small nod.

His eyes roamed over the great building, memorizing the structure as best he could. Without being obvious, he surveyed the Templars who approached to greet Lucius. Here, too, there were some who looked rested and healthy, and others who appeared exhausted and ill. Their flesh was pale, their eyes sunken into shadows and rimmed with red.

He and Sorcha were escorted through the courtyard and along winding hallways. The detainment cells were located in an out-of-the-way corner of the fortress, and the Prince committed every step, every turn, to memory.

His heart dropped into his stomach as he watched Sorcha enter her cage and the heavy iron grate of a door latched shut behind her. The Templar who turned the key shot him a condescending glance and nodded toward an adjoining cell. Its door was off its hinges, and a cot sat in the corner of a straw-littered floor.

“There’s the royal suite, Majesty,” the man snickered before turning on his heel and leaving the room. Sebastian listened as the clanging of armored footsteps reached to top of the stairs before dropping their packs onto the dusty stone floor.

Sorcha huffed as she circled her stone and iron cage, curling her lips in contempt as she ran her fingers through her raven hair. “It’s been quite some time since I’ve been on this end of a cell door,” she scoffed.

“And it won’t be for long, if this works,” Sebastian said, pulling his lockpicking tools from his boot. Sorcha leaned against the cell wall and watched him work.

“I see you’ve picked up some new skills,” she mused. He glanced up at her while needling the mechanism, and by the smirk on her beautiful face, he knew that she was impressed.

“What kind of rogue would I be,” he began,“if I couldn’t pick this ancient contraption?” He popped the lock and swung the door open.  

Sorcha sauntered over from the cell wall.  “Oh, my hero!” she purred before pressing her lips to his. He smiled into her kiss and tightened his arms around her slim, muscular waist. She tasted of apples, and they way her fingernails dragged through his beard sent tingles across his body. Without even thinking, he moved his thigh between her legs and pressed against her. The soft moan that escaped her lips caused his cock to twitch and swell against the confines of his trousers. He drove his tongue into the depths of her mouth, and growled softly, before reluctantly pulling his face away. There was a fire in her eyes that matched the desire coursing through his blood.

“If we were anywhere but in a Templar prison…” he murmured into her ear, brushing his lips over her sensitive lobe. The hitching of her breath was audible.

“Mmhmmm,” Sorcha hummed before dancing her tongue up his neck and pressing a soft kiss to his temple. “As soon as we get out of here…” She tilted her head to meet his eyes, and his soul sang its divine song as she gazed up at him with yearning and adoration. For so long, he could only dream of basking in her affection. He felt it was his calling- his purpose- to belong to her, completely and devotedly hers.

To see that look in her eyes again, after all this time, was enough to send him to the Maker the happiest man to ever live. Tell her now! Don’t let it go unsaid again! He suppressed the urge to confess the full extent of his endearment. He had just gotten her back, he would not frighten her away by professing the undying love which he had held since they were teenagers. No, he would wait.

Sorcha backed away with a devilish smirk on her gorgeous face.

“Demoness,” he chuckled and readjusted himself in his tight pants. .

Reaching for the door, he tested it on the hinges and was thankful to see it rusted enough to be heavy to move.

“Let’s hope they don’t see a need to get into your cell,” he muttered. Sorcha stepped to him, and ran her fingers through his hair. The way that her touch made him feel was beyond words, and he could not help but grin like a fool every time. He gazed deeply into her hazel eyes, losing himself in their spellbinding lustre.

“You know that I’m going to hate every single moment that you’re out there without me.”

A knowing smile spread across his face and he lovingly tucked her hair behind her ear. “We’ve been over this, my darling. They can’t find your cell empty.”

“There’s something very wrong here, I can feel it.” Sorcha pressed a lingering kiss to his lips. “Watch yourself. You’ll be out there alone, and-”

He held his forehead to hers, and his lips began to move in prayer. “I am not alone. Even as I stumble on the path,” he whispered.

“With my eyes closed, yet I see the Light...” she added.

One last kiss and he walked from her cell to the main room, moving her weapons and their packs into the open cell next to hers. As Sebastian strapped his bow to his back, he turned for one more glance. That sinking feeling of dread washed over him again as he watched her close her cell door. This plan of hers was dangerous, but he could think of no other way. He would walk the grounds alone, since he had the freedom to do so, and try to figure out what was going on. He only hoped that she would be able to sway some of the Templars to join the Inquisition, and time was not on their side.


Sebastian prowled the battlements like a cat on a fence, slinking along the stone wall that had been darkened a deep grey by the rain. He was free to wander, but felt uneasy about being in full view of the occupying Templars. Peering down from an embrasure, he could see the water-logged courtyard littered with haphazardly placed crates, carts, and heavily armored warriors trudging across the muddy ground.

As far as he had been able to tell, operations within the Templar base seemed normal, save for the few small things that kept gnawing at him. Why were some healthy and others ill? What was with the red, glowing chestplates worn by the sickly-looking warriors? And where were all of the officers? Sebastian found this detail most troubling. Aside from the Lord Seeker, he had not come across a single member of the order who ranked higher than Knight-Templar.

He now moved through a long hallway which opened up to the practice yard, and came across the door to the officer’s quarters. Pausing next to the wooden frame, he listened intently for movement inside. The sharp footfalls of armored boots behind the oaken planks forced him to take cover in a nearby alcove. Grateful for the shadow of a crumbling statue, he drew up against the wall behind it and held his breath.

In perfect formation, a contingent of Templars marched past him. At their head, a man with dark, slicked-back hair and an angular face, whom Sebastian thought looked very familiar. Each man at the leader’s back was wearing a red chestplate, and some looked so ill that the Chantry Brother in him felt the urge to perform last rites. What was wrong with these men?

The Templars exited the hall and Sebastian slipped out into the practice yard behind them. As he watched them move across the field, his ear tuned the the sound of footsteps approaching him.

“Prince Vael,” Barris said as he stepped up to Sebastian, “the Lord Seeker requires your presence.” Sebastian was unable to hide his confusion and his face twisted into a questioning scowl.

“He asked for me? Not the Herald?”

The young Templar shook his head, “Just you, specifically, ser.”

Sebastian pondered over what the Lord Seeker’s motives could be. Under normal circumstances, meeting leaders was something the Prince of Starkhaven did quite regularly. But these were definitely not normal circumstances. That bad feeling writhed in the pit of his stomach again. He took a deep breath and pulled his shoulders back.

“Very well, Ser Barris,” he said, “but before I meet with him, may I you ask something?”

The Knight-Templar stood at attention and met the Prince’s eye as he gave him a curt nod.

“The man leading those Templars in the red armor. Who is he?”

“General Samson, ser.”

Sebastian’s eyes darted across the soggy ground as his mind fought to recall what he knew of this man. The face, the name, so familiar. Images of pale, bloody streets flashed before him. Sounds of shore birds and dangerous whispers swirled around him. The scent of the sea and rotting fish pervaded his thoughts. Suddenly, it dawned on him. Samson. The man whom Templars followed was once a lyrium-addict on the streets of Kirkwall, thrown from the Order for helping a mage. They had met briefly during Hawke’s search for the young Dreamer, but he was no Templar then. How could he be leading them now? No, something definitely was not right here.

He brought his attention back to Ser Barris, but did not wish to divulge his suspicions.

“I thought I recognized him,” he sniffed airily. “Please,” he continued, “lead the way.”

Sebastian followed Barris across the yard and into the front room where they were joined by a handful of men, to await an audience with the Lord Seeker. They were not kept waiting long.  

The side door opened with a drawn out creak, and a man with impressive red armor crossed the threshold. Knight-Templar Barris recognized him and promptly saluted and addressed him.

“Knight-Captain.”

The senior officer did not even acknowledge Barris; he marched past him and stopped in front of Sebastian.

“You were expecting the Lord Seeker,” he sneered, “but he sent me to die for you.”

“Barris,” Sebastian said quietly, “what’s wrong with him?”

The man clasped his hands behind his back and pulled back his shoulders. “The Lord Seeker had a plan,” he said. “The Herald’s speech at Val Royeaux has caused much dissent,” he stared at Sebastian, “but your presence here is better.”

Barris took an assertive step forward. “Knight-Captain Denam! I must know what is going on!”

Sebastian quickly surveyed the room, and noticed that the men flanking the Knight-Captain were all officers. He turned back to see his escort readying to draw his sword. He took a step back and unclasped his bow.

The Knight-Captain was seething. “You were all supposed to be changed. Everyone was to be transformed,” he hissed, “now we must purge the questioning knights!”

The sounds of battle rose outside of the walls around them. Barris looked around, confused, before backing away from the Knight-Captain. The officers standing behind Denam were reaching for their weapons. Sebastian took another step back and did the same.

Before the rest of the Templars could respond, half of them were felled. The Prince dropped back and began firing his arrows at the throats of the deranged men, each meeting its mark with lethal accuracy. Barris had his sword at the ready, but was hesitating to raise it against his brothers.

“Ser Barris!” Sebastian barked, needing the man to focus and resolve himself to fight. The young Templar was jarred from his thoughts at the Prince’s call, and looked to him with steel in his eyes. “Get the Herald!” He was immediately regretting the decision to leave her in the cells alone.

“Ser!” Barris acknowledged the order as he bashed his shield into one of his opponents. As Sebastian kept firing arrows at a dizzying pace, Barris grabbed another allied Templar and ran for the Herald. Out of the corner of his eye, Sebastian watched as the two men disappear around the corner.

Maker, let her be alright.


Sorcha could hear the fighting, its fury muffled by the stone walls around her. The clash of steel on steel, the screams, the war-cries; all permeating through the rock. There was something terribly wrong in this place, and she was not about to sit around in a cell, waiting for it to find her.

She swung her door open and retrieved her dragonbone sword and silverite shield from the open cage beside her. Anxiety coursed through her veins like poison as she thought of the battle before her, and her heart was in her throat as she thought of Sebastian’s safety. Maker, let him be alright.

She needed to calm herself, needed to focus, needed to draw on her abilities as a Seeker of Truth. It was her duty to manage Templars who failed to do theirs. She chose the role to protect the innocent, protect the good, protect the weak. She would prevent these people from becoming victims. She would prevent them from becoming what she once was.

With her shield strapped to her arm, and her sword in hand, she quickly lowered herself onto one knee and with the tip of her blade resting on the dusty, stone floor, she brought her forehead to the silver hilt.

“Blessed are they who stand before the corrupt and the wicked and do not falter,” Sorcha whispered. “Blessed are the peacekeepers, the champions of the just.”

She rose to her feet and breathed a deep, cleansing breath before running up the stairs, free of detainment but now hurled into violent chaos.

The men assigned to guard her were absent, and she ran across the battlements to reach the fighting down below. She descended the rain-slicked stairs and was immediately set upon by two Templars wearing red chestplates. They gave no reason, so she gave no quarter.

With her shield raised, she blocked the blade of one while she slashed the neck of the other. She spun on her toes and pushed at the first, using her shield to steer him off balance. Her blade found purchase in the soft flesh beneath his arm, and he, too, fell dead.

Stilling for a moment, she scanned the high-ground around her, searching for Sebastian’s familiar armor or the evidence of his lethal aim. She could find neither. Her heart was pounding in her ears. She immediately regretted the decision to have him investigate the fortress alone. Maker, let him be alright!

A worried voice called to her, drawing her attention back to the fray. She scanned the melee for the source. To her left, near the corner of the walls, was Ser Barris and another Knight-Templar, fending off twice as many of their deranged brothers. Capable as they may be, they were losing the battle.

Sorcha sprinted over to lend her sword to their fight. Her blade cut through the neck of one man and Barris deflected blows from two more. A smite erupted from her and staggered one of the assailants enough that he could be taken down by the Knight-Templar’s steel. Once their fight was over, she grabbed Barris by the neck of his breastplate and pulled him toward her.

“The Prince, Ser Barris,” she growled in near breathlessness, “have you seen him?” She needed to find Sebastian, to fight alongside him. She needed for him to be alright.

The weakened Barris nodded as he struggled to catch his breath. “Yes Herald,” he rasped, “ it was he that sent me for you. We thought you to be locked in your cell.”

Sorcha released his armor and motioned for him to move. “Just be thankful that I am not,” she said solemnly. “Now take me to the Prince. And start explaining what the fuck happened here.”

As they fought their way toward the front room, Barris informed her about the odd goings on of late. Before he could tell her about the Knight-Captain, they came across Denam’s office. Sorcha slowly opened the door and peered inside. The corpse that laid on the floor was familiar to her. She spun and met Ser Barris’ eyes with fire and fury.

“You failed to mention that the Knight-Vigilant was here. And now his corpse rots on the Knight-Captain’s floor,” she hissed, “You will explain.”

The shock on Barris’ face and the panic in his eyes lead Sorcha to believe that he was honest in saying that he had no knowledge of the Knight-Vigilant’s presence at the fortress. He went on to tell her of the Knight-Captain approaching Sebastian, and of the Lord Seeker’s interest in him. Every word he spoke was disturbing, and the situation was quickly reminding her of something that she could not quite place. Something was very, very wrong.

They crossed the hall and a small yard before Barris pointed out the room to her. Sorcha broke into a sprint and raced to find Sebastian, praying that he was safe. As she crossed the threshold, she tripped and smacked into the floor before she could brace herself, the heels of her palms skidding forward on the rough stone. Cursing, she looked back to see what had ensnared her feet.

Wrapped around her ankle was a bowstring, and the bow’s pliant shaft lay snapped in half beneath her heels. An inexplicable panic rose from her chest at the familiarity of the scene. Had this happened to her before? Why was she trembling? Images of cerulean flagstones and dead eyes flashed across her mind. Tears began to well, and she did not know why. Before the first hot tear could fall, Barris and a few more surviving Templars rushed inside. She disentangled her limbs and rose to her feet, turning away from prying glances.

“Herald! It’s the Knight-Captain,” a woman shouted from a corner of the room, “he’s alive and… has a message.”

Sorcha crossed the cobblestone floor in a few quick steps. The Knight-Captain was unconscious and bound, and skewered by the wings of his helmet was a folded note.

Herald,

I have kept the Knight-Captain alive for interrogation. He spoke of the Lord Seeker having a plan. I have taken the survivors with me to find him, and to most diplomatically ask him to divulge said plan.

Yours in service,

Sebastian Vael

 A small smile formed on Sorcha’s lips. He’s alive. Or, at least he was an hour ago. They needed to press on.

“Ser Barris,” she asked, “What is the best route to the Lord Seeker?”

“Through the main hall, Herald.”

Sorcha rolled her shoulders and adjusted her armor. “Then let us go meet him.”


A voice in Sebastian’s head sounded like the Lord Seeker’s, but there was more to it; something unknown yet familiar. It was taunting him, goading him, testing him. He knew he was alone in hearing it; the others he asked denied hearing anything.

“I will know you, Prince,” and “You will show me much,” echoed ominously through his mind. Flashes of silver skies and crumbling ruins pervaded his thoughts, and he was unable to control the fear and anxiety that these images evoked. What was happening to him?

He ran down the narrow hall, his footsteps sounding against the bare stone walls. The clatter of fighting grew louder as he reached the open yard, and with a dozen templars at his back, he crossed the muddy grounds to the lower steps of the great hall. Each of the men and women with him became embroiled in the melee, so he climbed to the first landing to provide supporting fire. He braced himself against a stone pillar, and fired his righteous arrows into the fray, killing deranged Templars and assisting the honorable ones. Once the weakened veterans had overcome their foes, he turned and ran ahead.

“The child with power has become the man with more,” the voice leered, almost amused. “You will show me much!”

Sebastian tried to shut it out, but his panic was rising. He crested the second landing, and heard the sounds of battle on the other side. Nocking an arrow, he crept to the ledge and was relieved to find Sorcha, alive, well, and dominating the field. He rained arrows down as quickly as he could, and as one whistled past Sorcha’s head and found its mark in her opponent’s eye slit, she turned to seek the source.

The smile on her face beamed for him; with relief, with gratitude, with utter adoration.  Sebastian’s heart swelled with affection. Maker, he loved that woman. Grinning like a fool, he gave her a quick salute and watched as she began climbing the stairs to meet him. Taking only a few strides, he met her at the top of the landing.

“Herald,” he sighed, “You’re alright.” It took every ounce of will that he had to not sweep her up in his arms. Sorcha was heaving for breath from the fighting, but she gazed at him warmly.

“As are you,” she whispered. She looked past his shoulder at the Templars wearily climbing the stone steps. “How many follow you?” she asked the Prince.

“About twenty now,” he answered in his most efficient reporting voice. “You?”

“A dozen,” she replied. Sebastian could see some sadness in her hazel eyes, and he knew immediately that she had lost some along the way. He placed his hand on her shoulder and offered her a comforting smile, which she seemed to appreciate.

“I think I saw the Lord Seeker run up the stairs to the Great Hall,” he said, “Shall we get some answers?”

Sorcha rolled her shoulders and stretched her sore neck before narrowing her gaze into daggers of icy steel. “I am greatly looking forward to it.”

He and Sorcha lead their nearly two score Templars up the grand staircase to the massive doors of the Great Hall. The Lord Seeker was just standing there, with his back to them, like he was unaware of their presence. As Sebastian was about to take the final step onto the landing, the voice rang loud in his head.

“Her last living word will be your name,” it growled. “She will call for you, and you will not be there!” He felt the air around him shift, suddenly heavy, and his skin crawled with the legs of a million ants. Reaching the top landing, he reached for the Lord Seeker with a trembling hand. Lucius suddenly spun around and grabbed Sebastian by the collar of his breastplate, dragging him toward the door.

“Finally!” the Seeker hissed, with an ominous grin on his face. His eyes became transparent and began to glow green. As he pulled Sebastian toward him, he growled, “I will know you!”

As the darkness overtook him, the last word to escape his lips was her name.

 

Chapter Text

 

Darkness gave way to light. A sickly green light that made Sebastian think of swamp gas and the creepy creatures within the murky waters. His vision sharpened and the forms around him began to take shape. Was this-? No. Impossible. There was no way he could be in his palace courtyard. Yet, that is exactly where he seemed to be.

The stones beneath his feet were whitewashed Starkhaven marble, and the the shrubbery surrounding the sitting alcoves were exactly the same as when he left. Cautiously stepping forward, he found that even the flowers around the central fountain were the same ruby heirloom roses. Everything was shrouded in the green glow, its appearance was haunting.

Sebastian felt the air shift, and from the corner of his eye he could see something shimmering into existence. His head tilted for a better look, and what appeared before him nearly rendered him paralyzed.

His parents, and his brothers, standing side by side, staring at him with empty eyes.

“Your competition,” the Lord Seeker’s voice sounded, this time not from within Sebastian, but from around him. “They stood between you and your destiny.”

The figure of Grand Cleric Elthina stepped out from the shadows, and circled around Sebastian. He stared at her, disbelieving and disgusted.

“I’ve never desired to rule, but it is my duty to do so,” his tone was menacing. The robed woman, bathed in the eerie green light, grinned at him cruelly as she paused her movement, leaning her blackened mouth near to his ear.

“So, the child with the power has now become the man who has it all. How fortunate,” it hissed. Sebastian shuddered at the sensation of the creature’s breath near his skin, feeling like acid and ice. The thing in Chantry robes slinked over to the husks of the long-dead Vael family. It raised a dagger to Sebastian’s mother’s throat.

“Tell me, how would you feel if I took your mother from you again?” The sneer on its lips spread wider as it watched for the Prince’s reaction.

Sebastian felt inundated by waves of panic and fear. His hands began to tremble and his heart was pounding so loudly that it was deafening. His muscles tensed, ready to fight, ready to save her. He could feel his skin crawling beneath his armor. The feeling was disturbing, yet also familiar. His expression hardened and he stared the robed figure down.

Images began flashing in his mind, shifting his thoughts inward. Tall, teal grasses. A mangy fox. And then a voice, a beacon in the darkness. Something within him clicked. Recognition.

“Whatever you’re after, demon, I assure you, you will fail.”

“Such a brave face you have. I will enjoy wearing it!” it cackled as it brought its blade across the flesh of the matronly Vael’s throat. Sebastian lunged to help her, but all he could do was catch her corpse before it hit the stones.

He held her body close, peering into her lifeless eyes as her thick, black blood covered his hands. Trembling, he brought his fingers to her hair and brushed them over her golden curls, darkening them with ichor. He had not seen his family’s bodies, nor was he present for their funeral rites all those years ago. Part of him knew that this was a cruel and evil trick, but that did not make it hurt any less. The Maker had spared him his family’s fate, but in doing so left him behind to mourn them, alone.

The face of Elthina said mockingly, “Again, you could not save her. It is no wonder you were cast aside and forgotten. You’re useless.”

Sebastian was the third son, the unnecessary child, but his parents still loved him. Did they not? With loathing and lament, he snapped his head around and glared dangerously at the demon.

“Your trickery will get you nowhere!” Sebastian growled as the rest of his family circled around him. The demon merely laughed.

“So you say,” it hissed as it plunged a dagger into Sebastian’s father’s heart, “but look at where it got you.”

Still clutching his mother’s body, Sebastian fell to his knees the same moment his father’s corpse hit the ground. Like he did in Kirkwall. None survived. You are the last. Tears formed in his eyes and stung until they fell, hot against his cheek.

“I have given you everything,” it gloated cruelly, “you should be grateful.”

Sebastian rose to his feet and breathlessly stared down at his bloodied hands. The robed figure emerged from the darkness and tossed something at the Prince’s feet. Empty, grey eyes looked back up at him, from the disembodied head of his eldest brother.

“He was in your way.” The demon circled him now, a vulture waiting for its meal. “Who were you, compared to him?”

His heart was pounding against its cage, racing and breaking at the same time. His brother was next in line for the throne, and would have been just. He was a decent man, and would have been twice the ruler that Sebastian was.

“It wasn’t like that,” Sebastian muttered. He looked up to find his other brother standing before him, wearing a blank stare and expressionless face. Suddenly, the body collapsed, a dagger in its back. Sebastian stumbled forward and caught his brother in his arms.

“But you did nothing to save them, did you? You never do.” The demon was around him now. Everywhere, nowhere, taunting and tormenting. Useless Prince. He could not save them, save anyone. His family died in their beds while he was safely tucked away in a Chantry.

“I had the obstacles removed,” the demon whispered in his ear. “You are a king now, and I, your maker.”

Sebastian’s mind reeled at its words. This thing had his family killed? Gave him the throne? Called itself a maker? His anger rose and set his blood aflame. His eyes narrowed into a burning glare and his hands shook with rage. Slowly, he reached for the dagger in his brother’s back. Once he had a grip on the hilt, he pulled it from its purchase. Screaming with the fury of a thousand fires, he spun back with unnatural speed and aimed the lethal blade at the demon’s heart.

Before the dagger could find the creature’s flesh, the being flickered and disappeared. The follow-through of Sebastian’s swing caused him to lose his footing, and as he righted himself, he found that he was no longer in the courtyard.

The vaulted chamber looked familiar too. The white marble floor of the throne room, now bathed in a sickly green glow, was inlaid with scrolling, gilded embellishments which danced across its vast expanse. Cylindrical pillars rose to meet a darkened stained glass ceiling, and iron statues flanked the throne.

Sebastian recognized the room as his seat of power, from where he ruled Starkhaven. Normally noisy with the chatter of nobles and advisors, the air was now chilled by stillness. Men and women spoke amongst themselves in hushed whispers, casting about worried glances. Cautiously, and still clutching the demon’s dagger, he walked the narrow, blood-red Orlesian carpet toward his attendant Leonal.

“The Queen put another twelve to their deaths today,” he heard Leonal whisper to an advisor. “These halls have not seen so much blood since the Vaels fell.”

Sebastian’s heart still ached from witnessing his family die, not moments ago. He did not want to imagine their actual deaths at the hands of the Flint Mercenaries. Had his father been slain while holding his mother in his arms while they slept? Had his mother been murdered in the one place where she should have been the safest? Did their blood stain the marble tiles of their bedchamber floor? He could not even bring himself to enter their room. Sadness washed over him like miserable waves from a wretched ocean.

He walked circles around Leonal and the advisor, confused about the context of their words. Who was the Queen? Starkhaven had no queen. It did not even have a king.

“The good Prince, rest his soul, should never have married that vile woman!” the advisor replied. “The ‘Herald of Andraste’ stole the Prince’s throne and then sent him to the Maker. Certainly placing us under the heel of this tyrant could not be the will of Andraste?”

“Hush, you fool!” Leonal hissed. “Such words are blasphemy. Do you want to lose your head?”

Never would Sorcha rule with an iron fist. She was kind, and honorable, and just. He would cross the Void and back, just to have her by his side. She would make him a better ruler, and his people would adore her. The demon was grasping at straws. Sebastian stepped atop the dais and stood in front of his throne.

“Show yourself, you coward!” Sebastian demanded. “Your only power is in twisting my mind, and I won’t let you. None of this is real. Face me!” His chest rose and fell, straining for the breath that his anger was stifling within his lungs.  Suddenly the air around him shifted again, his skin burned and he felt nauseated. The demon’s cruel laughter echoed throughout the vaulted room and the shapes twisted into new and different forms. The muted green glow intensified into a blinding yellow-green flash, forcing him to shield his eyes. When the light dimmed, he was no longer in his palace.

“None of this is real?” the demon cackled from the darkness. A chill filled the air and Sebastian could see his breath as a hazy fog. The sound of armored boots echoed against throughout the chamber and a file of torches illuminated the walls.

His breath caught in his throat; he recognized the room. The cold stone around him was covered with frost, and the old blood on the floor stuck to the soles of his boots. The cave. Hercinia.

Sebastian watched as a handful of Templars in red armor marched along the wall, dragging a bloodied sack behind them. It writhed and sobbed, and screamed in agony with each kick and punch the Templars imparted it. The voice, that cry, it sounded too familiar.

Dread climbed into his chest, his heart raced and anxiety began to slice through him. The officer at the head of the armored group paused at a stone altar, and motioned for the sack to be brought forward. The bloodied burlap bag was hoisted to the granite top with so much force, that the clap echoed across the cave walls. The Templar at the front, who looked familiar, took a knife from his belt and cut through the threadbare material.

A broken face, matted with blood and dark hair, stared at Sebastian from atop the altar. He tried to scream but nothing escaped his lips, not even air. She looked at him with tear-filled eyes, pleading to be saved. Could she see him? He tried to run to her, but his feet were rooted to the floor, stuck in her old blood.

He watched as the Templars tied her naked and battered body to the slab. Her arms and legs were broken, and took unnatural angles at their binding. Unable to move, he watched in horror as each of the men took up their daggers and began flaying the flesh from Sorcha’s bones. Her screams of anguish filled every fiber of his being. Every tear that fell from her dying eyes drowned him in heartbreak. Every drop of her blood that escaped her body stained his soul with agony.

He fell to the floor, retching. Sobbing and vomiting at the same time, he was on his hands and knees.

“Exactly where you should be,” the demon sneered. “Bowing before me.”

Sebastian raised his head and locked eyes with himself. Rather, what looked like himself. The demon had taken his form and was circling around him, his arms behind his back and moving with pompous strides. He watched as the creature drifted over to Sorcha, who lay dying on the altar. He lifted a hand to her face and smiled affectionately.

“Sebastian…” she whispered. And with his name, she breathed her last. The demon bent over and kissed her dead lips before turning back to the horrified Prince.

“And your name was on her dying breath,” it said, “or should I say my name?”

Sebastian began to crawl towards the altar, and upon reaching it, pulled himself to standing with shaking arms. He held her fractured and bloodied face in his hands, and placed his forehead to what was left of hers. As his tears flowed down her crushed temple, he could hear the creature’s cruel laugh behind him.

“What a powerless Prince you are. How many times have you failed to protect that which you hold most dear? How many people have seen your weakness? Exploited it? When I am you, they shall tremble before my might.”

He’s wrong.” A new voice spoke to him, through his pain. He heard it in his head, and his heart. "Envy wants you frozen, frigid, trapped. But she burns inside, truth to melt the ice, warmth to soothe the pain.”

Sorcha. He stopped for a moment, and lifted his head from the broken woman in his arms. The song in his soul played softly at first, but grew louder with each beat of his heart. Fight, he heard it sing with a voice that he knew well.. He followed the melody, back into himself.  He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, centering himself with the only method that he knew.

“I am not alone,” he whispered, “even as I stumble on the path.” Smiling slightly, he imagined Sorcha’s beautiful voice reciting the next verse. Along with his senses came his courage. He stood to his full height and turned to Envy.

“This is not real,” he growled, “and this is where it ends.” His mind was focused but anger coursed through his veins. His clenched fists were shaking and his chest heaved for breath. He made to step toward Envy, but the demon was faster.

It grabbed Sebastian by his neck and slammed him up against the frigid stone wall.

“You cannot stop me, powerless Prince!” it hissed. “I will take great pleasure having this form, and so will your Seeker whore!”

At Envy’s words, Sebastian’s rage broke free and there was nothing before his eyes but red. He roared as he brought his elbows down over Envy’s arms, knocking it’s hands from around his neck. With all of his weight behind him, he smashed his head into the demon’s nose, sending it reeling backwards.

“You will not touch her!” he bellowed, his voice echoed across the room, amplifying it to deafening proportions.

He stormed over to the surprised creature, drew back his clenched fist and rendered a full-force blow to its stomach. Envy was lifted off its feet. It howled in disbelief and doubled over, at which point Sebastian raised his arm to its full height, and with all of his strength, brought his elbow down onto the creature’s spine. It screamed and fell to the cold, hard floor.

He rammed his knee in between the demon’s shoulder blades, and wrapped his hand around its head.

“You will never touch her!” he growled into the demon’s ear. But before he could snap its neck, Envy vanished. Sebastian began to feel his senses dulling. The colors around him were muting, the sound of his rage within his veins became hushed, and his vision was fading. And at that moment, darkness came upon him, once again.


Sorcha watched with alarm as the Lord Seeker grabbed Sebastian by his breastplate. The moment that Lucius had pulled the Prince to the doors of the Great Hall, the heavy planks of the entrance forced themselves open with a great heave, and a demon was standing where the Lord Seeker had just been. The mantis-like creature shrieked a screeching wail, and immediately sought the shelter of a magical barrier at the rear of the room, which spanned the width of the Great Hall. Sebastian was unmoving, frozen in his tracks.

“Sebastian,” Sorcha called to him as she reached his side, “Can you hear me?” She lifted a hand to his shoulder and gave it a tight squeeze. He turned to look at her with an expressionless face, but she brought her other hand up and cupped his jaw, forcing eye contact. “Sebastian?”

That action seemed to be enough to jolt the Prince from whatever trance he was in. His brilliant blue eyes darted wildly about the room, and then a moment later settled on Sorcha. His handsome face smiled, and his brows lifted with deep relief.

“Sorcha,” he breathed, bringing his hand up to his face and placing it over hers, his eyes danced over her face like he was memorizing it. “Thank the Maker, you’re alright.”

Sorcha’s brow knitted in confusion, but she returned his smile. “Of course I am, I haven’t left your side,” she said, “but we have a bigger problem now than just Lucius .”

Sebastian’s expression hardened and he nodded in agreement. “It’s an envy demon,” he stated. “It took the Lord Seeker’s form. The true Lord Seeker is-”

“Either caged or dead,” Sorcha muttered. She turned to look at the yellow-green barrier, undulating with a sickly glow as it stretched across the room. Her stomach felt unsettled and her nerves rattled against their stays. This was her moment of truth.

Years of training, vigilance, and faith have prepared her for duties as a Seeker, and now she was about to perform one of the most dangerous: the abolition of a rare and dangerous demon. She adjusted her armor and rolled her shoulders back, steeling herself. With a deep breath, she turned and addressed the templars that followed her.

“This demon is a trickster,” she sounded, “a coward that hides when confronted by the might of the faithful.” The men and women with her nodded in agreement, each one meeting her gaze. “This monster ensured that the Templars were not prepared for a fight,” she continued, “but it does not know the bravery of your hearts.We need to take the battle to it.”

Barris stepped forward. “Herald,” he said, “I’m afraid most of us are weakened and without lyrium, and we don’t know where the old lyrium is being stored.” His shoulders dropped as he exhaled a heavy breath. “They had been giving us new philters. The lyrium inside was, different, red.”

“Red lyrium?” the Prince asked. “They gave you red lyrium? Were you not aware of what it did to Knight-Commander Meredith?”

Barris nodded slightly before lifting his chin. “That was the exact reason that I refused it, ser. I saw what it was doing to people. The officers said it would make us stronger, better. But all I saw it do was poison those who trusted our superiors.” The Templar then lowered his head. “Loyalty to the Order is what destroyed us.”

Sorcha clasped Barris’ armored shoulder. “Ser Barris,” she said calmly. He lifted his head and met her eyes. “We need to get through that barrier. Blame can be assigned once we’re victorious.”

Barris stood at attention and nodded a salute. “Our strength is still limited, Herald.”

The remaining Templars were watching, waiting for her order. She knew that they would fight, but she would not send them to battle disadvantaged.

“Let me handle that, Ser Barris,” she said, giving him a knowing smile, which he returned with a slight tilt of his head.

She turned to the faithful warriors, and with Sebastian at her side, standing tall and proud, she stood to her full height, lifted her chin, and pulled her shoulders back.

“Behind that barrier, is Envy,” she asserted. “Behind that barrier, is cowardice. Behind that barrier, is our duty. We are ready for this. Let’s kick the bastard out!”

The surviving men and women of the Order rallied, knocking the steel of their swords against the faces of their shields, and working themselves up for the fight to come. They marched to the barrier, standing shoulder to shoulder along its width, and Sorcha took up her position at their rear and center. Sebastian had found a perch on some scaffolding, drew his bow, and nodded to her his ready. She gave him a wink and turned back the the Templars.

“On my order, begin your concentration,” Sorcha barked, “I will reinforce you, enhance your focus.”   

“And what are our orders, Herald?” a voice from behind her shouted. She turned to see the familiar faces of Inquisition scouts entering the hall, and she felt relief at the presence of added backup for this fight.

“Nice of you guys to join us,” she mused. “I thought you’d be watching from the bushes forever.” Each of the seven scouts saluted and bowed their heads, and the woman she knew as Harper stepped forward.

“We entered the fortress during the fighting, Herald,” Harper said. “Luckily some of the crumbled walls were scalable.The wounded are being tended to, and we handled the remaining hostiles.”

“Good work, Harper. I need two of you to search for the uncorrupted lyrium philters. The rest of you, keep whatever shows up off of our backs until we break through this barrier.”

The scouts scattered to their positions, and Sorcha turned back to face the magical shield.

“Templars, ready!” she shouted. Each man and woman in the row before her lowered themselves to one knee, brought their shields in front of them, and placed the hilts of their swords to their foreheads. Sorcha took up the same form.

“Our faith sustains us; we shall not fear the legion,” she sounded.

In unison, the faithful before her replied, “Should they set themselves against us.”

“Now!” she yelled. The air around her seemed to flow like a slow tide, wrapping around her and the Templars like ribbons of reality. She focused on strengthening the fortitude of the others, and as she concentrated on her unique ability, the room around her began to disappear. Individual shapes and forms blended together into a kaleidoscope of light and color.

Sorcha was vaguely aware of fighting going on around her, but she trusted Sebastian to keep her safe. Feeling the renewed focus of the Templars, she narrowed her own and directed it at the barrier. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end, and the air burned in her lungs like caustic fumes. It would not be much longer, now.

Her head began to spin, and she knew that spreading her focus to the others had tired her. Feeling weak, she began to teeter on her knee. She would have fallen, if not for a strong hand on her shoulder, holding her, steadying her. The song in her soul rose above the fatigue in her mind, and she felt herself reinvigorating. With her new-found reserves, her focus pushed forward with all the might she could muster.

In that last moment, the barrier was breached. A shockwave of light and energy knocked her and the Templars to the unforgiving stone floor, and she could hear the maniacal shrieking of the demon receding. Disoriented, she tried to scramble to her feet, but her sword and shield suddenly seemed to have great weight.

A pair of muscular arms wrapped around her and lifted her from the cold granite. Her vision began to sharpen and she saw dark tousled waves crowning a most handsome face.

“Envy has retreated outside,” Sebastian said as he brushed her messy hair from her face, “are you alright to continue?”

Sorcha looked around and saw the rest of the Templars strewn about the floor, alive but weak. She caught Barris’ eye, and using his sword for leverage, he forced himself to his feet.

“We will survive, Herald,” the Knight-Templar sighed exhaustedly as he leaned on his blade, “but we are too weak to be of much help. You must finish the bastard off!”

She nodded to Barris and adjusted her armor before turning back to Sebastian. His eyes held concern for her, but their brilliance helped to renew her diminished fortitude. She held his gaze and returned a knowing look.

