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Nas'isalathe

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Ash and snow clouded the air, and it was hard to tell one from the other—especially against the backdrop of the Breach, a swirling maelstrom of dark roiling clouds and sickening chartreuse energies that pierced the sky and crowded it with slabs of rock and debris. On the ground, the snow was mottled with the fluids of the dead, dying, and terrified. The crisp winter air did nothing to dull the horrid odor of loose bowels and spilled blood, and the crows were already gathering to feast on the bodies of fallen soldiers. Two women, a Dalish elf and a human, ran along a snow-choked path, breath clouding the air around them. The elf gave a cry and pitched forward onto hands and knees.

Sweat sluiced down Lasater Lavellan's spine despite the chill of wet snow soaking through the knees and shins of her trousers. Pain shredded the nerves of her left arm as the glowing gash in her palm reacted to the Breach. She gripped herself around the wrist, applying pressure as if to stem the tide of pain lancing up her forearm and the miasma of green light that spilled from the supernatural wound. A cry tore from her throat without permission, tears tracking down her grimy face, but the tall, tanned human merely moved to help her back to her feet.

"Are you alright? I realize I do not even know your name." Cassandra Pentaghast, Right Hand of the Divine and Seeker of Truth, stooped to wrap an arm beneath Lasater's right armpit.

Lasater clutched at Cassandra's neck, and the Seeker easily took her weight. They stumbled as they found the right balance. Lasater tucked herself against the human, and time stilled. She was acutely aware of the heat of Cassandra's body even through their armor, the heady scent under her nose where it pressed into the Seeker's neck. Cassandra's scent filled her, tugged at her. Leather and musk, stale sweat and the metallic tang of blood, a hint of dawn lotus soap and loamy earth. She felt a stab of heat in her lower belly and gasped, sagging as arousal bloomed below. Oh, shit.

Cassandra held her up but drew back to look at the woman's face, one hand clutching her waist and the other holding her elbow. The Dalish elf's pale skin was flushed, making the scars on her lips and chin stand out. She had a light brown vallaslin tattooed over the left eye, and her lashes were impossibly thick and dark. Eyes like a spring meadow were cast down beneath them. The Seeker waited, concern etched into her features.

"I—I'll be fine. Let's just keep moving."

"And your name?"

"Lasater. Of Clan Lavellan."

Cassandra nodded, gently squeezed with her gloved hands. "Well met, Lasater of Clan Lavellan. I wish it weren't under such dire circumstances." The Seeker turned back down the trail at a run.

"Or suspicions," Lasater muttered to herself. She followed Cassandra at a slow jog, aghast at what was happening at the apex of her legs. Her heat had ended just two weeks past, and she was not supposed to have another until summer. Was the Breach doing this? The mark on her hand? Her eyes drifted to the sway of the Seeker's ass as she ran, and she had to bite her lip to keep from whimpering. Etunash!

Before long, demons were falling out of the sky and into their path, and Lasater thanked the Creators for the discarded longbow and half-full quiver of arrows. She slung the quiver onto her back and tested the bowstring as she ran across the frozen lake to higher ground. Cassandra charged into melee with a shout, and Lasater pulled an arrow from her quiver. She was a blur of motion on the field, moving to flank each abomination that Cassandra closed with. Arrow after arrow found its mark until the demons were reduced to steaming piles of putrid ichor. Her feet carried her back to Cassandra's side—the building heat between her legs demanded it—and her nostrils flared ever so as she breathed in the musky human. The musky human tar’adahl’lav. How could this be? Though she rarely allowed the admission to fully form, she was in love with another, had been for as long as she could remember. Except for their time together so many years ago, her body had never craved an alpha with such intensity. Shit.

Lasater licked at the sweat on her upper lip, nearly breathless. "It's done."

Cassandra turned, and her lip curled into a snarl. She held her sword out, threatening, "Drop your weapon! Now."

The hair on the back of her neck stood up at the command in Cassandra's voice. There was a pulse lower, and she swallowed, "Alright. Have it your way." She lowered her bow and prepared to remove the quiver. She wondered if she even had the will to resist. The nas'athlan, her heat, had her in its unforgiving grip already.

"Wait." Cassandra sheathed her sword. "As much as I want to, I cannot protect you, and I cannot expect you to be defenseless. I should remember that you came willingly." She looked at the sloping path ahead of them and sighed. "Here, take these potions." She drew four vials from a pouch at her waist and handed them to Lasater.

The elf took them with her right hand and tucked them into her belt, "Thank you."

Cassandra's head pounded, her gut twisting. Something about this elf called to her like a siren luring a sailor to his death, and it was discomforting to say the very least. She responded mechanically when Lasater inquired about the location of the rest of her soldiers. What was happening? She was frightened, as anyone would be with a hole suddenly torn in the sky, but her training allowed her to push fear and doubt aside in the face of duty. So why did the elf's presence make her so edgy? It stirred something deep within, something just out of reach, and it made her shake her head as if to clear a fog from her mind. Her eyes were drawn to the Breach, and she felt a surge of rage wash over her. All of those lives. The Divine. Her long legs pushed the pace of her run, and before long, they came upon a cluster of demons, and her unsteady thoughts turned to battle.

Her sword sung as it hacked through shades, and her shield rang as demonic claws raked the steel. Her adrenaline pulsed in her ears, and when a demon began to close with Lasater, the overwhelming urge to protect rent a feral howl from her chest. The demon turned at the primal sound, and Cassandra lunged toward it, slamming her shield into its upper body to drive it back before following with a precise slash from her blade. Its twisted mouth opened, and its cry chilled Cassandra's blood.

Lasater danced out of the demon's reach as Cassandra closed with it and nocked another arrow. It left her fingertips with a satisfying fwip and sunk into the shade's gaping eye socket. The otherworldly creature disintegrated into a hissing puddle that melted the ice beneath it. Before steam could even begin to rise, Lasater had pierced the smoke-like body of a wraith with another arrow, and Cassandra moved to draw its attention away from the elf. It went like this, each keeping a protective eye on the other while cutting a path through to the outer edges of what remained of the temple.

Lasater swore she could smell the neutral musk of an adahl’lav underneath the stench of charred death and horror. She did not allow her gaze to linger long on the crumpled corpses that littered the ground.

Ahead, a bald elven mage—the beta she had smelled—twirled a staff in his long tapered fingers, hurling crystalline balls of ice into a fray of demons and soldiers. A dwarf with an impressive-looking crossbow and exposed pelt of chest hair skirted the edge of combat, cranking bolts into the demons that swarmed from the rift.

The grinding metallic crunch of the swirling green rift nauseated Lasater, and her knees buckled. Cassandra kept her from falling with a tight arm around her waist. She pressed to the human's side, and cursed the pain that radiated from her hand, draining her of strength.

"I have you," Cassandra murmured and angled the shield to cover them both. She caught an energy blast from a wraith with the steel, and a tiny part of Lasater knew that she would do anything for this Seeker of Truth.

The clash was suddenly over, but the rift still undulated and pulsed. The bald elf crossed to Lasater's side. He grabbed her left wrist and dragged her forward out of the Seeker's arm. "Quickly! Before more come through!" He thrust her hand up, palm out, toward the rift.

Cassandra growled and snapped her teeth at Solas's approach, but before she could pull Lasater back, an arc of green energy connected her marked hand to the rift. The Seeker's legs ached to step back, but she could not bear to leave the Lasater unprotected. She steeled herself, renewed the grip on her longsword and shield, and stepped up beside Lasater. A terrible noise rattled her clenched jaw as Lasater's mark sapped energy from the rift. Green tendrils licked up the woman's arm, and Cassandra nearly yelled in fear for the elf's life. The rift closed with a crack, an intake of air, and a flurry of ash and snow.

Lasater sagged against Cassandra, unable to hold herself up as the rift energy left her arm numb and body drained, and she looked to the other elf. "What did you do?"

"I did nothing. The credit is yours." He seemed smug.

"Well, at least this is good for something," Lasater looked at the mark that throbbed on her palm. She felt Cassandra's arm tighten around her waist.

The mage continued, "Whatever magic opened the Breach in the sky also placed that mark upon your hand. I theorized the mark might be able to close the rifts that have opened in the Breach's wake—and it seems I was correct."

"Meaning it could also close the Breach itself," Cassandra posited.

"Possibly." He settled his gaze on Lasater. "It seems you hold the key to our salvation."

The dwarf finally spoke as he fidgeted with his gloves. "Good to know! Here I thought we'd be ass-deep in demons forever." He sauntered toward them, a smile tugging up one corner of his wide mouth. "Varric Tethras: rogue, storyteller, and occasionally, unwelcome tagalong." He winked at Cassandra. The Seeker sneered.

"Lasater Lavellan. That's a nice crossbow you have there." She started to pull away from Cassandra, but the Seeker held her fast. She felt sturdier on her feet now, the feeling returning to her arm, but the warmth of Cassandra was too enticing.

"Isn't she? Bianca and I have been through a lot together."

"You named your crossbow Bianca?" Lasater liked Varric already.

"Of course, and she'll be great company in the valley."

Cassandra broke away from Lasater and tromped toward Varric. "Absolutely not. Your help is appreciated, Varric, but—"

"Have you been in the valley lately, Seeker? Your soldiers aren't in control anymore. You need me."

Cassandra practically spit and turned away from him. Her hard gaze softened when it fell upon Lasater.

The bald elf interjected, "My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions. I am pleased to see you still live."

Varric tsked, "He means, 'I kept that mark from killing you while you slept.'"

Lasater narrowed her eyes at Solas, "You seem to know a great deal about it all." She could not tell if her distrust stemmed from her heat or something else entirely.

Cassandra regarded Lasater with warm look, and the omega felt herself instantly calm as the Seeker explained, "Solas is an apostate, well-versed in such matters."

"Technically all mages are now apostates, Cassandra." He drawled on, but Lasater wasn't listening. Instead, she realized that this man might know how to help with her heat. His hubris was clearly founded in a great wealth of experience and knowledge.

"…are all doomed, regardless of origin."

Etunash, Lasater. Pay attention. This could be the end of the world, and you're acting like…Oh no, I'm still not listening.

"I'm sorry, Solas. I'm having a difficult time with…all of this. Could you repeat that?"

"I understand." He held her eyes for a moment, flared his nostrils with an almost imperceptible raise of his brows.

Dammit, he can already smell my nas'athlan.

"I said that I came to offer whatever help I can give with the Breach. If it is not closed, we are all doomed."

"Doomed? Is that all? And what will you, an elven apostate, do when this is all over?"

"One hopes those in power will remember who helped and who did not." He turned to the Seeker. "Cassandra, you should know: the magic involved here is unlike any I've seen. Your prisoner is no mage. Indeed, I find it difficult to imagine any mage having such power."

She nodded, jaw squared. "Understood. We must get to the forward camp quickly."

Solas moved ahead, and Cassandra followed. The gravity of situation gripped the Seeker, but her focus rested entirely on Lasater's presence and the distance between them.

The banter was light as they trudged up the side of the valley, but Lasater's gut knotted with anxiety. Her left hand throbbed. They were nearing a rift, which meant more demons and more sucking putrid green magic into her palm. But Cassandra was close, and they adopted a natural harmony against the demons. It was simultaneously comforting and alarming, but there was no time to dwell just yet. She wasn't even sure she would live to see the end of the day. The tear in the sky was…immense, and her eyes fixed upon it as they finally made it to the forward camp.

Chapter Text

Solas stepped inside moments after the meek elf girl left. Lasater was too stunned to react to his entrance. She'd been unconscious for three days after stopping the Breach's growth with the mark on her hand. Her nas'athlan broiled between her legs, an insistent throb. She had been marinating in own hormones for the last three days. The room certainly stunk of her. With a shaking breath, she regarded Solas.

"I know Seeker Pentaghast wanted to speak with you as soon as you awoke, but we have something to discuss before that, don't you think?" He clasped his hands behind his back and took a few steps toward the bed.

"My heat. I-I don't know why it's here. I've already had two this year. Do you think the Breach could have triggered it?" She hoped that was it and not the Seeker. Not someone other than Shiva, and certainly not a human. Clan Lavellan was amenable to humans, but mating with one—that could lead to exile. Mating? What an inappropriate thing to be thinking about right now, Lasater. She squeezed her thighs together in a feeble attempt to lessen the ache and distance herself from runaway trains of thought.

"Perhaps. Regardless of why, we must consider what you must do. You will have to take a mate. There is still much work to be done, and you will be an integral part of it. You cannot let your nas'athlan distract you from the path ahead."

"Take a mate—it's as simple as that?"

"Yes. We lack the necessary herbs to suppress it, but we can prevent pregnancy."

"Dammit." She swung her legs over the side of the bed, rested her elbows on her thighs. "And where am I supposed to find someone to…satisfy it?" She could feel the crotch of her smallclothes clinging to her damp vulva.

"You will have to speak with the Seeker, of course. We both know it is her who your body so craves."

She didn't want him to be right, but just imagining Cassandra made her pulse race. She could feel the moisture seeping between her lower lips. She suddenly felt like crying.

"If you wish, I will help you discuss it with her. She does not seem to know what is happening, but she is clearly affected: aggressive, protective. She visits you several times a day, paces, and huffs, and harasses the staff. This will most likely be wholly new experience for her."

Lasater balled her fists at her sides, pinched her eyes shut. "I can't believe this is happening now. I…I thought I'd already found my nas'isalathe."

"I am sorry. Go and speak with Seeker Pentaghast. Once your business is concluded with her, come and find me by the apothecary. Bring her, and we will talk with her."

"Very well. Thank you, I think."

Solas nodded and left her to dress.

 

A'uthvir edged into the room, barely opening the door to squeeze inside, and crept to the Seeker's side. Cassandra was grateful to see the skittish elf because it kept her from strangling the chancellor. She bent so the elf could talk into her ear.

"She's awake, my lady."

Cassandra straightened, inexplicably thrilled. It was all she could do not to shove everyone out of her way and run to Lasater's side. Instead, she rotated her shoulders and nodded. "Thank you."

The elf scurried out, and Cassandra made a move to follow.

"Where do you think you're going?" Chancellor Roderick demanded.

"To see the Herald—to see Lavellan."

"You told her to come see you as soon as she awoke, did you not? So you can wait like the rest of us. I am not through with either of you." He stabbed a finger at Cassandra and Leliana in turn, his features twisted into a disgusted scowl.

Cassandra imagined smashing a chair over his head. How dare he stand between her and her—what? What was Lasater to her? Why was she so damned…alluring? Was this the Maker's will, that she stand beside someone so touched by Andraste? Was that what she truly believed? It was all too surreal. She crossed her arms and returned the chancellor's sour expression.

 

The next hours were a blur. Lasater kept thinking back to her walk through Haven as people lined the paths to stare at her. They called her the Herald of Andraste, and while it made her exceptionally uneasy, the tremor in her thighs and the slickness between them pressed more heavily on her mind.

Cassandra had been unsurprisingly protective in their argument with the chancellor. Still, hearing the human speak on her behalf was thrilling, and sexy, even if it was only because Cassandra's body was responding to an omega in heat. Lasater's attention kept drifting to the musk that surrounded the Seeker, and she yearned to be alone with her, to smell only that delectable scent, and to talk about what was probably going to happen to her body. The conversation would be painful, likely agonizing, but even the faintest hope that Cassandra would be agreeable to the situation kept her clit hard and her slit slick. Creators, it would feel so incredible to have her thrusting inside, and—No! Focus, Lasater. Focus.

Her mind roiled in a similar fashion for the rest of the conversation, even as Cassandra admitted that she believed the Maker had sent the elf to save them, even as Cassandra slammed the huge tome on the table and declared the Inquisition's rebirth. And then Cassandra extended her hand, asked Lasater to help them. She slipped her palm into Cassandra's and nearly shuddered at the warmth she could feel bleeding through the Seeker's gloves. The moment narrowed into a singular experience, their scents mingling, eyes locking, hands touching, heart pounding in her ears, in her clit, in her opening. She stepped back and withdrew her hand while a thin line of fluid meandered down the inside of her thigh. She thought she could smell herself, wondered if she'd imagined Cassandra's nostrils flaring as the distance between them had closed and hands clasped.

Everything around her resumed normal speed as the Chancellor stormed out. She took a shaky breath and regarded Cassandra with what she hoped was a calm expression, "Do you have a moment, Lady Pentaghast?"

Leliana spoke up before the Seeker could respond, "I'm afraid not, Lady Lavellan. There is much work to be done. Cassandra must brief Commander Cullen and the troops. I must notify my contacts. Lady Montilyet will need a word with you to prepare a statement. Come," the hooded redhead crooked her finger, and Lasater wanted to lay on the floor in protest. She followed, instead, and it was not until the next day that she could speak to Cassandra.

Chapter Text

The Herald of Andraste woke covered in sweat, the thighs of her breeches sodden with nighttime arousal. She reached for the pitcher of water that sat by her bedside and drank straight from it. She was unbearably hot, mouth dry, and could think only of rutting. It was going to be a difficult day.

Her previous heat had been very mild. Because her clan was so open to trading and because it had a larger than average number of omegas, heats were treated with a regimen of herbs to keep it from stirring the blood of the alphas and betas that might visit their aravels. Once she left the clutches of her oppressive Keeper, she said venavis to the suppressants. They did prevent the need to mate with an alpha, but they also left her feeling depressed and downtrodden once the heat had passed. It was too difficult in a clan that disapproved of same-sex coupling to find a suitable lover to help with her heat, so she relied on her fingers and carved phallus to get through the most frustrating parts. Still, she yearned for the uth'dian'the, the never-ending fullness of being knotted and tied, by her nas'isalathe, the alpha her body sang for.

She had only been knotted once. It had been the most exquisite moment of her life, but the aftermath left a weeping wound in her heart. The Keeper's daughter, Shivaelan, had been sent to live with the Ralaferin clan when she matured into an alpha. Lasater had been well-acquainted with Shivaelan, who went by Shiva then, because they shared a hunting mentor. They had become close friends and did most everything together. Their parting was sudden and painful. Their hierarchical statuses presented around the same time—probably triggered by one another—and the Keeper could not allow an alpha to remain in a camp full of omegas. She sent her daughter to another clan even though Shiva would grow to hate her for it.

Lasater had not seen Shiva in more than a decade, but her scent was so familiar that she knew the incredibly well-muscled tree of a woman was nearby well before she strode within their camp's borders. Lasater was as taut as a new bowstring by the time Shivaelan entered the camp’s perimeter.

Several other omegas had left their aravels to gather by the fire where their Keeper stood and Shivaelan approached. It was a tense moment as the omegas regarded each other, flashes of jealousy causing a few to bristle and snarl defensively. Lasater pushed through them, entranced by the tugging scent of biscanna blossoms, the forest floor, and horse sweat. Lasater's heat had begun two days before, and the itch between her legs crooned for the imposing alpha, for her old friend.

Keeper Istimaethoriel held her arm in front of Lasater, "Stay your distance, Lasater. She will not be here long." She leveled a hard stare upon her daughter who stood aloof, arms loosely crossed in front of her small breasts. Shivaelan's stance may have been informal, but her eyes spoke of only steel and ferocity. The firelight illuminated the blood spatters on the alpha's hide armor and light brown skin. Muscles rippled in her forearms, and druffalo hide leggings strained against strong thighs. The alpha's head was shaved at the temples and around her long pointed ears, and a strip of light purple silk bound thick knotted ropes of sun-warmed chestnut hair to the base of her skull. Some of the knots bore little trinkets, and Lasater realized with a primal hunger that they were probably lovers' mementos.

The omega licked her lips.

"Mother, I come seeking aid, not to trade bitter words." Her eyes slid to Lasater for the briefest moment. "We have been tracking a herd, and it led us into the path of two giants today. We have wounded, and I would ask to share in your healing resources. We will camp elsewhere, and you may send whatever supplies and people you deem appropriate."

"You are sure that's what brought you here, Shivaelan? The herds you hunt do not come this far north." The Keeper spared a glance to the restless omegas behind her.

Shivaelan's brow furrowed, a sneer on her lips. "While your isal'arlateren do smell pleasant, you are uninformed. The herd flees the Blight. Now, I prefer to treat my wounded as quickly as possible, and then be on our way. We will repay you on your terms. You have Clan Ralaferin's word."

Lasater would have been more offended at the slur if it weren’t so accurate in that moment. All she wanted was for Shiva to take her, knot her, sate her heat.

Keeper Istimaethorial gave her an angry snarl—she'd been involuntarily pushing against the Keeper's outstretched arm to get closer to Shivaelan. "Return to your aravel, Lasater. Now."

Lasater involuntarily looked for Shivaelan's approval. The alpha's brows rose in surprise, but she nodded all the same. With a tiny growl, Lasater stalked back to her aravel.

 

She awoke with a start several bells later, her fingers still crooked inside her sore opening. She'd fucked herself to sleep, trying to ease the pounding that Shivaelan had encouraged in her loins. A word burned behind her eyes. Come .

The Ralaferin hunter summoned, a forbidden scent on the wind.

Lasater fell out of her aravel, clothes half-on and thighs still slick with release. She clutched her knife in one hand, just in case her scent was too much for other Ralaferin alphas to resist, and held up her unbuckled belt and unlaced trousers with the other. Her bare feet padded heavily through the camp and bordering forest, no effort given to stealth. If anyone in the Lavellan clan saw her, they did not bother following. Shivaelan's signal hung heavy in the humid air. Come dawn, everyone would know that Lasater had taken the visiting alpha, especially once their scents had adequate time to mingle.

Shivaelan's camp was a quarter of a bell away at a swift clip. After almost tripping on her pant legs, Lasater finally paused to lace up her trousers, fasten her buckle, and tuck her knife into her belt. She would not let not allow a twisted ankle to get in the way of responding to Shivaelan's consent, her request. Nor would she move at anything slower than a run. She stumbled beyond the ring of pikes the hunters had placed in a defensive perimeter and raised her nose to the air. Her old friend was so close, and only two other alphas stood in her path. They kept their distance, but she saw the flash of their bared teeth against the dark of the night. Low growls rumbled in their chests as she hurried past.

She burst through the flaps of Shivaelan's tent without preamble, and waves of pheromones rolled off the alpha. The Keeper's daughter was casually draped on a pallet of furs, snacking on fruit and flatbread. She was naked save for a loincloth that could barely contain her erection, and her chestnut ropes of hair draped loose over one shoulder to coil in the furs, leaving her long neck exposed. The knots were free of ornamentation. Her skin shimmered with sweat, seemed to glitter in the dim lantern-light, and it was the most beautiful sight of Lasater's life. Her breath left in a rush. She wanted to taste the salt and tang of Shiva, claim her lips, claim her cock and knot in the way that only an omega could.

When their eyes met, a surge of heat bloomed low in Lasater's belly, and she felt like a boiling pot of water, all wet heat and steam. Shivaelan's gaze burned with lust, and she beckoned with one finger. Lasater hesitated, eyes drawn to the tented linen at the apex of the alpha's legs. She ached for it in so many ways, so many places, but she was acutely aware of the unknown territory she'd just stumbled upon. While her previous lovers had all been female, none had been alphas.

Shivaelan could smell the slight tinge of fear underneath an ocean of fuck me scents coming from Lasater. She covered her clothed erection with a hand, breaking its spell over the omega. "I apologize for my boldness, Lasater, but I have thought about this moment for most of my life, long before I left. My desire got the best of me." She smiled, but her lips trembled with vulnerability. It tugged at the last shred of Lasater's trepidation, and she knelt on the furs, knees close to Shivaelan's muscular torso. Her eyes closed as the alpha's scent washed over her, and she groaned.

"Oh, Creators, you smell good."

"Drink deep, my little stone." Shiva cupped the back of Lasater's neck and pulled her forward until the omega's face was pressed into her neck. "It is so good to be here with you again."

Lasater groaned, inhaled, and kissed the skin beneath her lips. She couldn't help it. She had forgotten Shiva's nickname for her, and it made her eyes well with emotion. Her voice was uneven and low, "I've missed you so much, Shivaelan."

The alpha murmured, her hand still possessive against Lasater's neck. "I hope I am still just Shiva to you, my little stone."

The omega sat back to study Shiva's face, to trace trembling fingertips down her angular cheekbones. Her eyes were like the sunrise on a frozen lake. "Always, Shiva."

They smiled at one another, their expressions layered with old and new desire, unspoken sentiments, and premature melancholy for the inevitable separation.

"Tonight, I will take you slow, show you the love of my knot, but there will be no mating bites, no babies. You will drink a tonic in the morning, and one for any other night you spend in my tent."

Lasater swallowed but nodded. Her instincts tugged, yearned for the mating ritual of teeth and ties and taken seed, but a child between them would be too complicated. She wondered what would happen when the Keeper learned of their coupling. Her fingertips drifted to Shiva's lips, and the alpha kissed them reverently, eyes fluttering closed.