In her voice was an amalgamation of frustration, exhaustion and command. “This is where it ends.”


Side by side, Sebastian and Sorcha marched toward the Shrine of Offering. The once tranquil garden terrace,  was now twisted and poisoned by spires of red lyrium. Sebastian’s keen eyes scanned the area for hostile Templars, and finding none, he let his gaze fall back to Sorcha.

She was different now, he thought, from when they first met. Her long, flowing, raven waves that danced between black and indigo brilliance in the midday sun, were cast aside in favor of a warrior’s sensible style of narrow braids and twisted knots.  

The sheen of her perfect, golden skin had dulled from years of dutiful life. She had lines around her eyes when she smiled now, and scars peppered her face. Fine, silver lines decorated her left eyebrow, cheekbone, and upper lip. Mementos of that terrible night. A gift from a deranged Templar.

The curvy physique of a young, privileged girl had evolved into the slim, muscular frame of an indomitable woman. And her essence, once carefree and indulgent and young, had grown into a fierce, righteous spirit of a just and honorable woman.

She was different now, and Sebastian had never thought her more beautiful, or admired her more, than at this moment. A small smile grew on his lips as he cherished these thoughts.

Envy’s indignant laughter snapped his attention back to the impending battle. He reached out and grasped Sorcha’s arm, spinning her to face him.

“Sorcha,” he said, “be vigilant. This fight is personal, and Envy will seek to harm you to get to me.” Sorcha’s confused expression twisted to horror as Sebastian continued, “Everything that has happened. The suffering over the last fifteen years. Yours and mine. It is responsible for it all.” His eye twitched and his voice fell an octave lower. “And it just made me relive every moment.”

She pulled off a glove and brought her naked hand to his cheek; he leaned in to her touch and gazed into her beautiful hazel eyes.

“So it used me to get to you,” she said softly, her voice was kind and soothing. He nodded and her eyes narrowed into a fierce stare. Her voice lowered into a throaty growl, “I swear to you, Sebastian, that we will make it suffer. Its life will be yours to take.”

How she was able to impart such confidence and courage into the hearts of others, he could not say. What he did know, however, was this: if he were not already willing to follow her through the Void, he certainly would be now.

He leaned in and placed a quick kiss to the outer corner of her eye. “Thank you,” he whispered. Then he drew back, his eyes slipping to the courtyard before them.

It was time to finish this. As ready as he would ever be, he turned to the tortured garden and, with a recovered Sorcha by his side, marched to meet their foe. The moment they stepped from the crumbling stone hall and onto the decrepit stairs, a magical barrier drew up behind them, trapping them in the shrine. Envy’s cruel laughter echoed off the falling walls and into the open air.

“There is no escape for you, Useless Prince,” the demon cackled. “Neither you nor your broken whore will survive.” Sebastian and Sorcha both wheeled around, trying to find Envy’s purchase, but the coward was still hiding, taunting them from the shadows.

Sebastian drew his bow but did not raise it. He scanned the grounds quickly, relying on his peripheral vision to reveal the demon’s hiding place. His eyes searched for a slight shimmer in the air, a wavering of light and shadow. He tapped Sorcha’s foot with his own and with a nod of his head, covertly motioned to a crumbling dais near the terrace railing. She returned the gesture and readied herself, raising her shield and bringing her blade atop its upper edge.

Narrowing his eyes, he could barely make out the anomaly hovering over the ground, but it was there. He lifted his bow and aimed seemingly at thin air.

“The only death here will be yours!” the Prince snarled as he loosed his arrow. The demon screamed as it’s illusion fell and the arrow pierced its shoulder. Before Envy could dematerialize again into hiding, Sorcha hit it with a smite, staggering it. Sebastian hopped atop a fallen pillar for the high-ground, and kept firing one arrow after another at the unholy creature. Never before had he been so thankful for his skilled aim; Sorcha was slashing away at the demon in melee combat, and aim any less perfect would have seen her riddled with arrows as well.

Sorcha kept blocking Envy’s strikes with her shield, and with each step she gave up, she pushed forward two more. Her sword swung with practiced ease, each thrust held enough power to kill a man twice her size. Sebastian watched as she brought the demon to its knees with combinations of smites, shield bashes and powerful slashes. He found himself awed by her battle prowess. Envy was weakening, it had to be. Nothing could withstand that kind of beating.

As a final assault, Envy screeched and released a blast of energy from its body. Sorcha was nearest the epicenter, and was thrown back with such force that her sword and shield were ripped from her. Before Sebastian could move, the demon was atop her, its claws wrapped around her neck. In his quiver was a single arrow. He reached for it, and Envy laughed viciously as he nocked it.

“Are you good enough to kill me before I kill her?” it sneered. It kept one hand around her throat as the other moved down her chest. It turned its bulbous head to Sebastian and grinned maliciously before surrounding itself with a barrier. “You will fail to save her. Again.”

The world around Sebastian collapsed into a single pinpointed target. Every ounce of rage and remorse, each pang of guilt and loss, each and every breath of love that Sebastian had ever known was driven together into a lethal weapon of will. His life no longer mattered. He would freely give it to save her, and would gladly die a thousand times over if that meant that she would live. She will live.

With a guttural roar, Sebastian leapt from his perch and fired his last arrow. Tossing his bow aside, he sprinted toward Envy. He swept up Sorcha’s shield as he ran past and positioned his arm inside.

The arrow he fired reached the demon and pierced its barrier. After the magical barrier dropped, Sebastian raised Sorcha’s shield of silverite, and rammed into Envy with the force of a rampaging bull. Sebastian and the demon went rolling across the grass, and before coming to a stop, the Prince desperately reached into his boot for his dagger.

Envy struggled to its knees, and Sebastian rushed to it again, with shield up and dagger drawn.  

“It ends here!” he raged. Gathering what was left of his strength, he bashed Envy in the head with Sorcha’s shield, and held the demon down with the silverite, exposing its sinewy neck.  With a final explosion of fury, a primal roar escaped his chest as he dragged his razor-sharp blade through the screaming creature’s flesh.

Envy’s final breaths gurgled from its opened throat, and Sebastian stood over it, watching. His chest heaved for breath as his body worked to calm itself. The moment the demon perished, the Prince ran back to Sorcha, who was struggling to stand.

He dropped to his knees as he neared her, sliding along the wet grass and catching her in his arms. He ran his hands over her, checking for injuries.

“Sorcha,” he said breathlessly, “are you alright, my darling? Are you hurt?”

She rose to test her ankle, and fell back to her knees with a grimace. “Only a little, it seems.” Her hand gently touched his cheek, the sensation tingled as her nails dragged through his beard. “How are you?”   

His eyes danced over her tired face, and his gaze landed on her deliciously perfect lips. Her tongue darted out to clean away the drops of blood at the corner of her mouth, and he could not help himself.

Like a man starved, he claimed her hungrily, communicating his love and devotion in the single act of a kiss. Breathless, he pulled himself back and brushed her loose tendrils from her smiling face.

“My darling Sorcha,” he whispered, “I lo-”

“Herald! Prince Vael!” Ser Barris’s voice boomed from inside the Great Hall. “Are you both alright?”

Sebastian and Sorcha looked at each other a moment before turning their sidelong glares to the approaching Templar.

“Alive and well, Ser Barris,” Sorcha groaned. “Envy is dead, and we are not.” Sebastian helped her to her feet and supported her as she stood.

“We owe you our lives, Herald,” Barris claimed. “But what will become of us now? We have no commanders, no officers. Not even an Order to follow.”

Sorcha eyed the men and women before her. “You may not have an Order, but as Andraste’s faithful, you still have a duty.” She turned and pointed to the Breach, twisting in the eastern sky. “That… is your priority.” She shifted back to face the Templars. “The Templars will be brought into the Inquisition. Once the Breach has been closed, and those responsible have been brought to justice, then we can examine the future of the Order. Until then, consider yourselves conscripted.”

Pride filled Sebastian’s heart as he watched her take command of the wayward Templars. Everything she had seen and suffered, and she still treated them honorably. He gave her a slight squeeze and when she looked up at him, gave her a wink, which awarded him a smirk from her beautiful lips.

“Herald of Andraste,” Barris’ voice drew their attention, and they turned from one another to see that each of the Templars had taken a knee. “We accept the Inquisition’s offer, and swear our allegiance.”  

Sebastian could see that Sorcha felt a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She offered Ser Barris her arm, and he clasped it with a firm shake. An accord with the Templars had been struck.

“Harper!” she called to the scout. When the woman stepped forward, Sorcha continued. “Get a message to Haven. The Prince and I will take two of the uninjured, and the other wounded to Denerim to find a proper healer.”

Sorcha looked up at him and he could see the mischief that danced in her eyes. He lowered his hand from the curve of her back, brushing his fingers ever so slightly along the top of her rear. She playfully raised an eyebrow before turning back to the scout.

“The rest of the Templars will travel to Haven, so they must prepare for their arrival. And have Seeker Pentaghast, Solas and Varric meet us in Redcliffe in two weeks hence. We are picking up some mages.”


.





 

Chapter Text

One day of travel away from Denerim, and one day away from some alone time with her Prince. Sorcha grinned to herself as her thoughts lingered on sharing a room, a hot bath, and a welcoming bed with Sebastian. Travelling with him, having his arm around her as a crutch whenever her ankle gave out, his constant touch and reassurances - it was all making it very difficult to keep up propriety, and not share a tent with him. Finally allowing herself to feel what her heart wanted, rather than what her head dictated, was like stepping out onto the open plains after having been caged for a lifetime. It was liberating, elating, exciting, and terrifying.

Was it possible that she was in love with him? She thought back to that night of the storm, and remembered the feel of his hands as he caressed her body, the scent of his flesh when she explored him with her mouth, the taste of his lips as he kissed her with fervent passion and worship, and the heavenly sounds of his voice when his soft moans and whispers broke the silence within her cramped tent. Butterflies danced through her and she felt a slight tingle shiver across her skin. Her daydreaming caused her to stumble on a rock, but a strong arm was around her in a flash, keeping her from falling.

She looked up into Sebastian’s brilliant, beautiful eyes, shining with adoration and hope, and quickly lost herself within them. He was always so concerned for her well being, and so incredibly attentive to her every need. Even when they were young, he had always put her needs before his own. She fought back the urge to claim those perfect, smiling lips. Yes, it was absolutely possible that she was in love with him.

They had walked along the well-worn road for another hour before Sorcha called for a halt. There was something in the air now, causing her hairs to stand on end. She could feel the subtle vibration in her teeth, and it altered her heartbeat, forcing shallow breaths . She looked up at Sebastian, who had his eyes peeled to the terrain and his ear trained to...something.

“Source?” she inquired. She trusted his senses as much as she trusted his loyalty. If she felt something, then he was definitely aware of it as well. Sebastian’s head tilted slightly and his eyes followed the opposite direction.

“Over the hill and to the east,” he replied. “I can faintly hear… voices, and fighting.” Sorcha gave his arm a squeeze and turned back to the Scouts and Templars behind her.

“One Templar and one scout,” she called, “come with Prince Vael and I. Everyone else protect the wounded.” Two women jogged up to her and saluted. Before she could turn and lead her group off, Sebastian’s hand was around her arm, holding her still.

“Herald,” he said, “a moment.” The Prince got down on one knee, and his gaze rose to meet hers as a warm smile spread over his handsome face. “Before we run off into Maker-knows-what,” he continued, “I need to ask you-”

Sorcha’s heart skipped a dozen beats, and a hot flush of anticipation washed over her. She met his gaze, raising an eyebrow at his suspicious action, but said nothing. She held her breath.

“- to give me that ankle. I need to reinforce your splints.”

Sorcha straightened and blushed, embarrassed that the thought of him proposing marriage even crossed her mind at all. They had only just begun courting, and there was still the Breach to close; marriage certainly was not in the foreseeable future.

She supported her balance by holding Sebastian’s shoulder before placing her foot on his knee. He readjusted the wood supporting her ankle, and tightened the leather wrap around it.  She lowered her foot and tested it; though still sore, it was acceptable. Sorcha strapped her shield to her arm, drew her sword, and marched toward the incline. The Prince unclasped his bow from his back, and with the Templar and Scout, followed closely behind.

They crested the hill, and Sorcha’s attention was immediately drawn to a clearing directly east of them. She could feel it, on her skin, in her bones, in her blood.

“Magic,” she stated, “elemental and something else… a rift.” She turned to her companions, and issued a solemn warning. “There will be demons.”

The Templar lifted a small phial to her lips and swallowed some of her rationed lyrium, and the Inquisition Scout pulled her crossbow from her back. Sebastian drew an arrow from his quiver and held it in his long fingers, ready to nock. He looked to her for her order. Sorcha’s eyes narrowed, and she gave him a quick wink before leading them off to the source of the magic.

At the bottom of the hill, in a clearing off the main road, there was indeed a small rift. A handful of merchants sat huddled within a scorched and smoldering wagon, hiding from that which may yet be prowling. One of the men caught sight of the Seeker and her party, and began pleading for help. He pointed toward the undulating glow of green and yellow light which stained the sky around it, stammering about someone fighting. The stench of demons burned in her nose like acrid smoke, and Sorcha motioned to Sebastian and the scout to find their high ground, and called the Templar to her.

“We don’t know whose magic this is, so no smiting unless I order it. Understood?”

The Templar saluted, raised her shield and brought her blade atop its edge.  Sorcha adopted the same stance, and the two warriors cautiously made their way toward the rift.

Entering the clearing, Sorcha saw the aftermath of skilled fighting. Ash piles lay smoldering where demons once stood, and she could hear the screams of creatures being eviscerated and burned. On the opposite side of the rift, she caught flashes of a steel greatsword reflecting the light of fireballs, ice spears, and thunderbolts. A woman, lithe and furious, was impaling rage demons like they were kabobs. And the man with her was clearly trained as a battlemage. His staff was wielded as skillfully as his spells, slicing through the creatures’ flesh as efficiently as the warrior’s sword.

Before Sorcha could raise her hand to seal the tear, another wave of demons broke through. She ran her sword through the belly of a shade while she deflected the icy attack of a Despair demon. The creature floated over to the other side of the rift, but before it could direct its freezing magic toward the unknown fighters, it was felled by an extremely well placed arrow.

Noticing that demons were dying and it was not by their hands, the duo turned around, seeking the source of their assistance. The warrior ran her eyes over Sorcha and the Templar, and raised her great sword defensively. The man with her held a slightly panicked look as he thrust his hand forward and swung his staff in an intimidating arc, its crystalline focus alight and ready to release its offensive barrage at the women before him.

At that moment, a Terror demon shot up from the ground beneath the warrior’s feet, staggering her and throwing her to her knees. The mage stumbled backward and forced a weak fireball from his staff. Sorcha raised her shield and gripped her sword tightly, charging the sinewy demon.

“Ser Angela, your lyrium! The mage is out of mana!”

The Templar ran alongside Sorcha and joined in the attack. Whether the woman was apprehensive about enabling a mage, or if she had not heard the order, Sorcha could not say. But she would not tolerate insubordination.

“Templar!” she growled as she drove her blade into the creature’s chest. “Your lyrium. Give it to him. Now!”

Sorcha saw the woman’s eyes narrow behind her face shield, but she reached behind her chest plate, pulled the phial from around her neck, and tossed it resentfully to the weakened mage. The warrior watched the Templar apprehensively as her companion consumed the donated lyrium. No sooner had he replenished his mana, than a hulking Pride demon stepped from the rift and turned its ire upon them. With a villainous laugh, it produced a weapon of electrical energy, and began to wield it with wide arcs.

Sorcha caught the eye of the Templar, who was looking to her for orders. The other pair were also watching to see what Sorcha would do.  Arrows and bolts whizzed passed their heads and into a couple of Wraiths that attempted to surround them. Satisfied that they were adequately covered by her archers, Sorcha lowered herself into her attack stance.

“Ser Angela, you and I will alternate smites,” she barked. Nodding in recognition,the Templar adopted her battle stance. Sorcha’s head snapped quickly to the battlemage. “Mage! What is your magic?”   

“The legal kind!” he shouted over the hissing and crackling of the demon’s arcing whip.

Sorcha rolled her eyes. “I’m not fucking joking, mage!”

The mage’s gaze narrowed as he threw barriers over the four of them and enveloped himself in a rejuvenating aura. “Neither am I, Seeker!”

“Then throw the earth at this bastard!” Sorcha sounded. She gave the order to engage. Ser Angela hit the demon with her focused energy, forcing it back a step. The mage followed her attack with a precisely aimed fireball, setting the creature aflame. Its screams of fury and pain were enough for Sorcha to acknowledge the potential of her strategy.

After Sorcha’s smite forced it to take a knee, she ran forward, bringing the fight to the demon. Her dragonbone blade, the sword and shield of Ser Angela, and the great blade of the woman warrior, all delivered crippling blows to the demon’s legs. The mage’s aura kept their stamina up, and his spells were making short work of the creature. Bolts and arrows riddled its hide, reassuring Sorcha that Sebastian and the Scout were still safe.

The creature suddenly lashed out with its whip, causing the women to cease their attack and roll out of its range. It was bleeding, weakening, but its haunting laugh was still sending chills through Sorcha’s body.

The warrior began sprinting toward the demon, and when she neared its kneeling body she pushed off from the ichor-covered ground. As she leapt through the air, the mage cast upon her and the blade of her greatsword lit up in orange flame. She swung it in a lethal arc as her feet found purchase on the creature’s back. With a guttural cry, she plunged the flaming steel into the back of the demon’s head, its gore-stained tip exiting through the gaping mouth, silencing its screams.

Sorcha could not help but be awed by the woman’s battle prowess, and she nodded respectfully at the warrior before raising her hand to the undulating energy of the rift. The Mark in her hand flared to life, connected now to the rift by a beam of light. She focused on the power in her palm, willing it to absorb the life-force of the Veil’s tear. Moment after moment, Sorcha could feel the energy within her palm expanding, strengthening. Once she thought her hand would burst, she narrowed her focus and pulled the remaining life from the rift, sealing it permanently.

She stood cradling her hand, heaving for breath from the battle newly won, and scanned the woods for Sebastian’s white armor. Footfalls sounded behind her, and she spun on her heel, coming face to face with the indomitable warrior.

The woman wore a wry smile, and her blue eyes regarded Sorcha with interest.

“Well, it seems that the tale of the Herald was not exaggerated,” the woman mused. Sorcha raised a brow at her questioningly.

“Tale of the Herald?” Sorcha scoffed. “I’m certainly no-”

“Champion of Kirkwall,” Sebastian broke in as he stepped from the shadow of the woods. “I’m happy to see that you yet live.” He approached the two women and took his place by Sorcha’s side, extending his arm to the Champion.

“Sebastian!” Hawke exclaimed, “I should have recognized your handiwork back there.”

The Prince offered her a small bow before making the introductions. “Herald, meet Marian Hawke, Champion of Kirkwall,” he said warmly. The Champion released his arm and extended her hand to Sorcha, who was very surprised and very pleased to be meeting the legendary warrior. She took Hawke’s hand with a smile.

“Champion,” she said politely, trying to rein in her excitement. “Varric has regaled us all with your adventures. I’m honored to meet you.”

Sebastian’s face beamed as he gestured to Sorcha. “Champion, may I present Sorcha Trevelyan, the Herald of Andraste.” The pride and adoration in his voice made her smile grow wider.

Hawke turned to Sebastian with an incredulous expression.

The Sorcha?” Blushing, the Prince smiled and averted his eyes. Hawke turned back to Sorcha and released her hand only to bring it up over her own heart. “It was you he made his vows to!” she swooned. “Maker, this is so fucking romantic!”

“Quite the fairy tale, indeed,” came another voice from the shadows. Hawke’s companion, a slim man with a long, copper tresses stepped forward. Sorcha was drawn to him, and not just because he possessed magic. His face wore years of hard living, and his weary, amber eyes held the expressionless stare of a man who has seen entirely too much conflict. His Grey Warden battlemage armor was covered in demon filth and direly needed mending. He raked his hands through his unruly hair and pulled the locks back with a leather tie, giving Hawke a sidelong wink, which earned him a hard eye roll. Grinning at his companion’s irritation, he extended his hand to Sorcha.

“Thomas O’Malley,” he said. Sorcha immediately felt the bounding energy of strong magic in his touch, instantly noticing its breadth. His connection to the Fade was stronger than most. “It’s an honor to meet you, Herald,” he continued.

Thomas turned to Sebastian and contemptuously curled up the corners of his parched lips. He eyed the Prince over with indifference. “And what are you supposed to be?”

Sebastian straightened and tugged on his breastplate. “I am Prince Sebastian Vael, of Starkhaven,” he declared, staring the Warden down. “Ally of the Inquisition and protector of the Herald of Andraste.”  

The Warden rolled his eyes and twiddled his finger in the air. “Whoopdee doo!” he muttered, completely unimpressed. “I’m going to check on the merchants,” he said to Hawke, “I’m sure there are some that need healing.”

“You are a healer, Warden O’Malley?” Sorcha asked, ignoring the icy glare that Sebastian was throwing the Warden. “We have wounded as well, and were travelling to Denerim to find a proper healer. Can you help us?”

Thomas smiled kindly and gave Sorcha a small bow. “Of course, Herald. Just point the way.”

Sorcha motioned for Ser Angela and the Scout to accompany Thomas to the others. As the Templar approached the group, the Warden lifted his hand, pointed two fingers to his steely eyes and then one back at Ser Angela.  A disgruntled noise escaped the woman’s lips as she followed him away from the clearing.

Sebastian’s face was twisted into a disgusted grimace. “Where did you pick up that mangy stray, Hawke?”

The Champion chuckled, but Sorcha could sense the underlying nervousness in her voice. “He’s a good man,” she began. “There were some Wardens in Kirkwall during the battle between the Templars and mages.” She lowered herself to rest on a fallen tree. “Thomas saved me from Meredith’s blade,” she said quietly as she cleaned the blood from her steel.

Sorcha moved to sit next to her. “My apologies, but I must ask. What of Anders?” From the corner of her eye, she could see Sebastian’s fists clench at the mention of the mage’s name.

“Yes, Hawke,” he sneered. “What of Anders?”

Hawke did not raise her eyes. “I don’t know where he went,” she replied. “He wanted to atone, and I spared him to give him that chance.” She looked up and held Sebastian’s gaze. “I haven’t seen his face since the Gallows.”

Sebastian took a step toward the Champion, his jaw was set and anger flashed in his eyes. “How could you allow such an abomination to just walk away, Hawke?”

He had a point. Sorcha had often wondered why Hawke had let Anders go after committing such a horrific crime. She glanced back to Sebastian, and her heart missed a beat as the butterflies rose to her chest. Now she was beginning to understand the Champion’s decision.  

“That’s enough, Sebastian,” Sorcha said calmly, trying to diffuse the situation before it got out of hand.

“No, Sorcha!” Sebastian barked, waving his arms angrily. “He blew up the Chantry. He killed innocent people! He murdered Grand Cleric Elthina! I will not rest until he-”

Sorcha jumped to her feet and stood in front of the Prince defiantly. “I fucking said enough, Sebastian!” she snapped. “Drop it.”

Her heart broke a little when she saw the pain in his expression, like her words had just slapped him in the face. Slowly, she reached up and cupped his cheek, looking at him apologetically.

“Please, my Prince,” her voice was soft and low. “I know that Elthina was important to you, but believe me when I say that there was more to her than the pious woman you knew.” Sebastian opened his mouth to speak, but Sorcha shook her head in refusal. “Not here or now, but I have much to tell you. I’m sorry for snapping, but please, let’s just be happy that your friend is alive and well, shall we?”

Covering her hand with his, he gave it a small squeeze before leaning in and placing a soft kiss to her lips. Sorcha closed her eyes and reveled in his gentle touch.

“You two are lucky that Varric isn’t here,” Hawke mused, interrupting their tender moment. “He’d be narrating and taking notes on how deeply you shoved your tongues down each other’s throats.”

Chuckling, Sebastian was the first to reluctantly pull away. “Forgive us, Hawke. We don’t have many moments away from prying eyes.” The Champion gave him a perfunctory wave, and strapped her sword to her back as she stood.

“Champion-” Sorcha began, but Hawke interrupted her, shaking her head.

“Please, it’s Marian.”

Sorcha tilted her head in acknowledgement. “Marian,” she said, “please allow me to extend an official invitation to Haven. You and your companion are welcome within the Inquisition.” Sorcha extended her hand and Hawke readily accepted, clasping her wrist tightly.

On the walk back to Therinfal’s wounded, Sorcha and Sebastian informed Hawke about what they learned at the fortress, Samson and the red lyrium in particular. Horrified that anyone would ingest it willingly, Hawke provided every detail about the deranged Meredith, beginning with her slow but noticeable descent into madness and ending with her inhuman strength before her demise.

Sorcha paid close attention, for this was the first time she was able to hear a first-hand account of  Meredith’s tyranny, from someone other than a Templar or Circle Mage under the Knight-Commander’s direct supervision.

The Champion also offered up all she knew about Samson as well - his compassion for mages, and how he was quick to wield a sword and shield to protect the innocent during the fall of Kirkwall.  He had not been a Templar at that time.

Sorcha was intrigued by the man’s story. Brave, compassionate, and just. He seemed to embody everything that a Templar should be, but now he led them astray, endangering their very lives by feeding them red lyrium. She needed to know more, and made a mental note to ask the Commander about him when she returned to Haven.

Upon reaching their group, Sorcha was very pleased to see almost everyone up and walking around. Warden O’Malley sat on the back of a wagon, recovering his mana. He looked exhausted, but judging from the relieved smiles of the previously injured, the man did good work.

“Warden O’Malley, how is everyone faring?” Sorcha asked. The redheaded mage met her gaze with weary eyes.

“All but four have made full recoveries.” he stated. “Those men will need rest and supervision for at least a week.” He glanced down at Sorcha’s splinted ankle. “If you give me an hour or so to rest, I’ll fix your injuries as well, Herald.”

Now that she had a dozen uninjured Templars, Sorcha decided to go to Redcliffe rather than Denerim. Disappointed that her potential alone time with Sebastian would be postponed, she resolved to make it up to him, somehow.

Bringing her attention back to the mage, she smiled at the Warden and removed her doeskin gloves from her hands.

“With everyone healed,” she began, “I wish to head for Redcliffe without further delay. I would appreciate that you heal me, but may I tend to you first?”

Thomas raised an eyebrow at her suspiciously, but at Hawke’s reassuring nod, he lowered himself from the back of the wagon. Sorcha laid one hand on his heart and the other on his temple. Centering herself, she took a deep, cleansing breath and concentrated on the blood coursing through the mage’s veins. She could feel the thready pulse of his mana strengthen, becoming stronger with each breath. Narrowing her focus, she drew the weariness from his body and implanted a renewed vigor. Once she felt him strengthen, she removed her hands and opened her eyes.

He stood before her, visibly changed. His mouth hung open in awe, and behind the surprize in his eyes, Sorcha could see that the dark circles under them had paled, and the amber orbs now glinted with hints of deep bronze.

“Maker,” he whispered, like his voice forgot to form. “What in the fuck was that? It was amazing!”

“I was granted an ability,” Sorcha claimed, “when I became a Seeker. That was the friendly side of it.”

Thomas rolled his shoulders back and cracked his neck. “I’d hate to see the unfriendly side.” He clapped his hands and rubbed them together. “Alright, back to work!”

He gestured to Sebastian. “Prince Poncy-Pants, give her a seat.”  Sebastian glared at the Warden as he lowered himself onto one knee. Guiding Sorcha as she sat herself onto his leg, he put his arm around her as she took her position atop his muscular thigh. Thomas kneeled by her feet, and lifting her injured ankle onto his lap, he removed her splints and her boot.

She leaned her head against Sebastian’s as waves of soothing healing magic made their way through her body. She had experienced a healer’s hands many times, but this man’s magic was different. Stronger, more pure and potent. Normally, there was a sting of the muscle weaving itself together, or the burning of bone fusing back into its proper form. This time, all she felt was a cool tingle at her injury, and waves of rejuvenation and relaxation washing over the rest of her fatigued body. So relaxed was she, that she did not even notice him finish his ministration and putting her boot back on her foot. Only once Sebastian squeezed her hand did she become aware that the Warden had completed his task.

Rising from Sebastian’s knee, she placed her full weight on her ankle, testing it. “Amazing work, Warden.” She looked up knowingly at the lanky man. “Spirit healer is a rare skillset.”

Thomas looked shocked for a moment before his expression softened. “Indeed it is.”

Sorcha called for a Scout to come forward, and ordered a message be sent to Haven.

“Inform my advisors that only the most injured are being escorted to Denerim. The rest of us are heading to Redcliffe immediately.” The Scout saluted and retrieved his writing equipment from his pack, immediately setting upon his task.

“Herald, Thomas and I would wish to travel to Haven now,” Hawke commented. “I’d like to see my sister.”

Sorcha nodded and gave the Champion a wry smile. “Advise Ambassador Montilyet that we will soon be hosting esteemed guests,” she said to the Scout. “But, she is to prepare clandestinely. Best not get the entire Inquisition in a flurry over the arrival of the Champion of Kirkwall.”

She made to move away from the Scout but spun back on her heel, and a devious grin was plastered onto her face. “Oh, and no one is to tell Seeker Pentaghast.”

 

Chapter Text

Night was falling as they entered the Crossroads encampment. Sorcha was pleased to see that additional tents were erected to accommodate the Templars from Therinfal, and cooks had prepared a late meal for the newcomers.

She approached Corporal Vale to ask after Cassandra and the others. After learning that she had arrived ahead of them, she decided to take the night to gather her thoughts and ready herself for the meeting with Fiona and the rebel mages. Leaving her pack in her tent, she ambled over to Sebastian’s, intent on asking him to join her for dinner. Finding it empty, she walked to the food tent alone, thinking that he may already be there. She scanned the room as she entered, and not seeing his handsome face among the crowd, she took her meal back with her to have by the warmth of the camp fire.

The darkness of late hours descended as she sat alone by the fire, reading reports while absentmindedly grazing from her platter. She had been so engrossed in work that she did not notice how much time had passed, and she had not seen Sebastian since their arrival. Concerned, she stashed the missives back into their satchel and rose from her seat. Just as she was about to leave the fire, its amber glow reflected in Sebastian’s armor as he emerged from the village path.

Sorcha loved gazing upon him in the warm fire light. His regal features were cast in partial shadow, adding an air of mystery to him. Before she could ask where he had been, he reached out and took her by the hand.

“Come with me,” he said, his voice was low and melodic, stirring something within her with each word. She swore that when he spoke, it was for her ears only.

He slid his fingers between hers, and clasping her hand tightly, he led her along the path toward the village and to the rebuilt bath house. With a sweeping gesture, he opened the door and ushered her inside the deliciously warm cabin. Tears welled in her eyes as she looked around the room.  Upgraded since her last visit, there were now two copper tubs of steaming water instead of one, and the privacy screen between them had been moved to make way for a small table. Placed upon it was a bottle of wine, a plate of fruit and two goblets. The warm glow from the candles reflected off of the polished copper, refracting into countless, dazzling orbs along the ceiling and walls.

“You deserve some relaxation, my darling,” he whispered in her ear as he wrapped his arms around her. “Let me provide it for you.”

Speechless, she turned around and lifted herself up on her toes to place a lingering kiss to his inviting lips. He always seemed to know exactly what she needed, and when.

“Thank you, my Prince,” she purred as she reluctantly pulled away. “This is what you’ve been up to all night?”

Sebastian smiled endearingly, and brushed his fingertips gently through her hair. The candlelight twinkled in his eyes like the endless stars, nearly bringing Sorcha to her knees.

“May I help you out of these leathers, my Lady?”

“Lady?” Sorcha scoffed. “I haven’t been a Lady in a very long time, Sebastian.” He leaned down and placed a soft kiss to the corner of her eye.

“You’ll forever be a Lady to me.” He flashed her a sweet smirk, weakening her knees.

Fighting back a girlish smile, Sorcha rolled her eyes playfully and gave the Prince a flirty slap to his chest. “Okay, you dashing rogue. You can get these buckles for me.”

Chuckling softly, he worked at her vest while she pulled at her laces of her trousers. Suddenly feeling self-conscious, she gestured for him to turn around before removing the last of her clothing. She was not ashamed of her body, or her scars. Not normally. But now, in front of Sebastian, she desperately wanted to hide her skin. He was perfect, and she was not.

Respecting her wishes, he turned and waited. Satisfied that he could not see her, she removed the rest of her clothes and quickly stepped into the hot bath.

She hummed with pleasure as she sunk into the water, and at her cue, the Prince turned back around. Working quickly, he removed his heaviest armor and carried a stool to the head of Sorcha’s bath. Curious, her brows lifted while she watched him move behind her, but the moment his deft fingers began working to release her braids and knots, she closed her eyes and reveled in the attention.

With her hair now free, she slid under the water and emerged only once her lungs screamed for air. She leaned back against the hard metal and gazed up through the open ceiling while Sebastian worked her hair into a lather. She watched the stars dance in the clear, night sky, and was suddenly reminded of Hercinia.

“You are too good to me,” she sighed as he massaged her scalp and neck with her verbena soap.

“I would honor you as a queen,” he said softly as he rinsed the lather from her locks. “My heart knows no other way.”

The fluttering in her stomach spread across her entire body. Even her fingertips tingled. She felt a blush creep over her face and she exhaled a long breath. For the first time, in a very long time, she felt at peace. She vowed to herself to enjoy these moments, no matter how fleeting.

He placed a tender kiss to her forehead once he finished braiding her hair and rubbing her shoulders, and moved to the foot of the other tub. He started undressing and Sorcha could not help herself from watching.

The muscular planes of his abdomen flexed into a washboard as he pulled his tunic over his head, and her eyes followed the masculine trail of hair from his chest to its hidden destination below his waistband. A devious smirk grew on his sexy lips as he tugged at the laces of his trousers, his gaze never leaving hers.

Feeling an inexplicable pang of modesty, Sorcha blushed and averted her eyes. His chuckling drew her back, and when her eyes found him again, she was met with a vision of perfection.

Standing completely nude before her, was the older and more amazing version of the man she once knew so well. She wanted to run her hands over his golden skin, feel every muscle, touch every inch. He must have caught the desire in her eyes, for he gratuitously flexed every muscle as he climbed into his bath.

Sorcha poured the wine as Sebastian washed away the weeks of grime. She handed him a goblet, which he accepted warmly.

“So what is the plan for meeting with the mages?” he asked as he popped a grape into his mouth. Sorcha took a long sip of her wine as she stared out into space.

“We appeal to their freedom,” she replied, as her attention was brought back. “The Breach affects us all, but if everything is consumed by it, there will be no future for anyone- mages included.” Sebastian was nodding as she went on. “I am hoping that they will see the logic in assisting us and securing their own future.”

“Will the Inquisition take an official position in their governance?” he asked before bringing the goblet to his lips. His eyes held her gaze as he waited for her response.

Sorcha raised an eyebrow, and before taking another swallow, replied, “That depends on how wisely they choose.”


With fingers gently entwined, Sorcha and Sebastian climbed the path back to the encampment. It was the middle of the night now, and the camp was silent and deserted, save for one figure sitting by the fire.

“Cassandra,” Sorcha called as they approached. The Seeker rose and moved quickly from her bench to Sorcha’s side.

“Maker, Sorcha,” Cassandra said, her voice quavered slightly as she embraced her friend in a warm hug. “I am so happy to see you well.” She released Sorcha and roughly swiped at a rogue tear that had fallen from her glistening eyes. Looking up at Sebastian, she smiled graciously. “Thank you, Prince Vael, for remaining by her side.”

Caught off guard by her open gratitude, Sebastian tilted his head in respectful nod. “No need for thanks, Seeker Pentaghast. I would follow her through the Void and back again, without question.” His voice dipped lower, like his words were for her alone. “I am hers to command.”

Sorcha blushed slightly, and even moreso after he took her chin and gently lifted her face up to him, placing a chaste kiss to her smiling lips.

“I will take my leave. I know there is much you two need to discuss.” He turned and gave the gawking Seeker a small bow before striding to his tent. Sorcha chuckled at Cassandra’s shock.

“You and the Prince?” Cassandra asked. Sorcha grinned and nodded silently. Her friend huffed and rolled her eyes playfully. “Finally!” she exclaimed. “I must have the details, but first,” her voice lowered ominously, “I bring news.”

The Seekers warmed themselves by the fire as Cassandra updated Sorcha on reports from Haven. Apparently their trip to Val Royeaux was not fruitless after all - Cassandra came home with the Imperial Court Enchanter and a well-connected rogue as Inquisition agents. She was pleased to hear that the Templars from Therinfal had arrived safely, and that accommodations had been prepared. She was not surprised to learn about the plot to kill the Empress, and nor did she care.