"I want to kiss you, Shiva."

"Then do." Shiva's eyes opened, blazing with challenge. She loosened the loincloth and exposed her erection to the humidity of the tent. She encircled herself with practiced fingers and stroked.

Lasater caught the alpha's lips in the sweetest kiss. She was not ready to see the proud cock jutting from Shiva's groin, but she could not resist touching it. As their kisses continued, she placed her hand over Shiva's and learned the pace of her strokes. Shiva's hand left her cock and rose to cup Lasater's face after a while. The omega ghosted a touch along Shiva's shaft and marveled at the feel of the alpha's need beneath her palm and fingers. It was as hard as ironbark, but the skin was soft and smooth and moved over the shaft as she curled fingers around it and pumped. It was a hot coal under her touch, and her thumb rubbed across the head where clear fluid beaded, smearing it along the shaft. Her strokes picked up, now aided by the alpha's precum. Oh, Creators. How can it feel this good? Her hand glided up and down the shaft, squeezing and twisting along its length, and Shiva could not stop her hips from responding.

"You have a knowing hand, little stone." Shiva lazily fucked into the omega's fist, her breath catching whenever Lasater did that thing with her thumb. "I wonder if your mouth is as wise?"

"Only one way to see." Her smile was wry as her confidence lifted. Shiva was just as hungry for this as she was. She pushed the alpha onto her back and pulled the loincloth away. A moan tumbled past her lips at the sight of Shiva's hardness as it arced and bobbed over the alpha's flat stomach. The shaft was so swollen, the tip an angry throbbing purple, and it glistened with the alpha's anticipation. Lasater closed her mouth around the prominent head before any hesitation could steal her nerves. Shiva gasped and jerked her hips.

"Yes," the alpha hissed. "Stroke me, too."

Lasater wrapped her fingers around the shaft and tried to take more of it into her mouth. She didn't like the way it stretched her jaw, though and settled her lips back around the head. Her fist moved along the shaft between her lips and Shiva's dark blonde curls. She moaned when the alpha's head tipped back, and arousal dripped onto her tongue. She hummed around the cockhead in her mouth—Shiva tasted so good—and the alpha whimpered at the sound vibrating down her shaft. Lasater laved her tongue over the head, dipped the tip into the tiny slit as if to encourage it to give up more of the alpha's arousal.

The pace of Shiva's thrusts increased, her breaths husky and staccato, and Lasater sensed that she was reaching a place where she would not be able to hold back or stop. The omega raised her head, and her hand's stroking slowed. "I can't decide if I want you to finish in my mouth or my…inside me." She bit her lower lip hard, suddenly shy at naming her need.

Shiva growled and sat up, seized by the tremble in the omega’s words. She pulled Lasater roughly to her, tangled calloused fingers in the omega's thick, straight black hair, and brought their mouths together. Tongues touched and teased, and their lips pressed and parted in one searing kiss after another. Shiva unbuckled the omega's belt and unlaced her trousers with quick fingers. She shoved her hand down the front of the omega's pants and cupped her in her hand. Wetness instantly coated her fingers and palm. They both gasped at the contact, at Lasater's extreme state of arousal, and the omega arched into Shiva's hand with a pleading whine. Shiva dragged her fingertips along the omega's slit, and swollen pink lips eagerly parted. She gathered slickness on her middle finger, and pressed it over Lasater's erect clit, rubbing the hidden shaft and the peeking tip with long strokes.

The omega thrashed under the touch, panting as Shiva drew small circles on her straining bud. She yearned to throw her legs wide, invite all of Shiva into her, but her trousers had only made it down to mid-thigh. She wriggled and shoved at them, and Shiva grabbed the waistband with her free hand. Together, they worked the pants off, and then Lasater tugged her tunic over her head. She lay back on the furs and blushed as Shiva's gaze hungrily raked from her wide eyes to toe-tips before settling on the wet, dark curls and parted lips between her thighs. Lasater spread her legs wider, knees bent with feet flat on the furs, and reached down with shaking fingers to expose her need.

Shiva visibly trembled, her attention fixed on Lasater's fingers and her swollen, gleaming vulva. Her omega's dark pink clit peeked from its hood, already so hard and slick. With a growl, Shiva grasped her cock and roughly pumped it while positioning herself between the omega's legs. She was up on her knees, and Lasater could see the alpha's heartbeat in a vein along her shaft.

"How many fingers did you fuck yourself with tonight as you imagined my cock pounding into you?"

Lasater whimpered, fingers skirting towards her aching clit, "Three. After I used a dildo." She swallowed, licked her lips, "But I've used four before. While I pictured you fucking me, breeding me." She moaned around the last words as she pressed fast, tight circles over her clit.

Shiva sucked air between her teeth, the crystalline blue of her irises nearly swallowed by her dilated pupils, and a dollop of precum fell in a gossamer string to land on the back of Lasater's hand. The omega brought it to her mouth to taste, watching as Shiva's thumb gathered the wetness beaded in the slit of her cockhead and rubbed it along her thick length. Her shaft shone slick in the lantern light.

The alpha shifted as she stroked herself, unconsciously angled toward Lasater's opening, and growled, "I want to fuck you now. Shall we see how well you can take my cock?"

"Please. I need it." Lasater couldn't maintain the teasing back-and-forth anymore. She didn't even care if it hurt, if she bled or tore—she needed Shiva inside now. She reached for Shiva's cock just as the alpha's hips twitched forward of their own accord, but the approach’s angle was wrong.

The alpha's cock caught for a moment on Lasater's opening before sliding up between her dewy lips. The swollen head collided with the omega's clit, the length thrust alongside it, and the cry it tugged from Lasater’s throat made Shiva's cock leak anew. The alpha leaned in, guiding her cock into the spread-open pink beneath it with two fingers pressed to the shaft, and sank into giving flesh. Lasater was so wet and open that several inches of her length disappeared without effort, and they both groaned and froze at the sudden exquisite sensation.

Shiva's cock pulsed with the shock of being enveloped so easily only to then be squeezed so tightly as Lasater's inner walls reacted to the pleasant intrusion. The tendons in Shiva’s neck stood out as she strained to hold her length in place. She wanted inside, all the way, wanted to thrust and explode, but she wanted Lasater to quake around her, to shout her name, and writhe under her so much more. She could wait. She palmed Lasater's thighs, her thumbs brushing the crease where leg meets hip.

After a dozen heartbeats, Lasater sighed and slid her hands up the alpha's sides, over the slight bumps of her ribs, and to her small breasts. She pressed her hands against them, a stiff nipple poking into each palm, and kneaded. Her hips rocked on their own, coaxing more of Shiva's cock inside. The alpha arched with a feral sound, fingertips digging into the omega’s thighs. Lasater rolled Shiva's nipples between her forefingers and thumbs in time with the swivel of her hips. Her breaths came faster as she moved back and forth on Shiva's hard cock, the swell and throb of it speaking to the most primal part of herself. She could feel her movements building towards a frenzy.

"Oh yes, little stone. Fuck yourself on me," Shiva puffed out the last of her exhalation and tightened her grip on the pale thighs under her hands. Between the tugging at her nipples and the hot slick rhythmically sliding along her length, Shiva's willpower deteriorated. She lowered herself over Lasater until they were belly to belly. The furs tickled her palms as she held her upper body up on straight arms.

Lasater snaked her hands around the alpha's back and pulled Shiva's hips into her with surprising ferocity. She arced her pelvis to meet the forced thrust and then tilted back to drag the slick cling of her opening along Shiva's shaft until only the head was inside. She flexed her inner walls, felt the ridge on Shiva's cockhead catch on the swell of her front wall. She pumped her hips a little harder, and her breaths turned into low moans.

"Oh, my little stone." Shiva panted, her voice the tiniest whimper. Her arms trembled at the effort it took to hold back, to hold herself up, instead of collapse over Lasater and pound her into oblivion. She felt the last shreds of her resolve crumbling as silken heat slid over her cock, milked it, pressed the sensitive head, drew it deeper until she couldn't hold back anymore. A cracked, high-pitched cry rattled from her chest, and she finally plunged her entire throbbing length into the omega's gripping, dripping channel.

Lasater tensed and dug her fingers into Shiva's ass as she was stretched and filled by the alpha's thickness. She felt the rhythmic flex of Shiva's buttocks as the alpha groaned and trembled with the effort it took to maintain a slow, shallow rut, but Lasater wanted to be fucked, to be taken. She met each tiny thrust until she felt sloppy-wet and loose around Shiva's girth.

Shiva threw her head back at how the omega's opening fluttered around her, clenching and silky-wet, and she roared at how good it felt to be sheathed inside Lasater. Her heart hammered in her chest as the decades of intense longing rekindled in her mind, flaring at the base of her cock. She lurched forward, her short thrusts suddenly quickening.

"Shiva. Oh, Creators, Shiva. Fuck me. Please fuck me." All of Lasater arched with want as she met the alpha's plunging cock with measured pumps of her hips.

Shiva pulled back, thrust in, slid out, slammed in, out, and in, and Lasater was suddenly on the edge, crooning and gasping because it felt incredible, like nothing she'd ever achieved or felt on her own. Each time the head of Shiva's cock worked its way in, it found the depth of her pleasure, and then pressed along the ridge of her front wall as it retreated. In and out it sawed, and Shiva's eyes held Lasater's as the slap of their hips filled the tent and the wet of her arousal spread everywhere. She clawed her nails up Shiva's back, grabbed her shoulders, and shattered as the black and red swirl of true release filled her mind. There was nothing but gripping slickness and smooth ripples and the insistent and steady pound of pulsing hardness, in and out, and she was coming apart, spilling, screaming, soaking them in her ecstasy.

Breathy grunts spilled from the alpha's parted lips as she poured herself into each thrust, but Lasater was lost in a spiraling abyss of pleasure. Just when she thought the last orgasm had been fucked out of her, another would begin, and she would drench their thighs and the furs all over again. Her cries were throaty and strung-together, and every noise she made spurred the alpha's hips toward frenzy. Soon, no sounds came from Lasater at all, and every muscle tensed, toes and fingers curled, seeking, seizing, and then she released all of herself, every fiber of her soul funneled through her clenching, gushing heat. A fuzziness flirted with the edges of her mind, and as she worried that the white light flaring behind her eyelids would blind her, Shiva pulled out.

Chapter Text

"No!" Lasater sat up, braced on her elbows, as the exquisite pressure and pump of Shiva’s throbbing length was taken away.

"Trust me. I will not fill you so much this way." Shiva’s voice was husky, almost desperate.

The cream of their mixed arousal painted the tops of the alpha's thighs, and Shiva dragged fingertips of one hand through it as she rocked her glistening girth into the tight grip of the other. Her fist was a blur over the throbbing head of her cock as she feverishly pumped and rubbed it until thick threads of white flew from the tiny slit and splattered across the omega's thighs and pubic hair. Shiva's eyes squeezed tight, and she keened as more come burst from her flared head. Her shaft visibly pulsed with each spurt, and when she let go of her cock, it bobbed and drooled with the partial release.

Shiva pulled Lasater onto her lap, and the omega wrapped her arms around Shiva's neck. Her thighs slipped to either side of Shiva's hips, her butt balanced on the alpha's strong legs, and Shiva’s cock found her entrance. Shiva thrust up while pulling Lasater's hips down in a bruising grip and impaled the omega's clinging velvet on her entire spasming length with one hard stroke. Their spines arched, pelvises tipped together, and they both crooned at the sensation.

Shiva wasted no time in withdrawing her length, plunging it back in, and repeating the motion until Lasater was nearly bouncing on her lap, their thighs slapping. She panted her pleasure against Lasater's ear, nipped at the omega’s earlobe.

Lasater clung fast to Shiva as the alpha pounded up into her. Shiva's firm hands dug into her ass and roughly guided her against each thrust until the alpha’s cock was bottoming out on almost every stroke. Their cries were feral, unrestrained things as they rutted and slammed together, and Lasater felt the base of Shiva's cock begin to swell. She fisted the alpha's knotted hair, pulled so hard that it made Shiva howl and thrust more savagely. She used her grip on Shiva's hair to tilt the alpha’s head to the side, exposing the curve of her neck. Lasater’s lips and tongue quickly found the tenderest spot, kissed and nuzzled it before biting just hard enough to create a seal with her lips. She sucked hard, drawing blood to the surface of the alpha’s skin, and bruising it.

Shiva made a guttural noise as Lasater began to mark her, and she looped strong arms around the omega’s waist to hold her in place as she pistoned her hips faster and harder. Their combined fluids coated the growing bulge at the base of her cock, and Shiva used the copious lubrication to her advantage, guiding the omega’s hips to swivel and grind over her knot until it pushed past the tight ring of her opening.

Lasater tensed as Shiva’s fat knot edged inside, stretching her open further than she’d ever been before, and the pain she felt was quickly overpowered by the realization that part of Shiva’s knot was inside. The omega gave a sharp cry as a small orgasm bloomed outward from her slippery opening. She mewled and circled her hips, rolling her opening over and around Shiva’s knot. A fresh gush of release spilled down over Shiva’s groin and thighs to soak the furs beneath their joined bodies.

Shiva growled at feel of Lasater’s clenching silken heat rippling along the length of her shaft and milking her knot. She tucked her face into the crook of Lasater’s neck and shoulder as the omega’s inner walls continued to pulse with aftershocks, and she couldn’t stop herself from biting down on the flesh beneath her mouth, couldn’t stop her hips from spurring forward in a slow but insistent gait as Lasater shuddered over her. Her biting became almost savage as she urged the omega’s center downward and simultaneously ground her knot upward until the combination of her movements and Lasater’s abundant arousal allowed her knot to become fully sheathed in sodden, scalding heat. Her teeth did not break skin, though a small voice at the back of her mind wished they had, and Lasater’s neck was soon stippled with red and purple marks.

Pain radiated from her shoulder and opening, but the significance of the bite and the feeling of her first uth’dian’the had Lastaer eagerly swirling her opening around Shiva’s knot. Her clit strained and scraped against the alpha’s dark brown curls, and the friction and fullness soon had her gasping and whimpering and hurdling toward a vocal release. She felt Shiva's shaft pulse, felt the knot swell one final time before the alpha broke apart, too.

Shiva threw her head back and sobbed as her hips bucked, her girth thickening ever so, and a gout of come erupted from her cock. Her eyes were squeezed shut, lips parted with shouted exhalations, and she left small red marks where her fingertips dug into Lasater’s flesh. Her hips twitched, and her entire length spasmed with each subsequent spurt. The alpha’s hips never stopped moving through the powerful orgasm, though her thrusts became erratic, shallow things.

Lasater came twice more, her release audible to the entire camp, as Shiva's knot shuddered and spilled inside of her. Through the haze of her pleasure, she wished the alpha's knot would stay swollen, wished they could stay like this forever. At least it would still be some time before Shiva shrank enough for them to painlessly part.

Finally, the alpha’s thrusts stilled and her breathing evened. The omega slumped against her, head on a broad shoulder, and butt resting on the tops of Shiva's thighs where their shared release was beginning to dry and flake. Shiva was curled forward with her legs folded underneath her, and her knees ached from being bent and jostled by their energetic fucking. Her feet tingled painfully where her backside rested on them. Her words came out as a muffled croak against Lasater’s neck, which was swollen in places and wet with saliva, "My knees."

It took Lasater a moment to interpret Shiva's meaning and find her voice again, and her eyelids felt too heavy to open. Her tone had a dreamy quality, "Lay back. Let me ride you until you're empty."

"No. I want you beneath me." Shiva held the omega tight to her with one arm and used the other to pull Lasater's left leg around her waist. The motion stretched her around the alpha's knot even more, and it sent shockwaves through her body. She gasped through a sudden trembling orgasm, and while Lasater rode the edges of her climax, Shiva maneuvered her until they lay on their sides, their noses tucked together and foreheads touching. Lasater's head rested on the swell of Shiva's bicep, her leg hooked around the alpha's hip.

They shared no words through the rest of their joining, but soft eyes and touches communicated their instinctual need for the other. The extinguished flame of young love sparked anew, but both women packed it away, not ready or willing to examine it. They kissed, slow and tentative, sometimes falling asleep for a few moments with their lips still pressed together. Their hips rocked through small climaxes until Shiva's pulsating knot began to deflate, having fully emptied into the omega.

 

Neither woman left the tent the next day and a half, even when Keeper Istimaethoriel demanded to see them. They fucked, slept, ate, and fucked more. Shiva’s second-in-command kept them supplied with fresh water and food, and at dinner time, they awoke to steaming roast hare and wild onions. They ate strips of meat off of each other's bellies and laughed, sometimes waxing nostalgic during those moments when it felt like no time at all had passed between them. Lasater realized how much she had loved Shiva when they were young, how much she still loved her, and she had to bite back tears on more than one occasion when she remembered that this would probably never happen again. She might never even see Shiva after this.

Lasater's heat stretched on for a week—the longest it had ever lasted. She returned once to her aravel to fetch fresh clothes and her hair brush but otherwise remained in the Ralaferin camp. At night and every few hours during the day, she and Shiva fucked like nugs. When Shiva wasn't plowing the heat out of Lasater, the omega filled her time helping around the camp, tending to the wounded, fletching arrows, and preparing meals. At first, she felt bashful around the other hunters, expecting them to mock her for the sounds she made or things she said within Shiva's tent—and once in the woods up against a tree—but they did not treat her the way that Clan Lavellan treated omegas, as if they were less than or weak because of the nas'athlan.

As she knew it would, her heart turned brittle and flaked apart when Shiva's hunters were mended enough to travel again. They had one last night together after Lasater's heat ended, and the omega spent most of the time between Shiva's thighs, her face glossy with the alpha's release, suckling her clit and thrusting fingers inside of her until Shiva had to push her away. In the morning, she helped Shiva take down her tent and pack up, and then her old friend was gone.

She cried so much that she forgot what she looked like without puffy, bloodshot eyes and a chapped, red nose. Keeper Istimaethoriel even seemed to take pity on her for a time. Lasater's depression stretched into her next heat. It was a dull throb in her loins, but her heart ached too much to do anything about it. She was useless, refused to leave her aravel, and could put no energy into relieving the scalding pulse between her legs. It took little convincing from the First to increase her herbal regiment to minimize the effects of the nas'athlan. Her subsequent heats became little more than a nagging itch that required the use of her hand or her favorite polished wooden phallus.

With her heart tied to Shiva and her heat suppressed, Lasater stumbled through her days with the momentum of someone just going through the motions. She occasionally took a lover, but never an alpha. She couldn't handle the idea of any other alpha's cock inside of her. She often hunted with another omega whose heat overlapped with her own, so they gave each other a hand (and tongue, as it were) when the itch became more than an annoyance.

Now, with a hole in the sky and a glowing gash on her hand, her body reacted so strongly to the presence of another alpha—a pious human who held to the ridiculous notion that Lasater had been sent by the Maker to hold back the tide of demons—that a spontaneous heat had been triggered. She couldn't imagine that her heat would be sated by any alpha other than the one that triggered it. She hardly knew Cassandra, but sexuality was not a thing the Seeker willingly presented. Certainly, her gruff exterior and intimidating manner were something people found attractive, herself included, but would Cassandra let herself give into primal instinct? Would she be willing to provide extremely intimate assistance to a practical stranger? Could Lasater even bear to be with someone other than Shiva, whom she firmly believed to be her nas'isalathe?  

Chapter Text

Cassandra could not focus on the recruits, no matter how hard she tried, or which drill she ran them through, or how many times she raised her voice. Something in the air kept grabbing her attention—like how certain musty tomes made her think of her uncle's home. This scent was nothing like dusty, crumbling pages, though. It was personal and sweet, like a pie left to cool on the windowsill or the woods after a soaking rain.

She waved the ranking lieutenant to her side. "Take over from here. Perhaps one more drill and then have them work in pairs. They can have the day after that—but I expect to see an improvement during tomorrow's sparring." She had been pushing them too hard, she realized, as she watched a few of the recruits struggle to catch their breath or urge exhausted arms to heft the wooden training sword and shield. She sighed, frustrated with herself.

She barely waited for the, "aye, sir," from the lieutenant before she stalked off toward Haven's gates. She felt agitated and uncomfortable, and her clothes seemed to pinch in all the worst places. She thought about hacking a training dummy into kindling, but she'd just left that opportunity behind.

The Seeker all but snarled at a man trying to get her attention. She was in no mood to talk. She wanted to…She didn't know what, except that all she could think of then was the elf with the marked hand and the scars on her lips, her green eyes and black hair. The lilt of her accent, the joy in her laughter, the freckles smattered across her cheeks and nose.

Cassandra found herself in front of Lavellan's door and pushed thoughts around like a child rearranging the food on their plate to avoid eating it. Was this…infatuation? For an elf. Who was a woman. Maker. As if things weren't already complicated enough with the Breach, the rebirth of the Inquisition, and all of Thedas gradually shifting towards chaos and bloodshed.

She clenched her jaw, rolled her shoulders and neck, and steeled herself. There was simply no time for such frivolities, and, besides, she rationalized, These feelings are just one warrior being awed by another.

As she raised her fist to knock, she heard a voice on the other side of the door. Lavellan was inside talking to someone. She suddenly felt jealous and possessive and pounded on the door before she could stop herself.

 

Lasater wiped tears from her eyes with the back of her hand. Remembering her time with Shiva kept her in bed for another hour until her clit hurt and loneliness burned in her throat. She simultaneously felt like the betrayed and the betrayer. Her body was calling out for Cassandra, but her heart had not lost any of its fondness for Shiva.

She sighed and extracted herself from damp sheets and crossed to the basin. She filled it with water, washed quickly with a rag and soap, and practiced a possible explanation, "Cassandra, I know this will be terribly shocking, but all I can think about is fucking you, and the only way to make me stop thinking about fucking you is to, well, fuck you. Is that agreeable to you?"

She laughed at the absurdity of it, and then gulped as anxiety welled in her chest. What if Cassandra rejected her? How would that affect the Inquisition? How would that affect her?

She dressed and donned her armor, full of sighs and shaky hands. She liked to think the stiff leather and chainmail would protect Cassandra from her body's call, but she was sure her scent was at its heaviest now, if the throb between her legs was any indication. It was possible that Cassandra wouldn't be able to resist at all. If that happened, she hoped the Seeker did not find herself full of regret or, worse, disgust.

She put her hands on her hips and peered down at her crotch, "You are a lot of fucking trouble, you know that?"

Pacing, she tried again, "Cassandra, I know this will come as a shock and we barely know each other, but my body craves yours, wants you to fill it with babies, and you probably think you're falling in love with me, but it's really just your body wanting to fill mine with babies." She threw up her arms, raked fingers through her hair. "Etunash, this is useless. I probably shouldn’t mention babies—"

She stifled a surprised yelp behind her unmarked hand as a hard knock interrupted her rambling. She smoothed out her hair before opening the door.

Cassandra stood on the other side of the threshold, a puzzled look on her face. "Who are you talking to?"

Lasater gaped, her nose assaulted by the thick combination of musk and sweat that rolled off of the Seeker. The elf put a hand on the doorway to steady herself, urging her mouth to make words, "Oh, uh, myself. It's a thing I do sometimes."

"Of course," the Seeker's mouth twitched in a smile and then stopped. Her pupils swallowed the brown of her irises, and her nose lifted just so, nostrils fluttering. She looked over the elf’s shoulder, searching for the origin of the heady smell, but her dilated gaze quickly shifted back to Lasater. It was suddenly too hot, too stifling to breathe, and Cassandra made to step back even as some instinct had her edging closer. The Seeker felt her lips moving, a gravelly voice coming out of her, but she didn't remember summoning the words, "May I come in?"

"Actually, I was about to come find you. Would you…" Lasater licked her lips, her mouth suddenly so dry, and she almost whimpered as the spark of lust in Cassandra's eyes became a bright flame. She averted her gaze but found it travelling down to the Seeker's lips, the scars on her cheeks, the line of her neck.

"Would I…?" Cassandra’s eyebrow arched as the Herald trailed off.

Creators, Lasater. Keep it together. "Would you walk with me?"

"Yes." Cassandra clenched her fists tight, unable to tear her eyes away from Lasater. She watched the way the elf’s mouth formed words, noted the flush in her cheeks and the subtle throb of her pulse point. Maker, what is happening to me? She willed herself to move, to allow Lasater to leave her quarters, but every part of her body was screaming want take claim bite.

Lasater's heart wrenched at the effect she was having on the willful Seeker. The woman's throat bobbed as she swallowed, and perspiration shone on her forehead. Finally, before their eyes could meet and her resolve crumble, she placed a hand on Cassandra's wrist and guided the Seeker away from her quarters and the stifling scent of her unquenched heat. She removed her hand to pull the door shut and gestured toward the gates.

Cassandra walked, aware only of the burning at her wrist where Lasater's hand had just touched. It felt like the warmth that came after a spider bite, a redness rippling outward to make flesh swollen and hot with fever. This warmth spread to pool between her legs, made the most intimate part of her ache, and she was grateful for her ability to disconnect mind from body even under duress. She concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, watching her footfalls carefully until they were standing at the edge of the frozen lake outside Haven's walls. Lasater's back was to the Seeker, her arms crossed in front of her as she looked out over the placid scene of snow covering everything in light blues and crisp whites. The light wind sifted through Lasater's midnight-colored hair, and Cassandra wanted to step forward and free the strands that clung to the chain links of the elf’s armor. Instead, they stood in silence, and when Cassandra could finally wrap her numbed mind around things like words, she allowed herself to draw closer to the elf.

"Lasater, something is…I feel very…strange," She groped for syntax, her dark brow knitting as she gestured with gloved hands, and her voice caught in her throat as Lasater turned to regard her. The elf's eyes brimmed with tears, and Cassandra found herself stepping forward, wanting to provide comfort.

"Wait," Lasater held out her hand, and Cassandra could see the tinge of green glittering under the skin. It gave Cassandra pause, and she waited for Lasater to continue.

"Cassandra, I am so sorry you're going through this, that I'm putting you through this." Lasater's voice hitched, and a sob tumbled free. She covered her mouth with her marked hand, tried to stifle the sound of her crying.

"What do you mean?" Blood thrummed in Cassandra's ears. She felt like she was going deaf, going mad from the distance between them.

"You…" The tip of Lasater's tongue darted out, wet her lips as she summoned the courage. "You're something the Dalish call the tar'adahl'lav. Humans call them 'alphas,' and without coming across a dur'adahl'lav, an 'omega,' some human alphas may never manifest all of the…traits. But, you see, I'm an omega. I'm doing this to you, drawing it out of you." She covered her face with her hands in an effort to still her sobs, to try to swallow back the shame. Cassandra's face fell, features softening with such concern that Lasater almost folded against her.

"An alpha. What does that mean?" Cassandra took one step closer, couldn't help it. Lasater stepped a pace back.

"It means that you are prone to a more instinctual, more primal cycle, and that y-your body will…It will change." Their eyes met, and both women felt a stab of desire in their guts.

"Change?"

"Alpha females," Creators, help me, "they can, well, grow a penis for a time during their cycle or if a nearby omega is in heat. F-for breeding purposes. A-and I'm an omega. In my nas'athlan, my heat." Tears streamed unbidden down her cheeks, and she wiped them away with the back of her sleeve.

Cassandra’s mind was too overwhelmed with the surging red pulse of desire to grasp Lasater's full meaning, "I don't understand."

Lasater wrung her hands and avoided meeting the Seeker's eyes. Her rambling was punctuated with sniffling, "Because of what I am, because of my heat, you will desire me on a very sexual, very primal level even though we're practically strangers, and you'll grow a cock and think about having sex with me—mating me—and you'll think about babies, your baby, growing inside of me, and you'll want to protect me, would do anything to protect me and our baby." Etunash, I mentioned babies.

She stopped rambling only because she'd run out of breath, and she was pacing a wide furrow into the snow. She pressed her hands into her eyes, as if to stem the flow of tears, and then raked salt-damp fingers through her hair. "I can’t believe this is happening. If I could stop it, I would, but I gave up the tincture when I left my clan, and we don’t have the herbs to—"

"Stop. Just stop for a moment." Cassandra did not remember closing the distance, but she stood directly in front of Lasater. She'd taken the elf's hands in her own, her body no longer bothering to first filter its actions through her conscious mind. The scent of Lasater overwhelmed her. She closed her eyes tight, swallowed, and urged her heart to stop pounding, willed herself to remember her training. "You are saying that what I am feeling is because you are…in heat? And that I will—and that I will grow a penis and want to…have sex with you?"

Their eyes met. Fear and self-loathing darkened Lasater's, but the Seeker's eyes shone with courage and determination. Lasater would have swooned were it not for the coldness biting at her fingertips and face and the unpredictable intensity of the moment.

"Yes." It was a shrill whisper, a desperate sob in her throat, and Cassandra drew even closer, bringing their clasped hands up between their chests.

She looked down, searched the elf's eyes, wanted to kiss away her tears. She did not know what to say. What Lasater had explained was baffling, and the fervor of her feelings for the elf had been very sudden, very unexpected, indeed. She could not deny that the idea of going to bed with Lasater stoked something low and made her cheeks burn. She admired a woman every now and then, but she had never considered it from a sexual perspective. It just hadn't occurred to her as an option. But now she felt like she was on fire for this woman standing in front of her. She wanted to be furious, felt like that was the most appropriate response, but instead she felt compelled to shelter Lasater, to hold and love her.

Cassandra shook her head to disrupt the pulse of instinct throbbing at the base of her skull. She released Lasater's hands and urged her logical mind to work properly. She stayed close, not willing to put any distance between them. "I need to know more. How did I not know this about myself before? How long before my body changes?"

Lasater sniffed and wiped tears and snot away with the back of her unmarked hand. She took a few steady breaths, shook out the tremor in her chest, and cleared her throat. "It's just like how some people have brown eyes and some people have green. Some people are born with a more primal instinct around reproduction. It's rare for elves and even rarer for humans."

She had begun pacing again as she realized that she had never spoken about this to anyone on an intellectual level, and a lot of irrelevant thoughts were complicating her explanation—societal constructs, theories, personal musings, "It's complex, as anything around sex can be, especially if you live in an oppressive or restrictive society, but it's like the social hierarchy you find in beasts. Some believe that it was more prevalent in our ancestors, but as we became distant from our origins, so did—"

"Lasater."

"Sorry. I over-explain when I'm nervous.” She took a breath and began again, “It's instinctual affection and lust—even love. Alphas and omegas are drawn to each other. And it's like a woman's moon: for a time each month, her body prepares itself to nurture a baby. Twice a year, my nas'athlan occurs, and my body becomes desperate to procreate. It calls to nearby alphas through scent, and their body urges them to spread their seed, to mate with me. If an omega's heat is not sated or treated with herbs, it can become unbearable, even painful.

"Before I left my clan, I took a tincture every day during my heat so that I wouldn't need an alpha to sate it. Since my second heat ended two weeks before I'd left for the Conclave, I-I thought it would be alright to stop taking the tincture. I wanted to try living without burying that part of myself, but I think because my nas’athlan was suppressed for so long, and with everything that happened at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, and then you, another heat was triggered. And I think that my heat awakened that that part of you.

"The most intense part started this morning, so it won't be long now for your change. We have options, but I don't think I can get through this without taking an alpha, a specific alpha. The alpha my body is crying out for." She stopped pacing and faced Cassandra.

"Me."

Lasater nodded, a shaky sigh releasing.

"What are our other options?"

"We could keep our distance from one another, but it would be difficult given our roles. I don't think Haven can stand to part with you, and I'm the only one who can close those damned rifts. I could try to find another alpha. We could dedicate resources to locating the herbs I'd need for the tincture."

"The Inquisition needs us both, yes, but it especially needs the Herald of Andraste to be in good health. In all of these scenarios, you suffer, and I cannot abide that. It is my duty to protect you—I want to protect you. Even if it is all because of your heat, as you say, I still feel it. It is…distracting, and I think," she looked away from Lasater for the first time since the conversation had begun, a blush creeping into her cheeks. "I think it would be in the Inquisition's best interest if we were to…make love. It is the responsible thing to do. Thedas needs us, and we need each other. It would not be a sacrifice, but an honor."

Lasater's mouth fell open, her heart swelled. Wet heat gathered at the apex of her legs. She said make love. "You're serious?"

"Yes, but I have terms." As the blush left her cheeks, she became aware of the wind's chill, the way it numbed the tip of her nose. She rubbed it with the back of her gloved hand.

"You're really serious?"

Their eyes met once more, and Cassandra nodded, noticing how rosy Lasater's face had become from the cold. The elf’s beauty almost stole her breath. She turned away, looking towards Haven, "Let's talk more near a fire. I cannot feel my nose, and you are shivering."

"I'm not sure if it's the cold or nerves or..."

"Regardless, I would like to discuss this in a more comfortable setting. Come."

Lasater bit her lip as she imagined Cassandra giving that particular command in a different kind of setting, and she followed the Seeker back to Haven on unsteady legs.

Chapter Text

Cassandra sent a runner to the Singing Maiden for hot cider and a light meal of cheese and bread before she walked with Lasater to her room in the Chantry, which she shared with Josephine. The ambassador was working, so the Seeker and the Herald had the sparsely furnished room to themselves. Of the two narrow beds on opposite sides of the room, it was clear who slept where—one bed was flanked by a tall wardrobe and an open trunk. A small bucket sat in front of the trunk, filled with candle stubs. The wardrobe was so stuffed with clothing that the doors could not close. The trunk was overflowing with garments, too, and the foot of the bed was piled with several boxes of shoes.

The other side of the room reflected the military precision of a regimented soldier. The bed was impeccably made, and the trunk at its foot was closed and padlocked. The only thing on the nightstand was an inkwell and quill. A naked armor stand stood between the wall and the bed.

Between the beds, against the wall opposite from the door, was a small wooden table with two chairs. In one corner, furthest from anything flammable, sat a squat floor brazier that was just large enough to provide adequate heat and light.

Cassandra shut the door and took a deep breath to steady her nerves. The room was already brimming with the smell of Lasater, and her eyes fluttered shut as she breathed in the scent of wood smoke, warm rain, and moss. She was not sure she could hide how Lasater's presence was affecting her, so she kept her back to the Herald. She tugged off her gloves one finger at a time, taking care to fold them before setting them on her nightstand. She thought about sitting at the table but that would put her closer to Lasater, and someone from the Maiden would probably arrive with food any moment now. It is simply more efficient to stay near the door, she told herself.

Lasater fidgeted and searched for something to focus on rather than the Seeker's form. Cassandra's scent was so strong here that continuous pulses fluttered at her apex. Her compulsion was to throw herself on the immaculately-made bunk to be done with as Cassandra pleased, but the notion was premature and entirely inappropriate. Her green gaze settled on the neat stack of books by Cassandra's bed, but she knew investigating them would only lead to thinking about how the Seeker had probably handled each book with reverence, how the she might have wet a finger with the tip of her tongue to more easily turn thin pages. The books were entirely too close to Cassandra's bed, too, and when Lasater looked upon the neat sheets, all she could think was that they would look much better after being disheveled by carnal pleasures. She bit her lip and mechanically shuffled toward the brazier. Building a fire always settled her mind, and so she knelt on the floor, murmured a prayer to Sylaise, and began arranging kindling around cold coals.

Cassandra heard the elf moving about the room, and she glimpsed over her shoulder to see what she was doing. Lasater knelt in front of the floor brazier, striking a tinderbox over a small, organized pile of sticks and paper. Cassandra turned away from the door so she could appreciate the view without straining her neck, and her gaze quickly became hungry as it traced the curve of the elf's hips and backside. She realized she was staring and flushed, her mouth dry and lips chapped, and felt heat flood her cheeks. She groped for a distraction, wondered if she still had the little jar of beeswax lip balm that Josephine had given her, and decided to search for it instead of ogling Lasater.

She found the small jar of balm beneath unfinished letters in the drawer of her nightstand, and as she dabbed it onto her lips, a knock sounded. She tucked the balm into a pouch on her belt and crossed the room to unlock and open the door.

Flissa, the buxom bartender from the Singing Maiden, stood in the hall. She held a wicker basket in one hand and cradled a ceramic flagon wrapped in a cloth with the other. A smile spread across her face as the Seeker regarded her, "Afternoon, Lady Seeker. I brought your vittles and drink."

Cassandra forced a smile even as a growl threatened to rumble in her throat. She was suddenly furious at the intrusion even though it had been entirely expected. To conceal any visible bristling, she took the flagon from Flissa and carried it to the table.

The Maiden's owner stepped into the room, and Flissa wondered briefly where the Herald of Andraste was even as she stared at the elf kneeling in front of the brazier.

Lasater rose, the fire successfully stoked, and turned toward the door. She rubbed her hands together to dust off ash and smiled at Flissa, "Flissa, lovely to see you. Is business slow today?" The Herald used the bottom of her tunic to wipe the remaining ash from her hands.

Flissa blanched when she realized that the elf was not a servant but the Herald of Andraste herself. She hoped her face did not show any of the embarrassment or surprise she felt. She swallowed and moved with purpose to the table at the opposite wall of the room. "Oh no, Your Worship. We're very busy, indeed. It's just, I heard this was for you and the Lady Seeker," she set the covered basket on the table as Cassandra unwrapped the flagon. "I wanted to sneak a peek."

Lasater laughed, a broad, genuine smile on her face. "Of me, or our handsome Lady Seeker here?"

Cassandra's breath caught at the sight and sound of Lasater's laughter, of being called handsome, and she turned away to pour the cider and avoid scrutiny.

Flissa flushed and giggled behind a hand, "Both, of course." She flashed the Herald a warm smile while pulling the cloth off the basket.

Even though she knew it was no such thing, the tavern owner's presence felt like a threat. Every moment that Flissa focused her attention on the Herald was agony for the Seeker.

Without diverting her gaze from the Herald, Flissa laid the napkin out on the table before setting out the basket's contents: a small loaf of bread, a wedge of hard cheese, an apple, a knife, two small plates, and two mugs. "The Right Hand of the Divine and the Herald of Andraste in one room? Who would turn down an opportunity to bask in the presence of two so touched by the Maker?" She lifted the knife and made to slice the bread.

Cassandra, unable to bear the idea of Flissa getting between her and Lasater any longer, touched the tavern owner's wrist. "I can do that, Flissa. Thank you." Her tone was harder than she'd meant, but it had its intended dismissive effect.

Lasater's eyes fell closed at the edge of territorialism in the Seeker's voice, and she took slow, measured breaths to keep herself in check. She was grateful that Cassandra had kept her distance while they waited for food to arrive. Without keeping her hands busy, Lasater was afraid of where they might wander. Everywhere her eyes landed, she wanted to touch and taste and smell. She wanted to tease the Seeker's scalp with her short nails, breathe deeply of her neck and her intoxicating musk, kiss the long scar on her cheek, nip the curve of her proud chin. It took every effort to give Flissa any attention at all.

"Of course, Lady Pentaghast. We'll send someone 'round to fetch the plates and such later." Flissa handed the knife to Cassandra and stepped back from the table. She curtsied and bid them a swift farewell. Lasater opened her mouth to respond, but the door clicked shut before she could get the words out. She slumped into one of the chairs as Cassandra turned the key.

"Finally," the Seeker made an exasperated noise and moved to sit at the table, the leather of her patchwork leggings creaking. The elf wore an uncomfortable expression, and Cassandra wanted to soothe it, wanted to distract her from whatever was making her uneasy. She picked up the knife left behind by Flissa and tended to the bread. As she sliced the loaf, it occurred to her that her very presence could be causing discomfort, and she felt a pang of guilt.

Cassandra could no longer deny how she hungered for Lasater's warmth and scent, how drawn she felt to the Dalish woman. That she was the Herald of Andraste certainly made things more complicated. A dozen half-formed thoughts flitted through her mind as she considered what to say and what to ask from Lasater.

The elf remained quiet while the Seeker sliced the bread. She busied her own hands with the cheese, using her dagger to remove the wax and parse the wedge into little slabs. Cassandra moved on to the apple.

When their snack was sliced and ready to eat, they regarded one another with tentative glances. Words came to neither, so Lasater dug into the light meal. She only had time to sate one hunger this morning, and now she was starving. Cassandra followed her lead, and for a short while, only the sound of their eating filled the small room.

After the knot of hunger had loosened in her gut, Lasater refilled their mugs and then leaned back in her chair. "So, the matter at hand. How can I make this easier for you, Cassandra?"

Cassandra swallowed a big gulp of cider and looked down into her mug. She held it tightly between her hands, soaking up the warmth with her palms and fingers. She fumbled with where to start, opened and closed her mouth a few times to find the best way to begin. "My romantic experience is rather limited. I have only been with one person, a man, and it was a long time ago. I have not given much thought to taking a lover since then, and I've never even considered being with a woman in that way."

"Until me?" Lasater layered a slice of apple with a slice of cheese and nibbled at them, her green eyes trained on the Seeker.

Cassandra lifted her attention from her cider and met the Herald's gaze. She nodded, "Until you."

Lasater reached across the table and closed her unmarked hand over Cassandra's wrist. She hoped it would have the intended comforting effect on the Seeker, but the heat where their skin touched sent a searing jolt down her spine. It was like plunging her hand into an icy lake and molten steel at the same time, and she sucked in a breath between her teeth. She started to withdraw her hand, but Cassandra's closed over it. The Seeker curled her fingers under Lasater's palm until they were clasping hands.

Cassandra's heart still pounded, but Lasater's touch quieted the roar in her mind and lessened the fears about voicing her desires, "I have always wanted to be courted. I wanted a man who would…sweep me off my feet, give me flowers, and read me poetry by candlelight. I wanted the ideal. If this was different, if it was driven by desire instead of necessity, I would say that no, I could not accept that from you because you are the Herald of Andraste."

"And a woman?"

The Seeker's gaze flicked to Lasater's face, which held a tender but questioning expression, and she nodded.

The corners of Lasater's scarred lips turned down for a moment to hear that Cassandra would willingly deny her desires if the circumstances were different. The frown faded before it really had time to form because Cassandra's fingertips sought out her palm and traced each crease, touched each callous and scar. The Seeker's attentions sent pulses of warmth to the elf's sex, and Lasater shifted her weight on the chair, tried to mask the fresh wave of arousal with a neutral expression. Cassandra could surely smell the intensity of her heat, but other than an extra rosiness in the Seeker's cheeks, there was no outward sign that she was affected.

Cassandra continued, eyes downcast to watch her fingers moving over Lasater's palm, "I know what you see when you look at me. I am a warrior. I am blunt and difficult and self-righteous. But my heart lies beneath all that. It yearns for these things I cannot have. And I need you to know that, to be able to see it."

"Oh, Cassandra. I see it, I do. Even when you thought the slaughter at the Conclave was my doing, you were still gentle with me when this awful mark brought me to my knees." She looked at the palm of her left hand and its strange, glowing wound, and remembered the feel of Cassandra's strong, warm arms around her waist. "I see the kindness in your heart, and I don't want to do anything that compromises that, or hurts it."

Lasater stroked her fingers over the back of Cassandra's hand before tangling their fingers. "I know I'm not what you want, not a man, and maybe this attraction between us will fade once my nas'athlan has ended. This doesn’t have to be complicated or long-term. It can just be sex."

"Not for me. Maybe you are right, and we won't feel this way in a few days' time, but if I'm going to share my body with you, it has to be more."

Lasater nodded, her eyes soft and warm as they sought out the Seeker's, "I understand. I will do everything I can to give you what you think you can't have, to help you through this strange situation. Anything you want or need, Cassandra, I'll give it to you if I'm able. I promise."

The Seeker searched the elf’s face and saw no shred of falsehood there. "I believe you."

"Good," Lasater smiled. If Cassandra wanted a courtship, she would make it happen even if it would be a rushed affair. Of course, it could be continued after her heat ended, if that was something the Seeker might want. She felt a small thrill at the mere idea of something long-term, even as a voice in the back of her mind whispered Shiva.

Elven courtship seemed less fanciful, but Lasater supposed it was a product of being a nomadic forest dweller. She briefly wondered how city elves' methods differed, even though it was neither here nor there. She had never courted anyone, not when her heart already felt tethered to Shiva, but she had been on the receiving end of gifts, shared food, and a saved seat at the fire. Could human traditions be so different? At least Cassandra had spelled out what she wanted—poetry and candlelight and flowers. Those were certainly doable.

She recalled a time when she had seen a human trader take his wife's hand, raised it to his lips, and pressed a small kiss into the knuckles. The way the woman's cheeks had colored told Lasater that it was a romantic gesture, and so she tried it for herself.

Cassandra's mouth fell open as the elf brought her hand to scarred lips. Lasater's breath was hot against her skin, and she bit her lip to stifle a gasp when each knuckle received a dry kiss. Her toes curled in their boots when the elf's eyes raised to meet her own, the gaze a barely-contained conflagration of things to come.

The contact of lip-on-skin was almost Lasater's undoing. She suddenly felt too hot underneath her clothes, her clit so swollen that even sitting was stimulating. She wanted to sweep everything onto the floor and splay naked on the table until Cassandra fell over her, into her. Her vision tunneled, locked on the Seeker's parted lips. She took a slow breath, rolled her thoughts around on her tongue before speaking. Her voice was laced with lust, despite the control she tried to exert, "Would you share a meal with me this evening, Lady Pentaghast?"

The Seeker's eyes widened. Logically, she knew that whatever was going to happen between them was going to happen soon, but with Lasater's question hanging in the air, she felt nervous and awkward. She stirred below, a sudden hard pulse that stole a breath. She swallowed, closed her eyes to still herself, and adjusted her weight on the chair. Her patchwork leggings suddenly felt restrictive and smothering.

"Yes, Lasater," her voice was huskier than usual, and it rumbled in her chest. "I would like that."

Lasater's heart skipped and her breath hitched at the rasping quality of the Seeker's voice. She felt a small thrill at seeing Cassandra's tight control beginning to waver, and a coy smile tugged at her scarred lips, "I'm pleased to hear that."

Cassandra smiled in return, and the gesture's raw tenderness sparked a fire in Lasater. She pictured grabbing Cassandra by the collar of her breastplate, pulling her across the table until their lips could crash together. Liquid heat bloomed between her legs, and she was overwhelmed by how much she wanted the Seeker. She had promised Cassandra that she'd do right by her, so that kiss would have to wait. She stuffed a slice of bread into her mouth with one hand and gripped the edge of the table with the other, her thighs squeezing together.

Chapter Text

Clearing the lump from her throat, Cassandra spoke in a thin voice, "And so, after dinner, we should probably…” She trailed off, making a gesture with her hands that Lasater took to mean “have sex.”

“I understand if you want to wait—this has been a lot to absorb.”

“But it will be hard on you to wait any longer.”

Lasater nodded.

“Very well, then. What sort of preparation will need to occur? Will you be able to perform your duties, or should we sequester ourselves for a time?"

"I'd like to be away from Haven, perhaps somewhere secluded in the Hinterlands. I'm not entirely sure how functional I'll be through this heat. Usually it's something I can take care of on my own or work out with another omega, and my duties only marginally suffer, but everything about this nas'athlan is different." Lasater felt her confidence suddenly sag, the sense of tricking Cassandra into this at the forefront of her mind again. She searched for the words, "I thought I'd already met my nas’isalathe, the only alpha I’ve been with, but you ignited something in me, Cassandra. My heat has never been this intense." Her lower lip quivered with the admission, eyes drawn downward to her hands, which fidgeted in her lap.

The Seeker frowned, instantly bristling at the idea of Lasater with someone else. She wanted to ask about this other alpha, to assess how much of a threat they might still be, and the willingness to physically fight for Lasater's affection suddenly seemed reasonable and appropriate. At the same time, Cassandra wished only to soothe her would-be lover, but the elf had withdrawn. "Lasater, I do not feel coerced or repulsed, if that is what you fear. It is a strange situation, yes, but it is happening." Cassandra reached across the table then and held her hand out, palm up, "We will get through it. Together."

Lasater's gaze flickered at the movement, and she stared for a moment at the Seeker's offered hand. She took it between both of hers and delighted in its warmth and shape.

Cassandra added, "Besides, you are not the only one this affects."

The elf sighed and met the human’s gaze, "You're right. I'm sorry—I'm making it all about me." She squeezed Cassandra's hand, pressing her thumbs into the Seeker's palm. "How are you doing with all of this?"

The Seeker shrugged, looking down at their touching hands. "I am definitely…aroused. And this room is hot, and I feel as though my head is full of nothing but you and your scent and urges." She met Lasater’s eyes and the spark that passed between them made her feel as if she'd been flayed and left to bake in the desert sun. "Your touch is—I do not have adequate words to describe it, but I can assure you: I want this, want you, even if I do not entirely understand why.

"You are a remarkable woman, certainly. Attractive and clever and resilient,” Cassandra sighed, “but there is still much I need to know.”

The pointed tips of Lasater’s ears flushed crimson at the Seeker’s compliments and her admission of desire. The thrill of their mutual attraction went straight to her apex, and she hoped her breeches and trousers could withstand the onslaught of fresh arousal that suddenly flooded them. She licked her lips and reluctantly let go of Cassandra's hands. It was too difficult to concentrate while touching the Seeker.