“Fuck Celene,” she said as she rose to her feet. “If she’s still alive after the Inquisition saves Thedas, then we’ll look into it.” Cassandra stared up at her questioningly, before nodding her acquiescence.

“Want a drink? I procured some excellent Antivan brandy from Therinfal,” Sorcha asked, gesturing to her tent.

“Absolutely,” Cassandra replied, leaving her seat and locking her arm with Sorcha’s. Her voice dipped low, so as to not be overheard, “And, all of the juicy details about you and Prince Charming.”


“What do you mean, ‘they are not expecting us’?” Sorcha fumed as the scout fidgeted with his belt. “Notice was sent to Fiona weeks ago!”

Frightened, the young scout was unable to hold Sorcha’s fierce gaze. Her head was pounding from drinking with Cassandra the night before, and she was having difficulty reining in her agitation.

“Ah, excuse me, Herald,” said a diminutive elf as he approached the Inquisition. “But the Grand Enchanter no longer leads the mages. They are now in the care of Magister Gereon Alexius, of Tevinter, who bids you welcome to Redcliffe.” He bowed deeply, but immediately recoiled at the sight of Sorcha looking over him like an angry dragon.

“Did...did you just say a Magister has claimed the rebel mages?” She was seething. Her hands were flexing and balling into fists, her jaw was clenched and she could feel her heartbeat in her temples.

“Please, the tavern has been procured for your meeting with Magister Alexius. He will join you there presently,” the mage said as he backed away from her, slowly.

Sorcha was visibly shaking now. All semblance of tolerance disappeared. A magister.

“What has Fiona done?” she hissed.

Sebastian placed his hand on her shoulder, his touch grounding her anger slightly. “Let’s go see what this Alexius has to say.”


Fiona was pacing across the tavern floor when they entered the Gull and Lantern. At the sound of their footfalls on the planked floor, the former Grand Enchanter turned to them, startled.

Nervously, she approached Sorcha and the others.

“Herald,” she said as she gave a small bow, “welcome to Redcliffe. I am the former Grand Enchant-”

“Enough of this shit, Fiona.” Sorcha’s patience had been extinguished. “You invite the Inquisition here to discuss and alliance and suddenly a fucking Magister shows up?” An expression of confusion spread across Fiona’s face.

“I invited you?” she asked meekly. Sorcha took a step toward her.

“You. Invited us,” Sorcha said slowly, pointing to herself, Cassandra, Varric and Sebastian in turn, “personally. In Val Royeaux.”

“I assure you, Herald, that I did no such thing. I haven’t been to Val Royeaux since before the Conclave!”

Sorcha lifted a hand to her throbbing head, and pinched the bridge of her nose. “No. I can’t. I just can’t,” she muttered as she turned from Fiona and stomped angrily over to Cassandra. “Someone else fucking deal with this.”

Diplomatically picking up where Sorcha left off, Cassandra approached the confused mage.

“Fiona, do you mean to say that you have no memory of meeting us?”

The former Grand Enchanter averted her eyes and hung her head, but she wore a puzzled expression. “I have no recollection of that meeting, Seeker.”

“Do you, then, have an explanation as to why the mages who once followed you are now indentured to a fucking magister?” Sorcha snapped from across the room as she paced the well-worn floor.

“I’m afraid I no longer possess the authority to speak on the matter, Herald,” Fiona said shamefully.

Exasperated, Sorcha threw her hands in the air and rolled her eyes. “Oh, sweet fucking merciful Maker!”

The creaking of the heavy panelled door as it opened pulled Sorcha’s attention away from her frustration, but only for a moment.

Flanked by a small number of mages, a man in a red, point hood entered the tavern, and Sorcha stared contemptuously as Fiona bowed to him in deference.

“I am Gereon Alexius,” he said with a flourished bow. “Redcliffe welcomes you, Herald of Andraste.”


Smoothing out the crumpled note from her palm, Sorcha re-read the suspicious script. Come to the Chantry. You are in danger. An obvious trap.

“Sorcha, surely you are not about to trust him?” Sebastian’s concern was well meaning, but she felt there was something more to it all.

“Of course not,” she reassured. “But I will not suffer a magister having his claws dug into Ferelden’s mages. I am willing to investi-” She halted her descent of the tavern stairs, indicating for the others to hold their positions, and tilted her head toward Cassandra.

“Cass, do you-”

“Yes, I feel it too,” her friend confirmed, freeing her shield from her back and her sword from its sheath. Sorcha could not see its source, but she could feel it, and follow it.

“Ready yourselves,” Sorcha warned as she, too, prepared for a fight, “for another rift.”

“Shit,” Varric muttered as he released his crossbow from his back. He looked up at Sebastian, who was already holding his bow in his hand. “Loser buys?”

Sebastian smirked at his friend. “Of course.”

Cassandra made a disgusted noise at the rogues while Sorcha just chuckled under her breath. Before she could track its power, however, Sebastian shushed them and trained his ear toward the building on the hill next to them.

“I can hear fighting,” he informed her, and pointed her in its direction. With a quick nod, she led them up the small hill. Reaching the large wooden doors of Redcliffe’s only stone building, Sorcha heard Varric snort.

“The rift is inside the Chantry?” he muttered. “I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.” Cassandra just rolled her eyes and looked to Sorcha for the order.

Sorcha took a deep cleansing breath and nodded to her companions. A moment later, she and Cassandra kicked open the Chantry doors and pressed forward. Quickly assessing the scene, she was surprised to see a lone mage holding his own against a couple of shades.

He wielded his ornate staff as lethally as the Warden had. Another battlemage. She brought her blade over the top lip of her shield, ready to fight, but he dispatched the shades before she could get into range.   

“How kind of you to show up,” he sniffed as he readjusted his opulent leather armor and dusted something from his chest. “Now, help me close this, will you?”

Without speaking, Sorcha lifted her marked hand to the rift and focused on the searing agony driving through her palm. She centered herself around the power in her hand, and drew the life of the rift into the verdant symbiote. With a last swell of intensity, the rift snapped shut and its remnants fizzled in throes of expiration.

“Fascinating,” the mage mused, while Sorcha shook the pain from her palm. “May I look at it?” he asked as he swaggered over to Sorcha and reached for her hand. Seemingly from nowhere, Sebastian appeared in front of her and issued the mage a stern glare.

“Right down to business, I see,” the battlemage sniffed. “Very well. I am Dorian of House Pavus, most recently of Minrathous.” He said with a flourished bow. “And you, Herald of Andraste, need my help.”

Reassuringly, Sorcha placed her hand on Sebastian’s shoulder and stepped out from behind him.

“While it’s a pleasure to meet you, Dorian of House Pavus, recently of Minrathous,” she said plainly, “I fail to see how I am in need of your help.”

“You lost your mages to my former mentor,” Dorian quipped. “You can see how my assistance is valuable.”

Sorcha nodded thoughtfully, considering his offer. “You would go against your former mentor?”

“Alexius has… changed,” he replied. “He used dangerous magic to reach the mages before you did, and without regards to the consequences, one of which you just sealed.”

“Magic opened this rift?” Cassandra asked incredulously. She turned to Sorcha. “We believed them to be products of the Breach.” Sorcha’s eyes narrowed as she stared at Dorian.

“How did this happen?”

“Time magic,” he revealed. “I helped him develop it, but we could never get it to work.” Worry flashed in his eyes. “It is unstable, and unpredictable,” he warned, “and requires greater power to manifest than we had access to in Minrathous. I am afraid to think of how he managed it.”

Sorcha’s distaste for Alexius grew exponentially, and she could not allow him to cause any more trouble.

“And you can help neutralize him?” she asked, holding Dorian’s gaze.

“Yes,” he replied confidently. Sorcha turned to address Cassandra.

“Cassandra, thoughts?”

“We need to stop the Magister, without question,” her friend concurred. Turning back to Dorian, she offered her hand to the mage.

“Dorian Pavus, recently of Minrathous, welcome to the Inquisition.”


Sebastian agreed with Sorcha’s decision to return to Haven before engaging the magister. They had been travelling for nearly a month, and fresh Templars would certainly be required for this mission. Tevinter mages were unfamiliar to him, but he was aware the Tevinter Templars were unable to suppress them. Strengths like Sorcha’s would be what brought the magister down.

Leaving Redcliffe, he tried to pay attention to what Dorian was telling them about Alexius and his magic, but something kept drawing his attention away from the conversation and toward the walls along Redcliffe Road. For some reason, had a bad feeling that they were being watched.

Passing through the city gates, Sebastian learned why.

“Dorian,” Alexius sneered, “I was genuinely hoping that you would not have followed me.” The magister gestured to his soldiers, who quickly surrounded Sebastian’s party. “I love my son, but he’s not very clandestine.”

Dorian inspected his fingernails apathetically. “Come now, Alexius. Evil Magister is not a good look for you.”

The magister shook his head. “I gave you a chance to be a part of this. The Elder One has power greater than you can imagine. He would see the Imperium returned to its proper glory,” he turned to Sorcha. “And he would see you exterminated.”

Alexius held out his palm, from which an amulet rose, glowing a sickly green. Ribbons of light danced around its cubic form as a mysterious spell was cast.

In a single movement, Sebastian drew his daggers from his belt and threw the obsidian blades. They whizzed through the air with lethal precision, but failed to penetrate the magister’s barrier. The light from the jewel intensified, and the bauble began spinning as it hovered. Darkened threads began emanating from the amulet, reaching for Sorcha with their claws of smoke and shadow.

Time stopped. At least Sebastian thought it so. In the moment before the ebony tendrils enveloped Sorcha, she released a powerful smite. He knew that it was strong, for she was strong. But it was not enough.

Dorian tried to shield her. But that, too, was not enough. Sebastian cried out for her, ran to her, reached for her. And just as his grazed against the soft leather covering her hand, a black and spinning cloud swallowed her and the mage, leaving nothing behind.

She was the Herald of Andraste. She was his love. And she was gone.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The thrumming in her ears was nearly as nauseating as the spinning in her head. Sorcha slowly  tried opened her eyes, keeping her focus on a rock, a tree, a fixed object to keep herself from retching. Rolling from her back and rising to her hands and knees, she kept her head down and her breathing slow. The last thing she remembered was being swallowed by a gaping maw.

She fought to regain control over the vertigo - weakness in this situation was dangerous. She listened for sounds of a struggle, of her comrades fighting the magister, but there was only silence. Blinking hard, she tried to clear her blurred vision, but that just resulted in tears. Forcing herself onto uncertain feet, she managed a few staggering steps before tripping over a leather-clad mage and slamming her knees into the ground.

“Fuck!” she hissed, cradling the kneecap that landed squarely on a large, pointed stone. “Fucking motherfu-”

“If anyone deserves to swear like a Rivaini, it’s me,” Dorian groaned. He was curled up, and his hands were cupped over his groin. “My, what big feet you have, Herald.”

“All the better to kick that asshole with,” she replied as she struggled up and back onto her feet. She extended her hand out to Dorian. “Sorry about your balls.”

Leaning on his staff, he grabbed her wrist, pulled himself to his feet and dusted the rust-colored earth from his leathers. “Apology accepted,” he said. “But I will get you back when you least expect it.”

“Thanks for the warning,” she snorted.

Noticing that there was still pressure on her knee, she bent forward to assess it. “What in the…” she muttered as she dislodged an eerie looking stone from her leathers. Curious, she lifted it to her face for a closer look, and squinted for focus.

“Maker, woman!” Dorian chided as he slapped the stone from her palm. “Don’t you know red lyrium when you see it?”

“What?” Sorcha asked incredulously. “I don’t know what you-”

“You really can’t see it, can you?”

Sorcha shook her head. She could not see much of anything yet. He drew a small flask from his belt and offered it to her. “Just a sip. Anything more and you’ll be darting across rooftops wearing nothing but a cape.”

Sorcha lifted her brow questioningly and accepted the drink, choking down the sip that set fire to her tongue. She immediately felt its effects.

Her throat numbed, her skin tingled and her heart raced. Her hearing became more acute and her vision cleared and focused.

“What was that?” she gasped as her breathing quickened.

Dorian tucked it back into his belt and flashed her a smug smile. “An aphrodisiac. It’s intended to have one swinging naked from the chandelier. What you took was merely the therapeutic dose.”  

Sorcha dismissed his comment with a quick wave. Now that her vision was sharper and she could see the land around her, her stomach turned.

The terrain was dry and bleak, and the ground beneath her feet looked scoured. Red lyrium was scattered everywhere, pieces as small as pebbles and as large as boulders. Gathering her bearings, she slowly realized that she recognized the landscape. The hills, the road, the wall. Redcliffe.

She climbed to higher ground, desperate to get a fuller view. From atop the ruined wall, she stared in disbelief at what was left of the town.

Buildings were but scorched and charred foundations, hosts to piles of blackened timber. Ancient trees were uprooted and fertile gardens were nothing more than patches of towering weeds. Mining tracks cross-crossed the roadways like stitches through a gaping wound, infected by the red lyrium growing from every accessible surface.

Below her, people worked like ants, pushing cartloads of crimson poison along the snaking iron paths. Cries of suffering echoed off the cliffside. The noxious odor of death, decay, and burnt flesh from the smoldering pyres assaulted her nose, and left a bitter, metallic taste in her mouth.  

“Maker, help us,” she gasped, falling to her bruised and aching knees. Tears welled in her eyes, stinging as they pooled. She felt despair and panic rising from her chest, but a gentle hand on her shoulder dammed the anguish before it inundated her.

“Time magic,” Dorian said simply. “It seems something went wrong, however. Your smite must have altered the spell.”

Sorcha turned her face to him. “I know this is - was Redcliffe. But when?”

Turning to the sky, Dorian replied, “It will be dark soon. I suggest we venture into the cesspool then, and figure that out.”


Under the cover of darkness, Sorcha and Dorian descended into the ruins of Redcliffe. Torches were lit along the iron tracks, reflecting off of the encroaching lyrium and casting the skeletal village in an eerie glow. They kept to the shadows, and at the first sound of cart wheels, ducked behind some disused barrels. The screeching neared, and Sorcha peeked out from around her cover.

She vaguely heard Dorian hurling angry whispers at her as she jumped over the rotting wood, but she did not look back. She sprinted ahead, directly toward a cart full of lyrium and the poor, suffering soul pushing it.

“Varric!” she called as she hurried toward him. The dwarf turned his head momentarily, but kept moving the mining cart along the track. Sorcha came to a skidding stop, sliding into the side of the bucket. “Varric?” she asked in a hushed voice. Her heart broke when his eyes met hers. Agony. Hopelessness. Despair. Disbelief. There was nothing left of the rogue she knew.

His lips curled into a sneer and sardonic laughter erupted from his throat as he turned from her.

“Bartrand! I’m on my way, brother!” he mused, pushing the cart forward. Sorcha laid her hand on his bony shoulder, and he jumped back far enough to be tripped by his chain tether.

“Andraste’s ass! The fucking hallucinations are touching me now!” Varric shuffled backward along the ground, trying to put distance between himself and Sorcha. He crawled from the shadows into the light, and Sorcha stifled a sob.

His blond hair was long and matted, tied back with a boot lace. His once muscular frame was now emaciated. He wore only a vest and torn trousers, and Sorcha could see a myriad of scars on his dusty and unwashed skin. She crouched and approached him slowly.

“Varric,” she said softly, “I’m not an hallucination.” He moved back further.

“That’s exactly what an hallucination would say,” he muttered. She leaned closer and his eyes grew wide as she lifted her hand to his sunken cheek, and smiled comfortingly.

“I’m not an hallucination.”

A look of recognition spread across his face, which quickly turned to relief. He threw himself into her arms and wept against her shoulder.

“You’re alive,” he whispered. “You’re alive.”

Sorcha tightened her embrace, and held him until the sounds of another cart could be heard approaching. Reluctantly removing her arms from around her friend, she leaned back, took off her gloves and gently wiped the tears streaking his face.

“We need to move,” she told him. He nodded and lifted his tether.

“Can you do something about this?” he asked, his breath steadying.

“Allow me,” Dorian offered, stepping from the shadows. “We must hurry.”

Bombarding the chain with icy magic, Dorian froze the rusted iron enough that Sorcha managed to shatter the links with an emotionally charged strike. The clang of dragonbone on ice echoed off the cliffside, and within moments the inquisitive shouts of guards could be heard.

Sorcha took Varric’s hand and they darted for the cover, but Varric’s weakened state did not allow for speed. He stumbled and fell back into the dirt, his palms skidding forward along the rough ground. Without missing a beat, Sorcha turned on her heel, grabbed Varric’s arm and leg, and lifted him to her shoulders. Her breath hitched at the weight of him - he weighed no more than a child. With him placed squarely across her shoulders, she rushed toward the shadows.

Setting Varric down next to Dorian, she peered around the edge of the barrels. They had moved just in time. There were six guards milling about, investigating the slaveless lyrium cart. Dorian glanced from around his side of the cover.

“Venatori,” he whispered, sliding back into hiding. “Will we be lucky enough to have them just leave without alerting more?”

Sorcha watched one man point and give orders to another. She turned to Dorian and shook her head solemnly.

“Just let me at the bastards, Herald,” Varric breathed weakly. “But you need to know-”

Sorcha set her hand upon his shoulder, and held his gaze. “Tell me everything, but after we finish with these assholes.” Turning back to Dorian, she gestured to his flask. “Give him some. We need him in this fight.”

Dorian assessed the dwarf, and handed him the metal container. “Three sips, and no more.” He gave Varric a wry eyebrow.  “Another swallow and the rapid change in blood pressure could drop you.”

Varric took the liquid and drank three sips exactly. As she waited, she brought the hilt of her sword to her forehead, and drew her focus as she uttered a quiet prayer. A tap on the shoulder from Dorian brought her attention back. He jerked his thumb at Varric, who seemed to be responding well to the potion. The dwarf was awake, alert, and angry.

Motioning to the guards, Sorcha silently counted down, synchronizing their attack. On her order, they sprang from behind their cover and rushed at the Venatori. Dorian fought skillfully against two, while Sorcha marched into the middle of the others, slashing at them in between smites.

She moved instinctively, bashing with her shield before slicing with her blade, and smiting at every opportunity. The shock of the surprise attack helped her to overpower two guards immediately and she felled the third after a short skirmish. Before she could determine exactly how many were left, she was knocked to the ground from behind.

A large brute of a man loomed over her, and snarled as he raised his great axe to strike. As his swing was reaching its apex, the guard’s eyes bulged and blood began running from his mouth. He dropped his weapon and when he fell to his knees, Sorcha saw the cause of his demise.

Impaled by a pitchfork, stabbed through his back. At the other end of the handle stood a seething Varric. Grunting with effort, the dwarf pulled the implement from the corpse, slung it over his shoulder, and smiled reassuringly as he offered Sorcha a hand up.

She grasped a dagger dropped by her opponent, and took Varric’s hand. Rising to her feet, she spun toward Dorian’s fight, and whipped the small blade at the remaining Venatori, striking him in the back. He fell with a final swing of Dorian’s staff.

Sorcha stepped over the bodies, bending to retrieve each dagger she saw, which she passed to Varric. The small blades would be preferable to the fork. She removed the dagger she threw from the guard’s back, and as she leaned to wipe the blood from the blade, the torchlight glinted in the sharp obsidian. Turning it in her hand, a familiarity with the weapon flashed within her. Looking closer, she made out the intricate carving in the ivory hilt. Three drakes circled the grip, and a chalice adorned the butt.

Sebastian.

She spun to look at Varric, she needed answers, and now that they had a moment to talk, she would have them.

“Start from the beginning,” she said plainly. The rogue nodded, and gestured toward the shadows.

“Let’s hide the bodies first,” he replied. After dragging the corpses into the brush, Varric looked up at Sorcha, his face was dark and heavy with hurt.

“We thought you were dead,” he began, “Alexius cast his spell and then you two were just… gone.” He shifted to sit on a crate. “We fought, but there were just too many. He had his own mages and fighters - Venatori - and shit came down on us hard.”

Sorcha was nodding as she followed his recount, but her mind kept wanting to skip to Sebastian. Where was he? What happened to him? Did he live? The anxiety within her chest was mounting, and it was not unlike the fear she felt when she first awoke in the Hercina infirmary. She needed to know. She had to hear it. But she needed the full story, and forced herself to not interrupt.

“We were dragged, kicking and screaming, to the castle. ‘Waiting for orders’ Alexius said. We rotted in those cells for a week before-”

“Wait,” Sorcha interrupted, “a week? When are we?” Varric looked confused, so she clarified her question. “How long since you’ve seen me, Varric?”

“A year. Give or take.”

Sorcha’s throat burned,raw with the heartbreak and worry lanced through her. A year. Everyone she loved had suffered. Some things never changed. Dorian’s soothing voice drew her attention back to the conversation.

“If we find Alexius in time, and he still has the amulet, I may be able to reverse the spell.”    

“How much time to we have?” Sorcha asked, painfully aware of the irony of her question.

“Now? I’d say roughly sixteen hours.”

Not enough time to mount a full offense. Was there even an Inquisition left to command? She turned back to Varric. “What happened next?” she asked, terrified of the answer.

“Alexius kept himself busy while we were in the dungeon. Redcliffe was razed and the villagers enslaved. I was thrown into the lyrium labor camp,” he said quietly. “One day I saw them hauling the Seeker toward the Chantry. Maker, the sounds that came from that building.” He raised his teary eyes and met her gaze. “I began praying that day,” he said solemnly.

She placed a trembling hand on his bony shoulder. “What of Sebastian?”

Varric lowered his head. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I haven’t seen him since the dungeon.”

Her breath caught in her throat, her mind began spinning and she felt faint. Her balance wavered and her skin flushed, but before she could collapse, the Chant, loud and strong, forced its way through the chaos. I am not alone. Even as I stumble on the path with my eyes closed, yet I see the Light.

Sorcha focused on those words. I am not alone. She still had her faith. And she’d found Varric. There was a chance that the others lived as well. She gathered her wits and tucked her love’s dagger into her boot. Steeling herself, she squeezed Varric’s shoulder gently.

“Let’s find our friends. One way or another, they will leave with us.” She only hoped that it would be of their own volition, and not in pouches of ash.

The trio moved within the shadows in silence. As they neared the Chantry, they heard the screech of wheels on the track. They ducked, waiting for the poor sot to pass, but as he appeared, Varric spoke.

“That’s Connor Guerrin,” he whispered. “He can help.” Nodding, the three of them emerged from the darkness and approached the belabored man. Connor recoiled at first, but relaxed once he noticed Varric walking free. Dorian froze the chain, and Sorcha struck it. It shattered as Varric’s had, and this time the noise seemed to go unnoticed.

Sorcha put herself under Connor’s arm and helped him off of the road. Without being asked, Dorian uncorked his flask and bade the mage to take only two sips, an order that the young man followed well.  

“H-Herald?” Connor asked as his rejuvenation began. “We were told of your death! When the Inquisition fell, we-”

“The Inquisition fell?” She glanced at Varric, who was nodding slowly.

“There is nothing good left in this world, Herald,” the dwarf said dismally. “But no time to shoot the shit. We need to move.” He turned his gaze to Connor. “You good?”

Sorcha could feel the Veil shift as Connor showed his upturned palms. She could see the distortion forming over his hands, the force and power drawn by his magic. He rose to his feet and walked up the small hill, and with Sorcha and the others following, stopped at the Chantry doors. He thrust out his palms and the great oaken doors flew open and splintered on impact. He turned to Varric and smiled.

“I’m good.”  

Varric chuckled and led them into the last remaining building in Redcliffe village.


The entire interior of the Redcliffe chantry had an eerie, crimson glow, set by the reflection of torches in the spires of red lyrium. The place reeked of death and rot. Sorcha brought her forearm to her nose, hoping her leathers smelled better than the air.

Trepidatiously, they stepped down the aisle, as dried bone and decayed flesh cracked and slid beneath their boots. Sorcha neared the dais and quickly noticed the adornment on the statue of Andraste.

A small corpse, recently dead, hung from the Bride’s likeness. Protruding from her limp body was a gargantuan shard of lyrium. Sorcha stepped closer, and in the torchlight, made out her face.

Fiona.

Sorcha began a prayer for the mage when a cough from below the statue caught her attention. She knew that voice, and she knew it well.

She rushed forward, clamboring over the pile of rubble that blocked the aisle. Sliding down the back side, she stumbled over timber and rotting corpses infected with lyrium. She leapt over the table bearing torture implements, and knelt before the wasting figure chained to the base of the statue.

Sorcha shakily ran her hand over a matted mess of dark hair. Cradling the limp body in her arms, tears began to stream from her burning eyes as she heaved on the chains holding scarred and emaciated wrists.

“Please wake up,” she muttered into a broken and bloodied face. “Please, Cassandra, wake up!”

She placed her forehead to Cassandra’s, and with every mote of power she had, focused her concentration and projected that strength into her friend. She was unsure if it would work, but she had to try.

“The one who repents, who has faith, unshaken by the darkness in the world, she shall know true peace.”

Sorcha chanted in whispered pleas, praying that her friend would awaken. As she shared her energy, Dorian lifted his flask to Cassandra’s cracked and blood-caked lips, allowing the potion to drip slowly into her dry mouth. She heard the shackles rustling, and hoped that Varric had found something to pick the locks with.

The Chant poured from her lips for what felt like hours, and she felt herself flagging. Slowly, she felt Cassandra’s energy return. Her friend stirred in her arms, and Sorcha placed a grateful kiss to her forehead before pulling her face away.

Cassandra’s eyes fluttered open and darted around in disorientation. It was not until Sorcha began speaking that she became conscious of the situation.

“Cass,” she said softly, lowering her arm from the shackles Varric just picked open. “Can you hear me?”

“Sorcha?” Cassandra asked, her voice quavered. “Maker, Sorcha, you’re alive?” Tears rolled down her dirt-caked cheeks, “You’re alive?” she whispered.

Emotion welled in Sorcha’s eyes as she nodded and choked back a sob. Cassandra roughly wiped away her tears and gave her friend a warm smile before narrowing her eyes and grinding her teeth.

“Alexius must die for his crimes,” she growled as she forced herself to stand on shaking legs. “The Maker may forgive him, but I cannot.”

“I second that motion, Seeker,” Varric said, emerging from a side room. He brought Cassandra her breastplate, sword and shield. “Lucky for us, someone was a packrat.” On his back, in her rightful place, sat Bianca. The crossbow had been neglected, but Varric looked whole again just bearing her again.  

Sorcha began helping Cassandra into her armor. “What of Sebastian?” she asked quietly, afraid of the answer. Varric reached out to Sorcha, holding Sebastian’s bow. She took it gently from his hands, and stared at the beautifully curved wood.

“I...cannot say,” she heard her friend begin. “He was still alive when they dragged me from the castle. But that seemed to be some time ago.” She took Sorcha’s hand in hers. “I am sorry.”

“Dorian!” Sorcha called, lifting her head and gesturing the mage over. He left his lookout perch and sauntered over to the Seekers. “How much of that fantastic potion do you have left?” she asked.

Dorian smirked. “Enough to start a really good party.”

Varric snorted.“Are you always this laid back?”

It was Dorian’s turn to laugh. “Well, someone has the be the face of calm amidst the chaos. My face would obviously be the best choice.” He passed the flask around while warning everyone of the maximum dosage.

Sorcha wiped at her lips after drinking her share. “How do we get to Alexius?”

“He’s holed up in the castle,” Varric said. “Rarely saw him out.”

“He is guarded by Venatori, and they are not amateurs,” Cassandra added. Sorcha’s eyes narrowed and her lips curled into a sneer.

“Neither are we.”

Connor stepped forward. “There is a secret way into the castle. I can lead you.”

“And I can disable his wards,” Dorian offered. Sorcha nodded.

“Alright. Connor gets us in, Dorian gets us past the wards. We look for Sebastian-” her eyes fell back to the bow in her hands, “- or whatever is left of him. I will not leave without him.” She glanced up at Cassandra. “Cass, we cannot hold back.” The senior Seeker nodded solemnly.

“They will burn.”

She looked around at her companions. They were weary, weak, and their bodies had been broken, but their spirit and strength were as indomitable as ever. Each one met her gaze and saluted.

Sorcha took a deep breath and steeled herself. It was time to bring the fight to Alexius.


“The only news I ever got came from other prisoners,” Varric told her as they crept through the tunnel toward the castle, “and no, I’m not going to repeat it.”

“Varric,” Sorcha replied, “don’t you think I should know what happened over this year?” She brushed away cobwebs from her head. The light from Dorian’s staff illuminated Varric’s vehement head shake.

“All you need to know is that the ‘Elder One’ proclaimed himself a god and unleashed demons to beat the shit out of Thedas. There is no happy ending here, Herald.”

Dorian looked back from the head of the group. “If this works, we can stop this last year from ever happening, dear Herald. No need to know the grisly details.”

“I agree with Dorian,” Cassandra added. “Just make sure you end this before it begins.”

“No pressure,” Sorcha mumbled to herself. Cassandra reached forward and grasped Sorcha’s arm, turning her toward her.

“Sorcha Trevelyan, Herald of Andraste, hear this now.” Sorcha lifted her eyes to meet Cassandra’s. “You are not alone. The weight of this is to be shared among us all. Trust us. Trust me.”

Cassandra placed her hand behind Sorcha’s neck and stared into her tear-filled eyes. “When you get out of here, you will tell us what you learned. And we will be there always, fighting by your side. Our allies will rally. The Inquisition will follow. You are not alone.”

It took Sorcha a moment to process Cassandra’s words. She had never truly considered the burden of closing the Breach to be anyone but hers. Perhaps it was selfish of her. Each and every person within the Inquisition, and its allies, by swearing their allegiance, had claimed the right to share the weight she carried. Cassandra was right. She was not alone.

Connor approached her, pulling her from her thoughts.

“We’re nearing the cells, Herald. The door is just up ahead.”

“Understood. Thank you, Connor,” she replied. She placed her hand over Cassandra’s heart.

“Thank you, my friend. For everything.” Cassandra smiled and squeezed her hand in reply.

She turned to Varric. “Is Bianca ready?”

Varric chuckled. “I’ve never seen her more excited. I’m a little jealous.”

Sorcha gave him a small smile, and marched up to the dungeon door. Focused and ready, she pushed, expecting resistance, but it swung freely.

Cautiously crossing the threshold, she drew raised her sword and shield, prepared for the worst. The cells were deteriorated, and the doors hung off the hinges. It reeked of rot and sewage, and lyrium-filled rats scampered along the walls.

“Maker,” she muttered, “the rats too?” They ventured in only a few more steps before she found what she was looking for.

Locked in the only cell with a working door, a dark-haired figure hunched in the corner, scratching into the stone walls. He was barely more than skin and bone, and Sorcha could see each protrusion of his spine through his sagging and scarred flesh. His beard was long and knotted, and his hair had twisted into mangey ropes that hung around his face.

Sorcha’s heart was racing. Could it really be him? Her body trembled as she reached for the door.

“Sebastian?”

His head snapped to look at her, and she gasped. His face was gaunt and scarred, one brilliant blue eye lost - its socket remained open and gaping. She saw the look of recognition, followed by elation, and then relief.

“Sorcha?” he whispered, “Are you real?”

Sorcha fought to hold back the tears. She had cried enough on this day, and would spare him the sight of her heartache. Crouching, she reached for him through the bars.

“Yes, my Prince,” she breathed. “I’m real.”

Sebastian scrambled across the cell on his hands and knees, and took her hand in both of his.

“Maker help me, it’s really you…”

He leaned closer and placed her hand on his face. He closed his eye and brushed her fingers across his cheeks and over his lips. Trembling, he kissed her knuckles gently, before breaking down and weeping.

The lock popped open by Varric’s expert hand, and Sorcha rose to open the door. The others scouted ahead, giving her and Sebastian a moment of privacy.

Sebastian stepped from his confines and scooped her up into a crushing embrace. “You’re here,” he murmured over and over into her hair. Sorcha held him tightly, but pulled back before her tears started falling.

“Drink this.” She handed him Dorian’s flask. “But only a few sips. It will help.”

As he drank, Sorcha tore a strip of linen from her tunic. Carefully, she wrapped it around his head, covering his empty eye socket, and told him of what had happened, and their plan to rectify it.

“Sorcha,” Sebastian began, lifting his hand to her hip, “I should have said this long ago. I-”

Sorcha shook her head. “After. Tell me after.” They needed hope, not last words.

He grasped her shoulder and and squeezed, so hard that the pressure was almost painful. “No Sorcha. You will listen now.”

She turned her face up, and was met with his fiery gaze.

“I’ve been in that cell since the day I last saw you. For an entire year, I’ve had unimaginable things done to me, torments of which I will never speak.” He tenderly cupped her cheek with a calloused palm. “But nothing compared to the pain of remorse I felt for being a coward.”

Sebastian lifted his other hand, and cradled her face. The emotion in his eye was unmissable as it danced over her.

“I vowed to Andraste that if I ever saw you again, that I would say the words you deserved to hear long ago. I love you, Sorcha Trevelyan. Since the beginning, and until the end, I have and will, love you with all my heart.”

Her pulse was thundering like a war horse charging into battle. She had never realized how much she needed to hear him say those words until that very moment. It felt like her soul had been trapped behind immovable bars of doubt and shame and fear, crying for release. And Sebastian was the key. Those three words, sounding from his lips, set her spirit free.

But it felt… wrong. Weighted. Marred. Sebastian was her soul mate, she knew that now. But this was not “her” Sebastian. Her love was where she left him hours ago. Her world was fighting for his life. And she could not let this fate come to pass. She would not fail.

She wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly. “I will not let this happen to you, my Prince,” she whispered, holding back a sob. “This I swear.”  

She rose onto her toes and placed a lingering kiss to his scarred forehead. “You have always been the Maker’s greatest gift to me,” she said softly. “Thank you for loving me.”

Sebastian roughly wiped at his tears, and nodded weakly. She handed him his bow, and he clasped his hand over hers as she held the scratched and pitted weapon.

“My bow, my body, and my life, are yours, Sorcha Trevelyan, Herald of Andraste. I am yours to command.” He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. “Let’s get you back to where - and when - you belong.”


“I knew I would see you again, Herald of Andraste,” Alexius sneered as they entered the main chamber. “I just wasn’t sure when. Your friends made for effective bait.” As he rose from his chair, two dozen Venatori filed into the room.

Dorian gestured toward the magister, and mouthed to Sorcha the word “amulet”. Sorcha looked more closely and noticed the cubical stone hanging from Alexius’ neck. She nodded slowly, and began focusing on the impending fight to claim it.

“I failed to kill you a year ago. A mistake I shall soon correct,” the magister ranted. With a wave of his hand, the Venatori surrounded Sorcha and the others.

Sorcha needed to buy time. She was bolstering Cassandra, and rejuvenating Dorian and Connor. She only needed a few minutes more. “Keep him talking,” she muttered to Dorian, who responded with a faint nod.

“Come now, Alexius,” Dorian chided, “Is this any way to host company?”

Alexius’ weathered face broke into a contemptuous smile. “I destroyed the world to save my son, and still he died in my arms. You will forgive my lack of manners.”

“You can fix this, Alexius,” Dorian sounded, “You can stop it all from happening!”

Alexius shook his head solemnly. “I failed the Elder One. I am unable to do as he wishes, and now the world is lost.” He stepped closer to Sorcha, who was nearly ready to unleash her fury. “I cannot travel back to before the Breach. I cannot prevent you from stealing the anchor. I cannot prevent him from releasing the demons. The world is lost, as is my concern for it.”

Alexius turned back to the dais, and gave his guards the order. “Finish them.”

The guards took a step forward, and then Sorcha issued an order of her own. “Now!”

She and Cassandra began simultaneous volleys of smites, incapacitating the mages and staggering the rest. Connor’s hands erupted with a powerful blast of force magic, and anything and anyone within range was thrown back. Dorian swung his staff in lethal arcs, hurling violent magic at the guards, the scent of seared flesh was overpowering. Sebastian and Varric drew their daggers and rolled into the fray, slicing through the least-protected points in their enemy’s armor with accuracy and precision.

The battle waged on. The Seekers silenced and slashed their way through the Venatori mages. Cassandra showed little mercy as she set the lyrium within their blood aflame, and Sorcha crippled them with waking nightmares. The stone floor was slick with Tevinter blood.

Alexius dodged the fighting and ducked out of the room, but he did not escape Sebastian’s keen eye.

“The magister!” he called as he pulled a quiver of arrows from the hip of a fallen guard. “He’s running!”

Sorcha glanced over at Cassandra. Her friend was weakening, heaving for breath as she pulled her blade from the belly of a brute.

“Go,” was all she said.

“The only way they’ll follow is over our corpses, Herald,” Varric added as knocked a mage’s teeth out with Bianca’s wooden butt.