Lasater studied Cassandra’s face as she explained, “I’ve spent a lot of time exploring my nature and trying to learn everything I can about what sets me and alphas and betas apart from everyone else. I’ve never had the opportunity to actually witness the transformation and haven’t been able to locate any anatomical drawings, but the common theory is that the female alpha’s penis lies dormant on the inside of her body with just the head visible—the clitoris—and when it’s time to mate, her body pushes the whole thing out.”

Color bloomed in Cassandra’s cheeks as she imagined her own penis sprouting from her groin. “Will it hurt?”

“I think sometimes it can feel a little like the pains you get during your moon, but I don’t have any firsthand experience or accounts. Solas might know more."

"Solas knows about this?"

The Herald nodded and took a sip of cider. "Solas is adahl'lav, a beta. He smelled my heat the second we met." She sighed, remembering the moment outside the ruined temple.

Cassandra's lips pursed into a line. She didn't look upset, but she wasn't exactly smiling. "I suppose if anyone would know more, it would be him." She leaned back in her chair, sighed too, and looked at the uneaten food on her plate. One part of her began to panic. Another part was enthralled with the learned way that Lasater explained everything. She became animated in a way that Cassandra had not yet witnessed, and it was frankly adorable. There was so much about this woman that she did not know, and the last part of her—the most willful part of her—was thrilled at the chance to discover everything she could about this strange Dalish elf. For now, she still had questions: “What else will happen? How long does it last—having a penis, I mean.”

“Your vagina sort of seals up, and you’ll look like a man down there except without balls and a little vertical crease between your vagina and your arsehole. As far as I understand, an alpha will have a penis as long as her omega is in heat. I once read an account of an alpha who was able to sort of summon her penis by pushing her arousal to an extreme level. Oh, and then there’s the uth’dian’the.” The blush in her cheeks instantly renewed.

“The what?”

“It means ‘eternal fullness.’ At their most heightened state of arousal, alphas of both sexes develop a sort of bulb at the base of the penis, and its meant to, well, hold all of the alpha’s seed inside. To increase the chances of conception.” A pulse fluttered in her core at the thought of Cassandra knotting her, and she felt herself petal open. She squirmed and averted her gaze.

“Oh,” was all Cassandra could muster. She was distracted by the pinched expression on the Herald's face and the way she kept shifting in her chair. Guilt tickled the back of her mind as she watched Lasater’s sexual discomfort becoming more obvious. A rivulet of sweat charted the length of her spine and disappeared beyond the waistband of her leggings.

The crispness of Lasater’s pragmatic tone became reedy, and she took a small sip of cider to wet her tongue, “In my experience, the uth'dian'the can last anywhere from ten-to-thirty minutes.”

“Oh,” Cassandra said again as the thought of Lasater being filled up by another alpha sent a surge of aggressive heat through her extremities. She dug her fingertips into her palms and tried to squash the sudden irrational possessiveness.

Lasater tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear and chanced a glance at the Seeker’s face. The muscles of Cassandra’s jaw were bunched, and her cheeks glowed with heat. Lasater closed a hand over one of the Seeker’s clenched fists, an instinctive calming gesture.

The touch brought Cassandra back to herself, and she turned her attention to the Herald. She let out a slow breath, counting to five. She could not think of what to say, so she nodded and drank from her cup.

“I wish you had more time to process this and that we had more time to prepare,” Lasater squeezed Cassandra’s fist, an apologetic expression on her face.

The Seeker shook her head, “It’s alright. We are in this together, remember?” Cassandra smiled, and it was like a flaming arrow to Lasater's heart.

Was it just her body reacting to the Seeker's presence, or was she feeling genuine affection? Cassandra was quite handsome, hard without being edged. A warrior, through and through, but also aware of and vocal about her softer needs. Her faith in the Maker and Andraste off-put Lasater—so many of her people had been slaughtered in the name of those human idols—but it was also that same conviction that pushed Cassandra to follow a just cause, to spearhead the Inquisition, and to believe in Lasater.

It took Lasater several moments to return Cassandra’s smile. Her attention seemed to be waning, and the Seeker could see the rapid rise and fall of the elf’s chest. "We should have an early dinner, perhaps."

A needy quality seeped into Lasater's voice, "In the Hinterlands?"

Cassandra watched as lust clouded Lasater's features, darkening those green eyes, "Yes, in the Hinterlands."

Lasater's nostrils fluttered, and she swallowed the tremble in her voice, "I'll speak with Scout Harding about a good location and arrange for it to be stocked with supplies. Will you see about preparing horses for the journey and notify the council that we're convening early?"

"Of course, Your Worsh—Lasater. Of course."

Lasater laughed, "Yes, please do call me Lasater. I don't think I could handle being called 'Your Worship' by a lover."

"I could think of other reasons to call you 'Your Worship' because I am—well, will be—your lover."

Even Cassandra seemed shocked at her own bold admission, and Lasater beamed at the expression on the human’s face, "Goodness. Let's table that for later, shall we?"

The Seeker's cheeks were dark with embarrassment, but mirth twinkled in her eyes, "Indeed. I will meet you in the war room in one bell?"

"Make it two." Lasater pushed herself back from the table, the chair legs scraping on the stone floor, and stood.

"As you wish," Cassandra got to her feet as well, unable to keep her eyes from raking the length of Lasater's form.

As Lasater moved toward the door, Cassandra could not stop her hand from reaching out to grip the elf's arm. She let out a shaky breath as their eyes met, and time slowed. Lasater stepped close, leaned in to nose Cassandra's collar and inhale her scent. Before she could close the distance, Cassandra caught her chin with gentle fingertips and bent slowly, eyes open and trained on Lasater's to make her intentions clear.

The Herald all but whimpered as she stood on tiptoes to meet Cassandra partway. She closed her eyes, placed a hand on the Seeker's shoulder for balance, and their lips met.

It was a chaste thing, mouths misaligned at first, but then their lips parted and pressed together, and chastity gave way to wet heat and sweetness and the slight stickiness of apple juice and cider. Cassandra clasped Lasater by the waist, and the elf slid her palms up the Seeker's breastplate before looping around her neck.

Tentativeness kept each kiss slow, just lips sliding together, but it wasn't long before Lasater's last shred of logic screamed for her to disengage. Cassandra's lips felt too good, the taste of her breath intoxicating, her hands strong and sure. Creators, she ached for the dark-haired woman.

Cassandra was dizzy with the speed of her heartbeat and the suppleness of Lasater's lips. So close like this, the elf's scent engulfed her and shot heat right between her legs. She wrestled with the appropriateness of her actions right then, but it was already agreed that they were going to consummate this primal attraction. What could be the harm in taking pleasure a little sooner? She wanted more, needed it, so she tilted her head to open her mouth to the Herald's. She touched her tongue to Lasater's lower lip, hoping the Herald would invite it into her mouth.

Lasater made a wanton sound and pushed herself away from Cassandra, breathless. Her hands splayed against Cassandra's breastplate, and they stared at each other, chests heaving. The Herald stammered, "P-plans to make."

Cassandra felt numb and dumb and nodded, "Yes. Go." Before I take you. "I will see you in two bells."

Lasater was out the door as quickly as she could get there, and Cassandra sagged against the wall once she was alone. She raked her fingers through her hair and wiped the sweat from her forehead and upper lip with a sleeve. A twinge from below pulled her hand south, and she gasped as her fingers made contact with a solid bulge. A glance downward confirmed it, and she stared agape at the way her patchwork leggings obscenely strained against her first erection. She wondered if Lasater had seen or felt it—wondered what it would feel like when Lasater did look upon it, did touch it.

"Maker preserve me," she murmured as she locked the door with one hand and unbuckled her belt with the other.

Chapter Text

Cassandra was extremely grateful for the extra hour that Lasater had wanted before the two of them were to speak to the council about the next few days. She knew that she should be rushing around Haven, spreading the word of the upcoming meeting, but she could not release herself long enough to leave her bunk. Not even the possibility of Josephine catching her could keep her hand off the swaying hardness that hovered over her belly.

Her first spendings were already dry on her breastplate, which was on the floor right where she'd hurriedly discarded it. When her fingers had grazed the hot skin of her erection, framed so by the opening of her leggings, she could not conceive of any other action except to free her straining length. She had grasped and stroked it, studied it, and the sheer eroticism of the wholly new experience brought her to her knees and ripped a thin orgasm from the very base of her. The sudden release had been enough to loosen her arousal's grip on her mind, but not enough to satisfy the desperate ache that throbbed between her legs. She quickly shed the rest of her armor and clothes, leaving them in a heap on the floor, and stretched out on her bed. The Maker had certainly listened to her prayers about preservation—her hardness had not waned one bit after the orgasm.

She was well on her way to a second climax now. Slow exploration faded in the face of urgency, the tightness and fullness in her gut too demanding to do anything but heed its call. She feared that there was no turning back as she slid into her fists, each grasping half her length. She was accustomed to quiet release after years of living in shared quarters, but her breaths came too quickly to stifle. A moan bubbled up her throat every dozen strokes or so, and she had to bite her lip hard to keep it contained.

The need to come was suddenly overwhelming, and she pumped herself harder using one hand. The other drifted upward, and she touched her breast, squeezed it, and brushed the backs of her fingers over a pebbled brown nipple. She gasped and arched on the bed. The combination of sensations felt so good that she slowed the pace of her strokes, wanting to draw out the moment just a little.

She switched to her other nipple, and while she lazily rolled it between her fingers, she opened her eyes to watch her other hand move along her—she did not know what to call it. Penis was too sterile. Cock—that reminded her of chickens and their stink and noise. Her fingers slid down the shaft to encircle the base, holding it upright so she could appraise herself. The dark purplish-pink head was bulbous and glistened in the fire light. Her dick—yes, that word felt right on her tongue, sent a thrill through her at its harsh consonance—was beautifully vulgar, crudely exquisite. She had never looked at Regalyan's as anything more than a vehicle to pleasure, despite her feelings for him.

Her hand moved back up the length, grip tightening the closer she got to the head, and she gasped as her rough fingers made contact. She toyed with the silken tip and then re-gripped the shaft. She bit her lip to stifle a moan as the skin slid along the iron hardness underneath, watched as it bunched around the thick corona on every upstroke. Clear liquid bloomed at the tip, and she abandoned her nipple to scoop up the fluid. She took the wet digits into her mouth and tasted herself. It was salty and slightly bitter, but it retained much of the flavor and consistency of her body's natural lubrication.

Cassandra imagined what it might feel like to be inside Lasater, and she clasped her free hand over her mouth to stifle the gasp. The thought pushed her toward the brink, and her hips bucked upward into her callused fingers and palm. An arrhythmic rut tugged at her pelvis until color exploded behind her eyelids. A strangled moan escaped when the first jet erupted from her dick. It spattered over her lower belly and fist, and she sucked air between her teeth as the second and third spurts left her. The next half-dozen heartbeats sent spasm after spasm along her shaft as it expelled more of her seed, streaking her stomach and breasts, leaking all over her hand and curls and thighs. Her dick was a lightning rod, the pinnacle of her being, the keystone of her present existence, and she felt like her very soul was surging up and out of it.

The blackness of her orgasm lifted, and she became aware of the edge of the bed clenched in her free fist and the dumb grin on her face. Her breaths were jagged things, and her hips trembled with aftershocks as they gently rocked into her hand. Her dick started to soften, felt too sensitive anyway, so she let it fold against her thigh with a barely audible slap.

It pained her to do so, but with nothing else in reach, she had to use her top sheet to wipe off her hand and body. She supposed the consolation was that she wouldn't be sleeping in her own bed that night anyway. She'd be with Lasater. She smiled at the thought, even though she was simultaneously terrified about being with a woman.

How quickly life's path can diverge, she mused as she pulled her leggings back on. She put a fresh doublet on, one that would hang in front of her crotch to conceal the new growth there, and cleaned up her breastplate. Then she packed and set about spreading the word of an early council meeting.

 

Lasater stopped by her cottage to check the state of her smallclothes and to start preparing for the evening. As she suspected, her breeches were soaked through with arousal. She changed as fast as she could to reduce the temptation to touch herself, but an echo of Cassandra's kisses still fluttered over her lips. A little groan escaped as she imagined kissing the Seeker again. She began to pack, desperately trying not to think about the taste of the Seeker's breath, the feel of her hands, the comfort of her body.

"Come on, Lasater," she urged herself to focus on her task.

Once her personal belongings were neatly tucked into a leather satchel, she sat at her desk. She uncorked an inkwell and placed a blank sheet of parchment in front of her. After dipping a quill into the ink, she began scratching out a list of items she wanted for the evening:

Bed, mattress, or thick pallet
Candles (1 case)
Bath tub (if possible)
Scented soaps and bath oils
Wine (good vintage)
Bed clothes and pillows (two or three sets)

She played the end of the quill over her lips as she reviewed the list so far. Cassandra had said she wanted poetry, but Lasater didn't know anything about human poets. Dalish poetry might suffice, if she could recall any of it. She shelved the idea and looked back down at the list. What else was romantic?

Lasater suddenly remembered the taste of apples on the Seeker's mouth and bit her lip. She added sweet fruits to the list. Underneath that, she wrote, Cassandra's favorite dessert. Lasater wondered who would even know what the Seeker's favorite sweet was and then realized there was likely no time to procure whatever it might be. She crossed it out, and considered what other foods would be necessary. She listed some staples that wouldn't need much prep even as she wished she would have the wherewithal to hunt game for Cassandra.

She reviewed the list again, frowning at the inescapable child-like quality of her handwriting. She was not very skilled with the written Trade tongue. She had intended to give the list to Scout Harding because she wanted to send supplies ahead of her and Cassandra, but she quickly realized that Josephine was going to be the closest thing to an expert on romantic gestures. The ambassador would be able to gather these items a lot faster, she wagered. Perhaps it would be the most efficient Harding and Montilyet tackled the list together.

She folded the parchment after blotting it, and sealed it with wax. On another piece of parchment, she penned a short note for the ambassador:

URGENT
Lady Montilyet,

Please discreetly procure the following items and prepare them for transport by nightfall. Certain items may not be suitable for travel, so do not overly fret about those things. Will discuss with you in detail soon. Keep the contents of the list between yourself and Scout Harding.

Please be prepared to dispatch Harding and only her most trustworthy scouts with the listed items to a particular location (to be decided—please check in with Harding as she is preparing a list of potential locations).

LL

She blew on the ink and then folded the note around the list. She sealed that with wax, too, and pushed back from the desk. With the list and instructions in hand, she exited her quarters and grabbed the attention of a runner. She handed the letter over to the young man, told him it was an urgent missive for Ambassador Montilyet, and watched him sprint toward the Chantry. Satisfied that the letter would be delivered promptly, she made her way through Haven to see the apothecary, Adan.

A few people greeted her with "Your Worship" or "Lady Herald" on her way, and she sighed inwardly. She hated the honorifics that were tossed at her feet, hated how she felt that she must bend to accept them or risk offending the people who chose to follow her. The world needed the mark on her hand to close the Breach, and she couldn't do it without allies. All she could hope for, she supposed, was that the sting that accompanied each honorific would fade with time. Creators forbid she ever become used to it.

Adan did not ask any questions when Lasater listed the herbs she would need to prevent Cassandra's seed from catching. He simply pulled the herbs from his shelf, crushed them in a mortar and pestle, and bundled the ground leaves into a square of cloth. He handed them over with a knowing nod, and she tucked the packet into her belt pouch.

Before she could leave, Adan handed her the latest inventory report and pointed out that they were low on blood lotus, his tone making it plain that he saw this problem as hers to fix. She took his report and forced a smile to stifle the sigh of resignation, wondering how some nobody like herself could be thrust into such a position of authority by mere circumstance. She had no more answers than anyone else in Haven.

She looked at the green slash on her left palm as she crossed the small courtyard to Solas's door.

Solas opened the door before she could knock, his nostrils flared. He stepped aside, and Lasater entered. The elf mage closed the door behind her, and arched a delicate brow. His tone was indignant, "You did not come to me with Cassandra. What are you planning to do now that your nas'athlan is in full bloom?"

"There wasn't time—Inquisition business got in the way—but I just spoke with her. We're leaving for the Hinterlands tonight."

"On a mission?" Solas's eyes were wide with the news.

"No, to sate the nas'athlan. Cassandra agrees that it's in the Inquisition's favor if we give into the call, and I am not going to turn down her offer of relief." She gave a little shrug, worried her lip with her teeth. "We're organizing it now. I told her to come speak with you if she has questions, but in the meantime, my plan is for us to ride out to a suitable location tonight and for you and Varric to join us in the Crossroads to talk to this Mother Giselle. I imagine we'll need a least one entire day to ourselves, maybe two, so just be prepared to ride out to meet us in two days."

Solas nodded, "Very well."

"And please keep this to yourself for the time being. I'm sure whatever happens between the Seeker and I won't stay a secret forever, but we can't afford a scandal so soon after announcing the Inquisition's return."

"Who else must know for you to leave tonight?"

"The ambassador, the spymaster, Scout Harding, and Cullen," she counted them on her fingers. "To everyone else, we are dealing with the mage and templar rebellion and conducting Inquisition business in and around Redcliffe."

Solas nodded again. "I will do my part to ensure it stays that way. Is there anything else I can do for you before you leave, Lavellan?"

Lasater remembered the Seeker's hope of poetry and twisted her fingers together, debating whether she wanted to ask him. He waited, an expectant look on his face, and she combed her fingers through her hair. "Do you know of any Dalish poetry? I know most of it is oral, but maybe you remember something?"

The bald mage tapped his forefinger against his lip as he considered the question, "No, nothing appropriate to woo Cassandra—I assume that is why you ask?"

Color rose to her cheeks, and she nodded.

"Perhaps Leliana might know of some. I would even wager that she has heard a romantic Dalish poem or two."

"Seriously?"

"Yes."

When he didn't offer up a further explanation, Lasater simply shrugged. "Alright, then. Thank you, Solas. I shall see you in a few days."

She left his home and headed for the spymaster's tent on a quest for romantic Dalish poetry. Her gut tightened at the idea of speaking with Leliana about something so frivolous, and she was suddenly nervous enough that the pulse of her arousal waned to a bearable level.

Chapter Text

The spymaster's tent was little more than a large canvas tarp tied to thick boughs of ash, the bark still intact. Cassandra's alluring musk hung heavy just outside the tent, and Lasater nearly stumbled as it assaulted her senses and flooded her with a knee-weakening pulse of arousal. She grabbed onto one of the tent’s support beams and closed her eyes, taking measured breaths. Lasater could not stymie the memory of Cassandra’s hands clasping her waist, or her moist tongue gliding along the scarred divots of her lower lip, or Creators, the teasing press of her erection.

She made a tiny sound in her throat.

"Are you alright, Lady Lavellan?"

Lasater’s eyes snapped open. Leliana stood before her, the concerned crease in her brow shrouded by her loden wool hood. The intensity of her blue-eyed gaze pulled Lasater’s focus away from the heat surging beneath her skin and reminded her of why she’d come here.

The Herald’s mouth twitched into a nervous smile, “That’s what I wanted to talk about, actually.”

The cowled redhead crossed her arms over her chainmail and leather-covered chest and assessed the Herald. The elf appeared intoxicated—her skin flushed and shining with a thin layer of sweat, swaying in place even though she held onto the tent pole. She beckoned, and Lasater shuffled forward, her grass-green eyes looking everywhere but at Leliana.

A frown deepened on Leliana’s pale features, “Does this have anything to do with why Cassandra is on the warpath? She actually became cross with me for wanting to know why you two decided to move the war council ahead two hours.” She made an annoyed noise, “Cassandra can certainly be curt, but to snap at such a simple question?”

Lasater puffed out her cheeks and exhaled slowly as she edged closer to the table—if a warped wooden door on two sawhorses could be called a table. Unfurled maps and missives were haphazardly spread out on its uneven surface, and steam rose in lazy curlicues from a mug holding down the corner of a map. Lasater put her unmarked palm on the table to steady herself. She cleared her throat and swept her other hand through her hair, eyes dropping to the ground, "I would prefer to explain what’s going on with the Seeker and I only once, with all council members present. It’s…delicate."

The spymaster drew closer to Lasater so their voices could remain low. She thought to push for more of an explanation, but the rawness in the Herald’s voice and the trepidation glittering in her eyes told her that a tender approach would be best here, “Very well. What can I do for you, then, Your Worship?"

Lasater leaned against the table, careful not to wrinkle any of the maps or, Creators forbid, spill what smelled like spiced wine.

“What I’m about to ask will seem utterly ridiculous—I went to Solas first, but he suggested you would be the better resource.” She talked down at her hands as she tugged at each finger of her gloves. “I had hoped to locate some Dalish poetry, and since you and Warden-Commander Mahariel were close, I suppose that Solas thought you might be able to help me."

"You must be joking. Demons are falling out of a hole in the sky, and you are asking about poetry?"

Lasater sighed, a sound of defeat. “You’re right, I—my apologies, Leliana. It was foolish of me to ask. I will leave you to your work.” She turned to go, but Leliana spoke before she could take a step.

“Wait. You must understand: I have worked with Cassandra for a decade now, and I have rarely seen her so distracted and short-tempered, and now you have come to me looking in your cups and asking about poetry. It is troubling, especially with such an important task ahead of us. I need you both in top form. Thedas needs you.”

Lasater fidgeted, speaking just above a whisper, "The poetry…It's for Seeker Pentaghast."

"You want elven poetry. For Cassandra? Do you plan to court her?"

Lasater held her hands up, air hissing between her teeth, "Please, keep your voice down. Yes, in a sense, that is my intention. Are you going to help me or not?" Her irritation bubbled, her tone turning petulant. A tiny pout flirted with her lips.

“Lavallen, in all my years knowing Cassandra, she has never claimed attraction to women. Is this really the time to pursue romance? And what about your clan? The Dalish look most unkindly on those who consort with humans, do they not?”

“It’s not about romance, Leliana.”

“Then you must tell me what it is about, else I draw my own conclusions, no?” Leliana perched on a barrel near the makeshift table, her arms smoothly folding over her chest.

In truth, a theory was already forming—with what she knew of Clan Lavellan, the Herald’s frazzled state, Cassandra’s excessive grouchiness and the tremendous agitation she had expressed while Lasater had been unconscious for three days. The Herald of Andraste was an omega in heat, and the former Right Hand of the Divine was the alpha called to sate it.

A ghostly chill seized her heart. How did she not know that Cassandra, the closest thing she had to a friend, was an alpha?

Unless Cassandra had not known either.

Ah.

Leliana’s face remained impassive and unreadable, and Lasater suddenly recalled a moment from the days hence, kneeling in a cell beneath the Chantry, her hands shackled with iron and two wooden slats, her left palm searing with grotesque green light and smelling of lightning. Cassandra had seized her by the scarf, shook and shouted at her, and speckled her face with angry spittle. Leliana had simply watched the scene, her pale features set into a calm stare, her hands clasped before her.

Once, Leliana and Cassandra had complemented each other—one pushing as the other pulled, one to feint as the other fought. Lasater caught glimpses of their comradery during those hours spent interrogating her, but it faltered as much as it flowed. Without Divine Justinia, Cassandra and Leliana were two hands groping and clawing in the darkness, trying to curl fingers tight around slippery salvation

Lasater swallowed down the fear that accompanied her memory. She prickled to know that the nas’athlan had her yearning to bodily submit to someone who had very recently used unkind hands against her.

Creators, those hands.

Leliana cleared her throat as the Herald’s attention drifted.

"By Fen'Harel's teeth, alright," Lasater huffed, her fists clenching at her sides. "The short of it is that…" She could not bring the words to fruition, her train of thought drifting too erratically between present and primal.

Leliana held up a hand. “There is no need. I believe I have solved the mystery all on my own. The Dalish call it the nas’athlan, yes?”

Her mouth suddenly dry, Lasater helped herself to Leliana’s spiced wine, her cheeks flushing crimson. She turned away as she nodded, trying to conceal her embarrassment from the ever-observant eyes of the spymaster. She wrapped her fingers around the mug to keep them from shaking. Of course Leliana already knew. Lasater felt foolish for assuming otherwise, but it was a relief that she didn’t have to give the alpha and omega speech again.

"And Cassandra, she—"

Lasater interjected, "I want to make this as easy on her as possible. Cassandra didn't even know what she was until we spoke earlier. My damned nas’athlan awoke it in her, and she stirred the heat in me, and now we’re both riled and facing a rather uncomfortable situation.” The flush in her cheeks spread anew.

"I can usually handle this on my own, but this heat is so intense, I can barely stand. We don’t have the resources to suppress it, nor the time to track those herbs down, and even still, I don’t think I can get through this one without, well…” She gestured as desperation pulled each syllable from her until her voice caught on a strangled sob. She scrubbed at her face with her palms and groaned, ashamed at how quickly her control over her emotions was slipping.