Nodding a silent and solemn thank you, Sorcha ran toward the back exit taken by Alexius. Breathing heavily from exertion, Dorian took a deep breath and conjured one more spell.

“Reinforcements,” he shouted, looking toward Cassandra. The focus of his staff lit with a violet glow, and spread across the room. Sorcha could feel the power of his magic, the beautiful control he had over it. It was like watching an artist at work. She watched as the purple wisps entered the bodies of the fallen, and give to them a new purpose. The corpses rose, and took up arms against the living Venatori. Sorcha was astounded. She had heard about necromancy but had never had the opportunity to witness it. Cassandra seemed unfazed as she fought alongside the possessed corpses.

“I will seal the door, Herald,” Connor shouted. “We will buy you time.”

Sorcha watched the battle a moment longer, allowing her heart to break over the last glimpses of her friends alive. She would take that pain with her. A reminder of what was at stake should she fail.  

Dorian was the first to rush out, followed by Sebastian. With a slow blink, she took one final look before turning and dashing out through the door.


They chased Alexius through dark, narrow hallways, and eventually reached the living quarters. A dead end.

“Stop running, Alexius!” Sorcha demanded. “There’s nowhere left to go.”

The aging mage stopped, and put his hands in the air. He turned around slowly. His exhaustion was evident, and worn across his face.

“Is this where you begin your heroic speech?” he huffed. “The Herald of Andraste, vanquisher of evil magisters,” he sneered.

Dorian approached him and tore the amulet from around his neck. “I still can’t believe you made this thing so hideous,” he muttered, moving to an open area across the room.

“This will take some time,” he told Sorcha.

“I’m afraid you won’t have much,” Sebastian warned as he closed the heavy oaken door and turned the ancient key. “It has grown too quiet downstairs. And I can’t hear our friends.”

Tears formed and stung her eyes. They were gone.

Sorcha darted over to Dorian, and laid a hand on his chest. Focusing her remaining strength, she poured her energy into him, bolstering his mana and concentration.

“You have two minutes.”

“Kaffas.”

As Dorian set to work, she could feel the wrongness - the mutation - of the time magic. The tingle on her skin felt more like needles, and it left a metallic taste in her mouth. She found herself drawn to watching her new friend work, and in her moment of distraction, she felt it.

The Veil shifted once more as Alexius drew on his magic. She turned to face him, trying to summon a smite, but she had no vigor left. It was as if time, for her, had once again slowed. As the icy spear formed from Alexius’ palm, she felt a lifetime of panic in a single moment.

I can’t die here!

She watched in horror as the spell flew toward her, unable to dodge or roll. It neared her body and she began to raise her shield, hoping with all her heart that she reacted in time. She closed her eyes, and braced for impact.

But it never came.

When she opened them again, she saw why.

Sebastian, even after all he had suffered and in his weakened state, still had the better reflexes. He stood before her now, eye wide and gasping. Blood began trickling over his scarred lips. Sorcha looked down to see him impaled by the ice. Bright red blood glistened against the shimmering spear, which was melting from the heat of his dying body.

As Sebastian began to fall against her, her rage flared with the fury of a thousand suns. She drew his dagger from his waistband and threw it at Alexius. Her aim seemed Maker-guided, and the blade sunk squarely into the magister’s skull. His body hit the floor hard, and Sorcha managed a quick breath.

Her tears flowed freely as she lowered Sebastian to the ground. His last living word was her name.

She placed a tender kiss to his lips, and through her sobs, she whispered, “You have fulfilled your oath to me, Prince Vael. I release you from your duty. Rest now, at the Maker’s side, my Prince.”

Her heart hurt so much that she could no longer breathe. Her head spun so fast that she could no longer hear. The world around her went black. She was vaguely aware of Dorian’s voice calling to her, and of the door nearly breaking. A light boot to her back snapped her attention away from her grief.

“We have but a moment,” Dorian shouted as he kicked her again. Ebony tendrils of unstable magic spun slowly around the amulet. “Hurry! Into the vortex!”

Sorcha forced herself to her feet, and embraced the rage. She made herself remember their deaths. She glanced back down at Sebastian’s lifeless body. She would never forget.

Steeling herself, she grabbed Dorian’s arm and followed him through the maw.


Her smite emerged from the vortex before she did. This time, she was prepared for what was on the other side of the spell. She stepped from the ebony smoke and cast another, so filled with rage and heartbreak and vengeance that its shockwave knocked all before her to their knees. Blinded by the pain she carried with her from the future, she rushed to a stunned and silenced Alexius, and aiming a heavy boot to his chest, bowled him to the ground.

She pounced upon him like a beast, pounding her fists viciously into his face. She could hear fighting around her, but focused on her target. Alexius would pay.  

She felt his face breaking beneath her knuckles, felt him struggle for breath under her weight. She grabbed his head between her bloodied hands, but before she could snap his neck, she heard his gurgling plea for mercy.

Mercy.

She held his life in her hands. She could end him in a moment. He was a monster. And he begged for her mercy.

She stared at his broken face. A pool of blood was forming under his head, and he was looking up at her through swollen eyes.

Mercy.

She was the Herald of Andraste. She had a duty to protect the innocent. And she suddenly came to realize that the bloodied man beneath her was still just that. He had not yet committed atrocities in the name of the Elder One. He had not yet killed her friends. He had not yet murdered her love.

She was Sorcha Trevelyan. And she would grant him mercy.

Sorcha released his head and climbed off of his battered body. She glanced along the ground, and saw that her companions had overpowered the Venatori. Lifting her gaze, the first thing she saw was brilliant and breathtaking blue eyes. Sebastian was alive.

Her lip began to tremble as the tears welled. Her heart leapt with joy and relief, and she could not contain the emotion that overcame her.

She rushed to him, and threw herself into his strong arms, weeping against his shoulder as she clutched him as closely as she could. Filled with gratitude, she remembered his sacrifice, and his confession. There was nothing that could keep her from doing the same. Not anymore.

She watched as Cassandra carried Alexius to a nearby cart, and as Dorian gestured for everyone to give Sorcha and Sebastian a moment.

“My Prince,” she breathed as she peppered his face with kisses. He smiled and opened his mouth as if to speak, but she quickly silenced him with her trembling lips.

She slowly pulled herself away and gave him a tender smile. “Brother Sebastian,” she said, “would you hear my confession?”

Sebastian regarded her a moment and raised a brow in curiosity, but nodded his head. “My darling, I would do anything for you,” he replied.

She gazed into his beautiful eyes, and lost herself in his adoration. Holding his gaze, she continued, “What I’m about to say should have been said long ago.” She brought her shaking hands up and gently cradled his face.

“I love you, Sebastian Vael. You are my beacon in the darkness and my strength when I am weak. I love you with all that I am and I swear to you, I always will.”

The joy in his smile beamed brightly. He claimed her lips and kissed her deeply until they both gasped for air.

“My darling Sorcha,” he said softly, “I love you with every fiber of my being. Since the very beginning, and until the very end, I have and will, love you with all my heart.”

She placed a lingering kiss to his smiling lips. Reluctantly, she pulled away and stepped back from his arms, but then she took his hand in hers. She knew he had questions, and she would answer them all, but not yet. There was only one thing she wanted to do.

“Let’s go home.”

 

     

 

 

Chapter Text

“Welcome back, Herald,” Cullen said earnestly as he took the reins from Sorcha’s gloved hand. “We received your message, but I must say, we are puzzled by it.”

Sorcha swung her leg over her saddle and dismounted her horse. “I will explain more at the debrief, Commander. Has the Warden agreed to my request?”

Cullen passed the reins to the stable hand and gave Sorcha an affirmative nod. “He will offer the magister’s son the opportunity to undertake the Joining. O’Malley is awaiting him in the barracks.”

Sorcha worked the ties binding her pack to the saddle. She glanced around nervously and flashed a devious grin. “And Hawke?”

“In the tavern, of course,” Cullen chuckled. “Patiently awaiting an introduction to Cassandra.”

“Let me know how that goes,” Sorcha sniggered as she hoisted her pack onto her shoulder. “I plan on being far away when that happens.”

“When what happens?” Sebastian asked as he sauntered up, lifted the pack from Sorcha’s shoulder, and flipped it onto his own. She smiled, grateful for his help.

“When Cass meets Hawke,” she muttered, careful to not be overheard by her friend. The trio began the climb along the frozen path to the Chantry.

“I’d give that a wide berth as well,” Sebastian replied. “Besides, Varric will tell us all about it.”

“About what?” Varric questioned as he sidled up next to Sebastian. “You may need to make an appointment, Choirboy. I’m in high demand these days.”

“Your story is in the tavern, Varric,” Cullen said. “Trust me when I say you won’t want to miss this one.”

Varric raised a questioning eyebrow.

“It will make quite the...tale,” Cullen added, smirking at the storyteller. Varric’s eyes went wide.

“Are you shitting me, Curly?”

Cullen shook his head, and the three of them laughed as Varric turned on his heel and made a beeline for the large wooden building.

“Has that dwarf ever run so fast?” Cassandra asked as she joined Sorcha and the others. “Where is he off to in such a hurry?”

Sorcha startled at her friend’s stealthy approach. “I’m not sure,” she replied, hopeful she would not be caught in her lie. “He mentioned something about ‘shit’ and ‘balls’.”

Cassandra grimaced and shook her head. “Ugh. Why do I even ask?”

As they neared the Chantry, Josephine exited the great, red doors and greeted Sorcha.

“Welcome back, Herald,” the ambassador chimed in her lilting Antivan accent. “I have seen to your earlier requests, as well as prepared accommodations for our newest members, and upgraded the cells for our certain prisoner.” Sorcha watched as Josephine scratched away on her parchment with her quill. “Is there anything more you require before our Council meeting?”

“There is, actually,” Sorcha admitted. “Please see that Master Pavus, Ser Barris, and Grand Enchanter Fiona also attend.”

Josephine gave Sorcha a small bow before summoning a pageboy, who dashed off to relay the messages.

Sorcha and the others entered the Chantry, and she was immediately grateful for the warmth of solid walls. She had been in the temperate climate of the valley and plains long enough to need reacclimation to the mountain air. Moving from the frigid wind to the warm hall made her shiver under her cloak as she entered the War Room, where Leliana was waiting for them.

“Welcome back, my friend,” the spymaster cooed as she strode over to Sorcha and hugged her warmly. “And thank you, for convincing Connor Guerrin to join the Inquisition. It will be nice to see him again.”

Sorcha met Leliana’s piercing gaze and smiled at her friend’s gratitude.

“He seems a very capable mage, and an honorable man. He deserves a chance to prove that.”

The two women shared a quiet moment before the warm silence was broken by the slapping of leather against stone as Sebastian dropped their packs to the floor before taking his place by Sorcha’s side. Once the others attendees had filtered in, Sorcha began her debriefing.

“I know you’ve all read my brief report, but now I can elaborate.” Her expression hardened as the memories of that torturous future slithered their way back into her mind.

“Alexius mentioned an ‘Elder One’ who is attempting to somehow ascend to godhood. Dorian and I have seen what happens should we fail to stop him.” She glanced at her new friend, whose solemn expression matched her own.

“The world will burn,” she continued. “Demons will run rampant and unopposed. People will be chained as red lyrium-mining slaves. And the Inquisition will fall.”

Sorcha placed her shaking hands on the table and leaned forward, individually meeting everyone’s gaze. Her tears fought to escape as she looked into Sebastian’s eyes, images of his sacrifice still fresh in her thoughts.

“We will all… fall.”

Before her emotions betrayed her, she turned from the Prince and bit her lip while focusing on the map. Placing a marker atop the Temple of Sacred Ashes, she lifted her eyes and regarded Cullen with determination.

“The Breach seems to be the key. We must close it quickly.” Pushing off from the table, she stood to her full height and stared squarely at Barris before returning her attention to Cullen.

“The Templars must be trained to use their focus in tandem with the mage’s mana. I need you and Ser Barris to make this happen, Commander.”

Barris saluted and Cullen stood taller, resting his hand on the hilt of his sword. “It will be done, Herald.”

“Glad to hear it.” She knew she could trust these men with the Templar’s training, but she was unsure of her next order.

“Grand Enchanter,” she glared down along the table to Fiona, who was doing her best to remain diminutive and silent, “as I said in Redcliffe, the fate of the rebel mages depends on their level of cooperation. As their leader, you swore fealty to the Inquisition. Until such time as the Breach is sealed and those responsible have been brought to justice, you are expected to follow my orders, just as the Templars are. Has this been made clear?”

Fiona averted her eyes and bowed low in deference. “It has, Your Grace.”

“Then you will work to train the mages to perform alongside the templars.”

“Of course, Your Grace.”

“Dorian, I need you to train as many as you can in the art of battle. I must say that your prowess is very impressive.”

“Of course it is,” he said airily. “And I will do what I can with those who can learn.”

“Kind of you, Master Pavus,” Sorcha responded with a smirk. “I will ask Warden O’Malley if he will assist. He’s a seasoned battlemage as well.”

Sorcha’s eyes met with everyone’s in the room as she addressed them all.

“Our best tactic is to have the Templars focus their will on realizing a weakened Breach, while the mages are drawing from the Fade and channelling that power directly into the Mark. We will assault the Breach on two separate fronts.” Staring sidelong at both Barris and Fiona, Sorcha continued.

“Seeker Cassandra and I will be overseeing the training personally, and anyone inciting dissonance will be subject to our punishment. The Inquisition is a united force that is committed to sealing the Breach, protecting Thedas from the evil that has sprung forth, and bringing those responsible for it to justice. The fight is not between mages and Templars. It is between good and evil. The light and the darkness. The Templars and mages will cooperate with one another as brothers and sisters in arms.”

Sorcha’s expression softened as she moved across the room and leaned back against the table in front of Barris and Fiona.

“Hear this now, both of you. You have the opportunity to make history. Not since their inception over eight hundred years ago have the Order and the Circle had a fresh start. You hold the fates of your brothers and sisters in your hands. How you lead will determine what follows. Don’t let them fall.”

She watched them as they considered her words. Fiona was the first to respond.

“You humble us, Herald,” the mage said softly as she lowered her head. “We will work to be an example for those who yet seek conflict. We will work for peace.”

“As will we,” Barris added, bowing his head in deference. “We will remember our duty as protectors. We, too, will work for peace.”

Nodding with satisfaction, Sorcha was hopeful that they could be the leaders their people needed for real change. As she went to return to her place at the table, her eyes met Sebastian’s. Her flagging spirit found instant lift under his proud and loving gaze. He had come to be her font of strength and courage, and she smiled at the thought of him by her side through these dangerous times.

Leliana cleared her throat and stepped forward, bringing Sorcha’s mind back to the task at hand. “What of this ‘time magic’, Herald? Can we use it?”

Sorcha looked down at the table and exhaled slowly, forcing herself to remember the pain and heartbreak she experienced in that wretched future. If she could, she would prevent that magic from ever being used again. But, she knew that this was war, and in war, one needs an advantage.

“Dorian helped Alexius develop it, and he is our best bet to perfect it.” She turned to face the necromancer.

“If you had help, do you think you could stabilize it?”

Dorian gave her a knowing smirk and tugged at an end of his mustache. “I should be able to replicate Alexius’ research. We did retrieve his notes from the future, so that puts us ahead of what he knows now.” He shifted his weight and moved his hand to his chin in ponderance. “I require adequate workspace, access to tomes and ingredients, as well as apprentices.”

Sorcha gave him a firm nod. “This is war, and we need an advantage. you will have what you need. I will ask Solas for his help as well.” Looking to Fiona, she continued, “You will send your most capable to assist.” The mage responded with a nod.

“What are your orders regarding the prisoner, Herald?” Josephine added as she wrote on her document board.

It took all of Sorcha’s will to see Alexius for what it is - a grieving husband and father - rather than the sadistic maniac she encountered in the future. She took a deep, calming breath, clearing her mind of bias before answering the Ambassador.

“He is deflated and defeated. Cullen will see to his interrogation personally. If his son chooses to undertake the Joining and lives, he may just be grateful enough for Felix’s survival that he will help us willingly. We will hold a formal trial once the Breach has been closed.”

“Of course, Herald,” the Antivan responded, scratching down Sorcha’s order.

Satisfied that she had covered the important topics, Sorcha ended the meeting and dismissed everyone for the day. Once they filed out of the room, she reached for Sebastian’s hand, and moved it to her waist.

“My cabin in two hours, my Prince,” she purred as he drew her close. A delicious heat flashed over her as he tilted her face up, slowly lowering his smiling lips to hers.

“As you wish.”

 

<3 <3 <3

 

Being the Herald of Andraste had its benefits. Sorcha’s cabin had been upgraded and the builders installed a small cookspace and a bathtub that siphoned heat from the fireplace. Cursing her poor concept of timing, she chaotically rushed about her rooms. Trying to cook a romantic meal and clean a month’s worth of travel from her tired body was certainly going to take longer than two hours.

While the game hens roasted and the root vegetables steamed, Sorcha punched the bread dough into submission. Untrained in the culinary arts, she had no delusions about the end product. It would be edible, but ugly as all sin. Palming two misshapen lumps of the sticky mess, she wiped her brow with the back of her hand before slamming the raw loaves into their iron baking pans and shoving them into the oven.

The West Hill brandy was burning its way down her throat before she had even wiped the flour from her face, and Sorcha reveled in its delicious fire as she peeled off her filthy clothes and hopped into a fragrant bath. Time was short, so she worked the soap over herself in the same manner as one would scrub at a mud-covered child, coming adequately clean within minutes. Towelling off as she crossed the room to her wardrobe, she reached for the only beautiful thing she owned. A dress of emerald velvet, with a plunging neckline and long sleeves. It had been many years since she had dressed the part of a Lady, but no time like the present.

Sorcha hurriedly stepped into the heavy fabric. She turned to her mirror as she clasped the braided belt of golden silk around her waist, and immediately wished that she had kept her short hairstyle. She grimaced at the stringy ropes that hung limply from her head, and after another mouthful of brandy, twisted her lackluster locks into a passable bun. Moving closer to her reflection, she froze before she could swipe a colored stain over her lips.

The woman who stared back seemed almost a stranger, yet somehow familiar. Sorcha had not seen this side of herself in so very long. Memories of Hercinia flashed before her. How she would preen before meeting Sebastian, making sure to present the best version of herself. She smiled as recalled her anticipation before every rendezvous, and the desire in his gaze. But, as she considered her reflection, her eyes fell to the silver crescent that crossed her throat.

That beautiful, young woman was gone. Her perfect golden skin was now riddled with lines and scars. Iridescent raven waves had transformed into muted black braids and knots. The carefree attitude of youth had been replaced with an ever-present sense of duty.

Sorcha traced the length of her scar with a shaking hand. Part of her wanted to hide it. It  represented the worst time of her life, but it also symbolized her survival of it. She pulled back from the glass and lifted her chin defiantly. That beautiful young woman was gone, but in her place was strength, resilience, justice and duty. In her place was the Herald of Andraste.

She snapped out of her self-pity and managed to choke down the sweet heat of more brandy before a knock sounded at her door. Her heart leapt into her throat and her stomach fluttered with excitement. She rolled her eyes at herself for acting like a boy-crazed teenager. Then she laughed. Maybe there was some of the old Sorcha left after all.

Sorcha ran to the door, carefully avoiding shameful eagerness by composing herself before slowly drawing it open. She was met with a handsome smile and a bunch of flowers.

“Good evening, my Lady.” Sebastian’s lilting brogue never ceased to rouse a heat in her blood. She smiled sweetly and invited him inside.

“You’re very punctual. You’re lucky I’m even dressed,” she purred as he crossed the threshold.

The door latched behind him and he kissed her cheek as she took the bouquet from his hand.

“Then it seems that I am late,” he chuckled. He plucked a wild rose from the bunch and reached for her hair. “May I?”

Blushing slightly, Sorcha smirked as she nodded her consent. “So is this one of your smooth moves, Prince Vael? Weaving flowers into a lady’s hair?”

“Hardly,” he replied as he expertly tucked the de-thorned stem into her twisted locks. “This bloom was merely seeking to be part of something of unspeakable beauty. I am simply fulfilling its desire.”

Sorcha dropped the bouquet onto the table and draped her arms over Sebastian’s shoulders. “It seems time has improved your pick-up lines, my Lord,” she purred before claiming him in a passionate kiss.

He moaned softly as she drew his bottom lip between hers and nibbled on it with gentle suction. Her fingers raked through his dark hair and she sighed into his kiss when his strong hand found her rear and palmed one of her bottom’s cheeks.

“Maker, Sorcha,” he whispered between the soft kisses he placed along her throat, “I love you.”

Sorcha’s head lolled back as his lips lingered on her collarbone and quiet mewls escaped her throat as Sebastian’s tongue danced over her sensitive flesh. Bringing her hands to his face, she cupped his bearded cheeks and tilted his head to meet her eyes.

“And I love you,” she breathed. “With all that I am, I love you.” Their lips crashed together in sweet chaos and Sorcha unclasped Sebastian’s cloak, letting it fall to the floor. Without missing a beat, her hands began pawing at his waistband, tugging at this laces and pulling at the hem of his tunic. He sat her atop the table and lifted his tunic over his head, tousling his dark waves. The lean, tanned planes of his broad chest and chiseled abdomen struck Sorcha with a sudden hunger, and she licked her lips as her eyes roved over his perfect form.

“I am yours to take,” she purred, opening his laces and reaching into his trousers. Her breath hitched as her fingertips brushed along the velveteen flesh of his erection. Sebastian growled and bit into the crook of her neck as she freed his manhood from the confining leather. Sorcha was trembling with both anticipation and desire. Her skin flushed with the heat of passion and tingled with sparks of need.

“And I am yours to command,” he responded, his voice was lustful and low. Gently sliding his fingers beneath the hem of her neckline, he followed the seam of the vibrant green fabric up and along her chest. Arriving at her shoulders, he slowly pushed her sleeves down her arms and leaned back to admire her bare torso.

Sorcha blushed under his adoring gaze. She remembered that look; how his cerulean eyes darkened with desire, and how his lip curled into a smug smirk. She unclasped her belt and hopped from the table, allowing her dress to fall and pool at her feet. Watching as his chest rose and fell with quickened breath, Sorcha smirked as well.

“Then I command you to take me.”

Faster than Sorcha’s eyes could follow, Sebastian wrapped his arms around her and scooped her off her feet.

“As you wish,” he whispered into her ear and swiftly carried her to her bed.

Sebastian placed her gently upon the soft linens and Sorcha propped herself up on her elbows. Watching him disrobe had always been enjoyable, and this time was no exception. In the past, watching him undress was like watching a god emerge from mortal trappings.  He was the most breathtaking being she had ever seen, and she swore she would never tire of his beautiful form. All these years later, her heart still fluttered at the thought that he was hers, and hers alone.

His muscles flexed with every movement of his taut body, and within moments his boots and trousers were in a discarded pile on her floor. He had more scars now, evidence of battles fought and won. For as long as she had known him, he had been a skilled fighter. She had never feared anything in his presence. Sebastian had always made her feel safe. Even as shy lay dying on that cold, cave floor, she feared nothing, for he was there. He had always been there, and now, she finally realized, that he always would be.

Sorcha’s breath hitched as emotion caught in her throat. The only man she had ever loved, and the only man she had ever lost, was about to hold her his his arms once again. Her lip began to quiver as her feelings escaped their decades-old bindings. Unbelievably, and by the Maker’s grace, she and Sebastian had found their way back to each other. And once again, her soul was soaring on a song of color and light, pushing back the darkness that had been her life for so long.

Sebastian kneeled on the bed, stretching to move himself alongside her. Sorcha’s eyes were fixed on the man who had always held her heart. He was so beautiful that it almost hurt to look at him. She admired his long legs, his powerful thighs, and his impressive cock.

She lifted herself to meet him, placing her trembling lips to his. She teased at the crease of his mouth, a silent and impassioned plea to which he needed no coaxing. His lips welcomed her entry, and their tongues danced together with fervent need.

He parted her legs with his knee and lowered his body, sending jolts of ardent desire along the planes where their bare flesh met. Sorcha reveled in his touch as his hand roamed over her while he began placing gentle kisses to her flesh. As his ministrations fell below her waist, the sensation of his beard combined with his hot mouth sent Sorcha reeling.

“Maker, I love that beard,” she chuckled as his lips grazed her hip. He looked up at her and coyly raised a brow.

“Is that so?” he muttered against her skin as he positioned her leg over his shoulder. Nerves nearly overtook her at the realization that all that was ever good and right in her world, was because of Sebastian. The only joy and love she had ever felt, the only true pleasure, was because of him.

Sorcha tensed with anticipation. She glanced down and met his brilliant blue eyes. He gave her a wink and she watched as his mouth disappeared below the crest of her mound. She sniggered at herself for the many lecherous thoughts his winks prompted, both in their youth and now with age.

The hot breath from his mouth as it hovered over her sensitive bud nearly sent her into oblivion, and she moaned sonorously when Sebastian swiped his tongue firmly along the slickness between her folds. Her back arched and her body convulsed, lifting her upper body completely off the bed and her breath escaped as a soundless scream as she returned to her mattress a boneless mass.

When Sebastian entered her with one of his long archer’s fingers, Sorcha gasped and keened, and dug her heel into his well-muscled back. He chuckled and the vibration from the low timbre of his voice sent shockwaves through her twitching body.

“You still have the same weakness, I see,” he hummed before circling her hypersensitive bud with his tongue. Sorcha fisted his dark hair with one hand while the other flew over her head.

“You’ve always been my weakness,” she sighed, finally understanding the truth in her words. “It will forever be you.”

He added another finger to her wet core, stretching her entrance nearly to the point of pain. His tongue moved in flat strokes against her clit, snapping the coiled tension in her belly and freeing the numbing heat of climax to radiate throughout her body.

The tingling coursed her veins like liquid lightning, and she could no longer restrain her release. Blindly, she reached for Sebastian. She needed to feel him inside her, filling her. She mewled in delirious utterance.

“Wait! I… I’m…” she whimpered.

“Ladies first, my darling,” he rasped. Taking her center into his hot mouth, he sucked gently while lapping at her bud and working her core. Before she could take another breath, her release crashed upon her, sending her into a frenzy of frantic gasps and twitching limbs. A strangled sob escaped her throat as she fell from the heights of her climax, and she reached for his face. Cupping his jaw as she raked his hair, she urged him up. So strong was the urge to embrace him, it felt instinctive and she ached to hold him.

Sorcha felt her opening clench around his fingers, and he took a final taste before withdrawing and climbing atop her. Tracing an invisible trail toward her neck, his lips lingered to deliver gentle nibbles to the pebbled flesh of her pert nipples. He entwined his fingers with hers and, settling between her shaking legs, positioned his cock at her quivering core.

“You are my world, Sorcha,” he whispered. “I swear to honor you always.” With deliberate slowness, he sunk his length into her, filling her, stretching her. A breathy moan escaped his lips as they brushed against her temple. “And I will never leave your side.”

She closed her fingers around his and digging her nails into the back of his hand, gasped for the breath that had left her in her ecstasy. Her eyes met his and she could not help the tears that began to well.

Their last intimate encounter was fifteen years ago. On the night before her kidnapping. The night before their end. Sebastian had been her only love, now here they were, come full circle. She offered a silent prayer to the Maker. Her soul was finally still, the cries for its mate now quieted. She had forgotten what peace felt like, what completion felt like. Hot tears escaped her stinging eyes, and she smiled, for now she remembered.

Sebastian’s brow furrowed in concern, and he held his weight on his elbows while he brought his hands to her face and gently wiped the salted droplets from her cheeks.

“Am I hurting you?” His voice was warm with worry.

Sorcha shook her head and wrapped her legs around him, drawing him in deeper.

“I love you and would have you by my side for eternity, Sebastian.”

The veneration and adoration she saw in his expression nearly overwhelmed her. She released his hands and brought hers up to the back of his neck. Rolling her hips, she grinned when he moaned and licked his lips, tugging at his bottom one with his teeth.

“And it’s your turn, my Lord.”

He gave her a devilish smirk before claiming her with a passionate kiss. She raked at his back, moaning into his mouth and gasping with each thrust. Her hands roamed over the muscles of his perfect ass, and she dragged her nails over his taut flesh.

“As you wish, my Lady.”

His sighs became growls, and his pace began to quicken as he rocked his hips harder and pressed himself deeper within her. She swallowed his whimpers, refusing to leave his lips for even a moment. Holding him tightly and kissing him hungrily, she felt his body shudder with his climax. She felt his cock twitching against her walls as his seed filled her accepting body.

He collapsed on top of her, struggling to catch his breath. Wrapping his arms around her, he nuzzled her sweat-dampened neck.  She smiled reverently at him, her eyes dancing over his face and her fingers teasing his hair.  He managed a weak smile.

“That was-”

“Perfect,” Sorcha whispered.

He slid out of her and rolled to her side, embracing her in his strong arms as she laid her head on his shoulder.

“I love you,” she said as she dragged her nails through his chest hair.

Every ounce of her being wished that she would have spoken those words in Hercinia. He deserved to know then how much he meant to her. Guilt rose in the back of her mind. Ill-placed blame caused her to forget his importance, and his worth. Sorcha vowed to make it up to him. Regardless of what it took, she would make it clear how precious he was to her.

Sebastian closed his eyes and placed a lingering kiss to the top of her head.

“And I love you,” he replied. Exhausted, she draped her leg over his and settled in for sleep to take her. She closed her eyes, letting the rhythm of his heart lull her into resting. She felt him take a deep breath, and snap his head up.

“Sorcha, darling?”

“Hmmm?”

“Were you… cooking?”

"Oh, shit."

 

  

  

 

Chapter Text

“Shit.” Sorcha grimaced as she tried to unwrap herself from around Sebastian’s body. “Shit, shit, shit!”

Sebastian couldn’t help but grin at Sorcha’s consternation. Her emotional outbursts were one of her quirks that he adored.  Her passion and her fire made her unpredictable, and just being around her made him feel more alive.

He reached over her with heavy limbs, and rolled off the bed onto his feet. Leaning to grab the red plaid throw from under her beautiful body, he placed a gentle kiss to her lips.

“I’ll get it,” he assured her, wrapping the thin blanket around his waist as he stepped to the cooking area.

Bunching the padded fabric of the dish towels into his palms, he retrieved the iron cookpot and the loaf pans from the unforgiving heat. Below the heavy lid sat darkened chunks of what he assumed were game birds, surrounded by bits of potential vegetables. The loaves were barely recognizable as bread. He considered the sorry state of their meal.

“It’s alright!” he called back to her. “It was rescued just in time.” Grimacing, he muttered under his breath, “Whatever it is.”

His eyes darted around the room in search of ingredients, and a silent sigh of relief escaped his lips when he spied the fruit platter on the table. That was something he could work with.

Sebastian had been schooled in the culinary arts, and found the task of preparing a meal to be quite relaxing. When in the kitchen, his stress would fade as his hands set about creating, rather than destroying. With his mind settled on the task of salvaging dinner, he began to hum the familiar song that had been gracing his soul with its harmony.

Vaguely aware of the gaze that was burning a hole through the throw around his waist, he began to consciously flex every muscle as he arranged their meal. He could feel Sorcha’s desire from across the room, and smiled to himself. Had two people ever been so in tune with one another?

With plates in hand, he sauntered back to Sorcha, who had wrapped herself in his cloak and set up pillows in front of the fireplace. Her eyes grew wide as she accepted her platter.

“I didn’t know you could cook,” she admitted. “This looks amazing.”

“I found the act of cooking oddly soothing while at the Chantry. Once I returned to Starkhaven, I hired a chef of some renown to properly teach me.”

“I’m sure your court had plenty to say about their Prince working in the kitchen.”

“That they did,” he chuckled, “but since when do I listen? The kitchen was the only place they would not follow me, so I spent much of my time there.”

Sorcha raised a brow questioningly. “They didn’t enter the kitchen?”

Sebastian shook his head. “Everyone was afraid of the chef. He was very vulgar and took to throwing things at people’s heads. He had fantastic aim.”

“And you weren’t wary of him? Not even in the least?”

He gave her a wry grin. “My aim was better.”

She gave him a smile so warm, his heart melted and was putty in her hands. “I, for one, am thankful for his instruction,” she said.  “You’ve managed to save dinner.”

He watched as Sorcha slowly pulled the morsel from her fork with her soft, perfect lips. “It tastes wonderful,” she purred.  

Sebastian glanced indifferently at the slices of poultry staggered across a bed of thinly sliced apples and warm bread, drizzled with a wild berry glaze. She deserved better than this. Suddenly, he had the urge to whisk her away to his palace, and give her a seat of honor at his kitchen counter while he prepared culinary art just for her. The melodic sound of her laughter would enrich the room as he made a show of making a meal, and they would enjoy one another’s company over good wine and great food.

A small wistful smile curled the corner of his lips as realization hit. He could never take her away from her duty of leading a war against the darkness. But still, he longed to take her home. Before she could sense his sadness, he looked up from his plate and placed a practiced smile on his face.

“The credit is yours,” he replied as he settled onto a firm cushion. “And I didn’t know that you could cook, as well.”

Sorcha scoffed, raising her hand to cover her mouth. “It’s blatantly obvious that I can’t. But thanks for the flattery, all the same.”

The pale blush that crept over her cheeks was endearing, and as he gazed upon her disheveled hair and the way his deep blue cloak was wrapped around her muscular, nude body, he struggled to remember a time in which she had looked this beautiful.

“You’re staring,” she commented, claiming his attention. Meeting her hazel eyes, he reveled in the breathlessness in which she left him.

“You’re beautiful,” he said simply. She blushed again, and he felt like the luckiest man alive.

“So,” Sorcha said before chasing down the pheasant with a mouthful of wine, “I think this is a good of time as any to ask...” she shifted against her pillow, unmoving as his cloak slipped to reveal a bare shoulder, “...about Kirkwall.”

Sebastian averted his eyes, staring off into the undulating flames in the fireplace. The time in Kirkwall was the worst of his life. He’d been heartbroken and alone, and he’d longed for Sorcha with each and every breath. He’d languished in the Chantry while a demon influenced an assassination plot against his family. He’d played backup for Hawke’s merry band of misfits, and nearly lost his kingdom.

“Where did you go after you left me?” Sorcha asked softly. “Did you head straight for Kirkwall?”

The lump in his throat pressed against its confines and he swallowed hard. He set down his plate and held Sorcha’s gaze.

“I went home first. To lick my wounds. At the time, I thought I was making the right decision in leaving Hercinia - I was sure that it was the only way to keep you safe.”

He felt the emotion rise and soon his vision blurred through his misted eyes. “Leonal found me in my chambers one morning, half-dead from drink - and a broken heart. His words at that moment saved me. He said, ‘You didn’t save her life just to end yours. If you love her, you will live for her.’”

The fire crackled as a log slipped from atop the pile and into the embers and ash. The firelight danced across her face and Sebastian saw a tear’s trail glisten along her cheek. Offering her a comforting smile, he continued.

“He threw me into the bath, where I sat and thought for hours. I swore to Andraste that I would protect you, and I couldn’t do that from the Maker’s side. So I accepted the offer of family friends to visit their estate in Kirkwall, and I found myself there a week later.”

He shifted from his seat to his knees before her, and cradled her beautiful face in his trembling hands.

“The words I spoke to you on the day we met were the honest truth. The muted grey of my world suddenly lifted and everything danced with vibrant color. I heard a song within my soul the first moment I saw you, and it sings to me to this day.” Gently, he brushed his thumb across her bottom lip and along her silken cheek. “There is something divine about you and I, something Maker-guided. And leaving half of my heart behind was the wrongest thing I’ve ever done. I will never, ever do it again.”

Sorcha lifted her hand to his temple and with her ring finger, gently wiped away a tear that dropped onto his cheek. He blushed slightly, unaware that he too, had been crying.

“I forgive you, Sebastian, truly,” she said softly as her eyes held his. “The Maker brought us together, not once, but twice. He made us as two pieces of a whole, and I will never be without my other half again.”

He held his breath and felt the heat of hers on his skin as she drew close.

“I love you, Sebastian Vael,” she whispered as her lips ghosted over his. “My partner. My match.”

Sebastian felt as if his very heartbeat faltered at the tenderness and passion in her kiss, leaving him awed and breathless. Her mouth opened in invitation and he kissed her deeply, reveling in her taste of plum wine. Snaking his arms under his cloak and around her bare, slender waist, he drew her to her knees and pressed his eager body to her goosepimpled flesh.

Sorcha ran her fingers through his hair, dragging her nails along his scalp. Shivers raced down his spine and he moved a hand to her rear, squeezing her rounded ass and holding her firmly against his rigid arousal. Sighing softly into his mouth, she released the throw from around his waist, positioned herself over his erection and held it between her thighs. Reeling from the exquisite pressure, Sebastian dropped his other hand down to her ass and palmed both cheeks, lifting and separating them as he slid his length along her slicked and swollen folds.