The edge in Leliana’s penetrating eyes softened, and she nodded, her tone reassuring, "I understand." The sound of leather and chain was a soft rustle as the spymaster fluidly rose and then crouched next to Lasater’s legs. She tugged a battered steel trunk from beneath the makeshift table.

Lasater’s eyes widened, but before she could inquire further, Leliana had fished a key from somewhere and unlocked the trunk. She threw back the lid and began to sift through the contents, “I first learned about alphas and omegas as a bard in Orlais. A young heiress announced, in the middle of her family’s Wintersend ball, that she and her father’s stable boy were in love, that he was pregnant with her child. The family fled in the night, too afraid for their reputation and their daughter’s future as a proper noblewoman and wife. Needless to say, that party was on everyone’s lips for months after.”

“What happened with the boy?” Lasater asked, even though she could guess at his fate.

“Murdered.”

“That’s awful,” Lasater clenched the mug in her hands, outrage welling up in her chest.

“Indeed.” The spymaster lifted a bolt of shimmering sea silk brocade from the trunk and handed it to Lasater. “When I told Eli—Warden-Commander Mahariel—this story, she told me how the Dalish separate their alphas and omegas and that bondings are usually arranged affairs.” Leliana peered at Lasater over the lid of the trunk.

“I gather you know about my clan.”

“I would not be a very good spymaster if I did not.”

Lasater made a small amused sound.

“Solas was not wrong to send you to me. Eli and I have a complicated love, but we are together all the same. I was captivated with her from the start. I had heard all of these tales about the Dalish and their distaste for human culture, but ma vhenan defied all of the stereotypes.”

Leliana shuffled things around in the trunk and set out a moderately-thick tome with a hardboiled leather cover. “Eli flattered me, always wanting to hear my stories or songs, and after we became lovers, she began to share the Dalish legends and verses that she knew.”

The Herald's eyebrows rose just so, a hopeful gleam taking shape in her eyes. The spymaster ducked her head to hide the smile on her lips.

"After the archdemon was defeated, we spent as much time together as we could, each aware that duty would one day cause our paths to diverge. After Justinia called me into her service, and before my love set out on her own quest, Eli recorded translations of the Dalish prose she could recall.” A hint of warm nostalgia crept into Leliana’s tone, “She even wrote me some of her own. A-ha, here it is," Leliana held up a thin, pocket-sized book made with supple hand-cut halla leather. Two stylized trees, their roots connected, were seared into the front cover. Leliana cradled the tiny tome in her gloved hands.

"Eli is terribly romantic, so you can imagine what sort of verses she created for me." Leliana raised her gaze to settle on the Herald.

The corners of Lasater’s scarred lips curved down at the haunted expression on the spymaster’s face. She touched Leliana’s arm, "My apologies. I did not mean to open old wounds."

She gently shrugged off Lasater's hand. "What I mean to say is that this book is a token of the love I share with Eli. It is very important to me.” Leliana added a third book to the pile and took the bolt of silk from Lasater. She placed the fabric into the trunk, shut the trunk’s lid, and locked it. The key went back into its hidden pocket as she stood, and she stooped to gather the small stack of books.

“Have you heard of Brother Genitivi? No? He is a Chantry scholar who has researched all manner of things across Thedas, including others like you and Cassandra,” Leliana indicated the two larger texts. “I recently acquired these for Eli. This one discusses alphas and omegas of human societies, and this one details what Genitivi was able to learn about the other races. These would be good for Cassandra to read, no? You may borrow them,” she handed them to Lasater.

“And this,” the spymaster turned the small book of poems over in her hands, “I am only lending this to you because I care deeply for Cassandra and would see her treated tenderly. You can copy whatever you like, yes? Just bring it back to me when we meet in an hour."

The Herald exhaled a breath that she didn't know she'd been holding. Poetry felt like a silly thing to set her heart on, but knowing that the Seeker had only been intimate with one person over the course of her nearly forty years stirred something protective within her. She knew the ache of loneliness well, and rarely felt comfort even in the arms of those she chose to help her through her heat. She’d spent the last decade, in fact, pining for Shiva, waking every morning to wonder, Will she come for me today? It was way past time to let go and move on, but clinging to an unachievable love somehow made it easier to bear the knowledge that, eventually, Keeper Istimaethoriel would choose a mate for her. She would be lucky if her preference was even taken into consideration.

Taking Cassandra as a lover was an immense risk, and Lasater knew there was little she could do to keep it from reaching her Keeper’s ears. Perhaps some understanding would be applied given the circumstances of the situation. If she did not take Cassandra as a mate and avoided pregnancy, maybe she could get away with denying it. On the other hand, exile from the clan would mean freedom from oppressive traditions.

She tried to appear grateful even as dread coiled in her belly. "Thank you, Leliana. You're doing me a tremendous favor right now, and I will not forget it." Lasater tucked the book of poetry down the front of her tunic for the safest keeping and gathered up the other books in the crook of her elbow.

The spymaster offered her a small smile, “I take it you and Cassandra have discussed what must be done?”

“Yes. Cassandra is agreeable to…helping me through this heat. We are making arrangements to leave tonight—it’s why we pushed the council meeting ahead.”

“Ah, very good. I suppose we will speak more about this later, then. Is there anything else you might need, Lady Lavellan?”

Lasater began to shake her head, turning to leave when she remembered, “Oh! Do you know where I might find Scout Harding?"

"Try the Singing Maiden—she is quite enchanted with that minstrel, Maryden,” playfulness courted Leliana’s tone. “If she is not there, check with the quartermaster."

"Thanks. See you in a bell, Leliana."

The ground crunched beneath her boot heel as she turned away, and she plodded through snow to avoid the throng of Chantry sisters standing in the path to the tavern.

She did what she could to tolerate the presence of the faithful—to each their own belief—but she could not bring herself to bear sermons or sanctimonious proclamations about how she was a direct tool of the Maker. But, no matter how many times she refuted that Andraste had saved her, the stubbornness of "true" believers remained.

The very concept of gods perplexed her, but the Elvhen pantheon seemed much more plausible than one possessive man and his mortal-made-immortal bride pulling all the strings. She seldom spoke the opinion aloud, but she suspected that gods were simply trussed-up accounts of long-dead mortal legends.

She peered through the window of the Singing Maiden. Scout Harding was indeed inside, seated at a table near the bard Maryden. Lasater breathed a sigh of relief that she would not have to talk to Threnn, the surly quartermaster who looked down her nose at elves. Her soul ached to know that elves still drowned in the spilled blood of their ancestors, were still crushed beneath the boot of megalomaniacal human butchers. The discrimination she had personally faced just in the short time she'd been in Haven was a visceral reminder of why the Dalish avoided humans as much as possible, of why every utterance of shem sounded contemptuous.

Talking snidely about this shem or that shem had been so common amongst her clan mates—even for a clan who prided itself on its trade relations with humans—but she had stopped using the slang once she'd travelled far enough from the Free Marches and spent time in human settlements. Shem from her mouth had the same cant as knife-ear from a human's, leaving a bitter taste on the tongue. Still, it was difficult to maintain a cool head when constantly confronted with wide-eyed refugees who openly discussed their disbelief that an elf was their only source of real hope in mending the torn sky.

The temptation to run back to her cottage and masturbate was difficult to resist, but there were still arrangements to make if she wanted to sate her heat the way nature intended. She entered the tavern and made her way to Harding's table. Flissa beamed at her from behind the bar, and Lasater offered a small wave in reply.

A languid smile was spread on Harding's face, her chin resting on her fist. She only had eyes for Maryden, and the adoration in her gaze was infectious. Lasater liked Harding very much and recognized a kindred spirit in the woman. Both came from humble beginnings, worked hard, and could not pass up the opportunity to see the world. Lasater had been ecstatic when Keeper Istimaethoriel sent her to the Conclave at the Temple of the Sacred Ashes on a dual assignment: spy on the shem and locate a powerful artifact that troubled the First's dreams. She was a ranking hunter within the clan—one of the best at tracking down ancient items that did not want to be found—but she had never even travelled outside of the Free Marches.

Haven and the Frostback Mountains were unexpectedly beautiful, all jagged edges and crisp cold air despite her dislike of frigid air and snow, but at least the interior of the Singing Maiden was warm and inviting.

Lasater slid onto the bench beside the freckled dwarf, her smile of greeting not quite reaching her eyes as she remembered the half-truth she'd given the rest of the Inquisition about why she'd been at the Conclave. She supposed the full story would come out soon enough—she still intended to find that artifact—but she was unrealistically hopeful that she could close the Breach and be done with all of this Herald business in just a few weeks’ time. The machinations of the Inquisition were entirely human, entirely foreign, and she did not know how quickly an organization like it could accomplish its goals. Only time could tell.

"Afternoon, Your Worship," Scout Lace Harding turned on the bench to regard the Herald.

"Please, call me Lavellan if you prefer to be formal. Otherwise, Lasater is fine. Preferred, in fact."

"Well then, Lasater, you can call me Lace."

Finally, a real smile was coaxed onto Lasater’s face. "I have a favor to ask of you, Lace. May I steal you away from Maryden for a moment?"

The blush instantly spread beneath the the scout's freckles, making the long scar on her jaw stand out, "Of course." Lace gulped down the rest of her ale, swiped her sleeve over her mouth, and stood. Lasater swung her legs over the bench, and the two women left the tavern.

The Herald of Andraste guided Harding toward the battlements where trebuchet construction was underway. Once they were out of earshot, Lasater pulled Lace off the path.

"You know the Hinterlands really well—can you think of any abandoned homes or cabins, maybe even a dry isolated cave that could shelter two or three people for a few nights? It needs to be defensible and secluded."

Lace stroked her chin and looked thoughtful. "I can think of a few places that might fit those criteria. Let me check the maps and talk with a few scouts. How soon do you need the location?"

"In a bell or so. Come to the war room with your recommendations. The council will also have some tasks for you, as well."

"Sounds good, Lasater. I'll see you then."

"Until then, Lace."

The lead scout jogged back the way they came, and Lasater trailed behind. She breathed out the anxiety she’d been holding in her chest—at least the chat with Harding had been less painful than the one with Leliana. Lace hadn't even given her a questioning look, which felt strange. Between the short-term amnesia and the accusation of mass murder, the past few weeks had felt like one long interrogation.

Her errands completed, Lasater decided to head back to her cottage. She had poems to select, and the state of her arousal was beginning to tempt her with self-release. She wondered if there was time to take care of both tasks before the council was to meet, and her pace quickened with the hope of relief.

Chapter Text

Everyone was gathered, including Scout Harding, when Lasater breezed into the war room. Cassandra had fixed her eyes on the door before the others, the elf’s entrance preceded by the lush scent of what she instinctively knew to be an omega in heat. Lasater’s cheeks glowed with a dark flush, and those meadow-green eyes were half-lidded and glassy. Her grace was usually direct and calculated, but now Lasater practically flowed along the floor, sex oozing from every pore. The Seeker balled her hands into fists to exercise control over her urges. She lifted her nose into the air just so as Lasater neared, and the pitiful look she received was enough to steal a shred of resolve. She placed her hand on Lasater’s upper back, which seemed to help the Herald steady herself.

Josephine and Cullen traded curious looks, and Leliana cleared her throat, “Shall we?”

Leliana indicated for Scout Harding to begin. Cassandra’s hand dropped away once the meeting was under way.

Harding had narrowed her search down to three possible locations that fit Lasater’s criteria. The lead scout reviewed the advantages and drawbacks of each, and the Herald and her advisors easily agreed on the abandoned roundhouse near Lake Luthias, which had apparently belonged to an Orlesian big game hunter before the mage rebellion. It was a short ride away from two established Inquisition camps and the Crossroads, and the surrounding terrain provided plenty of opportunity for surveillance and defense.

Josephine jovially reported that it bore the larger accoutrements that Lasater had requested—earning a raised eyebrow from Cassandra—as well as the expected décor and furnishings of a noble-owned hunting cabin, right down to a bearskin rug and the mounted heads of several ungulates. When Lasater grimaced, Josephine assured her that they would remove all of the offending items.

Cassandra found herself saying, “Leave the rug,” as she recalled a scene from one of her favorite romantic tales: the knight and princess passionately consummating their love on a bearskin rug in front of a roaring fire. She tugged at the hem of her long doublet, hoping it was enough to conceal her growing excitement, and pretended she could not see the hungry look Lasater was casting her way.

Harding hurried off to carry out the next part of her task, and Lasater steeled herself to explain what had prompted this meeting. She glanced at Cassandra, instinct directing her to seek the alpha’s consent to continue.

Cassandra squared her shoulders and touched Lasater’s arm, “Allow me.”

Glassy, green eyes widening, Lasater acquiesced with a nod. A part of her swelled with pride—as another swelled with desire—and she resisted the urge to tuck herself against Cassandra’s side.

“The Herald is an omega. I am an…alpha. Do you know what that means?”

Josephine blinked but nodded. Cullen shook his head.

Cassandra made an irritated noise, having hoped to avoid the lurid explanation about what being an alpha and omega entailed, but she nevertheless provided a much more succinct summary than Lasater could have ever managed—heat-addled brain or no.

Listening to Cassandra speak intensified the tingle between Lasater’s thighs—the rich husky texture of her voice, the way each consonant was pronounced with the precision of a chevalier’s blade. The Seeker’s tone carried the unmistakable presence of a fierce alpha, and Lasater swallowed. She could not pull her eyes away from Cassandra’s mouth, hanging onto every syllable to hopefully catch sight of that tongue that had so recently swept across her lower lip.

The Seeker waxed, “Our duty to the Inquisition means doing whatever it takes to ensure its success and forward momentum, which means it needs its core members whole, in body and spirit.” Cassandra gestured between Lasater and herself. “Lady Lavellan and I will be…doing what needs to be done so that we may resume our duties without distraction.”

Josephine’s cheeks reddened with a light blush, but she otherwise reacted as if Cassandra had delivered a field report. Cullen’s eyes went wide and remained fixed on the Seeker until Leliana nudged him in the ribs. He stammered, looking away, and after a few heartbeats, his features regained their usual stoic expression.

He cleared his throat, "Your Worship, I believe we should discuss the details of your security above all else. The circumstances are delicate, but I have every confidence in my troops' ability to maintain a discreet patrol in the area—one that will ensure your safety as well as uphold your privacy."

"I will station agents nearby, as well," Leliana added.

They continued on, business as usual, to discuss the details of the subsequent trip to the Crossroads, but Lasater's attention drifted quickly. The Seeker was keeping her hands clasped in front of her crotch, most certainly to hide an erection, and Laster could not tear her eyes away for fear that she might miss a glimpse of Cassandra's arousal. The wet prickle between her thighs evolved into an aching throb.

Fuck decorum, she thought, as she perched on the edge of the table to avoid the imminent buckling of her knees. Sweat seeped into the armpits of her tunic and the thick wool socks on her feet, and she struggled to hang onto the flow of the discussion, to nod and reply when appropriate, but her focus could not stray very far from the pulsating heat in her hard nipples and the slickness soaking her smalls.

Cassandra stole glances of Lasater, the woman's animistic pull becoming stronger with every breath. The rosy tint of her cheeks and the filtered sunlight from the stained-glass window cast the elf's features in a frail sort of luminescence. Cassandra’s breath hitched as the Herald’s tongue slowly swept along her bottom lip, and Cassandra’s attention became trapped by the moist glimmer caught in the tangle of scars on Lasater’s bottom lip. She wondered if Lasater was teasing her on purpose.

Her curious gaze meandered from Lasater's lips to the gentle curve of her chin and along the angle of her jaw to the dark spill of coal-colored hair draped over one shoulder. Her brown eyes settled, finally, on Lasater’s green ones. This close, she could see the bits of yellow specked in them, could see the discomfort in her faraway stare and the subtle tremor of her hands.

Cassandra’s squashed her own unease beneath the primal urge to shield Lasater from the slightest threat of distress. While she had her own active role to play in the situation, she did not feel as mired in her baser instincts as Lasater seemed to be, the elf practically sagging under the gravity of her instinctual predicament. Cassandra had it much easier; she was not the one forced to invite an inexperienced, clumsy person with rough hands and even rougher edges to enter her and scratch a primordial itch that could only be satisfied by the wet joining of genitalia.

Maker, what if I cannot…perform?

No—her jaw bunching, Cassandra vowed that would not happen. She would not let her disinterest in women, or her hesitance at sleeping with someone she was rapidly coming to consider her leader, to stand in the way of duty. With the way her body strained against her trousers simply from Lasater’s nearness, she reckoned—hoped—that instinct would guide her.

The surge along her shaft did not feel all that different from the pulse she felt at her apex while reading her smutty novels, but her need was no longer safely nestled between her legs—it pressed hard and hot across her hip, and the tremendous ache to fit inside of Lasater nearly rent a threatening hum from her throat. She clenched her jaw to still the rumble of instinctive possession churning in her chest, but the unfulfilled compulsion to take what her body wanted, to mate, to mark, soon had raw anger gathering beneath her tight veneer of control. And then guilt mingled with the rage—she felt proud that her presence could elicit such a reaction from the Herald, and it shamed her.

Did she truly wish only to satisfy Lasater’s heat because duty demanded it, because the Inquisition could not function without its Herald? Or was there something else behind the ease at which she agreed? Cassandra swallowed and braced her arms on the table to refocus her mind, to push away the nagging notion that her desire to bed Lasater eclipsed her devotion to carrying out the Divine’s will.

In this position, hunched over the map, she could at least maintain enough distance from the Herald to avoid the cloying, earthy musk that dared her to succumb to instinct, to press her nose beneath the high-necked collar of the elf's jerkin, to inhale and be swept away by her essence.

Cassandra wrested her attention back to the meeting and managed to stay engaged even as she found a reason to indicate part of the map closest to the elf. Her hip pressed into Lasater’s knees as she leaned over the table, and the heat where their bodies touched was the eye of a hurricane, a central point of peace in a maelstrom of conflicting feelings. Cassandra righted herself after a moment, crossing her arms over her chest, but she maintained the contact between her hip and Lasater’s knees.

Soon enough, the discussion concluded, and the advisors filed out of the room, leaving Cassandra and Lasater alone.

"Are you alright?" Cassandra's voice was strained, but the hand she cupped around the elf's elbow was firm and calming. She turned, Lasater’s knees now dangerously close to her erection.

Lasater began to lean in, desperate to fall against the hard lines of Cassandra’s form, but the Seeker kept her at arm’s length. Lasater made a frustrated noise and looked up at Cassandra with darkening eyes. The Herald’s voice was thick with want, “I should have—” She made a masturbatory gesture, “but I didn’t have time." She’d spent it copying pages from the Hero of Ferelden’s book of poetry.

It took a moment for Lasater’s gesture to take a firm hold, and when it clicked, a blush crept rapidly over Cassandra’s features, especially as she recalled her earlier self-satisfaction. She felt as if an ocean squall was trapped inside of her chest, and her grip on Lasater’s arm involuntarily tightened.

"Oh, Lasater." It came out as a moan instead of the pitying tone she had intended, and none of the words that came to mind could make it out of her mouth.

he incessant hum of the nas'athlan drew Lasater’s hand toward the Seeker’s groin. Her fingers brushed beneath the long front of Cassandra’s doublet, making the barest of contact with the hardness tenting her trousers.

"Lasater.” Cassandra’s hand snapped around the omega’s wrist, jerking it away even as her dick twitched with disappointment.

"Sylaise still my hands, I apologize, Cassandra,” Lasater put her hands on Cassandra’s shoulders, arms extended, to force distance to remain between them.

Cassandra allowed the elf to keep her at bay, reveled in the assertive gesture, in fact. “It’s alright.”

“No, it isn’t.” Lasater’s cheeks were red, and embarrassment welled in the corners of her eyes. “You-you’ve been extremely considerate and agreeable, Cassandra, and I had no right to touch you, regardless of what we’re about to do.”

Cassandra nodded even though she regretted stopping Lasater from touching her. She wanted Lasater to touch her, wanted to feel the heat of the omega’s palm as it moved over her hardness.

Through gritted teeth, she tore her eyes away from Lasater’s face to stare at the maps spread out on the table. "I am not sure if you heard, but preparations are presently underway. The horses are being outfitted now, and Leliana sent scouts ahead with supplies. She conferred with Josephine after the two of you spoke, apparently,” Cassandra looked back to Lasater, a question clear on her features. “What kind of ‘accoutrements’ did you request, exactly?”

Lasater smiled, a sweet vulnerable expression that made Cassandra gulp. “It’s a surprise.”

The look etched on the Seeker’s face already made the request worth it, and Lasater’s palms slid up to Cassandra’s neck. They regarded each other carefully, and Cassandra held her arms straight at her side, hands curled into tight fists to keep from reciprocating the Herald’s touch.

“How long till nightfall?” Lasater’s callused thumbs brushed over Cassandra’s jawline.

The Seeker exhaled, eyes sliding closed, “We are not waiting that long. We leave within the hour.

"Oh," Lasater swallowed, wanting so much to kiss Cassandra. The request was on her lips, but Cassandra stepped back. Lasater was amazed at the Seeker’s resolve.

Lasater’s hands fell away, and she pushed off from the table. "I will—I’ll be in my quarters until then. Come and get me when it's time?"

Cassandra nodded once and adopted a soldier’s stance, hands clasped behind her back, so that she would not immediately follow Lasater’s beckoning scent like some lovesick pup.

Maker, that was exactly what it felt like to be an alpha in the presence of a wanting omega. It was troubling, angering even, that something so base could override decades of training and devotion; that the slightest distance between their bodies, the intense hardness throbbing between her legs, and the frustration of waiting—Cassandra balled all of it up and channeled it into something manageable, into rage, and she snatched up the closest thing to her on the table. The defenseless book arced through the air and impacted with the wall in a sad flutter of pages.

The resolve-crumbling smell of the elf hung in the air a yard from the cottage door, so when it was time to mount up, Cassandra only allowed herself to knock and shout through the door, "It is time! Come to the gates when you are ready." She murmured beneath her breath as she hurried down the path to the horses, “Andraste guide me.”

Inside, Lasater untangled herself from mussed bed linens. She had brought herself to several thigh-quaking orgasms, desperate to take the edge off the constant throb of her clit brought on by how hot Cassandra's hardness had felt even against the lightest touch. Her cheeks burned at the memory.

She crossed the room to the wash basin and poured the pitcher of cold water there over her head. The sudden chill stole her breath and tamped a little of the heat that seared her veins. She dried off and dressed, slung her satchel, bow, and quiver over her chest, and set off for the gate. Cassandra was already astride her black courser, and a groom stood nearby holding the reins of Lasater's skewbald palfrey. The majesty that was Cassandra Pentaghast, sitting tall in her Seeker livery on the back of the muscular midnight-colored horse stole Lasater’s breath.

The groom reached for the Herald as she approached, but Cassandra dismounted instantly and put herself between the two of them before Lasater could close the distance. The groom flinched back from the silent snarl the Seeker flashed at him, dropping the palfrey’s reins without a second thought. He stuttered a farewell and ran off toward the stables. Cassandra caught the look Lasater gave her—a smoldering, lip-bitten gaze of gratitude—and a smile tugged up one corner of the Seeker’s mouth.

She wordlessly took the Herald’s satchel, bow, and quiver and secured them to the palfrey’s saddle bags while Lasater looked on, one hand on her horse’s haunch to steady her wobbly legs.

Cassandra took Lasater’s other hand and made ready to help her mount the horse. The elf’s arms and legs trembled as she tried to pull herself onto the saddle, and Cassandra squeezed her hand.

“Perhaps you should…ride with me. I cannot imagine that sitting upon a horse will be very comfortable right now.”

Lasater swallowed, “Thank you, it won’t be, but we should wait until we’re a way’s away from Haven.”

“Oh, yes. Of course,” Cassandra’s smiled faded even though she agreed. She helped Lasater onto the palfrey.

The Herald bit her lip to stifle a groan as her engorged sex pressed into the hard leather of the saddle. She gripped the saddle horn to hold herself upright.

Cassandra’s hand lingered on Lasater’s thigh, “It will be alright.” The Seeker pulled herself astride her courser.

Lasater stood straight-legged in her stirrups as Cassandra led them through the gates, and she forced a smile onto her face for those who had gathered to see the two off. The crowd was smaller than usual—thank the Creators—and Lasater gave them a wave as they departed.

Her legs were violently shaking by the time they’d cleared Haven’s line of sight, but Cassandra was there to help her off her horse before she could even voice complaint. Cassandra attached a lead rope to the palfrey and remounted the courser. She leaned down to Lasater, gripping the Herald by the belt. “Put your arms around my neck.”

Lasater complied and, with Cassandra’s help, she climbed onto the saddle with little trouble. Cassandra supported her as she settled, and she swung her legs over one of the Seeker’s thick thighs, her butt nestled into the other, and leaned into the Seeker with a relaxed sigh. She looped an arm around Cassandra’s shoulders and nosed around her neck until she found the strongest source of her soothing tar’adahl’lav essence. Breathing it in, she hummed, felt warm and safe, and the nag of her heat was temporarily quieted by the security that Cassandra’s body provided.

“Are you comfortable?” Cassandra wrapped the lead rope around her fist once.

“Quite.”

Cassandra spurred her horse forward, and they were underway. A quiet quarter of a bell later, with closed eyes, Lasater murmured, “You’re rather gallant, you know.”

Cassandra made a disbelieving sound with her tongue, and Lasater swore she could hear the Seeker’s eyes rolling.

“Mm, it’s true. Handsome and dashing, ever the bold knight of human legend, come to rescue someone in need.” She leaned back to smile up at Cassandra whose warm brown eyes narrowed down at her with suspicion.

“Mockery does not become you, Lady Lavellan.”

“Mockery is not something I’m capable of right now, Seeker Pentaghast.”

Cassandra grunted and fell silent, her eyes on the road ahead.

The ride was slower than Cassandra preferred, but she did not want to jostle Lasater anymore than being on a horse already did. She desperately wanted to put her arms around the woman, to hug her and revel in their closeness, but both hands were occupied with the horses’ reins and there was a lot of armor between them, besides. She was startled by how much she enjoyed being the source of Lasater’s comfort, and she caught herself thinking about pressing a kiss into the crown of the Herald’s head. Her hair smelled of the cold, of dry sweat, and something flowery. She allowed her eyes to drift closed for a moment, a smile growing on her face.

When the roundhouse finally came into view, both women released pent-up exultations of relief.

Cassandra dismounted a yard from the roundhouse’s porch, and Lasater slithered willingly into her arms. They stood by the horses for a moment, folding into a hug as if it was something they did all the time, and Cassandra’s heart thundered in her chest. Her arms involuntarily tightened around Lasater’s waist when the Herald made a pleased sound.

There was not much height difference between the two of them, but Lasater still had to tip her head back just so to peer up into the Seeker’s bark-colored eyes. Her gloved fingertips ghosted tentative touches along Cassandra’s angular cheeks, and she quickly lost herself in that unwavering, tender gaze.

The Seeker was stuck between propriety and primal urges, wanting nothing more than to give into the tug from below. She was stiff—both in limb and in loin—and unsure. She wanted to kiss Lasater, there was no reason not to, but fear trickled into her chest and wrapped cold tendrils of doubt around her heart. Mustering her will, she spoke, "Go inside, and I will take care of the horses."

Lasater nodded and licked her lips, which were visibly chapped even in the dying light of the day. She wanted that kiss, too, but knew the insistent pulse of her nas’athlan would take over the moment their lips touched. One kiss would not be enough.

With difficulty, Lasater’s hands fell away from the Seeker’s face, and she extricated herself from the embrace with a sigh. She patted her palfrey’s neck and retrieved her belongings from the saddle. She slung her satchel, bow, and quiver over her shoulders and offered Cassandra a nervous smile before turning to the roundhouse.

"Wait," Cassandra fumbled at her belt pouch, and found the lip balm she had tucked there earlier in the day. "For your lips," she held it out, and the way Lasater’s smile brightened as she took the small jar filled Cassandra’s heart with light. She swallowed and retrieved a key from her pouch, too, which Leliana had folded into her palm before the journey. She pressed it into Lasater’s hand.

Lasater’s fingers curled around the key as she peered up at Cassandra from beneath dark lashes, bashfulness creeping into her tone, “See you inside.”

Cassandra grunted an affirmative and ducked her head to conceal the lust that swiftly colored her features. Lasater mounted the porch’s steps, and Cassandra could not help but watch the retreating form of her soon-to-be lover.

Incredulous with how Lasater stirred her—and not just between her legs—she led the horses around the circular house. A stand of thick pine trees concealed the small open-air workshop behind the roundhouse. Any equipment that once furnished it was long gone, save the still-functioning water pump, so it was the perfect place to hobble the horses for the night. The wooden structure provided shelter should it rain, and there was plenty of green grass for grazing.

She set about untacking the horses, her movements mechanical, because her dick felt very much like a dowsing rod, and Lasater was an overflowing spring.

From the porch, Lasater watched Cassandra walk the horses around the cabin before she tugged off her gloves and smeared the beeswax across her lips. She clenched the little jar in her marked hand as she fumbled with the dwelling’s key. Her fingers trembled as she fit the key into the new padlock—courtesy of the Inquisition—and she almost dropped the lock on her foot as she tugged it off the door. The door drifted open with a damp creak, and she shouldered past it and inside.

Dim light filtered in through the gaps between the wooden slats of the curved wall, illuminating the interior in a warm, ethereal light that reminded her of heavy-canopied forests on a mid-summer day. She had seen several other dwellings in the Hinterlands like this one, though each with a slightly different layout. The eastern portion of the great round room was hidden behind a thin wooden partition, and the western side was dominated by a square table and two chairs. On a shelf mounted above the table was a set of clay dishes and cups, and beside the table, sat a barrel and two wooden crates, each bearing the Inquisition’s mark. Across the room was the bearskin rug and an elegant, if monolithic, stone hearth. She could see where hunting trophies had once adorned the walls.

She needed to stay busy now, at least until Cassandra came inside, because the reality that she was about to get fucked—finally—was starting to settle over her, and the throbbing point of her clit began to hurt.

She dropped her bag and weapons by the door and crossed to the hearth, which was flanked by a stack of freshly chopped firewood and a cooking pot and spit. A metal washtub hung on the wall above the cooking pot. Murmuring the appropriate prayer to Sylaise, she bent to the task of warming the room.

As Lasater breathed flame into the red coals and built-up kindling, she heard Cassandra murmuring to their mounts. Her nerves felt alight—much in the same way that rifts sent the a prickling sensation coursing along the length of her arm—but knowing that Cassandra was not above talking to horses soothed her frayed thoughts and touched her heart.

A small part of her felt gratitude for her body’s reaction to Cassandra. The Seeker was nothing short of remarkable, all thoughtful tenderness beneath that thick façade of brusqueness; a delicate synthesis of pragmatism and passion, of stoicism and affection. Cassandra was an alpha paragon, complete with multiple titles—Hero and Princess and Seeker and Right Hand—and Lasater could not deny the thrill she felt at knowing she was about to bed a legend. How had her life suddenly become so colorful?

Satisfied with the fire, she inspected the barrel and crates, using her dagger to pry off the lids. The barrel contained three thick blankets, three sets of bed linens bundled with twine, and four feather pillows. The larger crate contained dried meats, hard cheese, bread, almonds, figs, and grapes, plus four bottles of wine, a box of chocolates, and a wax-sealed note bearing the Seeker’s name. She placed the note on the table in plain sight.

Inside the other crate was a case of wax candles, bath oils and soap, a small book, a shallow slender box, and a note addressed to her. She cracked the wax of the seal and unfolded the letter.

Your Worship,

The wine is best if allowed to breathe for a quarter of an hour. I find that few can resist the decadence of Val Royan truffles paired with a second glass of Antivan red. The first glass, of course, having been enjoyed with the manchego and salami.

I have arranged for a basket of fresh pastries to be delivered tomorrow morning. Cassandra is ever so fond of sugar-glazed croissants with honey butter.

In gratitude and service,

J. Montilyet

P.S. My apologies for Leliana’s contribution She could not be dissuaded.

Lasater shook her head, amazed at Josephine’s attention to detail and afraid for whatever Leliana had done that required pre-emptive apologizing. She helped herself to a fig before picking up the book. The cover and spine were blank, but the first page held the title, The Rivaini Guide to Desire. Her mouth fell open as she flipped through the pages, each containing a very detailed drawing of a sexual position.

“Creators, Leliana,” she admonished the air.

She put the book back into the crate and gave the small box a suspicious glare. She decided to leave it for Cassandra’s discovery.

Behind the partition was the bed, a simple wooden-framed affair with a fresh-looking mattress for two, and a wooden chest. A small lamp hung on the wall by the bed, which she lit, and she chewed her lower lip as her eyes settled on the naked mattress. Releasing a slow, shuddering breath, she returned to the main part of the room and began to gather linens from the barrel.

Chapter Text

The Seeker drew out the care of the horses as long as she could, and once they were hobbled and happily grazing, she folded the saddle pads and blankets and wiped down each saddle with a damp rag. Piece by piece, she carried their riding equipment to the porch even though she could have easily managed everything in one trip.

Her erection had deflated partway through her chore, but the intense scent of Lasater’s heat spilled from the ajar door. She shivered and stepped off the porch before too much blood could flow south—she was not ready to face Lasater yet, not ready to face the duty she had consigned herself to that morning. Cassandra sighed and glanced out at the land surrounding the roundhouse, a hand on each hip, and wondered how to further delay the inevitable.

She walked the perimeter of the roundhouse, twice, before coming to stand by the thickest of the pine trees. She unstrapped her shield from her back and leaned it against the tree, and after tugging off her gloves, Cassandra placed a bare palm on the trunk. With a resigned sound, she tucked her gloves into her belt and knelt in the sparse grass. She pressed her clasped hands into her forehead and silently prayed: Blessed is the Maker, and righteous is His plan. May He guide me, and bless me with His Holy Light. May I be shaped to His will and forged with His strength, so that I may stand tall against any opposition. I am His humble tool, and with His love, I will endure.

She centered her breathing and focused all of herself onto the Maker.

Calmed by her devotions, Cassandra brushed grass from her knees and snatched up her shield. The time for stalling was over.

She walked back to the porch and carried their riding equipment, her shield, and satchel inside. With a shuddering breath, she pulled the door shut and barred it. She felt reluctant and awkward and did not want Lasater to sense her reticence. It had seemed easy enough to agree to intercourse earlier in the day, but now all she could think was, Maker's breath, how did I even come to be here? Cassandra kept her eyes fixed on her task, taking much longer than necessary to arrange their tack in manner that would enable a hasty exit.

Lasater did not look up from what she was doing either, but Cassandra’s nearness, the potency of her scent, made her all the more proud of herself for not immediately stripping and sprawling on the bed.

The roundhouse seemed impossibly warm and bright, and Lasater’s scent was so concentrated that Cassandra felt dizzy. Performance anxiety returned, especially as her loins did not stir even with the tantalizing scent of an omega in heat flooding her nostrils. Cassandra took a deep breath through her nose, and let it out slowly through her mouth, bracing a hand against the wall. Her heartbeat echoed in her ears as she studied the room’s layout.

Candlelight glimmered in each wall sconce and on most of the flat surfaces of the cabin. Lasater stood in front of the hearth, lighting the last of the candles. There was a bottle of wine and two cups on the table, and Cassandra did not know how to feel, or where or how to stand. She had believed in the Herald’s promise of romance, but she had not anticipated wine and candlelight so soon.

Cassandra crossed to the table, unbuckling her swordbelt as she went. She draped the belt over a chair as her eyes settled on the letter, addressed to her in the spymaster’s rushed hand. She stared at the folded and wax-sealed piece of parchment for a dozen heartbeats before opening it, but her eyes could not focus, could not derive meaning from the words, and so she abandoned the letter in favor of removing her armor. When she was done, she was left in her riding boots, patchwork leggings, and a faded black and white quilted doublet. Her eyes flitted to the crates by the table, and she made note of the items she could see and identify.

The bottle of wine—a ten-year old Antivan red, she was pleased to see—was already uncorked, so she filled the earthenware cups that the Herald had set out. Lasater turned from the hearth then, and Cassandra’s instinct urged her forward until she was extending one of the cups to her would-be lover.

The Herald received the cup with a shy smile, and Cassandra swallowed at the way the elf's scarred lips quivered. Her dick twitched.

Lasater tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and cleared the tremor from her throat. She held the cup aloft, green eyes twinkling, “A toast to you, Cassandra Pentaghast, for your willingness to do what must be done.”

Cassandra scoffed but tapped her cup to Lasater’s all the same before gulping down a mouthful of the wine.

The wine spread tartness over Lasater’s tongue. Dalish wine was much sweeter and lighter on the tongue—more to her liking than this dry Antivan red—but she was nonetheless grateful for the soothing effect of the alcohol.

“How did you manage all of this in so little time?” Cassandra’s voice was extra husky, and Lasater kept her eyes shut a beat longer so her mind could absorb the inadvertent sultriness of the Seeker’s question.

Lasater shrugged, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth, “I wanted to do this properly for you, so I delegated.”

“I—thank you.” Color bloomed in Cassandra’s cheeks, nervousness clear on her face as she looked everywhere but Lasater. The omega's scent swirled around and bound them, multiplying the heat from the flickering candles and the hearth’s fire, and collected palpable and raw on Cassandra's tongue and in her nose. She released an unsteady breath, her voice nearly a whisper, "I—I don’t know what to do. I mean, I know what to do but…" She finished her wine with a gulp.

Lasater was similarly affected, the Seeker's musk overwhelming her senses until fire coursed through her veins to settle in the steady pulse of her turgid clit. Wetness soaked into the crotch of her smalls as hunger blazed in her eyes. She took one last sip from her own cup before setting it on the hearth's mantle and tangled the fingers of her unmarked hand with Cassandra’s, “Would it be alright if I kissed you?”

The Herald’s trembling hand pulled at Cassandra’s protective instinct, and she gave those long archer’s fingers a squeeze before nodding.

Holding Cassandra’s gaze, Lasater pressed kisses along the Seeker’s knuckles and the back of her hand. When her scarred lips glided along Cassandra’s palm to her wrist, the Seeker let out a shaky sigh.

The desire to kiss the Herald dropped like a stone in her gut, and she slammed her empty cup down on the mantle before gripping Lasater by the high collar of her jerkin. She dragged Lasater to her, their bodies slotting together despite the armor that the elf still wore, and their lips met in a kiss that stole breath and conscious thought. The feral moan that Lasater made as their kiss deepened sent a jolt straight to Cassandra’s groin. The Seeker wrapped her arms around Lasater, momentarily lifting the slighter woman off the ground, and the kiss quickly fevered, all scraping teeth and desperate tongues. Lasater’s blunt fingernails scratched over Cassandra’s scalp and neck, almost pulling her hair, and they kissed and kissed. Cassandra heard herself whimpering into the elf’s hot mouth as her hands traveled along the narrow expanse of Lasater’s waist and up her back to tangle in her hair. She felt herself finally swelling to the task.

Lasater slanted her mouth against the Seeker's and moaned at the touch of Cassandra’s tongue against her lower lip. She welcomed it, pressed her own tongue over and around it until Cassandra retreated. Her tongue gave chase, hungrily sweeping into Cassandra’s mouth as tentativeness gave way to instinct. She dissolved into the alpha’s scent and warmth, all gasps and fierce, wet kisses and grabbing hands, squeezing everything beneath her palms until Cassandra broke off, panting.

“I—” Heat burned in Cassandra’s cheeks, but Lasater could not stop now. Her lips brushed along Cassandra’s strong jaw, traced that long scar on her cheek, and trailed kisses down to her throat. She nosed the Seeker’s chin up, hunting the origin of her musk, and nipped it with her teeth—all while her fingers curled in short black locks to hold Cassandra in place.

Cassandra stifled a cry by biting her lip, and need tightened like a slipknot in the very depth of her. Blood pulsed below, and she was suddenly so hard that it hurt. Her hips canted forward, pressing into the elf’s armored torso.

Their lips met again, and Cassandra cupped Lasater's face in trembling palms as their kiss stirred her to levels of excitement she had never experienced before. These kisses were full of fire and urgency, and Lasater's lips were so supple, the thin divots of her scars adding a texture that Cassandra was quickly coming to crave. She sucked that lower lip into her mouth, growling at how Lasater squirmed against her, and bent to sear open-mouthed kisses across a pale throat. Lasater’s arms tightened around Cassandra’s back, little puffs of air spilling from her lips. Cassandra laved her tongue over the omega’s pulse point, fighting the urge to bite, and left a trail of saliva up to her pointed ear. She kissed the lobe, briefly suckled it, and licked the outer edge until she reached the very tip. Her teeth scraped over it, wrenching a shrill moan from Lasater, and Cassandra felt drunk on the elf's reactions.

The combination of Cassandra’s hot breath over the wet skin of her ear sent shockwaves of pleasure straight to Lasater’s center, and she sagged in the alpha’s arms. Wet heat soaked through her smalls to her trousers, and her inner muscles fluttered and clenched with longing. “Please, I want to—I need to touch you.”

Yes,” Cassandra grunted, her pelvis rolling ever so, and she hissed as her hardness slid along the resistance of boiled leather.

Lasater’s shaking hands swept from Cassandra's strong shoulders to the swell of her breasts, down the flat plane of her stomach, and to the curve of her hips. She molded her unmarked palm over the solid bulge at Cassandra’s apex, and the Seeker crooned and rocked into her hand. Fingertips traced the length, pressing harder the closer they got to the end, and a gravelly whimper escaped Cassandra’s throat.

Their mouths met again and again, each kiss more desperate than the last, and Lasater whimpered against Cassandra’s lips, “May I undress you?”

Her affirmative response was lost in a moan as Lasater rubbed her through her leggings. “Yes,” she said again, and Lasater quickly unbuttoned Cassandra’s doublet. Eager hands slipped inside the open garment to palm Cassandra’s toned stomach. At the touch of skin upon skin, they both hummed into the kiss.

Incredulous that she was finally getting to touch the Seeker, Lasater wasted no time in exploring the warrior’s physique. She stroked callused fingers along the slight valley bisecting Cassandra’s abdomen and uttered soft approval at the feel of hard muscle beneath soft skin.

Cassandra sucked in a breath as the omega's hands travelled up her bare abdomen to cup her bound breasts. Her nipples hardened immediately, nudging into Lasater's palms even through the colorless linen chest binder.

Between hungry kisses, Lasater murmured against the Seeker’s lips, teasing those stiff peaks with the gentlest pinches. Cassandra’s breasts were heavy and pliant in her hands, bigger than any others that she’d had the privilege to touch, and she fanned out her her fingers. She lightly squeezed and pushed her thumbs back and forth over pebbled nipples until Cassandra could no longer maintain the kiss.

Whimpering low, jagged waves of desire compelled Cassandra to flex her hips into Lasater's armor. The pressure against her unbearable hardness felt good, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn't what she wanted. She mustered the bravery to take Lasater by the wrist and guided her hand to the engorged ache trapped in her leggings.

The moment the clothed erection touched her hand, Lasater sank to her knees on the fur rug, and her deft fingers quickly unlaced and opened the flaps of Cassandra's trousers. She exhaled sharply at the sight of Cassandra’s swollen, naked shaft. "Creators, Cassandra, you're not wearing underpants." Her gaze flicked up the length of Cassandra’s athletic form, voracity shining in her meadow-colored eyes.

The alpha could only groan as hot breath whispered over her shaft. Her high-pitched, breathy cry pierced the heat of the roundhouse as Lasater pressed a kiss against the hard flesh, flicked her tongue over the slight tang of the alpha's skin, and made a husky, pleased sound. Lasater's mouth felt like a cauterizing blade, and Cassandra hissed and tipped her head back as the Herald of Andraste's tongue traced the veins in her throbbing dick. The wet touch stopped, and she glanced down the toned slopes of her belly.

Lasater had begun to unlace her boots, and after a few moments, Cassandra’s bare toes curled into the shaggy bear fur beneath them. A quick yank on Cassandra’s leggings freed her cock from the clinging material, and Lasater continued to pull until the pants were a pile on the floor. Cassandra gawked and panted as the omega inspected her length with sure hands, testing the firmness and encircling her girth with light squeezes and stroking. Her hips bucked, her balance faltering, and she reflexively reached out to grip the mantle. She licked her lips, her blown-wide pupils blacking out her irises as her vision tunneled as plump, moist lips closed around the glans.

Humming as the bitter salt of arousal touched her tongue, Lasater licked and sucked the angry purple cockhead, her unmarked hand stroking the shaft as her marked one explored the Seeker's muscular legs. The alpha’s thighs and calves were like stone, and the dense, soft hairs on her shins tickled Lasater’s palm.

“Oh, Maker,” Cassandra gusted out on a whimpered breath as wet warmth enclosed the tip of her dick. She stumbled as the Herald sucked her sensitive glans, and her dick popped from Lasater's mouth with a lewd slurp. "Wait, I-I want to—" Her words caught in her throat at the sight of the bobbing penis at the juncture of her legs, the bulbous head glistening obscenely with Lasater's spit.

Lasater skimmed work-roughened palms up Cassandra's legs, and she moaned with approval at how the alpha trembled with barely-restrained desire. Her smoldering regard swept lazily up the tawny landscape of compact muscle and soft curves before meeting her would-be lover's cautious eyes, "What do you want, Cassandra?"

The husky quality of her name, lolling like honey off Lasater’s tongue, sapped Cassandra’s strength. Her knees bent, but she clung still to the mantle to keep from falling. She was transfixed by the sight of the Herald of Andraste on her knees, those scarred lips shining with saliva and precum, her emotive green-and-gold eyes blazing with unbridled desire—For me! She could not recall anyone ever looking at her like that.

"The bed," was all Cassandra could muster, her cheeks and neck flushing a dark shade of pink. Her hardness jerked with her pulse, and Lasater became distracted by it. Cassandra took a small step back, her hand sliding along the mantle’s edge.

The movement drew Lasater's eyes upward, and her mind finished processing syllables into context. The bed. She grabbed Cassandra by the hand and pulled her around the partition.

Cassandra’s heart skipped a beat as the bed came into view. A slash of dim lamplight spilled across the smoothed-out duvet, illuminating the Chantry sigil embroidered along the top edge. The symbol lured a shred of doubt into the Seeker’s mind, but the heat gathered between their touching hands overpowered her hesitance. She wet her lips and croaked, "Take off your clothes."

Lasater's nostrils flared, lips parting with a hard breath. She raised trembling fingers to the buckles of her tasset, and once unclasped, it fell to the floor with a muted thud. Cassandra sat heavily upon the bed and leaned back onto her hands, her breaths rapid and shallow. Her need throbbed, eager for contact, but she wanted that touch to come from Lasater, wanted to come from Lasater’s touch. She bunched the bedsheets in her fists to keep her hands from wandering as Lasater’s cuirass joined the tasset. Lasater shoved the armor pieces aside with her foot and toed out of her boots and socks, stumbling a bit in her rush to disrobe.

The reality of the situation seeped beyond the thick fog of Cassandra’s excitement, but the moment was still altogether incomprehensible. No amount of training could have prepared her for what was about to transpire, or the events that had led up to this moment, and she could not remember the last time she had felt this exhilarated, this alive.

If ever I should find a sliver of light in the darkness, I must seize it. “The Light shall lead her safely through the paths of this world.” Nothing would keep her from enjoying this.

"Slower."

The undercurrent of tar’adahlav command in Cassandra’s gruff tone slowed Lasater’s frantic movements. Though she longed to be naked and fucked, adopting a slower pace at least afforded her the opportunity to indulge in the image of Cassandra casually reclined on a bed, dressed in nothing but an unbuttoned doublet and a throbbing hard-on. Lasater’s fingers stilled on the laces of her tunic as she openly stared, "By Mythal’s eye, Cassandra, you are breathtaking."

Cassandra started to protest, but words died on her tongue when Lasater hauled her cotton tunic over her head and shook out her hair, casting the garment aside. Lasater hadn’t had the patience to re-bind her breasts after masturbating earlier, so she stood before Cassandra in nothing but a pair of tight nugskin trousers with a rapidly darkening inseam.

Suddenly feeling quite parched, Cassandra swallowed and took a steadying breath. Lasater was pale, the blue of her veins visible just beneath the surface of her skin, and a flush mottled her freckled skin from her cheeks to the tops of her breasts. Small pink areolas and thick nipples topped those perfect handfuls of sensitive flesh. Lasater’s body was a testament to the hunt and was even more defined than Cassandra’s. Broad shoulders tapered to a narrow waist, and rippled columns of muscle fluttered taut along her sinewy abdomen. Those slender, delicate wrists belied the strength of arms toned by years of archery. A jagged scar cut across Lasater’s right thigh, and muscles flowed in the elf’s lean legs as she fidgeted under Cassandra’s thorough appraisal.