She bit down onto his bottom lip, making him hiss at the sudden sting. She smirked, and taking his lip between hers, soothed the pain with gentle suckling. It amazed him, how she could be both torturer and savior. And it was sending him into a frenzy.

“Demoness,” he growled. Placing her leg around his waist, he tilted her hips and shifted his own before driving himself inside her.

“Maker!” she gasped as her body accepted his presence. Sebastian pulled her closer, burying himself in her tight channel. The sensation of the hot, wet pressure bearing down on his cock was maddening.

Encircling her waist with one arm and cradling her head with the other, he lowered himself backward onto the tufted pillows, bringing her with him to the floor.

As their legs disentangled, Sorcha brought her sinful lips to the crook of his neck and bit into his flesh as he thrust himself deeper into her core. Strangled cries escaped both their throats as pain and pleasure collided.

Sebastian’s hands roamed over her silken and scarred flesh. As she leaned back, allowing his hips to take her weight, the amber firelight unselfishly illuminated the canvas that was her skin, striking him breathless in awe.

“You are a vision,” he rasped, drinking in the sight of her. His hands found her breasts and his thumbs ghosted across her nipples as he cradled her ribs. Shivers radiated across his skin as her fingernails dragged through the dusting of hair on his chest.

“And you are perfection,” she moaned, lifting herself nearly to the point of him exiting before slowly lowering back to take him in completely. He moved his hips to meet her, before drawing his knees up so she might lean back on his thighs.

Sebastian guided the rise and fall of her hips, his own bucking fiercely when the head of his cock was squeezed tightly by her opening as she rose to crown him.

He moved his hands to her knees, spreading her legs wider. “May I watch?” he asked, flashing his most winning smirk. Sorcha worried at her bottom lip, and holding his gaze, nodded slowly while resting back on his thighs and shifting her legs that her feet rested beside his hips.

“As you wish, my Prince.” With her fingers placed gingerly on her knees, she spread herself wide.

A guttural moan left his throat at the sight of his cock, slicked and glistening in the firelight, thrusting into her, stretching her. He swiped his thumb across his tongue and held it to her sensitive bud, circling it with a gentle pressure.

He grinned when Sorcha threw her head back and gasped at his ministration. With his palm over her mound and his thumb over her clit, he moved himself slowly within her.

“Maker! Seb...” she mewled, “I’m...”

She dug her nails into her knees and then moved to rake them along the outside of his thighs. The sting of the scratches was overshadowed by the overwhelming bliss of her clenching and pulsing around his length. He felt a surge of wetness inside her, and it was his undoing.

Her gasps and broken screams incited his climax and it crashed upon him like a breaking wave. Gripping her hips, he squeezed her forgiving flesh and thrust deeply inside her. His cock throbbed against her walls and as he filled her with his seed, he arched his back and joined her with ecstatic cries and shortened breaths.

As soon as his head cleared and he caught his breath, Sebastian sat forward and wrapped his arms around his love, bringing her down to lie on the cushions beside him.

They lay in silence, needing no words to express the feelings of the moment. Sebastian breathed a deep contented breath and reached to sweep a few stray, damp locks of raven hair from Sorcha's forehead. As he did so, his eyes met her hazel gaze and he felt his heart swell a little with adoration and love. He let his fingers trail down the side of her face, and she turned to press her cheek against his hand as he adjusted the cloak about her soft curves.

Noticing his cloak settled haphazardly around her naked body, and he adjusted it to cover her.

“You’ve always been so attentive to me,” she purred, her eyes never leaving his face. He leaned in and placed a lingering kiss to her welcoming lips.

I will honor you as a queen , he thought. My queen . He felt her smile beneath his lips, but he said nothing. When the right time presented itself, he would ask her and wish with all his heart for an answer of “yes”, but for now, he would wait. Sorcha was the Herald of Andraste, a symbol of mercy and peace, and she had a duty to the people of Thedas. And as much as he needed her, they needed her, as well.

Sebastian drew the plaid throw out from under his leg, and draped it over him and Sorcha. Just as he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her goodnight, an intrusive knock sounded at the door.

“Sorcha?” an agitated and muffled voice called through the wood. “Sorcha, are you in there?”

“Allow me,” Sebastian offered as he rose from the floor and tied the blanket around his waist once more. Sorcha sat up, wrapping his cloak closer around her bare flesh.

“Who is it?” Sorcha called out as Sebastian crossed the room.

“It’s Bethany.”

Sebastian looked to Sorcha for permission, and at her nod, unlatched the door and swung it open.

“Good evening, Bethany,” he said politely, sweeping his hand in a gesture of invitation. “Please come in.”

The look of shock and embarrassment on Bethany’s face as she entered caused both him and Sorcha to chuckle.

“Oh, Maker! I’m so sorry for interrupting!” She blushed, and cast her eyes to the floor, before glancing back at Sebastian, who wryly lifted a brow.

Sorcha rose to her feet, clutching Sebastian’s cloak closed in front of her. “Is there a problem?” Sebastian watched her expression harden into the resolute mask of the Herald, and his heart swelled. He hated the interruption, but he loved seeing her in charge.

“Is the sky falling?” she continued. “Or has an Archdemon landed in our courtyard?”

Bethany looked at her apologetically. “No, just… a sparring match that is quite likely to get out of control.”

Annoyance crossed Sorcha’s face. “Maker’s breath, Bethany! When isn’t there a sparring match happening among the men? Can’t Cullen handle it?””

“Under normal circumstances,” Bethany answered, “I would never think of bothering you with it. But, I think this is a special case. The match is between Cassandra and…” Bethany rolled her eyes and sighed, “my sister.”

Sebastian crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head slowly. “You don’t think you could keep Marian reined in?”

Bethany scoffed and Sebastian smirked as she glanced back at him and blushed once more.

“No. Not really. Especially not if Cassandra gets the upper hand. You know how she is.”

Sebastian nodded slowly, recalling the day Hawke punched Aveline in the chest for getting the upper hand in a training exercise.

“What am I missing?” Sorcha asked. “How does she get?”

“Petulant,” Bethany answered.

“Hawke is a sore loser. She punched one of her best friends in the chest while they were training to keep the upper hand,” Sebastian added.

“So?” Sorcha shrugged. “I punch people all the time.”

Sebastian chuckled. “Her friend was a woman. And dare I say nearly as frightening that Cassandra.”

Sorcha’s lip curled in disbelief and she tilted her head to Bethany. “Your sister punched one of her best friends in the tits to keep from losing?”

Bethany’s brows lifted in affirmation and she nodded.

“That,” Sorcha sighed, “might be an issue. Cass doesn’t suffer cheaters, or sore losers. Or sore tits.”

Sebastian shared a momentary glance of remorse with Sorcha over their time being cut short, before she started muttering curses under her breath and scrambling to find some clothes. He shared her sentiment - he too, would much rather be lying next to her in front of a comfortable fire than stand out in the cold babysitting their friends. But her life no longer belonged to her alone. She had a duty as the Herald, and their personal time would have to wait.

“I’ll be right out,” she sighed, clearly irritated at the interruption.

“Cullen’s already keeping an eye on it, but if things go south, no one can handle this like you can. I’ll see you out there, Sorcha, and again, I’m very, very sorry for interrupting,” Bethany reiterated as she turned to leave.

Sebastian chuckled as Bethany shielded her eyes when he opened the door for her.

“I think your nakedness embarrassed her,” Sorcha said as he closed the door, shutting out the evening chill.

“Not my fault if -” he turned back to Sorcha, finding her already dressed in a tunic and trousers, holding out his pants. The sight of her took his breath away. She was flushed, disheveled, and a vision more lovely than he could ever describe.

“How is it that you appear more beautiful with each glance I take?” he asked casually while trying to not stumble as he pulled his own trousers on. Before he could string his laces, she was in his arms, peppering his face with kisses.

“How is it that you move deeper into my heart with each breath I take?” she replied before kissing him deeply. He wrapped his arms around her and returned her affection, but before he could suggest letting Hawke and Cassandra work things out themselves, Sorcha broke their embrace and handed him his tunic.

“Let’s go rescue your friend,” she chided. He pulled his shirt on and tilted his head inquisitively.

“I think it will be your friend who will need the rescuing,” he replied smugly. The gleam he saw in Sorcha’s eyes reminded him of the exhilarating days when they would train together in Hercinia. That competitive streak had cost her many wagers, and awarded him many boons, and he smiled at the thought of how some things never change.

“Care to bet on that, my Prince?” she asked as she pulled on her boots. Sebastian felt confident in Hawke’s ability to overpower the Seeker; he knew that Cassandra was formidable, but Marian fought like a woman possessed.

“If we rescue your friend, I get you for an entire day to myself,” he replied innocently before lowering his voice, “and you will not be allowed to dress.”

Sorcha inhaled sharply and the desire in her gaze ignited his once more. “And when we rescue your friend,” she purred, “I get to shave that handsome face of yours.”

He was taken aback for a moment and brought his hand to his chin, stroking his beard thoughtfully. “I thought you liked it,” he mused. She lifted her own hands to his cheeks and dragged her nails through his whiskers.

“I love it, but I’m curious to see if you still have those heart-melting dimples.”

Grinning, he sealed their wager with a kiss. “Game on, demoness, game on.”

He draped Sorcha’s cloak over her shoulders and flung his over his own before he opened the door for her. He gave her rear a playful smack as she crossed the threshold, stepping into the whirling snow ahead of him. Chuckling at her surprised squeal, he swore that he would never tire of listening to her happiness.


Sorcha led Sebastian down along the frozen trail toward the raucous noise at the training yard. It seemed that all of Haven had turned up to see the Champion of Kirkwall take on the Hero of Orlais. Soldier and civilian alike encircled the ring, which was illuminated as bright as day from the dozens of torches being held in spectatorship.

The throng of onlookers seemed to part before her, and she watched many an expression change from excitement to apprehension at her arrival. She took up beside Cullen and grinned when Sebastian drew alongside her. She smirked inwardly at their wager; there was no way that Hawke would get the better of Cassandra, even if she cheated. Especially if she cheated.

“What started it?” she asked no one in particular.

“That would depend on whose story you want to hear,” came Varric’s voice from beside Sebastian. Sorcha looked at him with a furrowed brow.

“I need to know how it started, Varric. I want to hear the truth, not a story.”

“Alright, alright,” the storyteller acquiesced, raising his hands defensively. “There’s no one to blame.”

“Oh really? No one?” Sorcha asked incredulously. “How did no one start this?”

“Well, you see,” he began, “Hawke and I were in the tavern, having an ale and reminiscing about our epic adventures, when Scary Seeker walked in. Needless to say that when Hawke saw her, she made a beeline straight for her.”

Sorcha’s eyes narrowed. “And then?”

Varric drew up to his full height. “Hawke challenged her,” he said airily.

“She just walked up and challenged Cassandra. Just like that? Did she take a gauntlet and throw it down in front of her?”

“Well…”

“Hawke was just being Hawke,” Cullen interjected, drawing Sorcha’s attention. “She marched up to the Seeker and said something akin to, ‘I heard what you did to Varric in Kirkwall. How about you pick on someone your own size?’” He glanced at the dwarf and smirked.

Sorcha held back a snigger when Varric offered Cullen a rude gesture in reply.

“And Cassandra took Hawke’s bait?” Sorcha queried. It was unlike her friend to be so easily goaded.

“Not at first,” Cullen answered, “but -”

“You need work on your delivery, Curly,” Varric interrupted. “You’re failing to captivate your audience.”

Cullen rolled his eyes and waved his permission for Varric to take over. The storyteller adjusted his tunic and cleared his throat.

“Hawke marched valiantly up to the imposing Seeker and faced her, toe to toe. ‘I know what you did to Varric in Kirkwall,’ she growled. ‘How dare you lay a finger on my brave and handsome friend? He’s too brilliant and clever to be manhandled by the likes of you! I will Champion his honor, and I demand satisfaction!’”

Varric was so engrossed with his recounting of the incident that he failed to notice the quizzical and sardonic expressions passing between Cullen and Sorcha.

“The Seeker glowered at Hawke,” the dwarf continued, adding animated gestures, “with wrathful fury. She stared into the Champion’s eyes and was met with the strength and power of a true  warrior’s resolve. The Seeker’s skin paled and her posture became defensive. ‘This is ridiculous,’ she said as she cast her eyes to the floor. ‘I could never -”

“Maker, this is ridiculous,” Cullen huffed, interrupting the tale. He turned to Sorcha and spoke rapidly. “Cassandra said, ‘No. This is ridiculous.’ So then Hawke called her a chicken-shit. The Seeker’s jaw clenched as tight as her fists and now here we are.” He glanced back to Varric and muttered, “I can’t believe your editor allows such blatant exaggerations.”

Varric shrugged. “My readers eat it up. Who am I to refuse them?”

“So Hawke essentially called Seeker Cassandra a coward?” Sebastian asked as he peeled his eyes away from the fight.

“And a bully,” Varric added helpfully.

Sorcha grimaced and exhaled forcefully. “Shit,” she muttered.

Sorcha watched with trepidation as the warriors circled one another. Both were in battle posture, and each had the bloody evidence of blows on their faces. Cassandra was staring Hawke down murderously from behind her raised shield, and Hawke seemed to have a perpetual smugness on her face as she spun the large practice sword in the palms of her gauntleted hands.

“That heavy boot of yours was a little uncalled for, don’t you think, Seeker?” Hawke laughed as she favored her left leg.

Cassandra’s lips curled into a sneer. “It was as necessary as the dirt you threw into my eyes.”

Hawke was the first to break their pacing. She kicked up a cloud of gravel to distract the Seeker, while swinging her sword in a spinning slash. Cassandra seemed unfazed by the tactic, blocking the Champion’s strike and shoving her backward with enough force for her heels to skid along the ground

Sorcha watched as Cassandra bore down on Hawke with her shield, putting her weight into obstructing her arms. The Seeker scored a powerful fist to the Champion’s jaw moments before Hawke pulled her along to the ground and, placing her boots to Cassandra’s midsection, pushed the Seeker off of her with her legs, sending Cassandra rolling. As the Seeker righted herself and effortlessly landed on her feet, Sorcha could see the last of her friend’s patience leaving on the wind. Cassandra had had enough, and was now out to inflict some real pain.

“Ugh,” Sorcha lamented as she worked at her buckle. “Here, hold my cloak.” She thrust her garment into Sebastian’s chest. He said nothing, merely raising his brow in reply. Amidst cheers and jeers, she marched into the middle of the ring, determined to stop the spectacle before something unforeseen happened.

“Ladies,” she said calmly. “As much fun as I’m having watching this, I’m afraid it needs to stop. Now.” Neither warrior relented, and proceeded to circle around Sorcha like she were a post.

“Oh come on, Herald,” Hawke rasped as her chest heaved for breath. “The Seeker and I are just getting warmed up.” Sorcha eyed the Champion, but her gaze was fixed on Cassandra.

“It’s under control, Herald,” Cassandra added. “I’ve been curious about the Champion’s skill for quite some time.” The Seeker’s gaze was stuck on Hawke. Sorcha rolled her eyes in frustration.

“The Right Hand of the Divine and the Champion of Kirkwall are not brawling on my watch. My night off was interrupted for this shit and I’m calling this match a draw. You will shake hands like you’ve been best friends for ages. Understood?” Sorcha growled low enough that only the combatants could hear. Her fists clenched as she tried to maintain an air of patience. She didn’t particularly enjoy insubordination.

Hawke snorted. “I don’t see how-”

“Don’t make me smite you both!” Sorcha interrupted with a hiss. Part of her wanted to let them finish the bout, for it was a fine display of skill. But she had to keep the peace. Cassandra immediately relaxed her posture and dropped her practice weapons.

“As you wish, Herald,” the Seeker replied. Sorcha waited for Hawke to comply as well. The Champion reluctantly dropped her wooden sword and extended her hand to Cassandra.

“Put ‘er there, bestie,” Hawke scoffed. Cassandra rolled her eyes and accepted the Champion’s hand.

“Thank you, ladies,” Sorcha added airily. “Now, if you don’t mind, I have something to -” She was about to convey how much she needed to get back to her date, when she was interrupted by a crass voice shouting over the din of the crowd.

“Oi! Her Gracious Ladybits! Just lost me twenty silvers, you!”

Confused and annoyed, Sorcha looked at Cassandra. “Cass… what was that?”

Cassandra sighed and shook her head. “That, Herald, was Sera. I’ll explain later.”

“Maker…” she muttered as she turned to address the crowd.

“Inquisition,” she shouted, “I hope you enjoyed the display of expert prowess. Two of Thedas’ finest warriors grace your ranks, and they lend their skill and fortitude to our mission.” She took another breath and continued, “But let us not forget our true purpose. We will close the Breach, and we will bring the perpetrators to justice. Mages, Templars, soldiers, scouts… we are all the Inquisition, and we will bring peace to Thedas together.” The crowd erupted into cheers and applause, and Sorcha smiled gratefully while waving for quiet.

Once the crowd settled, she finished her address. “Seeker Pentaghast and the Champion will be conducting advanced practice drills tomorrow, as will Master Tethras. Get some rest, your training begins at dawn!” She hadn’t even taken a step toward the crowd before that voice rose over it again.

“Friggin’ what?”






 






Chapter Text

The Temple of Sacred Ashes had remained unchanged since Sorcha had stabilized the Breach after waking as the Herald of Andraste. The corpses of the explosion’s victims seemed as macabre statues, immortalized in their final agonizing moments. Sorcha couldn’t tear her gaze away from the horrors that surrounded her as they approached the ruins. The conflict between her dreams and her duty was torturous, but it was nothing compared to the victims’ demise. They deserved justice, and as the Herald of Andraste, that justice was hers to deliver. That realization was a weighty one. Her heart was battling her mind to do the right thing. But the right thing for whom?  Torn between her desires and her responsibilities, she had been silently practicing the argument of her intended relocation since the events of Redcliffe.  As they plodded to the temple footpath, Sorcha urged her horse forward and reined in alongside Cassandra.

“I need to tell you something, Cass,” she asserted, trying to sound more confident than she was feeling. She knew that her friend wouldn’t be the only person that she needed to convince, but having Cassandra on her side would go a long way to having the others understand her position. Cassandra turned in her saddle and gave Sorcha her attention.

“Once the Breach is sealed, I will be taking my leave,” Sorcha said authoritatively. “It was not an easy decision to make,” she sighed, “but it is the right one for me.” She was certain that her friend would argue, but Sorcha would not concede. It was time to do something for herself. Was she not deserving of happiness as well?

Cassandra’s face was rendered with shock at first, but quickly softened into compassion. “I must admit, Sorcha, that I did not expect this,” she said as she adjusted herself in her saddle before halting her mount. “Our mission is not yet accomplished. There is still the matter of the perpetrator.” She dismounted and handed her reins to a groom. “And you are the Herald of Andraste, a symbol to the people,” she continued. “Surely you do not plan to forsake your duty?”

Cassandra didn’t say anything that Sorcha hadn’t already thought about a hundred times. She sighed as she hopped off Lumé’s back and found herself staring off into space as she stroked her mare’s glistening neck.

“I’ve put a lot of thought into my decision,” she reiterated as she met Cassandra’s gaze. “You’ve mentioned focusing on choosing a new Divine. That is a task for you and Leliana to undertake, not me. And as for the monster that caused this chaos,” she exhaled deeply as she surveyed the scorched earth around her, “the Inquisition has the resources to hunt them down.”

Sorcha’s eyes found Sebastian stepping carefully along the footpath, and her gaze followed his descent into the crater below. “I’m still the Herald, but I don’t need to stay in Haven to be such. I wish to move on.”   

“If anyone deserves something more, Sorcha, it is you. I would prefer that you stay, but cannot force you to. I understand why you have chosen to go, and I will support you in any way that I can.”

Sorcha snaked her arms around Cassandra’s slim waist and pulled her in for a brief, but tight, hug. “I know you will, and that is one of the many reasons why I love you. But first thing’s first. Let’s close this fucking thing.”

The Seekers followed the narrow trail to the temple ruins and descended the crumbling stairs to the balcony that overlooked the crater. Sorcha’s team of mages and Templars were already in position around the perimeter, with Barris and Fiona leading them from the depression below. Sorcha’s eyes trailed up to the wound in the sky. Doubt began to course through her mind, and summoning all her faith, she took a deep breath and hopped over the railing to land on the ravaged ground below.

“Inquisition!” she shouted as she took her place alongside Cassandra, Sebastian and Cullen. “The time has come to test our mettle! We are about to banish the shadow of this evil with the power of our faith and our skill. We have prayed hard, and trained hard, and we will not lose! We will not be beaten! Mages, are you ready?”

“We are, Herald!” Fiona shouted over the cadence of a dozen staves pounding against the stone of the balcony in battle rhythm.

“Templars, are you ready?” Sorcha shouted.

“We are, Herald!” Barris barked over the clamor of a dozen swords slamming against a dozen shields as the Templars joined the mages in rousing.

Sorcha turned and met the eyes of Cullen and Cassandra, giving them a slight nod before catching Sebastian’s gaze. Giving her lover a confident wink, she mouthed to him a soundless ‘I love you’, before concentrating on activating the magic held in the palm of her hand. As the Mark crackled to life and radiated its vibrant green light, Sorcha whispered a silent prayer before stepping forward and thrusting her hand to the sky.

“Now!” she cried as she loosed a verdant beam of energy, connecting her and the Breach. Her hand went numb as the mages poured their mana into it. The pins and needles quickly turned to blades of fire and ice, and the pain radiated up Sorcha’s arm, taking the very breath from her chest. She focused on stabilizing her constitution, slowing her racing heart and clearing her anxious mind.

As the world around her narrowed and she saw only the Breach, she sensed the Templar’s power weakening it. Her hand was growing heavy and feeling full as the Mark drained the life from the hole in the sky. The mana was coursing through her veins and she nearly collapsed as she took the sky’s wound into herself.  Reaching into the recesses of her resolve, she harnessed the last of her control, and with a final burst of adrenaline, forced what was left of herself into pulling the vestiges of the Breach into the Mark.

Heaving back on her tortured hand, a blinding light flashed overhead seconds before the deafening boom sounded. She fell to the ground, boneless, trembling, and gasping for breath. As she stared up at the spinning sky, she muttered a string of curses before the blackness of unconsciousness overtook her.


Sebastian balanced Sorcha’s unconscious body in front of him as he rode Lumé back to Haven. At first he was concerned about whether or not Sorcha’s mare would even let him onto her back, but after chuffing a lungful of hot breath into Sorcha’s face, the horse seemed satisfied that her mistress would still be present, and allowed the Prince to climb on.

The attendants of the Breach’s closing were jovial over their success, but a terseness still lingered as they were all concerned about the Herald’s condition. But no one was more worried than Sebastian. He held her tightly with his free arm, and recited silent prayers while placing a lingering kiss to the top of her head.

“Are you sniffing my hair again?” Sorcha asked groggily as she came to, her voice hoarse from the ordeal. Sebastian smiled and exhaled a relieved breath. Andraste’s Herald, his life and soul mate, was awake and she was well.

“Perhaps,” Sebastian answered before sweeping her hair back behind her shoulder and brushing his lips against her ear. “You did it, my love. We are victorious. I’m so very proud of you.” He placed a kiss on her neck, just below her earlobe, and she sighed softly.

“Do I get a reward?” Sorcha mumbled, resting her head on his chest.

“Absolutely, my darling. As Prince, I am authorized to grant such requests. What boon do you seek?” He teased her with his exaggeratedly regal manner. He would give her the stars, if she asked. Sorcha deserved anything and everything, and he would see to it that she received whatever she wanted.

“Take me from here.”

Sebastian’s heart began to race. Could she really be asking this? Was she stepping down as the face of the Inquisition? His breath quickened at the thought of his hopes and dreams finally coming true.

“You would leave the Inquisition?” He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You don’t wish to stay?” He tightened his hold around her waist when she placed her hand on his thigh.

“Part of me does, I suppose,” she replied softly, “but the rest of me wants more. I think that I deserve to be happy now. I deserve to be with you.” She took the reins from his hand and halted her horse. Shifting in the saddle, she twisted herself to face him.

“The Breach has been sealed,” she continued, “and they are more than capable of finding who is responsible. I don’t really need to physically be here. I can be the Herald of Andraste anywhere.”

Time, to Sebastian, seemed to slow to a crawl, and the world around him faded into a blur of light and color. All he could focus on was Sorcha. His heart soared as he stared into her beautiful hazel eyes, which were filled with love and admiration for him, and him alone. The setting sun cast a golden crown about her raven hair, and the birds seemed to be singing the song from his soul.

For almost half of his life he had dreamed of being with her, having and holding, loving and adoring, honoring and cherishing. He’d longed to wake every morning with her in his arms. He would place her upon her throne, by his side as his queen, his partner, his equal. Had their time finally and truly come?  He cradled her face in his trembling hands and kissed her softly before saying the only thing he could say.

“We shall leave in the morning.”


Haven was in full celebration by the time Sorcha and the others approached the inner gates. A crowd gathered around the returning heroes as they dismounted at the stables. Congratulatory shouts filled the air, and countless hands reached out to touch the Herald of Andraste. She was the Sealer of the Breach and Saviour of Thedas.

The attention bestowed upon her made Sorcha somewhat uncomfortable. It had been ages since she’d sought the spotlight. On every face around her was a smile, and on each voice an accolade. Thier jubilation was understandable, and she shared it, but her mind was on Sebastian and tomorrow morning - a new dawn, a new day, and a new chapter in her life.

When Warden O’Malley pushed his way through the crowd and drew alongside her, she was relieved to see a scowl. Bad news was something that she was used to.

“I take it the Hinterlands were less than fun?” Sorcha asked as she sidestepped a child.

“Besides the possessed goat, the trip was ordinary,” O’Malley replied. “But I need to speak with you about this Warden Blackwall.”

Sorcha smiled graciously to the gatekeeper as she crossed the threshold into the village, before turning back to the Warden. “Were you not able to find him?”

“Oh, we found him. He’s agreed to join the Inquisition’s cause. But he’s not what he seems.”

“Are any of us?” she chuckled. “He’s a Warden, so I’ll leave the Warden business to you. But if his secrets affect the Inquisition, then I ask that you report it.”

O’Malley opened his mouth to speak but Sorcha cut him off. “But not to me, and not now. We just closed the Breach, time for a party.” She put her hand on his shoulder and looked him squarely in the eye. “Help me out and try to see that Hawke behaves herself tonight. I have plans that absolutely don’t include breaking up fights.”

“I’m not her babysitter,” O’Malley replied. “But, I guess I can try to keep her out of trouble.” He stepped from her side, but called back to her before he was too far away to be heard. “But only because you closed the Breach!”

“Much obliged,” Sorcha retorted before dropping her pack to the ground and hopping atop a barrel to address the people.

“Inquisition!” she barked. The crowd hushed and all faces turned to her. “Our first mission - our most important mission - has been completed. The Breach has been sealed, and Thedas has been saved!” Applause and cheers rose to a near deafening volume, and Sorcha gestured for quiet. The pride she felt from them mirrored the pride she felt for them. A few short months ago, the Inquisition was merely an ideal with a handful of followers and little to no resources. Now, they were a well trained force with numbers and might who could afford to sustain itself.

“We are a beacon of hope in the darkness of despair,” she continued. “We are Andraste’s faithful, her peacekeepers and her champions. We are the future of Thedas, the shapers of our world. It is our duty to rebuild it into something better, for everyone. Tomorrow, the hunt begins for those responsible, but tonight, we celebrate this victory!”

The crowd erupted into hoots and whistles, and Sorcha cried out in surprise as she was swept off of the barrel and lifted atop anonymous shoulders. Those who had put their faith in her to carry the Inquisition to victory were now carrying her toward the tavern in celebration.

Sorcha was being passed along over the people, and wasn’t minding the bumpy ride until a grabby hand decided to test the firmness of her ass. Shifting wildly to identify the brazen lecher, she quickly realized that she needn’t look very far. A pair of dazzling blue eyes gleamed up at her and a smirk grew across Sebastian’s face as his hands continued to wander over her backside as he helped carry her to the large wooden building.

“You’re lucky I love you,” she muttered in his ear as he lowered her to the ground. “There’s a shortage of perfect balls in this world, it would be a pity to damage yours.”

“Indeed, I’m extremely lucky,” Sebastian replied as he held the tavern door open for her, “to have your love and your approval of my royal jewels.”

Sorcha and Sebastian found seats next to Varric, Bethany and Cullen. The ale was free flowing that night, and the mood was buoyant. Sebastian had his arm around her as they sat and drank, and it wasn’t long before Sorcha finally let herself relax. She placed her hand on his thigh and settled in next to him, enjoying the camaraderie between those at her table. Varric was in his glory, telling story after story, and Sorcha’s sides were aching from laughing.

“...and I shit you not,” Varric said in his signature oration style, “Choir Boy jumped from his seat, drunker than a pirate, kicked back his chair and yelled, ‘Fook ye and yer fookin’ motherrrr, ye cheatin’ prrrick!’, and then he swung blindly at the guy, snarling, ‘I’ll knock yer fookin’ ‘ead off!’”

Sorcha was in tears as she pictured the scene. What made it funnier was Sebastian’s reaction to the dwarf’s tale.

“That absolutely did not happen, Varric, quit lying,” Sebastian huffed. “And I do not sound like that.”

“Yes, you do,” was the consensus as Cullen, Bethany, and Varric responded simultaneously.

“And it absolutely did happen,” Hawke pointed out as she pulled up a chair beside her sister. “Isabela just got you too drunk to remember.”

“Do I want to know what happened next?” Sorcha asked between breaths. She was laughing so hard she half expected to pass out.

“Well,” Hawke continued, “he swung, he missed, he slipped on his spilled beer, he fell. Right on his impressive royal ass.”

“Didn’t feel a thing, either. My muscle cushioned the fall,” Sebastian confessed.

Sorcha lifted her face to her lover. “I thought you said it never happened,” she chided. The table erupted into howls at the Prince’s reddening face and wounded pride.   

Happiness. Maker, am I to be finally allowed this? Sorcha couldn’t believe what she was feeling. For the first time in many years, she felt free to laugh and relax. She felt her life of faith and sacrifice was about to be rewarded. She took a mouthful of her ale and sighed contentedly as it cooled her parched throat. All around her was joy, and finally, peace. Until the shrill tolling of bells sounded frantically from beyond the tavern walls.

“What in the Void is that buzzkill?” Hawke asked before chugging back her drink.

“Warning bells,” Cullen replied gravely as he jumped from his chair. “We need to get to the gates, now!”

Sorcha finished her ale in a single swallow and slammed her empty mug onto the table.

Of fucking course…


Sorcha was on Cullen’s heels as they approached the gates. Skidding to a stop next to Cassandra and Josephine, she scanned the horizon for the threat, and her stomach dropped like an anchor when she saw what loomed. Torches carried by an unknown army cut through the darkness and snaked along the mountain trail.

“Commander, who is it and how many?” she demanded as Cullen peered through the spyglass.

“They carry no banners, Herald, and there are at least four hundred of them. I have no idea… wait…” Cullen clenched his jaw and retracted the telescope with force. “It’s Samson,” he growled. “And a woman stands by his side.”

“May I, Commander?” Felix asked as he and O’Malley joined the group. Wordlessly, Cullen handed the spyglass to the new Grey Warden, who quickly used it to survey the incoming forces.

“That woman is Calpernia, leader of the Venatori,” Felix confirmed. “I’ve seen her meet with my father numerous times. She is a very skilled mage.”

“Fuck,” Sorcha muttered. Just when she thought peace was at hand, she’s dealt another obstacle to overcome. She should have known better than to let herself believe she’d have a happily ever after, and the people of Thedas would have a chance to recover.

Her future with her Prince was not set in stone, and now it was not even longer an inevitability. Here they stood together, on the edge of oblivion and on the brink of a war. The chances of both she and Sebastian surviving were slim. But their duties bound them to this conflict; hers to the people and his to her. They would fight, and win or lose, they would still be together in the end. She supposed there was at least some comfort in that.

Sorcha turned to Felix and Josephine. “Get the civilians into the Chantry.” They acknowledged her order and hurried off to carry it out. She then gave the command to sound the war drums for their forces to assemble. As the ominous beat of the heavy percussion made her heart race, she was impressed at the order and speed with which the Inquisition’s army mobilized.

“Are the perimeter defenses operational, Commander?” she shouted as her squire helped her into her heavy plate armor. The weight of the silverite was familiar and comforting, and Sorcha’s anxiety eased with each piece donned.

“Affirmative, Herald,” Cullen shouted in reply as he was helped into his armor as well. “They might not stop the entire army, but a good number will fall.”

“That will have to do,” Sorcha huffed, marching to her place at the head of the Inquisition forces. Pride swelled in her chest as she quickly inspected the units. Men and women, Templars and mages, standing side by side and ready to fight for the life of the person next to them. All were at attention and waiting for her address.

“The Elder One sends his Red Templars and his Tevinter mages,” Sorcha barked. “His assassins and his brutes. He thinks he can beat the Inquisition with twisted mutations and zealots. He fights for his delusions, and he will lose because of them! We fight for the lives of our loved ones. Our neighbors and our friends. We fight for our homes and our lands. Our livelihoods and our freedom. We fight for our peace, and we will triumph for all of Thedas, for if we fall, the world falls!”

Sorcha drew her dragonbone sword, and the unit leaders followed suit. She met the eyes of Leliana at the head of the scouts, Sebastian at the lead of his militia, Cullen at the front of the Templars, Bethany with the mages, and Cassandra leading the Inquisition soldiers.

“Leaders!” Sorcha yelled. Each at the heads of the units turned to their troops, weapons raised.

“Inquisition, fall in!” each ordered in unison. And in practiced ease, the ranks stepped back, separated, and merged into two units, frontline and support. Leading the fight would be melee fighters and battlemages, and from behind them the archers and other mages would rain death down upon the enemy. In front of the mixed forces stood each unit commander, side by side.

“Let’s show them the might of the Inquisition!” Sorcha yelled, thrusting her sword into the air. “For Thedas!”

As she turned toward the frozen lake that would be the night’s battlefield, the drummers sounded the command to advance. With perfect cadence, boots and staves landed on the stone, moving in measured steps toward the ground each man and woman was sworn to hold. As the melee fighters moved up, the ranged unit fell back behind the protection of reinforced stone battlements, recently built to keep Haven standing. The scouts took to the shadows, rushing to initiate the perimeter defense measures.

The red army descended upon the Inquisition like a swarm of bees. Allied mages in the back lines kept barriers over the front and blasted elemental magic into the attackers at the same time. Red Templars, snarling and howling, attempted to smite and silence Sorcha’s battlemages, but their efforts were futile. Inquisition Templars had the stronger, deeper focus, which knocked back and staggered their mutated brothers and sisters with each smiting blast suppressing a Venatori mage. Inquisition archers rained arrows down onto the red army soldiers that had yet to reach the battlefield. Blood began staining the snow-covered ground.

As Sorcha sliced through the ribs of a Venatori brute, she saw the blue flame of the scouts’ signal arrow. Shouting to the flag bearer, the woman lifted the patterned linen that symbolized Sorcha’s command, and waved it for the relay. Moment’s later, the Inquisition drummers changed the deeply resonant beat from advance to fall back. The front lines eased back toward Haven’s gates, slashing and spearing any red soldiers within reach. Once they reached the appointed distance, horns sounded from the mountainside.

“Shield wall!” Sorcha screamed before joining the ranks and lending her shield to their protection. Just as the wall closed and the first wave of red soldiers pressed against them, explosions were heard from the pass. The ground shook and cries of terror and death echoed throughout the open air as half of a mountain fell onto the enemy. The red Templars and Venatori halted their assault for a moment, bewildered at the events happening behind them. And that moment was all Sorcha needed.

“Release!” she ordered, and on command the shields lowered, allowing Sorcha and the other Templars an unobstructed line to the enemy. The moment the shields hit the ground, a shockwave of enormous magnitude overwhelmed the red forces as Sorcha and the Templars set of a blast of simultaneous smites. The Inquisition’s front line surged forward, their blades and spells making short work of the disoriented opposition.

The red army sounded their retreat. Cheers could be heard from behind Haven’s walls, and Sorcha finally caught her breath. The battle was over. But no sooner did she remove her helmet and order the search for survivors, than a piercing screech echoed over the ridge.

The whole of the Inquisition were stopped in their tracks, with their eyes scanning for the source of the head-splitting noise. Sorcha looked up into the night sky, and forcing her eyes to lose focus, she caught movement in her peripheral vision. Tracking it as it crossed in front of the full moon, her eyes widened in horror.

“Dragon!” she shouted, turning towards the troops. “Take the wounded and find cover! Now!” Positioning herself under the arm of an injured soldier, she helped a Templar carry the woman back toward Haven. They were steps away from the gates when the ground shook behind them. Craning her neck to peer back, the sight of the creature nearly made her physically ill. It wasn’t just a dragon, it was an archdemon. Josephine took Sorcha’s place as crutch, and Sorcha stepped back toward the outer wall to help get more of the injured to safety.

The scales around the dragon’s snout and along its serpentine neck began to glow an eerie violet color. Wisps of smoke rose from its flared nostrils, and it reared  its fearsome head back before releasing a scorching stream of indigo flame. It swept its fury in a wide arc, and as the flames were about to reach Sorcha, she dove for a discarded tower shield. Rolling to her feet, she had barely a moment to take cover behind the large piece of metal.

She crouched low and angled the top of the shield forward, deflecting the purple stream up and away from her. The heat transferred across the shield quickly, turning her metal armor into an oven. She screamed as the flesh of her forearm was seared, and she felt life escaping her as the flames roasted her alive.

Just as Sorcha fell to her knees, a barrier with cooling, spirit healing enveloped her. She looked up to the battlements to see Warden O’Malley casting over her. The sensation was both soothing and stinging, as the magic worked to repair her burned flesh and roasted insides. Once her lungs were healed, she took a deep breath of the cool air around her, and surveyed the damage. The archdemon had taken to the air once more, and Haven was burning. She forced herself up onto shaking legs, and gestured to O’Malley to make his way to the Chantry. The moment she stepped foot into the burning village, Sebastian sprinted to her and swept her off of her feet.

“Maker, Sorcha,” he exclaimed as he carried her to the Chantry, “I thought I’d lost you.”

“You nearly did,” she squeaked, her voice breaking as tears threatened to burst forth as she recalled her near death. “A few more seconds and I would have been toast.” She rolled her eyes at her timing. “Pun not intended. O’Malley got that barrier over me just in time.”

“Then I owe O’Malley my life for saving yours,” Sebastian rasped as he wove between the flames that crossed the path to the stone building. Around them, flames jumped from cabin to cabin. The tavern was nearly burnt to the ground and Adan’s apothecary was no more. Sorcha trained her ear toward the devastation, listening for the shouts or cries of survivors that may be trapped, but nothing was heard. Arriving at the great red doors, Sorcha motioned for him to put her down before they entered.

“I don’t want to be seen being carried in,” she revealed. “I must rally them, not worry them.”

“Of course,” he replied, placing a quick kiss to her temple before knocking loudly on the heavy doors. Once opened, they rushed inside.

“First off, let me say how happy I am to see that you all made it to relative safety,” Sorcha called as the Chantry doors closed behind her. Her inner circle had all made it inside, and seemed to be brainstorming a plan of attack. Everyone was engaged in an animated discussion, but quieted at the sound of her voice.

Sorcha approached the huddle and and continued, “Now, would someone care to tell me how there’s a fucking archdemon in our courtyard?”

Chapter Text

“Grey Wardens are supposed to know when an archdemon is about to swoop down on us, are they not?” Sorcha asked impatiently as she pulled off her gloves. Taking the goblet of wine offered from one of the servants, she drank the entire contents before turning to O’Malley.

The noise in the hall quickly fell to an uncomfortable hush. Each face searched the next, looking for an answer to give the Herald.

“Don’t get me wrong, Warden O’Malley,” she said, “I’m very grateful to you for my life. But why the fuck, with more than one Warden present, did no one warn us of the dragon?” Sorcha looked past O’Malley to the quiet bear of a man behind him. “Who are you?”

The dark-haired man with the shaggy beard rose to his full height and met Sorcha’s eyes. “Warden-Constable Gordon Blackwall, my Lady Herald,” he replied with a respectful bow.

“And you did not sense the archdemon either, Warden Blackwall?”

Blackwall’s posture stiffened. “Well, my Lady, I -”

“We did not sense it because it’s not an archdemon,” O’Malley interrupted, glancing back to Blackwall. “Well, not a true archdemon.”

“How so?” Sorcha was more confused now than angry. But she had no choice other than to take the Warden’s words at face value. Archdemons - true or not - were their domain. O’Malley took a deep breath and rolled his shoulders before exhaling.

“Before the Blight, the darkspawn ‘chatter’ could be heard, slowly building in intensity and frequency. Even once the horde surfaced, people still didn’t believe it was a Blight because there were no confirmed sightings of the archdemon.”

“Yes, yes,” Sorcha said hurriedly with a perfunctory wave, “common knowledge. Tell me how this applies here, to this Blighted creature burning us to the ground.”

“My point is, there has never been an archdemon without a Blight. And there is no Blight. And it doesn’t even feel like a normal darkspawn.”

Sorcha’s brows furrowed with both curiosity and frustration. “And what is the definition of ‘normal darkspawn’, Warden O’Malley?”

O’Malley shook his head slowly and pointed to the great Chantry doors. “Not whatever that is out there, Herald. Given time, a Warden can come to sense darkspawn with what I can only describe as a second sight. And every Warden, new or not, can hear an archdemon.” His face now wore worry and he grimaced with concern. “I can feel… something. So there’s something about it that is Tainted, but it’s no archdemon.”

Sorcha brought her hand to her chin and nodded in contemplation. “If it’s not a true archdemon, then what tainted it?” she asked no one in particular.

“At this point, it matters not,” Cassandra advised. “It is still just a dragon. We kill it. End of discussion.”

“Sounds like someone has been reading my book again,” Varric teased as he gave the Seeker a wry smirk. “That’s a Hawke line if I’ve ever heard one.”

Cassandra rolled her eyes and pulled on her gloves. “Oh, spare me your ego,” she snorted. “I merely observed that between us all, there is some dragon-killing experience. The odds of our survival are greater than the dragon’s.”

“I knew there would be something about you that I’d like eventually, Seeker,” Hawke chimed in before reaching for her greatsword. “Dibs on the scales. I need new armor.”

“I got your backs, ladies,” Varric added, slinging his crossbow over his shoulder. “From a safe distance, of course. Bianca’s allergic to Blight-fire.”

“No one is going anywhere,” Sorcha ordered. “As much fun as a dragon fight sounds, it is not happening.”  She knew that Cassandra was right about facing the creature. They could do it, and may even survive. Cass was born to hunt dragons, and Hawke and Varric had killed a couple while in Kirkwall, but her instincts told her to not chance it. This was no ordinary dragon, therefore it was unpredictable.

Sorcha turned first to address Cassandra. “You are the Right Hand of the Divine, and have a duty to help the Chantry choose another leader. And you are needed to help Leliana bring the Most Holy’s murderer to justice. I can’t throw you in front of a dragon, Cass.”

Her friend opened her mouth to interject, but Sorcha silenced her with a wave. “Lead your unit and Sebastian’s to the Beta site. Everyone is to evacuate. I will take take Sebastian, Hawke, and O’Malley, and we will distract the dragon until everyone is clear.”

“And once everyone is clear, Herald?” Cullen asked solemnly. Sorcha knew that the Commander was aware of the standing order, but it was a grave decision. She couldn’t fault him for wanting clarification. She clenched her jaw and nodded slightly.

“Level it.”

Everyone aside from Cullen loudly protested Sorcha’s order, and she was getting very impatient with the arguing and questioning of her judgment. Each person seemed to have an opinion on the destruction of Haven, but no one could offer an alternative.  The enemy could not be allowed to gain ground by taking their base. At the end of her last frayed nerve, Sorcha thrust out her marred palm and activated the crackling, verdant magic of the mark, commanding everyone’s attention.

“My team distracts the dragon while the lifeblood of the Inquisition leads our people to safety,” she barked at the others. “Commander, when you arrive at the Beta site, signal. Give us two minutes to get ourselves to the tunnels, and then bring the mountain down on top of its ugly fucking head. Have I made myself clear?”

Cullen saluted and Cassandra nodded, her lips pulled tight in a grimace. The others stood gawking in silence, like they were witnessing a hero’s final words. Reining back her frustration, Sorcha allowed herself to sense their worry. They were good people - strong, brave and kind. The Inquisition was in capable hands, and would persevere even if they lost the power trapped within her own. They didn’t deserve her misplaced anger.

“Please,” Sorcha said, her voice now softer and calmer, “don’t think you’re getting rid of me so easily. I will do what I have to, to make sure our people live, and I will do what I must to make sure my team lives.” She pulled on her gloves and drew her sword. “Andraste will watch over her Herald, my friends. Have faith.”

Sorcha took to her knees, placing the tip of her sword to the stone floor and resting her her head upon its grip. “Though I am flesh, Your Light is ever present,” she began. A moment later Sebastian, Cassandra, and Cullen lowered themselves to their knees as well. The others bowed their heads in reverence and respect. Sorcha cast her eyes to the heavens and continued the prayer. “And those I have called, they remember and they shall endure. I shall sing with them the Chant, and all will know we are Yours, and none shall stand before us.” She lifted her sword arm and brought the hilt over her heart. “Blessed be,” she breathed.

“Blessed be,” her companions replied in unison before everyone rose to their feet. Sorcha took her shield from her back and flashed her most confident smile.

“Time to go poke an angry fire-breathing lizard with little pointy sticks,” she sighed. “Remember, no longer than two minutes before setting off the charges, Commander.”

“As you command, Herald. And good luck.”

“Try not to get eaten,” Dorian called as she and her team marched for the exit. “I still owe you a well-placed kick, and I couldn’t stand being indebted to you for eternity.”

Sorcha teasingly saluted the mage as the heavy Chantry doors slammed shut. She blinked hard and exhaled forcefully as she turned to face the destruction and chaos. Here it was, the moment when she fully realized her duty and embraced her destiny as the Herald of Andraste.

Pulling a pewter flask from her belt as she scanned the burning village for the dragon, she silently thanked Dorian for the potion as she took a quick swig of the sweet liquid in preparation for the fight to come.

“One sip, then pass it down,” she told Sebastian as she offered him the potion. Accepting it, he sniffed the contents suspiciously before raising a brow. “Trust me,” Sorcha said. “Would I give you something that would have you chasing rainbows and fighting a dragon in your birthday suit?”

Sebastian smirked and took his swig. “Yes, you would,” he replied as he handed the flask to Hawke, “because I look fantastic in said suit.”

Sorcha grinned. “How well you know me.”

“Herald,” O’Malley said as he stepped over to Sorcha and returned her flask. “What happens if we have more than one sip? Just...out of curiosity.” Sorcha tucked the pewter container back into her belt and shrugged. She watched as the Warden’s pupils dilated and his skin flushed.

“I haven’t a clue,” she chuckled. “But we should probably get at that dragon before we find out.” O’Malley visibly shivered like a bird ruffling its feathers, and the head of his staff began glowing like a beacon. A wicked grin spread across his aged face, and for the first time Sorcha could see how enigmatic he must have been in his younger days. The crinkles around his eyes and the lines along his cheeks as he beamed made him look distinguished and handsome. Sorcha turned to Hawke, who was standing with a hand on her hip on the other pinching the bridge of her nose.

“I can’t take him anywhere,” Hawke sighed. O’Malley scooped Hawke up against him and held her tightly.

“But I can take you anywhere,” he said, waggling his eyebrows. “In the barn, in the bushes, in the alley behind The Hanged Man…”

The ear-piercing shriek of the dragon interrupted the light-hearted moment. Everyone quickly settled into battle mode and stalked the path to the nearest open ground, a walled area cleared for magic training. Sebastian took purchase on the upper level of a ruined storehouse, O’Malley set himself behind a tall pile of rubble, and the women stood out in the open, ready for a fight. Sorcha hoped that they looked appetizing enough to catch the dragon’s attention.

The dark and disfigured creature swooped overhead and spewed its Blight-fire around them, but did not land. They couldn’t take the chance of the dragon noticing the evacuees along the mountain trail. Sorcha thrust out her palm and loosed the rift energy in her hand. A writhing beam of sickly green light rose into the sky, and the beast turned sharply in mid-air. She had its attention now.

It landed hard in the training ring, and the ground shook beneath Sorcha’s boots. She raised her sword and shield, and next to her, Hawke assumed her fighting stance. Invigoration swept through her body from O’Malley’s barrier, and the effects of Dorian’s potion raced through her veins. A sneer grew over her lips as she stared the dragon down, ready to face it head-on. This must be what it feels like to be a Pentaghast.

An intimidating cry ripped from her throat, and she sprinted full bore at the grey and violet beast. Hawke’s warcry rang in Sorcha’s ear as both women ran screaming into battle.  Flaming arrows streamed from Sebastian’s bow, each one meeting its mark. O’Malley’s ice spears and Sebastian’s arrows were drawing the dragon’s attention well enough that the warriors were able to get close. An unearthly shriek echoed off the mountains as Sorcha’s blade tore through the tough scales of its front leg and ripped through a tendon. Hawke’s great blade struck true with each swing, chopping at the open wound. The dragon fell forward, unable to place weight on that leg any longer. Sorcha and Hawke spun on their heels and aimed their blades at the rear leg, but instead were met by the unfathomable force of the dragon’s tail. Unable to dodge its swing, the warriors were hit hard and sent flying across the yard, landing indelicately on a stack of barrels.

Right on cue, O’Malley rushed to their aid and quickly assessed their wounds while Sebastian darted to Sorcha’s side. She rolled to her knees and nodded as he helped her to stand. Confident that she would recover, he nocked an arrow and circled the dragon as he resumed his cover fire, drawing its attention from the warriors.

“Dorian is going to have to teach me how to make that potion,” O’Malley chided. “Your wounds are already healing. Remarkable!”

“Could use a top-off, though,” Sorcha breathed, “this isn’t going to be quick or easy.” She pushed through the pain to adjust her grip on her shield. “We need to get back at it. Hawke, if I distract it, can you shove that monstrous sword of yours into its skull?”

Hawke grinned maniacally. “Can I? Fuck, yes.” The Champion pulled herself to her feet. “I still call dibs on the scales.”

O’Malley hit them both with one final healing spell and reapplied the barrier. “What did you say?” he asked the women. Sorcha and Hawke both shook their heads.

“Nothing,” Hawke replied. “No one said… wait, what? Herald?”

Now both Hawke and O’Malley were looking at Sorcha. Confused, she grimaced and shook her head again. “I haven’t said a word.”  

Panic flashed in O’Malley’s eyes as he brought his hands to his ears. Hawke stared as Sorcha wide-eyed and shook her head slowly.

“No, no, no,” Hawke muttered. “Impossible. It’s fucking impossible!” She grabbed Sorcha’s arm and squeezed. “We need to go. Now!”

Sorcha had no idea what was going on, but seeing the fear in the eyes of these seasoned warriors was making it nearly impossible to control her own panic. She fought to center herself and calm her nerves before fear overcame logic and made the situation worse.

“What? Why?” she asked Hawke. “We can’t leave until the signal is given!” She glanced over her shoulder, checking that Sebastian was safe. Arrows were still raining down onto the dragon, who, thankfully, seemed to have great difficulty in pinpointing their origin. Sorcha wrenched her arm free from Hawke’s grip.

“I will not leave until our people are safe,” she hissed. “The duty is mine alone. Go if you must.” She took another quick sip from the flask on her hip, but before she could take a step back onto the battlefield, Hawke grabbed her wrist.

“If I’m right,” Hawke argued, “there’s a whole new level of shit-storm about to crash this party.” The Champion winced and brought her hand to her forehead. “He’s coming!”

Sorcha grew weary of the ambiguous ‘he’s coming’ warnings. “You’d better give me some fucking details, Hawke, or Maker help me!”

Her threat was interrupted by a tremendous shockwave that obliterated the stone wall across the yard. The dragon, partially set aflame from the Prince’s arrows, raised its wings and lifted itself to the air, only to come down hard near the wall’s breach. The flames that danced across its dark scales spread to the wooden rubble and straw strewn about the ground. Through the smoke, ash and flames, a tall, robed figure emerged from the shadows.

“Corypheus,” Hawke choked out. The shadows gave way and Sorcha could see a face beneath a tattered hood, eyes that didn’t match and skin that was sliced, segmented, and stretched over shards of...something.

“Ah, Hawke,” the stranger said in a smooth and deep voice. “What a pleasant surprise.” He floated over toward the warriors. Hawke’s grip on Sorcha’s wrist tightened into a vice-like hold, causing Sorcha to nearly drop her sword. Thanks to Varric’s tales, she was surprised to see the Champion afraid of anything, or anyone. This was definitely not going to be good.

“You’re supposed to be dead,” Hawke snapped. A crooked sneer spread across Corypheus’ face.

“I got better,” he replied. “And I got out, thanks to you and your friends. Allow me to repay your kindness.” With a flick of his wrist, Hawke and O’Malley were thrown out of the yard and into a pile of burning rubble. Sebastian emerged from his perch, and with a nod from Sorcha, ran to pull the others from the flames.

Corypheus turned his discolored eyes to Sorcha, who was ready for a fight. Her sword and shield were drawn, but her attempts to connect with any lyrium in the mage’s body were being thwarted. She could sense it, but couldn’t focus on it well enough to use her gift.

“And you, thief,” Corypheus snarled, “will give me back what is mine. You stole the Anchor from me, and I am here to retrieve it.”

“I don’t know anything about an anchor,” Sorcha growled. “And in case you didn’t notice, we’re a long way from the sea.”

The mage produced a furrowed sphere from his robes. As he held it aloft, it came alive with the same verdant light as the mark in Sorcha’s palm. The energy from the orb activated the magic in her hand, and she thrust her palm to face the ground, in case she lost control of the power within.

“Your puny hand holds the power that I’ve worked years to create. I need it and you will return it to me.”

He snatched Sorcha up by her arm, and dangled her in mid air. From her new vantage point, she was able to see clearly Cullen’s signal. They were safe, and she needed to run like hell. She struggled against Corypheus’s grip until he held the orb to her. She could feel the intense power within it, and it seemed to call to the energy that was within her palm, like a magnet. Her ears began to ring and a knot formed in her stomach. Searing pain shot along her arm and down across her hand. She screamed in agony, and tears blurred her eyes. Sebastian’s voice called out to her, and his arrows began riddling the mage’s body, but to no avail.

Corypheus’s eyes narrowed in irritation, and he gestured toward the rogue. A great wind arose as the dragon beat its wings for lift and positioned itself between the mage and Sebastian’s arrows. The creature’s neck craned as it reached for Sebastian, and Sorcha began to retch at the sight of her lover being held in the beast’s jaws. The Prince looked lifeless as the dragon swung its head through the air before spitting him to the ground. A cruel laugh rumbled from the mage’s chest, but the arrogance turned to frustration. Corypheus shouted in disgust and  moment later, Sorcha was being thrown to the dirt as well.

“You’ve ruined it, you insolent gnat. The Anchor is permanently affixed to your hand. Now, you die.” Corypheus loomed over her and his palm began to glow with fierce magic.

Sorcha saw a flash of blue light from the corner of her eye, and she heard the distant booms of the charges exploding. She was about to be out of time. She drew herself to her knees and summoned all of her strength.

“You first,” she spat, and she released her focus in the strongest smite that she could muster. The mage staggered backward a few steps, and stared incredulously at his darkened hand. Sorcha stumbled to her feet and began sprinting toward Sebastian. Without checking for signs of life, she grabbed on to the rear collar of his breastplate and dragged his unmoving body to the tunnel entrance The mountainside rumbled as frozen ground was released from the solid rock, and Sorcha managed to reach Hawke, who was scorched and kneeling over O’Malley.

“Run!” she shouted. “The mountain is about to fall on our fucking heads!” Hawke threw the Warden over her shoulder and followed Sorcha. Just as they reached the cabin that hid the trap door, the mountainside reached them. Before becoming swept up in the avalanche, Sorcha saw the dark dragon flying away with a robed figure held in its claws. She closed her eyes tightly and clutched Sebastian with all her might, bracing herself for the fury of the mountain. She felt herself falling, and then landing roughly onto timber and stone. Almost simultaneously, Sebastian landed on top of her, knocking the wind from her lungs. As unconsciousness loomed, she heard his weak breath in her ear, and she smiled as the blackness overtook her.

Chapter Text

Sorcha’s mouth was filled with acrid dust and the telltale coppery taste of blood. Pain radiated throughout her body and each inhalation incited excruciating coughs. As consciousness returned to her, she took stock of her condition. The pain drew her focus away from panic, and with her eyes still closed, she tried to assess her injuries.

She was whole, but sensed some cracked or bruised ribs, made evident by the stifling weight atop her chest. Her swollen lids ground dust and dirt against her eyes as they shot open.

Sebastian!

Sorcha realized her arms were resting over his unmoving body, and willed them into action. Crying out as she shifted her left arm to cradle Sebastian’s neck, she pushed through the pain of her injured shoulder to attempt to stabilize him before she could move. Bending her right leg at the knee, she braced her heel on the rubble beneath her before summoning all her strength and pushing off, extending her leg and rolling herself and Sebastian over.

Through the thick darkness, her ear found his lips and she listened closely for signs of life. His breath was weak and shallow, but he was still alive.

Sorcha supported Sebastian’s head by holding his jaw with her free hand while she carefully withdrew her left arm from under his neck. Wedging her hand between her knees, she worked her palmless gauntlet from her left hand and activated the Anchor, bathing the area with its sickly light. Using the Mark as a lamp, she quickly checked the severity of his wounds, and her heart sank at what the verdant glow revealed.

Sebastian was barely recognizable. His handsome face was lacerated and swollen. His pristine armor was perforated and bloodsoaked. His strong arms lay at unnatural angles, broken in several places. Tears welled in Sorcha’s eyes as her shaking fingers ghosted over his shattered hand. His muscular thighs bled through his leg armor, pierced and torn by the dragon’s teeth.

Refusing to panic, Sorcha fumbled at her belt one-handed, searching for the pewter flask. Releasing it from its strap, she gave the container a shake in an attempt to gauge the remaining volume. A few swigs were all that was left of the potentially life-saving brew. Holding it between her knees, she unscrewed the cap and carefully poured a few drops into Sebastian’s mouth. Biting her lip, she offered a silent prayer to Andraste for the potion to keep him alive until she could find a healer.

Healer? Shit. Hawke and O’Malley!

Sorcha cradled her injured shoulder as she moved her hand to illuminate the rest of the room. O’Malley and Hawke had to be there somewhere. Hopefully they were both alive.

The light from the Mark cast eerie shadows on the walls, and the swirling dust danced in its glow. Rubble and debris lay in piles, littering the floor. Sorcha strained her eyes, searching for movement of any kind, but it was a muffled cough from beneath some broken timbers that caught her attention. Forcing herself to her feet, she staggered over to the pile of rubble and with one arm, starting clearing away rocks and wood as quickly as she could. Pain pierced Sorcha’s head as the shrill noise of the displacing debris echoed off the stone walls. Blinded by involuntary tears, she worked to free whomever was trapped underneath.

Sorcha groaned with exertion as she tried to shift a large piece of timber foundation. Bracing it with her good shoulder, she managed to move it from atop the rocks. To her relief, a leather-clad hand was now visible, and fingers were moving. She positioned herself with the best foothold possible, grasped the gloved hand at the wrist, and with all of her remaining strength, pulled. Dirt, snow, and stones slid to the floor as Sorcha dragged a bloody and battered Hawke out of the debris and onto the open floor. Sorcha turned the warrior to rest on her side before she returned to the debris to search for O’Malley, and prayed that the healer yet lived.

Stepping carefully, Sorcha climbed over the rubble and spied a Grey Warden-issued boot protruding from beneath the rocks ahead of her. She stumbled over to O’Malley, exhausted, and tried to free him as well. Her muscles were fatigued and her head was screaming, slowing her pace considerably. She felt like collapsing right there, if not for the second pair of frantic hands that joined her in digging the healer out.

Sorcha could hear the Maker’s name falling from Hawke’s lips as the warrior cleared the debris away. Once O’Malley was visible, Hawke grabbed Sorcha’s left hand and, ignoring the Herald’s hiss of pain, shoved the her glowing palm over the Warden, revealing his wounds. Timber had impaled his right shoulder, and a gash in his head was bleeding heavily, darkening his copper hair. His nose was broken and much of his exposed flesh had been either burned or sanded away by the avalanche. Reaching again for the flask on her hip, she poured a capful of potion past his cracked and bleeding lips.

Hawke tried to snatch the pewter container from Sorcha’s hand. “Give him more!” she wheezed as Sorcha pulled away. “You have to give him more!”

Sorcha shook her head solemnly. “This is the last of Dorian’s potion,” she stated. “Seb needs it too, Hawke. He’s dying.”

Hawke’s shoulders slumped forward and she released Sorcha’s glowing palm. “Then we need to get them the fuck out of here, Herald.”

“We have to try to stabilize them somehow,” Sorcha sighed. “Are you alright to help?”

Hawke nodded slowly, never taking her eyes from O’Malley’s motionless form. “I’d travel the Void and back to save him. What do you need me to do?”

Sorcha could empathize with Hawke - she would do anything to save Sebastian.

“Gather some timbers and start a fire.” She handed Hawke the flints from her belt. “Once we have light here, I’m going to look for something we can use to help them. And then you tell me what you know about this Corypheus.”

Hawke slid the flints into her pocket and rose to her feet. “Deal. I’ll need only a few minutes. Where are we, exactly?”

“In the tunnels beneath the mountains.” She pushed herself to her feet and glanced around. The room didn’t seem familiar, but it was dark and the debris was everywhere. “I’m not sure of our precise location yet, but it shouldn’t be hard to figure it out once I get moving.” A faint flicker of orange glow caught her eye. She turned back around to find that Hawke already had a small fire going.

“Why are you still standing here?” Hawke asked as she built up the flames. “I said I only needed a few minutes.” The Champion then lifted her eyes. “I’ll keep watch on Sebastian as well,” she said with palpable sincerity. “Just hurry.”

Giving Hawke a brief nod, Sorcha pulled an unlit torch from the wall and held it to the flames. Using the Anchor for a lantern was draining her of energy and irritating her hand. Disengaging the magic in her palm left only the torchlight by which to see, and the warmth of the orange and yellow flames bathed the area in an almost comforting ambiance. Before she entered the tunnel, Sorcha glanced back at Sebastian and prayed that this not be the last time she saw him alive.

She wasn’t more than a few paces past rounding the first corner when Sorcha noticed a faint, pale blue glow seeping out from between some loose bricks in the wall ahead of her. She quickened her pace, for she knew the source of the light.

Veilfire!

The Inquisition escape routes were lit by the magical flame, ensuring the paths stayed illuminated. Regular torches and lanterns needed tending, but veilfire burned eternal, unless snuffed by a mage.

Choosing the direct route of through the wall rather than around the wall, Sorcha glanced around for a shield or anything else that she could bash the bricks with. Finding nothing, she took a deep breath and sighed as she placed the torch into a nearby sconce.

“That’s alright,” she mumbled to herself, “I don’t need this shoulder anyway.” Thanks to Ser James and the torture she suffered at his hands all those years ago, this wasn’t the first time she’s had to reset her bad shoulder. And it certainly wouldn’t be the last, but it was the first time she’d be crashing through a brick wall to do it.

Summoning her will, she forced herself to ignore her self-preservation instinct and braced herself for impact. Taking a running start, a guttural cry of both ferocity and pain tore from her throat as she breached the weakened wall. Collapsing onto the cold stone of the floor within, she cradled her shoulder for a moment before roughly wiping at the hot tears that trailed through the dust and dirt on her face.

Sorcha collected herself and rose to her feet. Dusting herself off, she smiled with relief upon realizing she knew exactly where she was. In the corner of the room were two armor stands, one with her Seeker leathers, and the other holding Sebastian’s Starkhaven leathers. Next to them stood a weapon rack with a silverite sword and shield, and a finely crafted bow. Aside from an assortment of daggers, the racks also held packs belonging to her and her Prince. Throwing the bags over her aching shoulder, Sorcha made a mental note to reward their squires for their foresight during the evacuation.

She exited the storeroom and crossed the hall into another chamber, where she knew there would be poultices and potions kept. Cullen was not only a keen tactician, but also an immaculate planner for “oh shit” scenarios. Sorcha had never been more glad to have agreed to his recommendations for emergency preparedness. Crates of healing and lyrium potions lined the far wall, and jars of herbal poultice pastes filled shelves. Empty skins sat atop barrels of water, and baskets of preserved rations sat beside them. Sorcha hurriedly filled a couple of water skins and stuffed the packs on her shoulder with medicine and food before running with renewed vigor back to Hawke and the injured men.

When Sorcha returned to the fire, she found Hawke on alert, dagger drawn, and peering out into the darkness.

“Hawke?” Sorcha asked from a safe distance, so as to not startle the Champion and chance a dagger screaming toward her. “How are they?”

“Alive. So far. There’s been no change that I can see.”

“Thank the Maker they aren’t getting any worse,” Sorcha sighed. “What are you doing? Did you hear something?”

“Not sure why,” Hawke muttered as Sorcha drew nearer, “but I think I’m sensing darkspawn.”

“Darkspawn? I thought only Wardens-”

“I am a Warden, Herald,” Hawke interrupted.

“What? Really?” Sorcha replied as she dropped to her knees by the fire and emptied the contents of the packs onto the ground. “Most of my information on you came from a certain roguish dwarf, who seemed to have omitted that part about you from Tale of the Champion.”

Hawke stared out into the darkness a moment longer before sheathing her dagger. “That’s because our dear dwarf doesn’t know,” she replied with a hint of amusement. “Besides, he doesn’t need more fuel for his flames of exaggeration. I’m amazed that people don’t already think that I can turn into a dragon at will or level mountains with my deadly stare.”

She crouched beside Sorcha and stared with confusion at the numerous vials. The Champion ran her hand over them all, only to return to a certain cylinder containing a pitch-like liquid.

“Ah,” Hawke muttered, “here you are.” As she clasped a healing and a lyrium potion in her other hand, she held the vial up to the fire, and the warm light illuminated the red tint that clung to the sides of the glass. “Where did this come from?”

Sorcha squinted, trying to get a better look at the contents. “Must have been inside one of our packs. The vial itself looks old, and I don’t recognize it. Maybe Seb will know.”  

Sorcha scooped up a few healing potions herself and hurried to Sebastian’s side. “Color me curious,” she said as she shuffled her knees under the Prince. “What is it? In the vial.” Resting his head on her lap, she carefully poured the bottle’s contents past his cracked and swollen lips, and prayed that she wasn’t too late.   

“It’s darkspawn blood,” Hawke answered as she administered the lyrium to O’Malley. “It seems I’ll have some questions for His Highness later.”

“And I have some for you,” Sorcha said flatly, tearing strips from her shirt and applying some poultice to the fabric, before setting the bandages upon Sebastian’s wounds. “How did you become a Warden, Hawke?”

“Oh, the same way anyone else does,” Hawke sighed as she gently brushed O’Malley’s hair back from his sweat-slicked forehead. “I drank some blood, choked on it, passed out.”

Losing what was left of her patience, Sorcha rolled her eyes and huffed in exasperation at Hawke’s deflection. “Perhaps you should tell Varric, at least his version would be interesting.”

“Excuse me for not wanting to be a completely open book,” Hawke muttered sarcastically. “There’s enough of my life in print already.”

Sorcha’s brows furrowed in contemplation. She hadn’t considered that the Champion might be a private person. Thanks to Varric’s book, Sorcha had seen Hawke as a public figure and had forgotten that she, too, has a right to privacy.

“Of course, my apologies,” Sorcha replied, ripping the last of her tunic into strips. She cut open the leg of Sebastian’s trousers, applied a poultice and wrapped the gaping wound on his thigh. She placed a soft kiss to his temple before moving to the warmth of the fire as she waited for the potions and poultices to work.

She added another timber to the flames, and stared absently at the floating embers and ash.

“He’s an ancient magister,” Hawke said as she joined Sorcha by the fire. “High Priest of Dumat and one of the first darkspawn.”

“Are you telling me that he’s-”

“Responsible for tainting the Golden City?” Hawke interrupted. “Yes, he was one of them.”

Sorcha was speechless. As she stared wide-eyed at the Champion, Hawke continued to recount her experience with the Elder One.

“He is connected to the Taint somehow, which means he has a connection to Grey Wardens. But his voice isn’t like that of regular darkspawn. It’s much clearer and more understandable. From what we can tell, it’s proximity based. The farther away you are, the less likely you are to feel or hear him.”

Sorcha finally closed her gaping mouth, and gazed into the fire. “So that’s what was happening with you and O’Malley during the fight? You were hearing him?”

“Yes,” Hawke answered. “It was my first time hearing him as a Warden, and it was creepier than my first altercation with him.”

“What did he mean by ‘I got out, thanks to you?’” Sorcha asked as she glanced back across the flames at Hawke. The Champion hung her head slightly.

“A few years ago, Beth and I were lured to his prison. It was the blood of our father that had bound him there. The Wardens had imprisoned Corypheus ages ago, but it seemed the magical lock on his cage needed reinforcement periodically.” Hawke’s lip curled in disgust and her eyes narrowed in anger. “They forced my father to complete blood rituals to strengthen the cage, by threatening to kill my mother.”

Sorcha had never heard much about the Wardens before this. She knew of their purpose and their Joining, but all in generalization. To learn now that they would force a mage to perform blood magic tarnished her perception of them. She would definitely need to learn more about the order, especially knowing that they can be manipulated by the enemy.

“I’m so sorry that happened, Hawke. Truly,” Sorcha responded kindly. “It’s fortunate that your father had such mental fortitude,” she continued. “Backing mages into a corner never ends well.”

“You’re telling me…” Hawke huffed. “The things I’ve seen would freeze your blood.” The Champion leaned back, reaching to grasp O’Malley’s wrist, and checked his pulse. After resting her hand on his chest for a moment, she returned her attention to Sorcha.

“Anyway, Corypheus managed to somehow reach out to nearby Wardens, and take control of them. The mages seemed to be most susceptible to his influence. Even Anders had trouble. The Wardens trapped us in his prison and his death was the only way out.” Mindlessly, Hawke stoked the fire and stared into the rising flames. “ An old Warden-Commander, Larius, had gone there for his calling,” she continued, “and was somehow still alive. He was almost a ghoul, but alive. Corypheus’ voice was driving him mad. On his advice, we freed Corypheus in order to kill him while he was weak from centuries of sleep.”

Sorcha’s expression twisted in confusion. “You took the advice of an insane ghoul under darkspawn control?”

“Didn’t have any other options,” the Champion huffed. “And he didn’t seem controlled. Just… creepy. He wasn’t a mage, so maybe that’s why he retained some of his faculties.”

Poking at the cinders with a small timber, Hawke shook her head and clenched her jaw. “He was dead,” she growled. “I’m sure of it. My sword was run through his stupid face. I don’t know how he was revived.”

“Would you be willing to give all the details to Cullen once we get to the Beta site?” Sorcha asked. “I know you aren’t an official Inquisition member, but -”

“Herald,” Hawke said with deadly seriousness, “that mage nearly ended us all moments after waking from centuries of sleep. I don’t wish to see his full strength. I will absolutely tell Cullen anything and everything, as will the others that were with me.”

“Everyone but Anders...” Sorcha added, scooting back from the fire to check on Sebastian’s condition. Before her eyes left Hawke, she noticed worry flash across the Champion’s face.

“Of course,” Hawke replied just a little too quickly. Sorcha was a Seeker of Truth, and well trained in interrogation. She could recognize signs of lies and omissions with ease.

“Maybe you could contact him,” Sorcha mentioned nonchalantly as shuffled herself to Sebastian shoulder and rested his head in her lap. “His experience as a Grey Warden mage would be invaluable now.” She observed Hawke from the corner of her eye as she carefully poured more healing potion into Sebastian’s mouth. “Surely you could find him, given your history together.”

Sorcha gazed at the Champion from across the amber warmth of the fire, watching closely for a reaction. Hawke was nestled by O’Malley’s side, brushing her fingertips over the poultice covering the burned flesh of his cheek.

“It’s been years since I’ve seen that face,” Hawke replied softly. “I miss that smile, that laugh.” Hawke’s tone was so wistful that Sorcha felt her own heart breaking.  “But, I agree,” Hawke continued, “his recounting of that experience will be quite pertinent, now.”

Will be pertinent…

Those words flashed in Sorcha’s mind like a beacon. The Champion did not deny being able to contact him, nor did she refuse to try. Did this mean that Sorcha would actually get to meet the man who started the war? What she wouldn’t do to be able to hear, first-hand, his side of the story. The casualties, the destruction… what will the mage have to say for himself? How would he justify his actions? And how had Hawke been able to keep his whereabouts a secret for this long? Especially from family and friends? The more Sorcha thought about it, the more convinced she was that there was much more to Hawke than she’d realized.