The warm glow of the oil lamp highlighted Lasater with a painter’s finesse, and it coaxed a translucent pearl to the slit of Cassandra’s dick, spurred her breathing into a shallow pant. No word or phrase in her vocabulary could ever be adequate enough to capture the earthy sensuality of the woman standing before her. At least she knew that her strength lay not in words, but in her ability to see what must be done, and then do it. She pulled Lasater close with steady hands and leaned in to trace the lines of that pale torso with chaste presses of her lips. Sighs encouraged her exploration, which she navigated with slow sweeps of her hands across every inch of bare skin. She drew a line with her tongue from navel to sternum and then sprinkled kisses along Lasater’s chest and breasts until the elf threaded long fingers through her short hair. Cassandra murmured with pleasure and incited a quick intake of breath when she kissed a nipple. She gave it an experimental lick and slid her wet lips over it, tugged at it with her teeth, and lost herself in an unhurried suckle.

The Herald crooned, fingers scrabbling over Cassandra’s scalp. Her nipple was red and swollen by the time the alpha began kissing a horizontal line to Lasater’s other breast. She wriggled and made to pull back, but Cassandra held her fast with a firm, grip on the thick muscles of her backside, which was built firm and round from endless walking and hiking and running. Lasater relaxed into Cassandra’s appreciative kneading and stroked her hair.

When Cassandra covered Lasater’s other breast with a rough palm and teased the wet, still-puckered nipple with eager fingers, the elf’s hips began a slow involuntary arc. The omega made a desperate noise and fumbled with the laces of her trousers. The sight of the Seeker’s lips pursed around her nipple ripped a whine from her.

The nipple in her mouth muffled Cassandra’s pleased murmurs. She was delighted and deeply aroused by the sounds she coaxed from Lasater and could not wait to discover what other reactions she could elicit—the next of which was a frustrated grunt as the elf pushed at the waistband of her pants. Cassandra chuckled for the first time in weeks as she leaned back to help divest Lasater of her trousers.

Using the warrior’s broad shoulders for balance, Lasater stepped out of her pants and paused to look into Cassandra’s smiling face. It was an infectious expression, and Lasater beamed back before pressing a kiss to Cassandra’s lips.

The Seeker ached to get lost in those lips again, but she could actually feel the heat coming off of the elf’s body and had seen the clear delineation of her slit thanks to the sizeable wet patch in the crotch of her plain gray shorts. Lasater needed her. A groan rumbled in her chest as she gripped the sodden smalls in both hands and yanked them off.

Lasater mewled as cool air hit her swollen vulva, and she stepped between Cassandra's legs, which parted to make room. She slid her hands back into short, dark strands, clenching and unclenching fistfuls of hair. Her ministrations tugged the alpha’s head back, and they stared at each other until the headiness of Lasater’s pussy rolled over Cassandra like a rainy morning fog.

She inhaled, nostrils flared, and crooned as the source of Lasater's nas’athlan filled her nose. Her mouth watered, and she was surprised at how enticing she found the smell of the omega’s most intimate place. Her gaze slid from Lasater's face to the dense triangle of dark, dewy curls. She exhaled shakily and swallowed.

With gentle hands, Lasater cupped Cassandra’s face and smiled. She brushed her thumbs over high cheekbones and along the scar on each cheek until she reached the corners of the alpha’s mouth. Without thinking, Cassandra kissed those thumbs, and Lasater replaced her thumbs with her lips. Cassandra sighed into the kiss and initiated another and another and another until Lasater broke away with a strangled sort of sob.

"Cassandra, are you sure you want to go through with this?" Lasater searched the alpha’s face for any sign of doubt.

"Yes," Cassandra slid her palms up Lasater's thighs to her hips, a thumb on either side of the omega's mons. “Only…will you…show me what to do?” Her hands drifted to Lasater's waist, and she marveled at the power coiled there despite its waifish width. How could someone appear so willowy and be so powerful at the same time?

Lasater smiled and kissed her again. “Of course. Though I imagine you’ll be a quick study.” She plucked the pins from Cassandra's hair to release the thin crown braid until the silky plait hung down the alpha’s chest. Cassandra shrugged her doublet off and gently tossed it over the footboard of the bed. Together, they unwound her breast band, and Lasater purred graciously at the vision of a totally nude, totally aroused Cassandra Pentaghast. She braced her hands against the alpha’s shoulders and knelt astride thickly-toned thighs. She settled onto Cassandra's lap to trap that throbbing shaft between her liquid heat and the alpha’s chiseled abdomen. Cassandra immediately hitched her hips, and they both whined at the other’s extreme state of arousal.

Creators, the alpha’s cock was so hot and hard and felt so good tucked against her spread-open folds. It took momentous effort not to sink down over Cassandra, and Lasater’s hips started to jog as the nas'athlan tightened its hold on her core, pushing away all conscious thought in favor of instinctual rutting. "Oh, fuck, Cassandra. Oh, fuck." Her breath shuddered out of her as she rubbed her clit against the alpha’s hardness. She tucked her forehead against a naked shoulder, her arms looping around Cassandra’s toned torso.

Cassandra groaned and palmed Lasater's ass, pulling the omega’s molten center tighter against her needy shaft. Her pelvis tilted upward, her dick seeking the velvet heat hidden within. Lasater arched with a breathy cry, and the exposed line of her pale throat sent pulses through Cassandra's length. The alpha's hands flexed on the elf's rump, tugged her even closer, and she ground against the omega’s sodden crease. Involuntary grunts fell from her lips as she rolled her hips back further to try to find the right angle to push inside. Instead, her dickhead and shaft careened along the elf's clit on the upward arch. Lasater panted against her neck, pushing her slick into the alpha’s scalding hardness.

They moved together until a persistent pressure built up along Cassandra's shaft and extended into the bottom of her gut. She uttered a ragged, hoarse sound, “Oh, Maker, I’m going to—” and then she did, painting their bellies and breasts with her sticky release.

Lasater hummed with approval and leaned back to watch Cassandra’s cock unload, her hands tightly clasped behind the alpha’s neck. “Oh, siuvhenan,” she purred, biting her lip at the way Cassandra’s cock jerked with each expulsion. The alpha’s head was tipped back, eyes pinched shut, and Lasater slid forward to encourage the last spurts out with the press of her slippery sex. The motion pulled a cracked cry from Cassandra, her upper body lurching forward. Lasater grasped for purchase on the back of Cassandra's neck and brought their foreheads together. Their breath blew hot against the other's lips, Cassandra panting through the aftershocks of her orgasm. Her bark-brown eyes were glassy as they fixed on shining, delighted green ones.

“You are so sexy, Cassandra. I think I shall never tire of seeing you come,” Lasater’s voice was a harsh whisper, raw need grating her throat. She couldn’t keep her hips from pushing and rolling against Cassandra’s cock until it was soaking with their combined fluids.

Cassandra’s hips quickly found the omega’s rhythm and rocked counter to it. She was momentarily ashamed for finishing so soon, but Lasater’s enthusiastic response made it clear that there was no reason at all for self-deprecation. And to be called sexy in such a way—from such a woman—Maker, she was intoxicated with the feelings Lasater effortlessly pulled from her.

“I like the way you’re looking at me.”

"I cannot help it,” Cassandra sighed. “You are beautiful."

“Mm, and you know just how to flatter me? You’re dangerous, Cassandra,” Lasater smiled, really smiled, and her small laugh was a beacon of sweetness that Cassandra sought with her lips.

The moment of lightness was quickly eclipsed by mutual fire. Lasater wetly returned Cassandra’s kisses, licking into the alpha's mouth on the tail end of a moan. Her hips became insistent, and her pleading whimpers filled Cassandra’s mind with a thick lust-red fog.

Lasater broke the kiss with a hissed whine, "Cassandra.” She begged, “I need you." Her thighs shook as she rose up on her knees, her slick opening hovering a hair's breadth from the alpha’s dew-tipped cockhead. "Please, oh, please," her hips continued their swiveling rock, her thatch of hair just barely brushing Cassandra's heaving, release-splashed abdomen.

Chapter Text

The omega’s pleading moan triggered something primal and distantly familiar inside the Seeker, and a low snarl caught in her throat. Her unflagging hardness twitched in time with her pulse, drawing attention to the vein-marbled shaft and plump head between her thighs. Using one hand, she poised her need at Lasater’s slick impatience.

Lasater held Cassandra’s gaze hostage as she dragged her slit back and forth over the Seeker’s cockhead. She palmed those broad shoulders and purred at the shift of toned muscle under her hands. She settled her entrance just so against Cassandra’s dusky-colored glans. “Are you ready?”

Eyes rolling back at the contact of slick on dick, Cassandra sucked in a breath. “What do you think?”

The Seeker’s tone tugged a sympathetic moan to Lasater’s scarred lips. Pressing light red half-circles into Cassandra’s shoulders, Lasater lowered herself onto the Seeker’s waiting cock.

Between the wet heat encompassing the first few inches of her dick and the blissful grin that replaced Lasater’s desperate expression, Cassandra had no hope of muting her relieved moan from finally being inside. The intimacy made her sounds sweet and hushed.

Her length was molten gold, and Lasater was the casting mold. Her forearms shook with the effort it took to not bury her length in the omega, to not clutch her hips and take her until pleasure carried them away in heavy, white-hot waves.

Strong fists tightened in her hair, and Cassandra let go of a drawling curse as clinging wet fire consumed the rest of her wanting length, “Shit.”

Lasater’s blazing heat demanded all of her attention, but she latched onto thoughts of anything else with meditative intent to prolong her release. She wanted to memorize every second of this moment, wanted to hold onto it forever.

They trembled together, trading tiny moans as they accommodated to the pleasant strain of their joining. As the stillness of the moment stretched on, Lasater's eyelids fluttered shut, and buried guilt tried to summon thoughts of Shiva. The memory of their uth’dianth was but a hazy reel of disconnected images and ghost touches now, and Lasater was angry that the decade’s old experience had not only kept her from pursuing this kind of fulfillment for so long, but that it threatened her only chance at making it through this unexpected, overpowering nas’athlan with minimal suffering.

Plus that—oh fuck, that’s good—that what’sit on my hand—oh!—and that green hole in the sky—oh, Creators!

Clearly, too much was at stake.

With the press of Cassandra’s cock inside of her and the fear of an unquenched heat, it was surprisingly easy to reject the shadow of comfort that her memories used to provide. Lasater squeezed with her innermost muscles, as if to anchor herself in the present moment, to reassure herself of its reality, and to just be with Cassandra. Oh, Cassandra.

Siuvhenan.”

Sheathed utterly in Lasater's tightness, Cassandra barked with defeat—she could hold back no longer—and withdrew until only her dickhead remained inside. When Lasater began to whine at the absence, Cassandra roughly plunged back inside, grinding her wiry curls into the omega’s split-open labia.

The motion wrenched a pained sound from Lasater, and Cassandra fought to still her hips. Sweat beaded on her forehead and upper lip, and her grip surely bruised the elf's pale backside. “Am I hurting you?”

“No, no—Creators,” Lasater was a font of simpering groans as she clung to Cassandra's neck. The nas’athlan directed her hips in a slow rock, and her voice was a thin squeak, “You feel so good inside me.”

Cassandra shivered from Lasater’s praise and the velvet walls that rippled along her shaft, and the coal of aggressive lust in her gut combusted. She eased her dick out, guiding Lasater’s hips up, and then swiftly reversed the motions. Cassandra did it over and again, and before long, she realized that she had gotten the hang of it, just as Lasater assured. Her hips already knew the ancient rhythm of the omega’s grind, and if she studied her face—ethereal, breathtaking—listened closely to the shift of her breath and volume of her moans—unrestrained, haunting—she could deduce what was good and what was better—deep, hard, steady. Fucking Lasater burned poetry into her heart.

She lost herself in learning how to coax sounds from those scarred lips, to contort those adorably-freckled features with visceral pleasure. The power to draw such exquisite reactions from the Herald jarred her and spurred her into a fast buck. Her feet sought purchase on the floor, toes desperate and clenching for better leverage. The fingers in her hair yanked her head back, and Cassandra gasped at the quick stab of pain.

Lasater’s green and yellow eyes bore into her hazel ones, mirroring the command of her hoarse tone, "Fuck me. Don't hold back."

Her lover’s snarled passion pulsed in the base of Cassandra’s dick, awakening her knot. A feral tone of compliance rattled in her chest, and she forced Lasater to meet each brutal slam. She repeated the deep motion more slowly until she could feel the omega fluttering around her swelling hilt. The nearby candle flames flickered as they both inhaled sharply.

Lasater scratched thin lines along the nape of the alpha’s neck, crying out and laughing, "Oh, yes! Just like that, siuvhenan. Justlikethat."

She panted as long strokes speared her. The breadth of Cassandra’s cockhead and the impressively rigid curve of her shaft cleaved her open, rubbing persistently against her front wall. Her arousal gathered thick and frothy, making it easy for the alpha to slide each inch in and out in a maddening rhythm. Lasater breathed a curse and worked to match Cassandra’s pumps.

Cassandra crushed her lips against Lasater’s, and even as gasps interrupted their kisses, they explored each other's mouths and bit at each other's lips. Their kisses became hungrier, and the alpha renewed her grip on the omega’s rear to intensify her impaling pace.

Lasater was soon mewling into the alpha’s mouth, desperate to come, to finally fill the painful hollowness of the nas’athlan, "Faster, Cassandra."

Grunting—the way she says my name!—the alpha collapsed against the bed and surrendered to the eldritch need throbbing in her dick. Knees bent, she dug her heels into the edge of the mattress. She clutched Lasater by the waist and held the omega still against the onslaught of her quick, pummeling thrusts.

Muffled slaps echoed between their thighs, and Lasater tensed all over as the alpha’s hardness pounded into her. Each stroke felt better than the last, and the pleasure compounded until the omega was shoved loudly over the edge of ecstatic oblivion. She bucked and collapsed over Cassandra, their breasts pressing together. Reaching back, she covered Cassandra’s hands with her own, and panting yesyesyes into the alpha’s collarbone, she fucked herself on that magnificent cock. The omega came with a shrill wail that tapered into silence, her silky-wet bearing down.

The excruciating pleasure of being trapped inside Lasater’s spasming cunt ripped a moaned chuckle from Cassandra. She would certainly not complain about her predicament, however, especially as Lasater shuddered and drenched her groin and the duvet with her release.

“Oh, Maker. Lasater—!” Cassandra hollered again, wordless, and the growing bulb at the base of her dick surged with empathy. She changed the cadence of her thrusts until the sharpness of her impending orgasm dulled. Lasater’s breaths gusted against her lips as they kissed.

Before long, Cassandra built back up to her previous relentless pace, and Lasater rose and fell against each thrust. Where the omega’s first orgasm was a steady, voice-stealing affair, the second was a warhammer to a clavichord. She shattered into a dozen sobbing syllables, each one punctuated by the jerky hitch of her hips. She arched into the alpha one moment and pressed flush against her the next, her sloppy-wet velvet never stopping its grasping flutter along the steel-like shaft.

All that existed, all that she was or could ever be, narrowed into the distilled pleasure of savagely sawing her dick in and out of Lasater. She had not felt this close to the all-encompassing bliss of a truly empty mind since her vigil in the Blasted Hills. She didn't want the feeling to ever end, but the insistent ripple along her shaft banished all control.

A crimson pulse of instinct seized hold. With a possessive growl, she hugged Lasater to her and turned them over on the bed. Sliding her palms along the backs of Lasater’s thighs, she angled the elf’s legs back until her knees pressed next to delicately-pointed ears.

The omega’s dark hair fanned out on the duvet, her meadow green eyes wide and glazed, her lips parted as a surprised gasp lingered. Cassandra loomed above her, her cinnamon-hazel eyes bearing the telltale glaze of someone about to succumb to their most carnal, most basic need. Pinned and splayed as she was, Lasater could only quake beneath Cassandra’s rapid, unforgiving strokes. The sleeping nook echoed with the untamed, staccato sounds of an alpha hurtling towards release, and the faster Cassandra pumped, the louder Lasater cursed.

When they weren’t rolling back into her head, Lasater trained her eyes on the alpha’s face. She watched those usually-stern features dissolve into a vulnerable landscape of softened angles and fluttering eyelashes. The image was breathtaking, and Lasater knew to see it was to catch a glimpse of something rarer and more valuable than even the most legendary artifact. The privilege coiled like a tight spring in her core. “Oh, Cassandra. You’re b-beautiful—so fucking beautiful.”

The alpha tried to reply, but an edged sob burst forth instead. She let go of Lasater’s thighs and held onto the oak headboard. The bedframe’s creak joined the chorus of their cries.

Lasater tucked her legs beneath Cassandra’s armpits and angled herself onto each intense stroke. She found the Seeker’s hands with her own, and her fingers curled tight around her alpha’s wrists. All the jagged, unfiled parts of her fingernails pierced redness into Cassandra’s skin as they slammed together.

The alpha’s clockwork pace deteriorated, her grunts puffing out louder and louder as the bulb at the base of her dick flared to fullness. Her back bowed as she threw her strength behind a deep stroke that lifted Lasater’s hips off the bed. She held herself there, fighting off her climax just a little longer.

The omega kept writhing on Cassandra’s cock, though, her clasping slick gliding to-and-fro. Wet trails tracked up the small of Lasater’s back as she rolled her opening around the top of the alpha’s knot, her inner walls pounding with anticipation. Her scarred lips twisted with every shuddering breath and formed unfinished words.

What Cassandra could understand—yes take me fuck me oh Cassandra oh ma tar’adahlav Cassandra please fuck me—connected each vein and nerve in her body to her dickhead until she feared it was going to come right off. She couldn’t stop, though, not now. Not when every inkling of the omega’s essence—the flex of lean strength under pale, freckled skin, the sear of her innermost heat, the smell of her cunt and sweat—propelled her toward the thin line between insanity and ecstasy.

With a triumphant, rasping howl, the alpha pillaged another messy release out of Lasater with quick, skewering strokes. The omega squealed and wrapped her legs so tightly around Cassandra that she pulled the alpha down on top of her. Cassandra hugged Lasater to her with loving arms, her breath painting the omega's neck, and it was the most natural thing to open her mouth to the salt and flutter of the pulse point, to press teeth to it.

The sharp pressure at her throat ripped a ragged cry from the omega. Instinct wrapped her fingers around Cassandra’s braid, and she held it in a tight fist to keep the alpha’s head right where it was. Lasater lifted her mouth to the alpha’s sweat-streaked neck and laved her tongue in the damp salt before sealing her lips and teeth over it. She moaned into her languid suckle.

Toes curling, Cassandra raked angry red welts down Lasater’s back, hips pistoning out of control, and someone with her voice shouted a reedy curse, “Fuck, Lasater. I’m coming.”

She flooded the omega’s fluttering passage with her seed, each spurt accompanied by a whined exhalation, and her thrusts continued as shallow, erratic flicks.

As she was stuffed full of throbbing shaft and jets of scalding come, with Cassandra’s knot pulsing against her unyielding opening, Lasater shredded her throat with a scream. The nas’athlan coiled hot and deep within her farthest reaches, and her inner walls instinctually milked everything they could from the alpha.

Their combined release splashed Cassandra’s groin and dripped along her inner thighs to soak into the sheets. They shuddered into each other, and as primal urge loosened its hold on her conscious mind, the alpha very much needed to feel her omega’s lips against her own. Her jaw ached from where she’d tensed her teeth around the elf’s shoulder, but Lasater kissed the sore joint when it passed in front of her mouth. Lips met, and Cassandra murmured contentedly into their mingled breath. The aftermath of their mutual completion was a lazy affair of gently tilting pelvises and tangling fingers and tongues.

When the ferocity of Lasater's orgasm finally abated, she inhaled sharply through trembling lips. Tears prickled the corners of her eyes. Their joining had felt so good, so right, like a small piece of herself had been returned after a long time lost, but she was ambivalent, equal parts shame and joy, about allowing the nas’athlan to conquer her, and the remnants of mind-splitting orgasms threatened that hysterical point of fatigue. But without Cassandra’s knot, their enthusiastic coupling only multiplied the ache between her legs into an expansive vacuum. She turned her face away as emotion welled up in her chest.

Cassandra propped herself up on one arm, concern plain on her flushed features. Fear sapped hardness from her erection, and she wiped a tear from Lasater’s cheek with her knuckles. "Lasater? Did I hurt you?"

“No, no,” Lasater shook her head, and fresh tears flowed hot to soak into her hair and the pillowcase. She draped her forearm over her eyes to shield herself from Cassandra's scrutiny.

"Tell me, please" Cassandra whispered, peppering tiny kisses along the wrist that hid the omega’s expression.

Lasater dried her eyes with the side of her fist and blinked up at the tenderness in Cassandra's gaze, the slight dip of her brow, "I'm alright." She smiled and brushed her fingertips over the hair plastered to the Seeker's forehead. "Kiss me?"

Cassandra searched Lasater's face before she placed a soft kiss against lips swollen from their earlier passion. Being inside of Lasater suddenly felt too vulnerable, so she unsheathed her softening girth, and a trickle of fluid followed, snaking down the cleft of Lasater’s backside. Cassandra cupped the omega's pleasantly-battered vulva, eliciting a gasp. The alpha hummed at the silky feel of their orgasms on her fingers and pressed another kiss to Lasater's mouth, dallying long strokes up and down parted slickness. Their kiss deepened, and Lasater twined her arms around Cassandra's upper body.

Exploring the area with her fingertips and palm, Cassandra spread their combined juices around Lasater's mound and vulva, but she could not pull her focus from Lasater’s tears. She leaned back on her elbow again, "Are you sure you're alright?"

"Yes. It's just…you didn’t knot me.” She squirmed around Cassandra’s probing fingers, her opening weakly pulsing with invitation.

Cassandra looked crestfallen, “I finished too fast."

"No! No, Cassandra, you were incredible, amazing," she stroked both thumbs along the planes of Cassandra's face. "You made me come so hard. I just need…more.” Lasater paused, peering up into warm welcoming eyes, “If you’re tired, I can use my hand for a bit."

Cassandra’s brows bunched, “I would never abandon my duty. Whatever you need, Lasater, I will do it. You need only tell me what you want.” The corner of her lip curved in a smug half-smile as two fingers discovered the elf’s swollen clit.

Breath hissed between Lasater’s teeth, and a small laugh followed as she reflected for a moment on how easy this was with Cassandra, to ask without reserve and receive without restraint; two strangers bearing themselves, raw and cautious, but open.

Lasater jerked into the alpha’s circling fingertips. “I want your knot, Seeker. I want you to make me scream.” Yet she could not voice the unfounded calls in her heart—claim me, mark me, use me, breed me—because she could not trust them. Rapture warped the line that separated reality from animistic instinct.

Such talk! Heat filled Cassandra’s cheeks. Her dick lurched stiff and hot against Lasater’s thigh, a final pulse bringing her knot to an unbearable fullness. She sucked in a groan and leaned her cheek into the elf’s marked palm, eyes drifting shut as she stilled her thoughts. The Herald’s Fade-touched hand was hot and dry, and the wound’s jagged edges scraped against Cassandra’s cheek. She opened her eyes to look at it, caught Lasater’s wrist with a gentle grip as the omega recoiled, and brushed her lips along the uneven chartreuse tear.

The shimmering gash cast a sickly glow over the Cassandra’s features, but Lasater’s grimace went unseen. A jolt of interwoven desire and fondness connected Lasater’s clit and heart in a rush of confusing, comforting warmth. She felt as if a bird was trapped inside her ribs, and she exhaled a shuddering breath that she didn’t recall holding.

Cassandra nearly growled, flashing back to the intensity of climaxing inside of Lasater—Maker, she could not even fathom how good it might feel to have the omega flexing around her knot. She nipped at one of Lasater's thumbs and hoped her eyes could convey what her words so often could not. "I want you to have it. I want you to have all of me.” Her nostrils flared, her brown eyes blackening with desire.

Lasater seized Cassandra in an urgent, whimper-touched kiss, and the Seeker responded with the press of her tongue and a renewed exploration of the omega’s folds. Aided by a staggering amount of wetness, Cassandra rubbed the ball of her thumb around the elf's hard clit and circled her opening with two fingertips. Her hand quickly worked Lasater into a bucking frenzy, and she gasped when snug, silky heat encased her fingertips, drawing both battle-toughened digits entirely inside. She curled her fingers, automatically doing to Lasater what she might do to herself, and tapped and stroked the swollen ridge of the omega’s front wall.

A climax boiled at the base of Lasater’s skull, and she tipped back in a sudden arch, braced against the headboard with locked elbows and grasping palms to ride Cassandra’s hand. She writhed on the duvet, and the alpha smeared a pale thigh with the thin arousal that leaked from her dick.

When Lasater had mostly come down from her orgasm, she fixed smoldering green eyes on Cassandra’s flushed features. “Fuck me now."

Wasting not a single heartbeat, Cassandra positioned herself on her knees between Lasater’s smooth, pale thighs. Her dicked swayed with the movement, distracting her, and she wondered how long it would take to become accustomed to such a brazen display of her own arousal. Touching herself with sure fingers, the alpha paused to bask in Lasater’s wanton position.