“Hawke…” she said cautiously, “...where is Anders?”

 



Chapter Text

Sorcha watched Hawke closely while waiting for an answer. The Champion silenced her with a gesture, and then laid her head on O’Malley’s chest and closed her eyes.

A sudden cough, followed by the gurgling of blood, escaped O’Malley’s mouth. His eyes shot open and a bright blue light shone from his wounds; what was left of his flesh glowed with eerie paleness.

“No!” Hawke yelled at him. “No, no, no! Not like this!” She turned to Sorcha with frantic desperation in her eyes. “He needs your help! Your creepy Seeker lyrium powers!”

“Maker, is this -” Sorcha breathed as she unconsciously scrambled to Hawke’s side.

“I promise to tell you everything,” Hawke hissed, “just help him first! He gets strength from lyrium.”

“You’ve already given him three vials!” Sorcha replied as she laid her bare hands on the charred and bloodied flesh over his heart and forehead.

“Just boost him as much as you can! I can’t lose them!”  

Sorcha focused her will, trying to keep herself from thinking about Hawke’s choice of words.

I can’t lose them .

Blood continued to trickle from the corner of O’Malley’s mouth as Sorcha funneled all of her strength into bolstering him. Her sight narrowed, pinpointed onto the man beneath her hands. Hawke’s voice had changed from frantic to collected as she talked to O’Malley, trying to calm and guide him back, but Sorcha could no longer make out the words. The world around her was shrinking until the only thing in her mind was O’Malley.

Time seemed to slow for Sorcha. She wasn’t at full strength herself, but she would give all she could to save the Warden. His survival was the only way to give Sebastian a fighting chance at survival. She would give of herself entirely if it meant her Prince would live.

She wasn’t sure how much time passed as she enhanced the lyrium within O’Malley’s blood, but she knew she couldn’t keep it up much longer. Her stomach turned and her extremities went numb. Her body broke out into a sweat as a wave of heat washed over her, causing her head to spin. Her vision failed and in the darkness she felt herself fall, until a pair of hands grabbed her shoulders. She came to a moment later when blessedly cool water was splashed on her face.

Sorcha floundered a moment, attempting to rise onto her knees, but she was guided back to the floor by hands on her shoulders once again.

“Rest, Herald,” Hawke said; her voice sounded miles away. “Take a moment and rest.”

Still feeling overwhelmed, Sorcha nodded weakly. Instead of closing her eyes, she fixed her gaze on the fire, a single focal point to ground herself. Breathing slowly and deeply, her head stopped spinning and her stomach soon followed suit. Straining to make her muscles obey, Sorcha stretched her arm out across the pebbles and dirt, and grasped a water skin. After pouring more cool water over her face, she drank deeply, emptying the pouch. She’d just finished wiping her mouth with the back of her hand when a weak voice behind her spoke.   

“Thank you, Herald, for saving my life.”

She shifted her weight and turned her head to see Hawke supporting a weak, but living, O’Malley as he sat leaning back against the rubble. The broken timber still pierced his shoulder, but his color was returning and his wounds were healing. Most of his face was still burned, but enough tissue had regenerated that Sorcha was able to make out his small, grateful smile.

Sorcha still wasn’t sure what had just happened. She’d seen the glow, she’d felt the shift in the air. Was this man an abomination? If so, he was the first she’d met with so much control, and a human form. She had been taught that such beings were evil, inhuman, and not fit for this world. But she’d also come to learn, from bitter experience, that the Chantry was not always right. This man was kind and courageous, and had healed many Inquisition members, even at the risk of harming himself. As Sorcha watched how Hawke doted on him, things in her mind finally clicked.

Sorcha exhaled sharply and returned a grin. “No need for thanks,” she said. “You’ve saved mine, so it’s the least I could do-” she met his gaze with narrowed eyes and smirked, “- Anders.”

The Warden’s eyes widened. As he stared at Hawke incredulously and Hawke stared back apologetically, Sorcha grabbed another healing and lyrium potion and shuffled across the floor on her knees, joining the couple by the rubble pile.

“I’ll blame your weakened state for your failure to deny it,” she added, passing Hawke the potions. “And I’m not going to ask about it now.” She looked straight into his amber eyes. “I need your help to save Sebastian.”

Anders gave her a small nod. “Of course,” he coughed out weakly before inhaling deeply to catch his breath. “How bad is he?”

The thought of Sebastian’s injuries nearly brought Sorcha to tears. Fighting for control, she crawled over to her lover, who still lay motionless on the cold stone. “Very, very bad,” she replied quietly. “If we don’t hurry, I think I’m going to lose him.” Her fingers ghosted over Sebastian’s face and down his neck, and she rested her hand over his barely-beating heart.

She thought of her life thus far and how lucky she was to have found Sebastian again. He was her future, her happily ever after. She’d given a lifetime of service to the Maker. She had sacrificed. He had brought Sebastian back to her, after many years and miles in between them. She deserved a reward for her devotion, didn’t she? Too overwhelmed by his condition to keep her tears at bay any longer, they filled her eyes and spilled over to roll down her scraped and dirty cheeks.

“I can’t lose him,” she squeaked, choking back a sob. She lifted her eyes and gazed at Anders pleadingly. “I can’t lose him.”

Anders gave Sorcha a knowing smile and gestured feebly to Hawke, who dragged the recovering mage across the cold floor to Sebastian. The Champion crouched behind Anders, supporting him as he looked the Prince over.

He sighed and without taking his eyes off Sebastian, said, “Use whatever potions you have. I’m going to need your strength to get him through this.”

Nodding, Sorcha quickly reached for the flask on her hip and swallowed the last of Dorian’s brew. She also chugged back a healing draught and a couple of stamina potions in quick succession. Within moments, the light of the fire turned from yellow-orange to magenta, and the stone around her took on various shades of green and teemed with crawling insects.

Turning her gaze from her hallucinations to the real people beside her, she was met with Hawke’s wide-eyed stare.

Sorcha shrugged in reply before laying her hands on Anders. “Ready? I’ll give you all I have.”   

“Keep it coming,” Anders said grimly. “He’s going to need everything we’ve got.”

The healer’s hands illuminated Sebastian’s broken body, and with each pass, Sorcha heard strings of curses slip from Anders’ mouth.

“He’s near death. I don’t know that I can pull him back from it.”

“Do whatever it takes,” Sorcha whispered hoarsely. “Take my life, if that means he will live.”

“I don’t do blood magic,” Anders reminded her as he placed his hand on Sebastian’s abdomen. His brow furrowed in concentration. “There is a lot of internal bleeding. And torn muscle, shattered bone…” Turning his head, he met Sorcha’s gaze. “I’m going to focus on the hemorrhaging first. If I can stop that, he should live long enough for us to tend to the rest.”

The warm glow from Anders’ hands grew in intensity as he worked to save her Prince. Sorcha could feel his body flagging beneath her touch, so she focused on strengthening the mage with every fibre of her being. Minutes seemed like hours, but just as Sorcha was about to collapse from exertion again, Anders placed his hand over hers. His touch was soothing, and she welcomed the comfort.

“We’re depleted,” Anders said softly, “but I think it was enough for him to hold on. We just need to wait a little while - we have to recover as well.”

Sorcha didn’t want to stop. They couldn’t. “I can keep going - helping you… I’m okay,” she asserted. Hawke helped lay Anders onto his side, and he rested his head on her lap.

“He can’t keep going!” Hawke snapped. “He’s still half-dead himself. Let him rest a little.”

Being scolded by the Champion drew Sorcha’s common sense back into her head. Anders did say that Sebastian should be able to hold on now, and it was unfair of her to try to push the healer further. If she were to be honest with herself, she wouldn’t mind a short respite either.

“Yes, of course,” Sorcha replied. “I’m sorry. I’m just - it’s so -” Her shoulders slumped forward as she sighed. “We should try to eat something.”

Emptying the sack of provisions onto the floor between them, Sorcha passed some food and water to the Wardens before positioning herself next to Sebastian. She slid the empty sack beneath his head, and placed a tender kiss onto his lips before carefully pouring some water into his mouth and helping him swallow.

“Tell me, Anders,” Sorcha began as she turned to face the Wardens. “How-” She silenced herself on seeing that the exhausted and still-injured healer was fast asleep.

“How did Sebastian not recognize him from the start?” Hawke asked quietly, finishing Sorcha’s question for her. Sorcha nodded as she pushed a palmful of nuts and berries into her mouth.

“Have you ever heard of the Black Emporium?” Hawke continued. Sorcha shook her head.

“It’s a specialty shop, of sorts, in Kirkwall. By invitation only. The proprietor had this mirror that could transform your appearance.”

Sorcha nearly choked on her food. “That is fucking brilliant,” she commented after catching her breath. “Explains why someone of his profile managed to never be seen again. Do your sister and Cullen know?”

A wry grin grew on Hawke’s lips. “Who do you think helped us back into the city?”

Sorcha couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She understood why Bethany would help them, but by all accounts, Commander Cullen was as straight and narrow as they came. It was unthinkable that he helped the mage responsible for igniting the war to escape into hiding.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Sorcha asked incredulously. “Cullen-”

“Has come a long way since falling in love with my sister,” Hawke interrupted. “He’s not the devout douchebag that I met after arriving in Kirkwall.”

Sorcha had read the reports about the Kirkwall Circle, and of those in command of it. Meredith Stannard was megalomaniacal and increasingly paranoid due the the red lyrium. Cullen Rutherford was her second-in-command, and followed her orders to the letter. Sorcha had assumed it was Bethany’s influence that made Cullen empathetic toward the mages, but she never would have thought that he would willingly aid Anders.

“I have more questions, if I may,” Sorcha asked. There was so much that she wanted to know, but logic dictated that those were stories for another time. Neither Hawke nor the mage were in any condition for interrogation, but Sorcha wasn’t content to let the matter completely rest.

The Champion gave her a sideways glance. “Is this an interview? You’re bloody worse than Varric.”

“I’m a Seeker of Truth. Kind of in the job description.”

Hawke rolled her eyes and gave Sorcha a perfunctory wave, so the Seeker continued. “What happened after the battle at the Gallows?”

The Champion’s gaze seemed to look right through Sorcha, like she wasn’t there at all. “We ran,” Hawke said simply. “We hit the road, hiding like common criminals, ducking into the bushes whenever we heard voices or hoofbeats. And then I came up with my most brilliant idea yet.”

Sorcha sat in silence, wide eyed and waiting for the Champion to continue.

“I said, ‘Anders, honey, why don’t we go lay low in the Deep Roads? No one will think to look for us there!’. And I’m not sure who was more stupid; me for suggesting it, or him for agreeing to it.”

“You chose the Deep Roads?” Sorcha was dumbfounded. Normal people just don’t choose to go to the Deep Roads. But, desperate times do call for desperate measures, so she could actually see the logic in it, just not the sense. No one could possibly live amongst the darkspawn.

Sorcha’s head tilted suddenly when the realization hit her like a smite. “Maker, you got tainted, didn’t you? That’s why you became a Warden!”

“Give the lady a prize!” Hawke chided. “I’m not sure if it was luck or fate, but a small group of Grey Wardens happened across our hideout, on their way to investigate Corypheus’ prison. The leader was an acquaintance of Anders. After some begging and undignified pleading, he agreed to put me through the Joining, but on one condition. Regardless of if I lived or died, Anders was to rejoin as an active Warden and serve as a recruiter. If he ever tried to leave again, the Wardens would join in the manhunt for him.”

Now the complicated pieces were starting to fall into place for Sorcha. If Anders had sworn to perform his duties as recruiter, he’d had to find a permanent disguise. Sorcha understood now why they risked re-entering Kirkwall. She watched the love with which Hawke gazed at Anders while she brushed his hair back from his face as he slept. Their devotion and bravery to follow each other into the Abyss and back was truly the stuff of legend, and the beauty of their bond brought a tear to Sorcha’s eye. Pretending to be wiping away dust, Sorcha rubbed at her eyes forcefully.

“So, that blue light earlier… was that the demon within him?” Sorcha asked, trying to move her mind along. The Seeker accounts of Anders being an abomination were, in her opinion, incomplete and made up of mostly anecdotal references and personal biases. All were submitted by Templars. She was more of a critical thinker, and was wary of one-sided information. She had always been curious about Anders’ case, and now relished the opportunity to ask about him.

Hawke sighed exhaustedly. “Yes, and no. I won’t go into detail, out of respect for Anders and Justice, and their struggle. He can tell you all about it, if he chooses to. But I will say that they both have worked very hard these last few years to recapture what was lost. Individual distinction and control.”

“Then which of them is in control?” Sorcha was not an idiot when it came to demons and possessions. She knew how things worked. But the merging of Anders and Justice was so unique that Hawke’s answer did nothing but confuse her.

“Each is in control of himself. After years of working with a mage friend of ours, who’s what’s called a Dreamer, Justice is on the path back to his purpose. Feynriel saved their sanity, and their lives.”

“Fascinating!” Sorcha exclaimed. “How did-”

Hawke interrupted her with a gesture of her hand and a shake of her head. “Please Sorcha. I know that you find him an interesting specimen and all, but we should really rest, too. You especially. Anders will likely need you again.”

As much as she didn’t want to admit it, Hawke was right. She had been fighting off sleep in favor of soaking up as much information as she could, and at present, she could barely keep her eyes open. Rest would certainly be welcome.

Drained of all energy, Sorcha laid beside Sebastian, and took him in her arms. She moved her shoulder beneath his head, making a pillow of herself. Kissing his temple gently, she whispered into his ear oaths of undying love and unending devotion. Closing her eyes, her last thought before sleep took her was a prayer for his recovery.

*

Pain. Maker, this hurts so much! What is happening?

As Sebastian gained consciousness, the first thing to grip him as he rose from darkness was immense, sickening pain. He could hear voices, faint and far away - not enough to discern who they were or where he was. He tried opening his eyes, but lacked the strength. A subtle warmth moved over his body, and his muscles screamed with tension before relaxing under the comforting heat.

...prepare to move on…” he heard a man say.

...try...just this once…” a woman replied.

The voices sounded familiar now, but he couldn’t yet place them. A cool cloth was dabbed across his forehead, with a touch so soft and gentle that his mind calmed. A tender kiss was placed on his temple, and at that moment, his soul began to sing. He remembered that song, and knew it well.

Sorcha!

Sebastian began searching his memory for recent events, but everything was foggy. He remembered the dragon, and entering into battle alongside Sorcha, Hawke, and that jackass Warden. And then the wall exploded and a man -no- a creature...a mage?...emerged and...then he was in the dragon’s mouth, with teeth puncturing his flesh and jaws crushing his bones.

Was this death? Did he fail to save her and she was with him at the Maker’s side? No, he felt pain. Pain was real. He was alive. And so was she. He had to open his eyes. He had to get up. He had to protect her.     

The comforting warmth rested over his chest, and his heart began pumping in earnest. It became easier to breathe, as the pain and fullness in his lungs dissipated. His arms and hands felt like they had been trampled by druffalos, but that was something he could deal with.

He sought the light, fighting his way from unconsciousness, but his eyes would not yet open. Not until the warmth settled atop his head. The searing pressure receded and his mind began to clear. He focused on Sorcha - on seeing her, touching her. And by the strength of his will, and with help from the soothing warmth moving over his body, he began to notice the glow of the fire through his closed lids, and a moment later they reluctantly parted.

His vision was blurred at first, but there was no mistaking Sorcha’s beautiful face.

“My love,” Sebastian whispered hoarsely, his mouth and throat dry. He managed a weak smile and tried to raise his hand to caress her cheek.

“Lie still, my Prince,” Sorcha replied with a smile. She leaned down and kissed him softly, her tears wetting his face. “My prayers have been answered, thank the Maker!”

“I still need to set your bones, so don’t move unless you want to be firing crooked arrows for the rest of your life.”

Sebastian recognized O’Malley’s voice, and nodded his concession. “How bad are my wounds?”

“What do you think?” Hawke added from across the fire. “You were a dragon’s bitch. And it didn’t even buy you dinner first.”

Sebastian may never had been extremely close to Hawke and the others he spent time with in Kirkwall, but one thing he appreciated was her sarcasm and humor. The Champion had this knack downplaying even the worst of circumstances, allowing hope to invade the most hopeless of situations.

“Give it pointers, did you?” Sebastian chucked weakly. He returned his gaze to Sorcha, who had been gently stroking his forehead since he awoke. “Are you injured?”

Sorcha shook her head and flashed him her charismatic grin. “Nothing that a brick wall and a deplorable situation couldn’t handle. I’ll be fine.”

“Prepare yourself,” O’Malley said. “I’m about to set the bones in your legs.” The mage gave Sebastian a stern look of warning. “This won’t be pleasant.”

The Prince was no stranger to pain. He had suffered many injuries in his life, and had bones set before. But nothing could prepare him for its severity this occasion.

The healer grabbed hold of a lower leg, and without further warning, his hands ignited with healing magic and he forced the shattered bone back together;  it relocated with sickening crunching and grinding. Sebastian cried out in pain, but he remained still. O’Malley moved next to Sebastian’s thigh, and glanced up to give the Prince an apologetic look before snapping his femur back together. Sebastian cried out again, and this time tears streamed from his eyes.

“Why is this so excruciating?” he gasped. “It’s never hurt so bad before!” He breathed deeply through gritted teeth while seeing stars.

“Most of your bones are broken,” O’Malley admitted, “and many are shattered. The amount of pain is relative to the extent of the damage.” With that he reset the bones of Sebastian’s other shin, causing him to writhe in agony.

“Keep still, my darling,” Sorcha said calmly. “It won’t be too much longer.” Her attempts to soothe him were futile, but he appreciated the gesture none the less.

“Maker, give me strength,” he muttered. As O’Malley pushed Sebastian’s shattered pelvis back together, the Prince screamed and fought against the healer’s hands.

“It’s okay, it’s okay…” Sorcha took Sebastian’s face in her hands. “Be still, he needs to fix you.”

“Make it stop!” Sebastian cried. “Leave me be! Just give me time to rest more! Please, wait…”

The healer shook his head. “Your bones are already mending in the wrong positions. If I don’t get to them now, you will be a cripple.” He grabbed Sebastian’s arm and yanked hard before pushing back even harder. The Prince couldn’t take it anymore. He tried to sit up and pull away from the Warden. Before he knew what was going on, Sorcha’s hands were on his shoulders, pinning him in place.

“Will you please just let Anders do his job?” she said frantically. Suddenly, Sorcha’s eyes grew wide and she turned to the healer, who was staring at her with a deadly glare. Sebastian’s gaze turned from Sorcha to the mage who was currently inflicting great pain upon him.

“A - Anders?” he asked incredulously. “No. It can’t be. I must be delirious” He looked back to Sorcha. “Tell me I’m delirious.”

Sorcha looked to the mage pleadingly, and O’Malley just shook his head and sighed.

“No, you’re not delirious. But you’ll never draw a bow again if you don’t hold still.”

Sebastian’s eyes narrowed into a fierce glare. Years of hatred and anger toward the man who had killed Grand Cleric Elthina and started the war bubbled to the surface, and overflowed in a deluge of venom. “Don’t touch me!” he rasped. Anders lifted his hands and sat back.

“Fine. If you’d rather hurt for the rest of your life, I’ll stop.”

“I’d rather be dead than have your help, abomination!” Sebastian growled through his teeth. He tried to move away from Anders, but fell back to the floor, wincing and crying out in pain. Sorcha moved with him and held him firmly but calmly.

“Please, my love,” she whispered in between quick, gentle kisses. “Let him heal you. I need you.”

Enraged, Sebastian turned his gaze to Anders again. “Then learn to get on without me,” he spat. “I’ll not have that monster touch me!”

The mage stared back and shrugged his shoulders as he popped a handful of dried berries into his mouth. “No skin off my perfect ass,” Anders quipped. “You can die alone as your lover leads the charge against Corypheus by herself. She doesn’t need your help or protection. She has us.”

Hawke rolled her eyes. “For fuck’s sake, you two.” She turned to her lover, and sighed. “Why must you antagonize him? He needs your help, not your attitude.” Anders stared at the Prince a moment longer before turning to watch the dancing flames of the fire. The Champion then turned her attention to Sebastian.

“And you! Stop being an ingrate. You’d be dead right now, if not for him. And you just found your true love after all these years. Are you really ready to leave her?”

Sebastian looked into Sorcha’s teary eyes. “What in the fuck is going on, Sorcha? What happened? Is it true? Corypheus?”

Sorcha nodded and moved her hands, holding Sebastian’s face gently. “There’s much to tell you. But first, I need you to trust me. Can you do that?” Her voice was so commanding, yet sweet, that he couldn’t help but back down.

“I trust you with my very being,” he replied. “You know that.”

“Then trust me when I ask to let him heal you. Please.”

“But he murdered people. Innocent people. Elthina, the Brothers and Sisters, Andraste’s faithful-”

“And he saved us, Seb. He saved us both.”

Sebastian watched Anders warily for a moment before sighing deeply. He hated the man, but he loved Sorcha more than life itself. He would do anything for her.

“Fine,” the Prince snapped, “but for the record, I will hate every single second of it.”

Sorcha leaned in to kiss him, and when their lips met, he closed his eyes and reveled in her touch. Pulling away slowly, she gave him a gracious smile.

“Anders,” Sorcha called back over her shoulder, “he’s ready.”

“So be it,” the mage replied. Rising from the floor, he cracked his knuckles as he rounded the fire. “Let’s get it done.”

Anders approached Sebastian and lowered himself to his knees. With one hand on the crook of the Prince’s neck and the other on his shoulder, Anders glanced up at Sorcha.

“Put your knee behind behind him, bracing his spine.”

Sorcha nodded and moved to Sebastian’s back, pressing her knee into him. Anders met Sebastian’s glare and grinned. “This won’t hurt much,” he smirked, his eyes never leaving the Prince’s narrow gaze. Without warning, his magic flared to life and he pushed with one hand while pulling with the other, moving the broken bones back into place. The pain was unbearable, and in his weakened state, Sebastian saw only blackness and stars before lapsing into unconsciousness once again.

*

Sorcha had been nestled next to Sebastian for hours, and was roused from her rest by a strong arm draping over her waist. She opened her eyes to see Sebastian’s breathtaking blues looking back.

“I love you,” he said quietly, his voice so low that it was nearly inaudible. His eyes were dancing over her face, and she lifted a hand to his bearded cheek.

“I love you, too.” She planted a quick kiss to the tip of his nose. “How are you feeling?”

His brow knitted in confusion. “Like I’ve been trampled by a herd of brontos. And I’m angry. And hungry.” He pulled her closer and brushed her hair back from her face. “What did I miss? And how is Anders still alive? How did he change his face?”

Sorcha propped herself up on one elbow, and looked past Sebastian to where Hawke and Anders had been. Their spot was empty, but then Sorcha remembered that Hawke had planned on going to the cache rooms for more supplies.

“Promise me you’ll stay civil,” Sorcha said. Her tone was authoritative and her expression was stern. She needed him to know that she was serious.

“I swear,” Sebastian replied. And true to his word, he was silent as she explained to him everything that Hawke had told her. Once he learned everything, Sebastian pushed himself up to sitting and stared into the fire.

“He needs to pay for his actions, Sorcha,” he asserted. “He killed Elthina. I cannot let that go.”

Sorcha sat up beside him and took his hand in hers. “You may not like what I’m about to say, but I need for you to listen.”

Sebastian turned his head and held her gaze. Nodding in concession, he squeezed her hand gently. “I will.”

Sorcha took a deep breath, and chose her words carefully. “I know that Elthina’s death hurt you. And you have every right to be angry, but it’s time to move on.”

He stared at her incredulously. “How can you say that?” he asked, clearly offended. “And how are you not upset that the man that killed her is alive and well, without consequences? She cared for us!”

Sorcha shook her head vehemently. “No. She cared for you . Think back to Hercinia. She manipulated you into leaving me when I needed you most. You don’t even want to know how she treated me once you were gone.”

Sebastian cocked his head in confusion. “What do you mean? What don’t I know?”

Sorcha turned back to the fire, and absent-mindedly poked at the glowing embers within the ash. “She made me believe that you never loved me. That I was your whore and you left because I was going to be scarred and deformed.” A defiant sneer spread across Sorcha’s lips as she stoked the flames roughly, sending cinders into the air..

“I was no longer a ‘prince’s whore’ and therefore had no more protection as such. She told me that she tolerated our actions because of you and your family. But once I was alone, she treated me like I was a stain upon humanity. From dawn to dusk, I had the worst of the tasks, the scraps of the meals, and the ire of the Brothers and Sisters.”

Sebastian just stared at her, his mouth hung open in disbelief and tears welled in his eyes.

“Whispers behind my back were the start,” Sorcha continued, “and even those evolved to insults to my face. All because I loved you. Maybe Elthina was jealous that I took your attention away from a pious life. I don’t know for sure. But after months of that, I took matters into my own hands and escaped the Chantry. Templars eventually caught up with me, and had it not been for Cassandra intervening, well… I don’t even want to think about what could have happened.”

Sebastian lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed it softly. “I’m so, so sorry, my darling,” he whispered. “Had I have known-”

“It’s not your fault,” Sorcha interrupted. “I’m not trying to dissuade you from caring about her. You are kind and your nature compels you to be thoughtful. I just want you to see another side of things.”

The Prince thought for a moment before responding. “But, surely you aren’t condoning her murder? That isn’t in your nature.”

“No. But I see things differently. For example, how did she react to the news that the Divine was considering an Exalted March on Kirkwall? She still refused to speak up against the violence and chose to stay in a position that would see her martyred. She could have eased tensions between the mages and the Templars, yet she remained silent.”

Sorcha searched Sebastian’s eyes for understanding. “I don’t agree with what Anders did. But I can begin to see why he did it. And I believe that had fate not chosen him as a catalyst, it still would have been someone.”

Sebastian broke contact and stared into the fire. “So you’re asking me to forgive him? To forget that he destroyed a house of Andraste and murdered her faithful?”

“I’m asking you to let him live,” Sorcha replied as she laid her hand on his knee. “Let him atone in his own way. Who knows? Maybe the Maker brought him to us for redemption.”

Her lover seemed to be considering her words. She wouldn’t push him to change his views, she just wanted to plant the seeds of doubt. Sebastian was a just and mindful man, and he needed to be able to see other sides of the situation. Sorcha was staring into space, unfocused, when Sebastian lifted his hand to her chin and gently turned her face toward him.

“I can’t guarantee that I won’t hate him forever, or refrain from killing him after all of this is said and done, but I promise to leave him be, for now. I know we need him. And I love you enough to swear this on my life.” He moved closer and with the softest touch, placed such a tender kiss to her lips that butterflies flitted throughout her stomach. His tongue traced slowly along the seam of her mouth, and she parted her lips in silent permission for him to go deeper. As their kiss intensified, Sebastian began to slow down, taking her bottom lip in between his before letting it go with a soft nibble and pulling away slowly.

“I have something for you,” he said as he reached for his sachel. “Thankfully this bag wasn’t left behind or destroyed.” He tore at the lining seam and reached into the secret pocket beneath.

“I had intended on waiting for the best time to give you this,” he added as he rummaged through the bag. “But given our line of work and recent events, I realize that there is no time like the present.” He removed his hand from the sachel, holding a pair of gleaming bracers. He set one in his lap and held the other in a shaking grip. The silverite and gold piece of armor looked like a set of gleaming bangles, intricately woven through one another and connected by a broad piece of silverite across the top, laden with rubies and obsidian in the pattern of the Vael royal crest.

“Sorcha Isobel Trevelyan, I love you more with every breath that I take. My desire to spend eternity with you burns within my blood, blood warmed by a heart that beats for you, and you alone. I offer you a lifetime by my side, as my match and equal in all matters. This bracer that I place on your wrist was forged for a warrior princess, many generations ago. It is a symbol of my devotion, and a reminder that I would give all that I have to protect you, in this life and the next.”

With trembling hands, Sebastian slipped the bracer over the wrist of Sorcha’s sword arm, and fastened the clasps.

“Every moment spent with you is a perfect moment,” he continued, “and I ask myself everyday what I did to deserve your love.” He looked into her eyes, and Sorcha was left speechless by the sheer amount of adoration within his gaze.

“Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

Sorcha didn’t need any time to think about an answer. Being with Sebastian for the rest of her life would be a dream come true. Regardless of if she died tomorrow, or into old age, she wanted nothing more than to be with him until the end.     

“The honor would be mine, Sebastian. Of course my answer is yes!”

Sebastian chuckled with relief before leaning in and kissing her passionately. He pulled back, grinning from ear to ear. Reaching for the bracer in his lap, he slid it onto the wrist of his bow arm.

“Allow me,” Sorcha whispered as she reached for the clasps. His was a more masculine version of hers, with the silverite and jeweled bar being on the inside of the wrist to protect from his bowstring. She brought his hand to her cheek, and leaned into his palm. She was about to kiss him again when footsteps in the tunnel caught her attention.

“Congratulations, you two,” Hawke sang as she entered the chamber. “It’s about damn time!” Anders followed behind her, and they both had sacks of provisions over their shoulders.

Sorcha blushed and Sebastian rolled his eyes before smiling at the Champion.

“Yes, congratulations,” Anders added uncomfortably. “How are you feeling? Any pain?”

Sorcha watched intently for Sebastian’s reaction, and as promised, he was a gentleman.

“I am sore, but at the moment, I’ve never felt better,” the Prince replied. Anders nodded and hefted the sack to the floor. “And, thank you… Anders - for our lives.”

The mage seemed caught off-guard by the Prince’s gratitude, but recovered quickly.

“It’s my job… but - you’re welcome.”

Sorcha gazed across the fire to Hawke, who was smirking like the cat that ate the canary. She gave a slight nod to the Champion, who returned one in kind.

“Well, now that we have all been mended,” Sorcha said, getting everyone’s attention, “let’s get a few hour’s rest. We will make for the beta site at first light.”

 

Chapter Text

The Beta site was visible from atop the small snow-covered hill, where Sorcha and the others took a moment’s rest. Nearly a full day had passed since they began the arduous trek from the tunnels to the camp, and dusk was upon them. A wave of relief washed over her as she gazed down at the sea of tents and throngs of people milling about in the shallow valley below. Their proximity to civilization and real food revitalized the wounded and weary group, and without a word, the four pressed on.

They hadn’t yet reached the bottom of the hill before people started shouting and pointing, while others came running to meet them. Cassandra was the first to reach them.

“Maker, Sorcha!” the senior Seeker exclaimed as she threw her arms around her friend. “You’re alive! And in one piece!”

Sorcha smiled and held Cassandra tightly. “I don’t know how,” she replied. “But we avoided becoming a dragon’s toothpicks.”

“Speak for yourself, darling,” Sebastian added as he approached the Seekers. Limping, and using thin, broken timbers as canes, he hobbled up beside them. “The beast chewed me up and spit me out.”

“Perhaps it chokes on small bones,” Anders mumbled as he walked past the Prince and handed his sack off to a squire.

Sebastian glared at the Warden. “I’m talking about the dragon, not Hawke.”

Anders smirked and opened his mouth to reply, but Hawke beat him to it.

“If I hear ‘Hawke takes it like a Champion’ one more time, someone is going to die a horrible and bloody death,” the exhausted and short-fused warrior warned. Anders gestured that his lips were sealed, and offered Hawke his arm. The Champion pointed two fingers to her eyes and then one toward him before locking her arm in his and following the servant into the camp.

Sorcha rolled her eyes and hugged Cassandra again. “I’m so happy to see another grown up,” she whispered. Cassandra snorted and released her exhausted friend. Cassandra’s hand caught on Sorcha’s wrist, and Sorcha smirked when Cassandra cocked her head to the side, noticing her new bracer. She lifted Sorcha’s arm for a better look.

“This bracer is exquisite!” Cassandra gasped. Suddenly, her brows furrowed and she looked more closely at the jewelled detail. “The Vael crest? Is this -? Are you -?”

Sorcha was beaming and Sebastian draped his arm over her shoulders. He placed a kiss to the top of her head and grinned at Cassandra, his pride most evident.

“I have asked Sorcha to marry me,” he admitted. “And she said ‘yes’.”

Cassandra stifled a squeal and wrapped her arms around the couple, squeezing them in a vice-like embrace. “Congratulations! It’s about time!”

“Cass,” Sorcha choked out, “can’t breathe.”

“My apologies!” The Seeker lowered her arms and straightened her leathers as she stepped back from Sorcha and Sebastian. “You both need rest. I’ll show you to your tent, and will send for a healer.”

The trio made their way to the camp, and Cassandra ushered them inside one of the larger tents. Furs lined the walls and floor, and a brazier containing glowing coals sat next to a bed made of two cots pushed together. A small writing desk sat in the corner, and a washstand stood against the wall behind a privacy screen.

“We were confident that you would return,” Cassandra said as they entered the tent. “No one dared think any different. We knew Andraste would watch over you.”

Sebastian poured the water from the pitcher into the wash basin and set it over the brazier to heat before working to remove his torn and bloody armor. Cassandra averted her eyes and turned to Sorcha, who too, was undressing.

“Sorcha, I hate to pull you away, but we will need your report on what happened in Haven.”

Sorcha sighed and nodded weakly. “I need to get cleaned up first. Can we meet in an hour?”

“Of course. I’ll call for a healer now, and I will be back for you later,” Cassandra answered before exiting the tent.  

Drawing up beside Sebastian, Socha waved his fumbling hands away from his buckles and took over releasing them. He flashed her an appreciative smile and she blushed slightly under his adoring gaze.

“Do you still think they will let me take my leave?” Sorcha asked as she moved from one buckle to the next. “Shit’s a little more fucked up than before.”

“I think they will try to convince you to stay,” Sebastian replied, lifting his bandaged hand to tuck a stray lock of hair back behind her ear. “And I think that your sense of duty will compel you to agree.”

Sorcha loosed the final buckle and gently pulled his armor from his linen-wrapped chest. Letting the shredded leather fall to the floor, her fingers traced his healing wounds, ghosting over the sensitive flesh.

“I also have a duty to you, as your future wife,” Sorcha added. “How can I be that when I am the Herald of Andraste?” The sadness in her voice couldn’t be suppressed. “I just want to be with you.”

Sebastian wrapped his muscular arms around her and drew her near. “Hear this now,” he said softly. “You are with me. My love for you knows no bounds, and will flourish regardless of where we are.. We shall be married, and you will be Sorcha Trevelyan-Vael, Princess of Starkhaven and Herald of Andraste.”

Holding back her tears, she lifted her face and peered through misty eyes into his beautiful blues. “You seem confident that I can be both people. How can you know?”

“Because I know you,” Sebastian replied. “And I know that you are surrounded by competent people within the Inquisition. Use them. Apply their strengths to the tasks at hand. They aren’t here merely to sit on their hands while you do all the work.”

Sebastian was right. Since waking with the Anchor, she’d taking it upon herself to worry about everything, both controllable and not. She had allowed herself to forget that leadership involved allocation of duties. She was the Herald of Andraste, not a goddess.

“I love you. You know that, right?” she asked her lover before rising to her toes and kissing his inviting lips. He reciprocated her tenderness before pulling away slowly and placing his forehead to hers.

“And I, you. Always.”

An uncomfortable cough from the healer as he entered through the canvas opening forced the couple to release their embrace. Both Sorcha and Sebastian turned their heads to face the man, who became visibly more nervous once getting their attention.

“A thousand pardons, Your Worship and Your Majesty,” the healer finally managed. “I’ve come to tend to the Prince’s wounds.”

Sebastian beckoned the man inside and Sorcha took the water heated by the brazier to the washstand behind the privacy screen. Quickly shedding her scraped and dented armor, Sorcha bathed herself with the hot water and a washcloth, not caring that she had to use basic soap instead of her scented bar. She was just happy to be rid of the layer of filth and odor of a vagrant.

Dressing in clean, warm trousers and a charcoal linen tunic, she emerged from behind the opaque burlap to find Sebastian standing nude on a crate, while the healer carefully removed what was once Sorcha’s clothing from the Prince’s one-torn and now-mending flesh.

“You are lucky to have survived, Your Majesty,” the healer gasped. “These wounds should have been mortal ones.”

“But they weren’t,” Sorcha added, swinging her Inquisition cloak over her shoulders. “And we have a certain Warden to thank for that.”

Sebastian rolled his eyes. “Yes, dear.”

Sorcha stepped over to Sebastian and placed a quick kiss to his cheek. “I like the sound of that. You’re a fast learner, Your Majesty.” She poured more water into the basin and placed it back on the brazier for the healer before making her way to the tent flap. “I’m going to look for Cass.” She glanced back over her shoulder, offering Sebastian a soft smile. “Get some rest?”

“Yes, dear.”

Leaving the healer to do his job, Sorcha exited the warmth of the tent and stepped out into the biting mountain wind. Pulling her hood over her damp hair, she started out in search of Cassandra. She wandered for no more than a moment before her friend sidled up beside her.

“The others have gathered at the council tent,” Cassandra said. “Are you ready?”

“Yeah, let’s get this over with,” Sorcha replied. “I’m exhausted.”

The Seekers followed well-worn paths through the snow to a large brown and white canvas tent. Inquisition banners flanked the entrance, and inside was a makeshift war room, complete with an oversized map lying open across four portable tables. Standing over the tabletop, placing markers, were Leliana and Cullen. They were deep in conversation about tactics and strategy when Sorcha’s entrance drew their attention.

A warm and welcoming smile grew across the Spymaster’s face and she circled around the table to approach her friend.

“I am so happy to see you, Sorcha,” Leliana cooed, embracing the Herald tightly and kissing her cheek. “You made it back before my scouts did!”

“We didn’t see anyone else,” Sorcha replied. “Did you send greenies?”

“Unfortunately,” Leliana sighed. “The others had been sent on a mission some time ago, and had only returned an hour or so before you did.”

“Welcome back, Herald,” Cullen said from across the table. The dark circles under his eyes gave away his fatigue, and his normally well-groomed beard had a few day’s growth, making the greying streaks quite visible. He looked like he had aged a decade within a day.

Sorcha thanked him and took her place at the war table. She took a moment to study the map before her, and noticed Leliana’s marker situated in an odd spot along the Frostback Mountain range.

“What’s in the mountains?” she asked.

“That is something I was about to report on,” Leliana replied. Sorcha nodded and held up her hand.

“Before we begin, I need to say a few things,” Sorcha said. “Commander, firstly let me personally thank you for suggesting the emergency preparation measures. I came across one of the caches in the tunnels, and it saved our lives.”

Cullen’s eyes widened in surprise. He quickly straightened his posture and rested his hands on the hilt of his sword. “Thank you, Herald, but there is no need to -”

“You deserve recognition,” Sorcha interrupted. She met the gazes of Leliana and Cassandra as well, and offered them a soft smile. “You all deserve more recognition than I have given.”

“I must admit something,” Sorcha continued. “After closing the Breach, I had fully intended on leaving Haven, and doing Andraste’s work from Starkhaven. But recent events have caused me to re-examine my decision.”

Respectfully, her advisors stood in silence, allowing her to speak uninterrupted.

“Each of you, my advisors, are the backbone of the Inquisition. You possess such strength and intelligence, and with your dedication to your duty we will succeed. Given the recent happenings, you will be relied upon now, more than ever.”

Sorcha carried on with her report of the battle at Haven, the emergence of Corypheus, and her engagement to Sebastian. She chose to omit the revelation that O’Malley is really Anders, until she could confer privately with the Wardens, Cullen and Bethany. She was confident that Cassandra’s reaction would be an angry one, and Leliana’s would be sympathetic, but she felt that re-homing the displaced Inquisition should happen first. Doing so would help stabilize the stresses of her friends, allowing them to handle the news with clearer minds.

“So it is my intention to be both the Herald of Andraste and the Princess of Starkhaven, but I will need your help to do that well.”

Cassandra, Leliana and Cullen all agreed to assist in every way they could. But before Sorcha could ask about possible locations for the new Inquisition base, she was surrounded by the Divine’s Right and Left Hands, who bombarded her with congratulatory hugs and kisses on her engagement, before stepping back a moment later to return to their official stoic selves. The Commander offered his best wishes as well, but from a respectable distance.

“Now,” Sorcha said, straightening her cloak and stepping up to the war table ,“report.”

Leliana stepped forward and pointed to her marker in the middle of the mountain range.

“My scouts have returned with information regarding the possibility of a new home for the Inquisition. Thanks to Solas’ fade-walking, we have confirmed the location of an abandoned fortress built within the mountains. Scout Harding has reported that the area is intact, and habitable. With your permission, Herald, I would like to give the order to break camp and begin the move at first light.”

Sorcha brought her hand to her chin and rubbed it in contemplation. “You said Solas told you about this abandoned fortress?”

“He did,” Leliana responded, taking a step away from the table and clasping her hands behind her back. “He approached me shortly before you had returned from Redcliffe. He said that he ventured upon it while dreaming. It is his habit to sleep in different locations, and explore areas of the Fade that are new to him.”

“And he just stumbled across this place?” Sorcha asked. She was well aware that Solas possessed a rare power, but she was yet unsure of what that power completely entailed.

“So he had said. Seeing as how the Inquisition was quickly expanding in size and influence, I could not pass up the opportunity to find a potentially larger and more impressive base of operations. I dispatched my scouts immediately.”

Tracing the route on the map with her bruised and fractured finger, Sorcha stared at the marker for a moment before meeting Leliana’s gaze. She trusted her friend and Spymaster completely, and if Leliana wanted to take over this fortress, then she would give her permission.

“Very well. Organize the moving parties to include both military and civilians, as well as mages and Templars. We’ll stack our groups for protection and survivability should anything attack along the way. Groups can move out after first light once they are ready. Do we know what this place was called?”

“It’s name is Skyhold,” came a sonorous voice from the tent entrance, “and it is now ours.”  

Sorcha turned to see Solas brushing large snowflakes from his woolen tunic. The pale flesh of his cheeks and ears was pink from the mountain chill, and his stormy grey eyes were misty from the wind.

“Please, forgive my interruption, Herald,” he said, “but I need a word with you in private.”

After confirming that neither advisor had anything more to add, Sorcha concluded the meeting and followed the mage outside into the cold. He lead her to a ledge overlooking a crevasse, lighting a nearby veilfire torch to break the darkness.

“It pleases me to see that you yet live,” Solas said coolly. He clasped his hands behind his back and stared out into the night. “I understand you met the Elder One?”

“Yes,” Sorcha replied, kicking loose pebbles over the edge. “And I’m not even sure where to begin learning how to defeat him.”

“I have some information that may help,” the mage offered. “The orb he holds is powerful and rare. An artifact, from Elvhenan, a Foci.”

“A what?”

“The gods used them to focus their magic. Like a staff a mage would use in this era.”

“And you know this, how?” Sorcha asked incredulously. She would be the first to admit that she knew very little about ancient elves, and even less about their daily life. But she didn’t expect Solas to be quite so educated about them. There was much more to this mysterious elf than she once thought.

“I know this for that orb belongs to me.”

“Are you telling me that you’re an ancient Elvhen god, Solas?”

“I was a scholar, and a collector. Of all my acquisitions, the ancient orb was the finest and most rare. I coveted that piece with great pride, and then when my world came crashing around me, I left it all behind, except the orb.”

Sorcha turned to him and met his eyes. Even in the pale light of the veilfire, she could see the aged wisdom within them. Knowing and experienced, his eyes were a telling trait of an old soul.

“What happened, and why did you keep only the orb?” she asked.

A sadness crept into his gaze, and he diverted his eyes before turning back to face the expansive sky.

“I was impetuous and quick to act. I had lost someone, and made poor choices, hurting others. It felt like I had grieved for ages, I was sullen and utterly alone. I left that life behind to start anew, but took the orb with me.  I felt powerless in the sorrow and shame of my deeds. The orb once focused immense power, and I had hoped it would help me regain my own, so to speak.”

“So how did Corypheus get it?”

“It was stolen as I slept. I have been searching since.”

“So,” Sorcha said, taking a few steps back from the ledge. “It really wasn’t a coincidence that you happened to be nearby when the Breach was opened, was it?”

“Yes and no,” Solas replied. “I knew that a gathering of mages would be a good place to start looking. I did not expect neither the explosion nor the Breach, but I am glad that I was nearby.”

Sorcha mulled over his words. She didn’t know enough about him to think him a liar, and he had given of himself to the Inquisition and its mission. It was entirely plausible that what he said was true.

“Thank you for telling me this, Solas,” she said with genuine sincerity. “I’m glad that you’re here to help us piece this mess together. And we will try to get your orb back.”

The mage tilted his head slightly in gratitude. “Thank you, Herald. I will share what knowledge I have with the Spymaster.” With that, he turned on his heel and walked away, mesmerizing Sorcha with the fluidity of his gait.

The walk back to her tent was less than calm. With every step she took, members of the Inquisition stopped her to offer praise, encouragement, and gratitude. Each handshake and pat on the back was an affirmation that her decision to remain with the Inquisition would be the right one. She had a duty to Andraste’s faithful, and now that duty included stopping an ancient Tevinter magister from carrying out his plans, whatever those may be.

Finally arriving back at her tent, Sorcha stomped the dirty snow from her boots before parting the canvas flaps and stepping into the comforting warmth. Her eyes immediately landed on her handsome fiance.

Sebastian was sitting up in their bed, unclothed beneath blankets and furs, with his muscular chest and arms wrapped in clean bandages. His royal messenger was standing beside the cot, waiting for the correspondence which the Prince was completing. As Sebastian was applying his seal to the missive, he glanced up from pressing his ring into the cooling wax to offer Sorcha a dizzying smile.

“How are you feeling, my Prince?” she asked as she unclasped her cloak and threw it over the back of a chair.

“Much better, now that you’ve returned,” Sebastian replied. Blushing slightly, Sorcha wondered how it was that he could still make her feel like an awestruck girl, after all this time.

Sebastian handed the letter to his messenger, who bowed deeply to both the Prince and future Princess before exiting the tent. Exhausted, Sorcha kicked off her boots and began to undress without realizing that Sebastian was watching her every move with undivided attention.

“Is everything alright back home?” she asked, mindlessly dropping her tunic to the floor. The laces of her trousers proved a hassle to her tired fingers, and being his ever-chivalrous self, Sebastian beckoned her to the bedside so he could take over for her.

“I hope so,” he replied as his deft and healing fingers untied her laces and loosened her trousers from around her waist. “There’s been no word from my regent in some time.” His hands dipped below her waistband, and as he caressed her hips, the leather garment fell and bunched around her knees.

She placed her hands on his strong shoulders and raised each leg in turn as he worked the fabric from her limbs. Once she was undressed, his hands ghosted upward along her inner thighs and he smirked deviously before pulling back the covers for her to crawl into bed next to him.

Sorcha joined her lover beneath the blankets, and nestled up beside him. “We are going to sleep like the dead tonight,” she mumbled, draping her arm over his chest. Sebastian traced light circles along her flank and pressed softly against her hip, rolling her onto her back.

“First thing’s first,” he spoke softly as he reached between her knees and slowly spread her legs open. That simple act ignited the fire in Sorcha, wetting her core in anticipation of her lover’s touch.

“Are you sure?” she whispered. “You were nearly dead yesterday.”

“Absolutely,” he assured her, his brilliant blue eyes gleamed with mischief, drawing a chuckle from Sorcha as he leaned in and nuzzled her neck. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my recovery. Can you?”

Sorcha lifted her arms over her head and rested them on her pillow, allowing Sebastian unimpeded access to her body. “Then let's get this party started, my Prince,” she purred.

Sebastian propped himself up on one elbow, and his free hand roamed over Sorcha’s flesh with slow and deliberate gentleness. His ghosting touch left shivers in its wake. His soft, full lips claimed hers in a deep and passionate kiss that left her breathless.

Sorcha ran her fingers through his mahogany waves as his hand cupped her bared breast, and his tongue expertly danced its way from her mouth to the pebbled flesh of her nipple. Sebastian’s hushed but hungry moans sent jolts of arousal throughout her entire being as he worshipped her dusky flesh with reverent laving. She’d always had a weak spot for his voice, and was sure she could even find release at the sound of his melodious brogue alone.

With his mouth still attending Sorcha’s breasts, Sebastian slowly moved his hand down over her mound. She gasped and lifted her hips from the bed as his deft archer’s fingers slid gently along her slicked folds and entered her waiting core. Pressing the butt of his palm against her sensitive bundle, he moved his wrist in slow circles as his fingers delved her depths.

“Take me,” Sorcha whimpered, tossing her head back and raking her nails along his scalp. “Take me, now! I need you inside of me!”  

The Prince withdrew his fingers and shifted atop her, softly kissing a trail back to her quivering lips as he positioned himself between her opened legs.

“As you wish,” he whispered before slowly hilting himself within her. A long and loud moan was drawn from Sorcha’s throat at the ecstasy of Sebastian’s girth stretching her. His guttural keening was muffled by her shoulder and with each slow thrust, he gasped and bit sharply into her skin.

Sorcha made the deliberate attempt to take care with Sebastian’s wounds as her hands roamed over his broad, muscular back, but the pleasure of him allowing her to feel is full length as he moved within her channel was maddening. She lost control of her tenderness and dug her nails into his flesh as his hardness filled her, eliciting a hiss from his perfect lips.

“Maker, Sorcha,” he muttered between ragged breaths, “I’m going to die in your arms.” He thrust harder and held her tighter, pulling her closer to him. She released the puncturing grasp of her fingers and raised her legs to wrap around his waist.

“I’m sorry, my love,” she gasped, the new angle letting him press deeper. “Are you alright?” Her hands moved up along his neck and back into his unruly waves.

“Hurt me,” he rasped against the flesh of her neck, “cut me into shards. Burn me with your passion, drown me with your love.” He seated himself deep within her and lifted his head to meet her gaze. “Do whatever you wish to me, just be mine for eternity.”

“I’ll love you always,” she breathed. “This, I swear.”

Sebastian claimed her lips, their kiss as scorching as a thousand suns. Sorcha could feel her lover’s release near, and when he tried to withdraw from her channel, she strengthened her hold around his waist.

“I’m-” he gasped.

“I know,” she replied, biting his earlobe gently. “Don’t wait.”

Sebastian’s pace quickened for but a moment, his thrusts were still perfectly timed. Sorcha felt his body stiffen, and she tightened her hold on his hardness, squeezing her walls tightly around him. His moans of pleasure as he released his seed deep within her drove her mad, but she would sacrifice her climax tonight. Her lover still needed rest, regardless of what he said.

As he placed soft kisses to her face and neck, he shifted from atop her and took his place at her side. Wrapping his long, muscular arms around her, he drew her close into a sweet embrace.

“You’d go unsatisfied tonight?” he asked groggily, half-asleep in the afterglow. Sorcha dragged her fingertips gently through his chest hair.

“You will make it up to me,” she chuckled. “You will need your strength, so let yourself rest. At first light we will begin the trek to the Inquisition’s new home.”

“Oh? Where is it to be?”

Sorcha laid her head on his chest, and closed her eyes, ready for long-awaited sleep.

“Skyhold.”

 


Chapter Text

The first weeks at Skyhold were cacophonous but organized chaos. The bulk of the military was building barracks along the river that ran below the once-abandoned fortress. On the opposing shore, a small settlement had sprung up, housing most of the civilian population that had volunteered themselves to the Inquisition’s mandate. A narrow but sturdy bridge spanned the water, connecting the soldiers with their families, merchants’ stalls, and a tavern for entertainment.

The fortress proper was not exempt from the maelstrom of repairs and renovations. The refitted tavern, aptly named “The Herald’s Rest”, was the first building to be completed. The night of its christening ceremony had begun with Sorcha giving a rousing speech, and had ended with Sorcha and Sebastian dancing a whiskey-induced jig together atop a newly-constructed table, to the lively chords of Maryden the bard and the cheers of an ecstatic crowd.

It was that night that Varric endowed Sorcha with her nickname - Phoenix. When questioned as to why, Varric stated simply that she rose from the ashes of Haven, reborn and stronger than before. And she’d rip the face off of anyone who pissed her off. His astute observation of her nature sent the table into a fit of drunken laughter, even the Herald herself.

The dungeon was the second renovation to be finished. Fortified against magic and escape, it housed the first of the Inquisition prisoners: Gereon Alexius. His trial was forthcoming; Josephine had suggested that Sorcha wait to try the magister until the great hall was complete. As a large and still-growing power, the room in which official Inquisition business was to be conducted needed to look like the seat of vast influence. So Sorcha approved Josephine’s proposed designs, and agreed to postpone non-urgent business until the hall was ready. Alexius wasn’t going anywhere.

On the second morning of the fourth week at the fortress, Sorcha awoke, from the first deep and restful sleep she’d had since taking up residence in Skyhold. As she stretched out in her new, Orlesian-style bed, she lamented at finding an empty pillow beside her. It was on gorgeous mornings like this one that she longed to gaze at Sebastian’s handsome face as he slept beside her. The sun’s early light shone through her window in such a way that it would have illuminated his physique, casting him in an ethereal glow of divinity, and effectively stealing her breath away.

But, as was his chivalrous way, he’d insisted that they keep separate quarters until they were married. “You are a lady, Sorcha,” he’d told her, “and the Herald of Andraste. I’ll not jeopardize your honor in front of the faithful.” They still found themselves in one another’s arms each night, and reminisced about how it was like being back in Hercinia because they were grudgingly back in their own beds by morning light.

Sorcha sat up and swung her legs off the edge of the bed as she looked around her room. She had declined the large loft-style quarters offered to her, and instead opted for one of the rooms overlooking the garden. It had been decorated to her tastes, with stained glass in the windows, and tapestries of sage with white trim along the walls, and thick furs covered the floor. Tall bookshelves rose to the ceiling, containing tomes from across Thedas. Sleeping was much more comfortable this modest room than it would have been in the loft, so she asked that the opulent space be turned into her office.

Sorcha forced herself to stand and shuffled across her room to her wardrobe. Opening the mirrored doors, she stood and stared at the outfit that hung inside. A simple gown of charcoal grey velvet, adorned with an ornately embroidered sash of crimson silk. Today was her coronation. She would be made Inquisitor.


 

Sorcha walked the aisle of the Great Hall alone. The walls of the expansive space were lined with her inner circle, advisors, and honored guests. Rank and file Inquisition members packed the balcony, and children were raised to sit upon shoulders.The warm sun filtered in through the grandiose stained glass windows that made the west wall, and she stepped further into the enveloping light as she approached the dais. Standing on either side of her ornate throne were the Hands of the Divine, Cassandra on the right, and Leliana on the left. Her friends smiled at her warmly as she drew nearer.

With slow and deliberate steps, Sorcha reached the stone platform, lowered herself onto one knee, and bowed her head.

“Sorcha Trevelyan, Herald of Andraste and Seeker of Truth,” Cassandra spoke loudly, her smooth voice echoing off the stone walls, “you have been chosen to lead us - the Inquisition - into battle against the darkness of evil and chaos. Your faith in Andraste’s light and perseverance in the quest for peace have brought an end of the war between Templars and mages.”

“Do you swear,” Leliana added, ”to execute the Inquisition’s mission of pursuing peace and justice in these uncertain times?”

Sorcha lifted her head and met Leliana’s gaze. Her blue eyes were beaming with pride. Sorcha took a deep breath, and said, “Yes, I swear.” She projected her voice so loudly that it had even taken her by surprise as it echoed throughout the hall.

“There would be no Inquisition without you,” Cassandra admitted. She took a single step forward with her long legs and, stopping in front of Sorcha’s kneeling figure, raised a ceremonial longsword in her hands like an offering for all in attendance to see. The golden hilt and polished silverite blade gleamed in the sunlight.

“From this moment onward,” Cassandra boomed as she placed the sword in Sorcha’s steady hands, “you, Sorcha Trevelyan, will be known as the Inquisitor. May this sword remind you of your duty as the Inquisition’s instrument of strength.” The Divine’s Right Hand pivoted to the side, making room for the Left.

Leliana lifted a diadem of simple design - gold entwined with silverite, and inlaid with obsidian and rubies - for all to see.

“May this diadem remind you of your duty as the Inquisition’s instrument of conscience,” Leliana offered, placing the precious metal band atop Sorcha’s head.

Once crowned, Sorcha rose to her feet and took her place in between the Hands of the Divine. She felt out of place, yet part of her felt that she was right where she belonged. While she’d never asked to lead, it seemed that her strong faith and years of dedication had culminated to this - becoming the Inquisitor. She was Andraste’s Herald, and she would forge ahead in building peace, with help from the Divine’s closest allies. Turning to face the crowd, she raised the sword into the air, careful to not let her nerves defy her.

“Mage or Templar, friend or foe, whatever we were before, we are now the Inquisition. May peace and justice be delivered by our hand!” Her voice was clear and authoritative, her tone unwavering. She was the official head of the Inquisition; she would lead them, or fall.

The attendees erupted into cheers and applause. Sorcha sheathed the ornate sword and stepped down from the dais, but instead of walking alone, Cassandra and Leliana walked shoulder to shoulder behind her, with Sebastian and Cullen falling into step behind them. Together, the core of the Inquisition made their way out to the gardens, where a celebratory feast was waiting.


 

The festivities lasted long into the night. The garden was illuminated by candles, lanterns, and magical fireflies conjured by some party-going mages. Pale, colored wisps lit the outer corridors and stairwells like a fairy-tale palace. The joviality spilled out from the garden, bringing all areas of Skyhold into the celebration.

Having drank and danced their way to The Herald’s Rest, Sorcha and Sebastian sat at a rear table with Cassandra, Hawke and Dorian. The group’s laughter blended with that of the other drinkers, lending to the raucousness in the air.

The five of them had been playing a drinking game involving coins and ale. The loser of the round had to drink, so no one tried very hard to win. After emptying his tankard, Sebastian excused himself to get another round for the table. Rising to his unsteady feet, he wobbled for a moment before finding his balance. Grinning proudly, he turned on his heel and carefully made his way toward the bar. Rolling her eyes, Hawke stood as well.

“I’ll go help Prince Pickled and make sure he doesn’t get lost or drop all the fucking drinks,” she snorted before following Sebastian.

Cassandra lifted her mug to her smiling lips for another swig, but she froze when her eyes locked onto someone entering the tavern. She slowly lowered her drink, and without averting her gaze, grabbed Sorcha’s hand.

“Maker, help me Sorcha,” Cassandra hissed. “Who is that ?”

Sorcha, who was sitting with her back to the door, started to turn around. “Who-”

“Wait!” Cassandra ordered with a hoarse whisper. “Don’t. Move. He’s walking this way.”

Sorcha heard footfalls approach from behind, and immediately Cassandra’s gaze became as predatory as a cougar’s. So did Dorian’s. Sorcha’s interest was immediately piqued.

“Pardon my intrusion, ladies and gentleman,” a smooth Fereldan voice crooned. “But I bear greetings for the Inquisitor.”

Sorcha glanced at Cassandra, who was staring at her wide-eyed. Now doubly curious as to who was addressing her, Sorcha rose to her feet and spun to meet the stranger.

“Lady Trevelyan - I mean, Your Worship,” he said, his voice like liquid velvet. He reached for Sorcha’s hand, and while holding her gaze, placed a gentle kiss to her knuckles. His lips were as soft as silk and his eyes were an enchanting steely grey. “How lucky the Inquisition is, to be led by a woman of such beauty and intellect.”

Sorcha was speechless. His was a face that she had not seen for a very, very long time. She considered the man for a moment, unsure of how to proceed.

“Nathaniel Howe,” Sorcha replied, finally coming to her senses. “It’s been a long time, my Lord.” He flashed her a warm smile and lifted his other hand to cover hers.

“Please, just Nate,” he insisted. “It’s wonderful to see you again, Sorcha. Congratulations on your new station.”

“Thank you,” she said out of reflex. That must have been the hundredth time that night that she’d been congratulated on becoming The Inquisitor. “What brings you to Skyhold?”  

“Business, actually,” he said. “I’m here to meet -”

“Nate Howe? Is that you?” Sebastian interrupted, as he returned to the table with a fistful of tankards. With the spell of disbelief over Sorcha broken by Sebastian’s voice, she quickly removed her hand from Nathaniel’s grasp as Nathaniel shifted to face the Prince.

“Sebastian?” Nathaniel asked incredulously. Sebastian set the tankards down roughly on the table and embraced the visiting nobleman, who looked slightly uncomfortable at being accosted by a drunk.

“By the Maker, it’s great to see you,” Sebastian said. Releasing Nathaniel, Sebastian put his arm around Sorcha and rested his hand on the small of her back, before gesturing to Cassandra and Dorian. “Have you met Seeker Pentaghast and Master Pavus?”

Cassandra blushed slightly as Nathaniel reached across the table for her hand and kissed it softly. Dorian arched a brow and smirked as he stood and returned Nathaniel’s low bow. Sebastian then turned to Sorcha, and grinned proudly.

“And this magnificent creature is Lady Sorcha Trevelyan, Herald of Andraste, Inquisitor, and my fiancee.”

Sorcha smiled softly as she noticed a flash of surprise and disappointment cross Nathaniel’s handsome face. “We’ve met, Seb,” she said simply. “Nate says he’s here on business.”

“Ah,” Sebastian said, tugging at the hem of his vest. “So what is it that you are into these days, Nate? Real estate? Shipping?”

Nathaniel looked annoyed for a moment before quickly donning the mask of a gentleman. He opened his mouth to answer but a loud voice interrupted him.

“I’m afraid his business is Grey Warden business,” Hawke interjected as she returned to the table carrying a bottle of brandy and five glasses. She set the liquor down and warmly shook Nathaniel’s hand. She leaned forward and spoke quietly in his ear before gesturing toward the door.

“Sorry to steal the fresh meat away,” Hawke said, staring right at Cassandra and Dorian, “but this can’t wait.”

“We understand, Hawke,” Sebastian said obliviously. He slapped his hand onto Nathaniel’s shoulder. “Come find us when you’re free. We need to catch up.”

The handsome Warden offered Sebastian a conciliatory smile and bowed shallowly. “Absolutely,” he replied. He turned to Sorcha, and his face softened. “Your Worship.” Being a man of manners, he bowed to the others at the table as well. “Lady Pentaghast, Master Pavus.”   

All nodded to acknowledge his departure, but Cassandra’s eyes never once left the Warden, following him until he was out of sight.

“Keep your paws off of him, mage,” an inebriated Cassandra warned Dorian. “I saw him first!”

Dorian chuckled and preened his mustache. “My dear Seeker, for someone who’s made a life of looking for the truth, you’ve clearly missed the obvious.”

“Oh?” Cassandra asked, her eyes narrowing as she leaned nearer to Dorian. “And what exactly would that be?”

“He eyed me up like a decadent dessert,” Dorian sniffed. “He looked at you like a lint-riddled toffee.”

“Did… did you just call me an old pocket candy?” Cassandra asked incredulously, her eyes narrowing into a warning glare.

The mage tipped back his drink and set the tumbler down gently. “Yes. Complete with dirt and wrapped in random hairs.”

“I don’t need to hear about what your dates find when you disrobe, Dorian,” the Seeker smugly muttered into her mug.

“I’d say that’s better than the bats and cobwebs that your admirers find,” he sniffed before standing and adjusting his coat. With that, Dorian bolted out of the tavern. Cassandra sat wide-eyed a moment before blinking slowly and taking off after him, leaving toppled chairs and patrons in her wake.

“I hope Dorian’s a fast runner,” Sorcha snorted into her tankard.

“Why?” Sebastian asked.

“If she catches him, it will take three people to break the headlock!”

“Right,” Sebastian sighed as he took Sorcha’s hand in his. “Let’s rescue our necromancer.”


Anders sighed happily as he sank into the padded armchair. It had been a very long time since he’d been able to relax by a fire, put his feet up and enjoy losing himself in a book. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more it seemed that he had never been able to enjoy the simple things in life, without the constant fear of losing it all.

He glanced around the tower that the Inquisition had offered for the Grey Wardens’ use. The main floor was a comfortable common room, with armchairs, sofas, bookshelves filled with tomes both popular and obscure, and a large stone fireplace that warmed the room even on the coldest of mountain nights. The second floor was sleeping quarters, complete with cots and warm blankets. And the third floor was the office, where official Warden business was held. The Inquisitor had ordered that they be given privacy, and so far no one had tried to meddle in Warden affairs.

That privacy was more than welcome. While no one who knew his secret ever addressed him by anything other than “O’Malley”, he allowed his guard down somewhat in order to enjoy Skyhold. He and Hawke had a roof over their head, food in their bellies, and a locking door between them and the outside world that allowed sleep to come more easily.

It was easy for Anders to see how the Inquisitor managed to win the hearts and loyalty of nearly everyone she met. He had been surprised when she had called for a closed meeting as soon as they reached Skyhold. With Hawke guarding the doors against the uninvited, he and the Inquisitor had met with Cullen, Bethany and Sebastian, to decide how Sorcha should handle his secret.

Sorcha was respectful, saying that his secret wasn’t hers to tell, and in fact was adamant that his true identity be kept from the rest of the Inquisition. Anders agreed with her wholeheartedly; no one needed to know that the unassuming Grey Warden sitting next to them was really the apostate who blew up the Kirkwall Chantry.

Anders had let it all out that night and vented his reasons for taking horrendously strong action against the Chantry. It had been years since he’d spoken of it, and when he did feel like talking, it was only to Hawke. That was a dark time, and he had been in a bad place. Memories of the screaming lingered as constant reminder of voices now silenced, and the sound of the blast beat within his thoughts like a murderous drum.

His mind was a reeking and bloody battlefield, in constant conflict between the good and bad that he had done. He sat in constant judgement of himself, and though he’d try to remember the lives he’d saved, his guilt was heavy. He had killed innocent people to make a point, and regretted every choice which lead to their deaths.

Anders had begun his confession with his past, appealing to Seeker Trevelyan, not The Inquisitor. He had put into words the ill-treatment and abuse he had suffered at the Ferelden Circle. Cullen had corroborated his testimony; while Anders’ final escape had taken place shortly after Cullen had begun his duties there, Cullen had agreed that some within Order looked down upon mages, and most mistreatment went unpunished. Some Templars took great pleasure in keeping their boots pressed to the necks of mages, especially the troublesome ones. There had been much swept under the rug at the Ferelden Circle tower.

Anders had continued the story with his capture and confinement at Vigil’s Keep, and his unexpected conscription by the Hero of Ferelden. She had saved his life as he was about to be dragged away by a malicious Templar with a grudge: Knight-Lieutenant Rylock. It was then that the Warden mage had noticed the Seeker’s eyes flash with anger and then soften with empathy.

Suppressing his curiosity toward her reaction, he’d told of being sent across the Veil by powerful darkspawn magic and meeting a spirit of Justice, who was caught within the spell that returned Anders and his party to this side of the Veil. The spirit had possessed the corpse of a vigilant Warden, only because he was trapped and needed a host.

Anders had explained that Justice had had access to Warden Kristoff’s memories, which helped it follow its purpose, administering justice by killing darkspawn and avenging Kristoff’s death. The spirit had begun learning about this world, and sought to continue the Warden’s work.

Once the corpse had become too decomposed, however, the spirit began worrying about its own death. Anders watched Sorcha’s reaction to the revelation that he had no intention of offering himself as host, until it was suggested by his fellow Wardens. The Seeker seemed awestruck, and very confused. She asked Anders for clarification, as the situation had indeed been complex.

“No, I did not summon a demon,” Anders had insisted. “Nor did I succumb to one in the Fade. I was merely trying to save a friend.”

Neither Anders nor Justice knew exactly what would happen after merging. Had they known, they might have done things differently. Anders was focused on self-preservation, too full of anger and fear. He was afraid to act against those who oppressed mages and make himself a larger target, and his refusal to seek justice for the marginalized caused the spirit within him to change.

But it wasn’t until he saw first-hand the horrors of Kirkwall that his sense of self became blurred. To see his dear friend Karl - a harrowed mage - made tranquil, and the terrors Meredith inflicted upon those who tried to do right by mages, made him notice that Justice had changed. The spirit had grown angry and frustrated. It had spoken to him day and night about avenging those that felt the Templars’ ire. He had tried to reason with Justice - to explain that things were complicated; after all, Anders was a healer - compassionate and empathetic. But perhaps his empathetic nature was what ultimately drove him to begin seeking vengeance. He had been picking up on Justice’s emotions and they mingled dangerously with his own desires for mage rights and freedoms.

Anders had given Elthina the opportunity to take a stand and call for peace, but the woman had remained frustratingly neutral. She wouldn’t acknowledge the mages’ suffering at the hands of the Templars. She wouldn’t discuss how or why so many harrowed mages were being made Tranquil. She wouldn’t call for Meredith to stand down. She wouldn’t hear Orsino’s pleas for fairness. She was just letting them destroy one another, and Kirkwall, too.

“Surely you didn’t blame the Grand Cleric for all injustices meted out by the Templars?” Sebastian shouted at him from across the table. “She was Andraste’s shepherd, tending the flock of the faithful. She was not an evil tyrant!”

Anders noticed Sorcha’s hands clench into tight fists and shake for a moment before relaxing.

“She did have a duty to mages as well, Sebastian,” Sorcha replied sharply. “They, too, were part of her flock. She could have lent her voice to peace long before it was unattainable.”

“And she deserved to be murdered for that?” the Prince fired back.

“You left town before it got really bad,” Anders reminded Sebastian. “Meredith ordered Bethany to be made Tranquil, just to hurt Hawke.” His eyes darted across the table, noting the reactions of the Herald and the Prince. “Elthina allowed that monster to walk freely while good people like Karl and Bethany would see the brand for being born gifted.”

Sorcha, looking shocked, turned to Cullen, who nodded solemnly in confirmation.

“They were on their way to the Harrowing Chamber with the branding iron when the explosion happened,” Cullen claimed. “Meredith herself was going to make Beth Tranquil just for being Hawke’s sister.” His shoulders slumped as he sighed. “I couldn’t stop her either. She had a retinue of twenty men, while I was alone. I used the diversion of the explosion to run to the Harrowing Chamber and free her.”

Bethany stepped to the table beside her husband and took his hand; Cullen lifted hers to his lips and kissed it quickly “I’ll never forget the sight of her in tattered robes, beaten and chained to a pillar,” he continued, his voice rough with distress. “Her eyes were swollen nearly shut, and tears streaked her face.” His tone then hardened and he stood up straight. “I decided right then and there to help Hawke and the others against the cruelty of the Order. I killed two of my brothers - Bethany’s guards - to reach her, and as soon as I removed the chains, she collapsed in my arms. I carried her to safety and joined Hawke in the fight against Meredith.”

“So you condone Anders’ actions?” Sorcha asked Cullen firmly. Anders’ brother-in-law looked at him for a moment before answering the Seeker.

“I can understand why action had to be taken, Herald,” Cullen replied. “I don’t agree with the methods that were taken, but, if I am to be honest, I am thankful for them. The explosion saved the love of my life, and I will both thank the Maker and seek his forgiveness for that until my last breath.”

Anders watched as Sorcha contemplated her commander’s testimony. Her lips stretched into a grimace and she held gloved fingers to her forehead.

“Elthina could have waylaid the path that Meredith was on,” Anders added defensively. “She could have done so much more, but instead she chose to do nothing. I wasn’t thinking about the innocent victims of my actions, only about the innocent victims that fell by Elthina’s inaction. I was angry. We were angry. We were blinded by vengeance then, but we are different now.”

Sebastian jumped across the table and managed to grasp Anders’ cowl firmly, landing a hard and well-placed punch to the mage’s jaw.

“Different now?” Sebastian yelled, pulling his arm back for another strike. “You are still an abomination! You murdered in cold blood!” he grit through his teeth as he landed another blow. “How many children were crushed by debris? How many orphans were created by your wrath?”

Anders didn’t fight back; he felt he deserved every solid punch. Cullen leapt to his defense, pulling the raging Prince off of the table and backing him to the corner. Sebastian raised his hands in deference and leaned back against the wall, before crossing his arms over his chest and remaining silent.

Anders lowered his gaze and rubbed his jaw. He continued his testimony, explaining that Elthina’s indifference was Justice’s last straw. The spirit had all but convinced Anders that something big needed to happen. The Chantry had to be made to really see . So they did something that the Chantry could not ignore.

Justice’s rage quieted somewhat after the explosion, Anders told them. The spirit seemed to retreat to some hidden corner of his mind. That gave Anders the opportunity to see things again with his own eyes, as himself, rather than the host to an angry spirit.

He was in agony over the deaths of innocents. His heart was breaking with each breath he took. He wanted to die, he deserved to die for what he had done. But Hawke had spared him. She’d needed him in the fight, and he was determined not let her down again.

Since that day, he’d been on a path of atonement, doing what he could, whenever he could, to repair the damage caused by his transgression.

“What would you have me do?” Sorcha asked the others. “I haven’t forgotten what he’s done to help the Inquisition thus far, but I also haven’t forgotten Kirkwall. He’s your family. Would you speak for him?”

Bethany and Hawke both swore on the graves of their parents that Anders was a decent man with a kind heart, whom they trusted with their very lives. Cullen stepped forward and added that he’d come to know Anders well, and trusted him when he said that he was on the path of atonement. Cullen admitted that he had done injustices to mages as well during his time as a Templar, and that he, too, was different now.

“People can change,” the commander said. “They can