Darkness had settled over the night, but the muted firelight of candles and the nearby oil lamp was all it took to illuminate the elf’s glistening, swollen lips and peeking clit. Lasater spread herself open with one hand and reached out with the other, fingers curling so around the alpha’s shaft. Cassandra murmured at the contact, but Lasater—so exposed and ardent beneath her, that taut torso streaked with her earlier exclamations—entranced her.

Oh, Maker, she is covered in me. Cassandra’s nostrils fluttered, a needy moan filling her mouth.

“Cassandra, please.” Lasater tugged Cassandra forward by her cock and positioned the head against her dilated need. She lifted her hips, and the glans popped inside as if it had always been there.

The alpha keened low and sunk back into Lasater’s sodden, euphoric grip. She held her torso upright and glanced between their heaving chests to watch her dick sluice through clasping, creamy pink, to study how each stroke affected her lover. She had expected that after the first bout, any subsequent coupling would be slow and leisurely, but between the pussy squeezing the life out of her dick and the sounds of the omega cresting from one wispy orgasm to the next, she could not maintain a slow pace.

The regular thrum of that engorged bulb against Lasater’s clit and opening tore loud, affirmative sounds from the omega’s mouth. She petaled open, her walls roiling in invitation, and her slickness stretched in fragile white strings between their thrusting hips. As she cradled the alpha’s exertion-reddened cheeks, Lasater’s chin and nose quivered with an unbelieving how are you doing this to me? shining in her eyes.

“F-fuck, Cassandra. Fucking knot me.”

Cassandra’s hiss carried the weight of alpha dominance, “Patience.” Her thrusts petered into a slow, swiveling grind, and the top half of her knot rolled in and out of the omega’s greedy opening. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

Lasater would not have it. Her thighs clenched around Cassandra’s waist, and her heels pressed into the Seeker’s muscled rump. Her zeal to be crammed full of the alpha’s uth’dianth tugged a pitiful keen from her panting lips, and she tensed as she forced the tight oh of her opening onto Cassandra’s knot. The sharp stretch lasted but a breath, giving way to a deep, internal shudder. Just being filled with the intense thickness of her alpha’s knot pushed her toward another thundering release.

Tears actually sprang to the Seeker’s eyes as her knot nestled into the caress of Lasater’s humid heat. Tied and humming and unable to thrust, Cassandra settled her pelvis into an unhurried rotation. The omega’s opening clung impossibly tight beneath the base of her knot, and the alpha could not stop the string of adoring, loving noises that filtered through her lips and onto the shell of a tapered ear.

The gentle rock and whispered sweetness tipped the omega through another loud climax and snatched high-pitched grunts from the alpha’s chest. Sliding her fingers through the alpha’s damp hair, Lasater brought their foreheads together. Cassandra opened her eyes as her spine dipped, her solid belly drooping against Lasater’s. They watched elation flicker over the other’s features as they succumbed to the tie.

Lasater tipped her head back to expose her moonlight-colored throat. Her black hair spilled over the pillow, and her stubby fingernails clawed the alpha’s shoulders. With moisture-rimmed eyes and a choked cry floundering in her chest, Cassandra slipped her arms beneath Lasater’s back. She fisted the long, dark tresses, and clung and pumped and reveled in the scent of her omega as it gradually mixed with her own. Her rational mind screamed don’t, but it was too late—her dick was ensconced, they were tied, and her teeth already clasped the tender skin just below the omega’s chin. Her knot pulsed one last time before its sticky strands unraveled inside Lasater. The border between coming and not-coming blurred until Cassandra felt like all that she was, all that she had the potential to be, narrowed down to her swollen, spurting dick and the coppery taste of her omega’s blood on her tongue. Violent pulses shuddered along her shaft as it ejected thread after thread of thin come, and she was vaguely aware of the rough growls in her throat.

Mine echoed in her skull as her orgasm waned.

Aftershocks trembled through the meeting of their bodies, teasing happy sighs from both alpha and omega. Lasater drew tired circles with her hips, her toes tracing swirls and lines on the alpha’s thighs, and whenever she crested toward another orgasm, the alpha’s cock would shudder anew. The uth’dianth concluded in waves, the tail end of one's orgasm triggering the other to climax until unconsciousness licked at the backs of their minds.

Before their bodies could totally slacken, Cassandra reversed their positions so that she could cradle her omega through the last tremors. Lasater made small noises through the adjustment, and the alpha held her tightly to ease the shift. By the time they were settled, the omega's head lolled with sleep. Cassandra maneuvered Lasater’s head onto her chest, her breast a most excellent pillow, and patiently wrestled a half-untucked sheet over their legs. Arms thickened by decades of swordplay cradled the omega’s slender body, and emotion hitched in Cassandra’s chest as she was saturated with tender warmth.

I will never let you go, rose unprompted to the forefront, and Cassandra swallowed, the binding grip of instinct suddenly falling away.

Chapter Text

Ruby-throated hummingbirds filled her chest cavity through a wound in her side, flooding in instead of blood flowing out. They vibrated excitedly, and their exceptionally long tongues slipped out to tangle in the blood-flowers on her heart. Feeling trapped, weighed down by the fading image of vampiric hummingbirds, a gasp welled in Cassandra’s throat, and she settled into her body after an hour of strange dreams.

She remembered, smelled, felt the comforting everything of Lasater’s body atop her own. The panicked throb of Cassandra’s heart abated as she listened to her lover’s steady breathing.

The call of nature eventually forced her out of bed. Afterward Cassandra, dressed only in the dried remnants of her coupling with Lasater, blew out the few candles that still sputtered—Maker forbid their den of carnality burn down around them while they slept. Not that slumber was something she was able to achieve at this particular moment. Fatigue burned around her eyes and in her low back and thighs, but she could not stop reliving moments from the last several hours.

After extinguishing the candles on the hearth's mantel, Cassandra put another log on the fire and prodded the coals until flames licked the wood. She collected the earthenware cups that had been discarded on the mantel and carried them back to the table. After refilling one with wine, she stood sipping from it, and her eyes drifted to Leliana's letter. She resigned herself to whatever fate awaited her and shook the crease out of the page.

Silk,

I am sorry for the surprise of your circumstances. When you return, my ears and shoulders are yours.

LL has two books for you to read, and I have included another in your provisions should you require…inspiration. I have also included sheepskin sheaths. I am sure you will agree that LL cannot be in the family way.

I am, as ever, moved by your courage, dedication, and determination. The sun would be proud of you.

Loon

Cassandra sighed—would Justinia be proud of her? Yes, she supposed the Divine would have supported her decision to spend a few days helping the Herald through her heat. Thedas needed its savior, after all, and that savior needed Cassandra.

Sheepskin sheaths, though? Shit. She had not considered the ramifications of having a penis, of having seed.

Maker, I could father children. Gulping wine, Cassandra realized that there was a lot she had not thought upon before agreeing to this bizarre tryst. What would happen once Lasater's heat ended? Would they continue on as lovers? The idea made Cassandra’s heart race, and she pressed fingertips into her chest to still the emotion surging beneath her skin.

Cassandra tipped more wine into her cup and cast a pensive, doubtful gaze upon the Inquisition-stamped boxes. She approached the provisions and gasped as the delicate flesh dangling between her legs brushed against the rough grain of the wooden chair. A scowl furrowed her features, and she reluctantly glanced down the length of her body. Her new appendage was altogether startling to look upon, so vulnerable in its construction, and she puffed her cheeks and blew the air out slowly.

I will need a…codpiece.

She pinched the bridge of her nose between her forefinger and thumb. Why had it taken her well into middle age to discover she was an alpha? What would she do with the information now?

When Cassandra located the box of sheep gut prophylactics, she bit the tip of her tongue to quell a disgusted sound. The discovery of bath oils and hard soap softened her frown, and a delicate swirl of bergamot and sage wafted over her after she uncorked the vial of oil. The soap smelled of lavender and something earthy that Cassandra couldn’t identify. The rest of her scowl dissolved into a pleased smile as she poked through the rest of the items that Lasater had requested.

Cassandra carried the spymaster’s note, along with her cup, the bottle of wine, and the book, to the hearth. She deposited the wine and her cup on the mantel. Holding the parchment flat against the book, she re-read the missive. When she was done, she crumpled the letter into a ball and tossed it into the fire.

She retrieved her wine and methodically sipped as flames warped and devoured the paper. When nothing but ashes remained, Cassandra tipped the last of the Antivan red into her cup.

I had sex with a woman. Like a man. She touched unbelieving fingertips to her lips.

No, like an alpha. A flush crept up her neck and into her cheeks even as she inhaled with pride. Maker take me, I loved it.

Her bark-colored eyes flitted to the wooden screen separating the sleeping nook from the rest of the cabin, and she bit her lip. I want to do it again.

Swallowing, she looked away and lifted the book to the firelight, turning it this way and that to locate the title. Finding no print on the outside, she flipped open the cover with her thumb and scoffed. Really, Leliana?

After almost a decade of working together, she thought she would have become hardened to spymaster’s uncanny ability to simultaneously infuriate and endear. She imagined Leliana’s delighted giggle as she plopped the Rivaini sex text into the crate—if she is having some fun at my expense...

Then again, she had always evaded Leliana’s attempts to pry into the more private parts of her past, so how could the former bard know what kind of sexual experience she did or did not have?

I should have actually talked to Leliana, should have asked more questions. I should have thought more carefully before agreeing to this arrangement with the Herald.

The hairs on her neck fluttered upright, and a shred of agitation made her grip tighten on the cup. She took a deep breath through parted lips and tried to still her mind, but Lasater's come fuck me scent wormed its way into her nose and mouth. She rolled a small sip of wine on her tongue to rinse away the taste.

Warm hands slid up her back, one on either side of her spine, and she jumped. Lush red liquid sloshed out of her cup, and the book tumbled cover over page from her grasp.

Rough palms scraped over Cassandra’s ribs and waist before slipping around to rest on her abdomen. "I didn't mean to startle you," Lasater murmured, pressing her cheek into Cassandra's sculpted shoulder. She hummed at the smell of the Seeker’s skin and kissed a line toward her spine.

Her eyes drifted shut as the omega's naked breasts and belly pressed into her back, and Cassandra could spare only a moment to fret about the book. The anger that had been building began to fade. She shifted some of her weight onto Lasater and sighed as the elf encircled her waist with strong arms. “You are very light on your feet.”

“I’d be a shitty hunter otherwise.”

Cassandra snorted. “Did I wake you?”

“Sort of. It’s like my body knew you weren’t there, wanted to be close to you, and now here I am.” She shrugged, her lazy smile stretching against Cassandra’s back.

Cassandra stiffened, amazed at the power of Lasater’s nas’athlan.

"Are you alright, siuvhenan?" She stroked the fine, dark hairs that trailed from Cassandra's navel to her pubic mound, concern intoning her Elvish.

Cassandra set her cup on the mantel and turned in the circle of Lasater's embrace. The omega smiled and released a deep breath as their eyes met, and a tremor stole into Cassandra’s heart. She returned the loose, comfortable gesture with ease, aware that so few got to see it these days. "I was merely wondering if I will ever stop being surprised by Leliana's meddling."

"I'm sure her efforts are well-meaning. She seemed rather sympathetic when I spoke to her about our predicament."

"I do not doubt her intentions. It is just her approach that I find…"

"Forward?"

"Quite." Dazzled by Lasater’s yellow-specked green eyes, Cassandra could only loose a shaky breath as she looked from one eye to the other. Tenderness swelled in her chest, and gathering Lasater in her arms was suddenly the most important thing in the world.

A little oh puffed out of the elf as Cassandra wrapped her in a hug. Lasater closed her eyes and nuzzled her face into the crook of Cassandra’s neck. Her hands roved the valleys and slopes of the Seeker’s powerful back and shoulders, wallowing in the solidness of her body and its intoxicating textures and scent and heat.

Cassandra leaned out of the hug before Lasater’s hands could become grabby, and her expression was shy as she peered at Lasater. "You saw the book, then. Did you know Leliana was sending it?"

"No. Josephine wrote me a little note, apologizing for whatever Leliana snuck into our supplies. I saw the book when I was going through the boxes earlier and figured that Leliana was the only one bold enough to include such a thing." Lasater's lopsided smile made Cassandra's breath hitch, but then the elf narrowed her eyes in question, “Tell me—Josephine said that wine breathes. What does that mean?”

One thickly contoured brow arched, and Cassandra remembered that this person in her arms was more than her lover—she was Dalish and a woman and the Herald—and must still be experiencing quite the culture shock. “Oh, it means to open the bottle and let it sit for a time. It makes the wine taste better.”

Lasater hummed in understanding, though her smile faltered as she was reminded of her ignorance and the strangeness of her current circumstances. She did not want to think about the chaos outside of these round walls. Not yet. Not ever.

Her gaze drifted to the fire.

"Lasater, there is a great deal I did not consider before agreeing to share your bed."

A sigh escaped from Lasater as her eyes refocused on Cassandra’s handsome face, her unmarked hand playing in the dip of the Seeker’s back. There were little hairs there, and Lasater wanted to forgo the serious discussion in favor of touching and studying every dip and curve and hair and mark on the warrior's body. Instead, her mouth said, “Tell me."

"In her letter, Leliana reminded me that there are practicalities that must be considered, precautions to take. I had not even given thought to the idea that I could—that you might become…" Her lips thinned, and she tried again, “I did not think ahead enough to realize that I could get you pregnant. Leliana gave us sheaths to use.”

Lasater tilted her head as she puzzled out what a sheath might be, but given the context, it was easy to put the pieces together. She dismissed the notion with a haughty wave, "I will drink a tea in the morning that will prevent any seed from catching."

The Seeker had seen such brews used in the barracks, and her brow furrowed with worry. Too much of one herb or too little of another and a woman could hemorrhage to death.

Scarred lips dusted dry kisses along the jagged scar on Cassandra’s jaw. "I'll be alright." Lasater punctuated the assurance with a chaste kiss to the lips.

"Will you? Have you had this tea before?"

Lasater took a deep breath and nodded. She watched unspoken questions flicker across Cassandra's face, but the Seeker did not put voice to them.

“Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”

"Perhaps later. Right now, I would rather focus on what you need." The Seeker cupped Lasater's cheek and peered into the green depths of her eyes. "Supper?"

"Oh, yes. I'm ravenous."

They pulled clothes from their respective satchels, and Cassandra wet a square of cloth. As they helped one another clean away dried spendings, Cassandra gaped at the damage her sexual savagery had left behind. The omega’s hips, rump, and waist bore purple, fingertip-sized bruises, and parallel red lines ran the length of her back. A bloody bite mark decorated her throat like a ruby-and-amethyst amulet, and Cassandra recalled the red urge of ownership, “I bit you.”

Lasater touched her neck where Cassandra’s fingertips indicated and felt heat, a knot under her skin, and dried blood. Fenedhis. Her hand hid her nervous swallow, and she recovered the rest of her composure, raking her eyes over Cassandra’s neck and shoulders. “Instinct,” she touched the places where she’d left purple-red marks on the Seeker.

Cassandra retrieved a small looking glass from her bag and examined her neck and shoulder. “You did not break skin, though.”

Lasater took the mirror and looked at the mark on her throat. Regret poured into her, and she wished she’d had the wherewithal to tell Cassandra about the mating bite—especially now that the alpha had marked her.

Instinct. It was nothing more than instinct.

“Don’t fret, siuvhenan. It will heal.”

They dressed in silence, backs to one another. Cassandra tugged a well-loved shift over her head and pulled hose up her shapely legs, not bothering to lace either. Lasater stepped into a pair of Inquisition regulation breeches before digging her field kit out of her satchel. She sat on the bed as she untied the leather cords holding it closed, and then carefully unrolled it. Pockets and loops were sewn on the inside, and each contained a tool or vial that one might need to dress a wound in the field. She plucked the glass tube of honey from its pocket and used her teeth to pull the cork off. She smeared a dollop of honey onto her throat and hissed at the sting and ache that came from nursing her tender, marred skin.

At least it will fade, she mused, since I didn’t initiate the bond.

Conversation was sparse as they tucked into their food, sitting cross-legged on the rug in front of the fire. When they’d finished licking salt and grease from their fingers, Cassandra opened another bottle of wine and retrieved the Val Royan chocolates. They sat facing each other, knees touching, and traded bites of each truffle. Lasater found the treats too rich, so she took the tiniest nibble of each before feeding the remainder to Cassandra. The Seeker placed kisses against her fingertips each time, and easy glances passed between them.

"Cassandra, thank you again for this," Lasater took the alpha's hands and squeezed her fingers. "Given everything, I feel extremely fortunate that it was you."

At a loss, Cassandra looked down at their clasping hands and nervously rubbed her thumbs over Lasater's knuckles.

Lasater continued, "I owe you a great debt."

"Nonsense." A wry smile slanted Cassandra's lips. "While I never expected my duty to the Inquisition to be this pleasurable, it is still not something I would have shirked. It was the right thing to do. For Thedas.” She traced fingertips down Lasater’s cheek. “For you."

Lasater trapped her bottom lip between her teeth, and a blush reddened her angular ears. Wet pressure bloomed between her legs.

Cassandra dragged a callused fingertip down the elf's ear, feeling the heat coming off the flushed skin. She grinned as Lasater’s mouth parted in a gasp. "I cannot get enough of the sounds you make."

"You're quite adept at drawing them out of me."

She thumbed Lasater's ear, fingers threading into the elf’s hair, and leaned forward. When their lips touched, Cassandra exhaled a pleased sigh through her nose, ghosting warmth along Lasater's cheek. The elf's mouth tasted of chocolate and wine, and the Seeker's tongue leisurely sought out more of the flavor. Lasater reciprocated with gusto, her tongue sliding against and around Cassandra's, and she twirled the Seeker’s long, skinny plait with deliberate fingers.

Primal hunger quickened their kisses, and steady hands skated across Lasater's naked collarbones to her creamy breasts, which she cupped and caressed with bold fingertips. Her thumbs skimmed up the omega’s freckled sternum, and Lasater pressed into Cassandra’s palms, whimpering into her mouth. Cassandra brushed calluses and knuckles and the backs of her hands over Lasater’s nipples. She pinched and rolled them, and the omega’s moan interrupted their kiss. Lasater groaned desperately and clambered onto Cassandra’s lap, shoving the alpha backward onto the rug.

An unyielding sharpness pressed painfully into the small of Cassandra’s back. She yelped and lifted up on one elbow to tug the offending object from beneath her.

It was the book.

She grunted with distaste.

The Herald chuckled as they both sat up. "I can't believe Leliana's gall."

Cassandra crossed her legs beneath her and sighed, "Indeed.” She balanced the Rivaini Guide to Desire on her knee and fixed her passion-addled gaze on Lasater. "Now that we have replenished our strength, what shall we do?" Her voice was extra husky. She flipped the book open and began to thumb through the pages.

Lasater made a gracious noise, inhaling sharply through her nose. Knowing that Cassandra was enjoying their time together, enjoying their sex, stoked Lasater’s affection. She twined an arm around Cassandra’s waist, her naked torso nestled against the alpha’s side, and studied each drawing as the pages were turned. She traced meaningless designs on the Seeker's forearm until she saw a position that piqued her interest, "Oh, how about we do this for a little bit?" She tapped her forefinger against the image of a man and a woman pleasing each other with their hands. She cast a glance toward the outline of Cassandra’s hard cock, eager to touch it again, before flicking through a few more pages.

"And then this," she turned to take in Cassandra's reaction to the drawing of a woman on her hands and knees, the man taking her from behind. The Seeker's cheeks were dusky rose, the firelight emphasizing the precise lines of her handsome face.

After wetting the tip of her finger with her tongue, Cassandra turned the pages until she found the image that corresponded with her desire, "I want to do this."

Cassandra smiled at Lasater's sharp intake of breath and wide-eyed expression. The Seeker’s eyes roved over the page again, her mind replacing the two figures with Lasater and herself.

"I didn't think you'd be interested in that particular activity," the elf's tone was as thick and heavy as sap.

The Seeker swept everything off the rug and rose up on her knees to peer down at Lasater, "Lie back."

"Oh. You meant now." Lasater’s smalls barely survived the arousal that flooded them. Her breaths came faster, and she obeyed. She squirmed out of her breeches while Cassandra stripped, her cock proud and eager.

Soiling the bearskin rug with their release seemed disrespectful to the animal from whom the fur had come, so Cassandra retrieved a blanket from the barrel. She folded the blanket in half, and together, they positioned it beneath Lasater's hips. Once the omega was settled, thighs eagerly parted, Cassandra got comfortable on her stomach.

Cassandra inhaled and moaned low as the spicy, earthen scent of Lasater's cunt pushed away all extraneous thought. She kissed all of the places where she’d gripped too hard, her mouth getting closer and closer to its goal. Her fingers traced along lips dusted with soft dark fuzz, and she played the tips of her thumbs through the copious arousal already pooling there. She opened Lasater more with her fingers and drank in the view of her so open and wanting—pink folds darkened and swollen, the hard red point of her clit extended beyond its hood. Before she could register that it was happening, she had pressed the flat of her tongue against the sensitive bud.

Lasater practically squealed, her hips lifting off the rug, and Cassandra laughed into the elf’s sex. She found the omega’s marked hand and tangled their fingers together as she lapped the length of Lasater’s slit, up and down, tasting and swallowing and seeking out the subtly-tanged fluid.

Bow-roughened fingers fisted the rug, and the omega's hips tilted against Cassandra's experimental ministrations. The Seeker was not the hesitant lover that Lasater had expected. On the contrary, Cassandra seemed to have an innately talented tongue because Lasater was already hurtling toward an orgasm. A moaned giggle spilled from her as she arched into Cassandra’s mouth, and she gripped the alpha’s hair with encouraging pressure. Her gasps were constant, steadily growing louder and longer, and Cassandra quickly caught on to each sound's meaning.

Desperate whines said right there, don't stop, and nearly silent, muscle-clenching squeaks meant ohi'mcomingi'mcoming.

Her chin was awash in the elf's completed pleasure, all sound muffled by the press of thighs over her ears, but Cassandra was not sated. She wanted more. She licked and licked at Lasater's clit, faster and faster until the root of her tongue ached, and then she drew the swollen bud between her lips. She sucked, and Lasater screamed, arching in a violent buck. Cassandra curled her arms around the elf's thighs to hold on and renewed her lips' seal around the epicenter of her lover's pleasure. She lashed the throbbing tip with her tongue and was rewarded with a frantic, high-pitched sound and a gush of liquid—this one thinner and hotter than the slick of the omega’s opening. Her growls vibrated through Lasater's clenching sex.

This act, the omega’s reactions, her taste and smell, and the sounds spilling out of her and into the roundhouse, were powerful, and Cassandra ground herself into the soft, coarse texture of bear fur. Moaning, she lost herself to the jog of her own hips and the strokes of her tongue.

Lasater pushed Cassandra’s head away and rolled out of reach. She positioned herself on her hands and knees, rump in the air, and tossed a smoldering gaze over her shoulder.

Cassandra growled through gritted teeth and rose up onto her knees. She wiped Lasater’s release from her face with an open palm and with firm hands, dragged Lasater to her.

Mine.

Shaking the possessive thought out of her head, Cassandra fixed her eyes on the swell of Lasater's backside. The skin beneath her hands was soft and smooth and speckled with the imprints of her earlier passion. The omega pushed into her touch, tilted her hips in offering, and Cassandra sighed. With a thumb, she traced a jagged scar that slashed diagonally from Lasater’s lower right buttock, down over the crease where thigh-meets-arse, to the outside of her upper thigh. She pondered its origins as she lined up her dick and slid inside.

Lasater crooned like everything was suddenly right with the world and rocked back, urging the alpha into a rut.

Every stroke pushed a sound from the omega, pushed her upper body down onto the rug until her cheek was buried in the scent of dusty fur. Her alpha molded to her back, murmuring honeyed syllables into her sensitive tapered ear, and sweat gathered between their bodies. The omega dug her fingers into the alpha's flexing thighs and sobbed her name into the rug as she came. Her alpha fucked another climax out of her, and then they were tied, crooning and whimpering and shuddering through waves of the alpha's undoing.

Sometime later, they fell apart, panting and sweat-cooled, and stared up at the domed roof of the roundhouse. As Lasater fell into limbo between consciousness and unconsciousness, Cassandra pressed against her side and rested her head on the elf's breast. She draped her leg across Lasater’s hips, the omega’s sticky curls damp against her inner thigh. Lasater made a contented noise and combed the fingertips of her marked hand through the Seeker's exertion-soaked, sex-mussed hair. Cassandra captured the elf’s other hand, and sleep stole its way between the kisses that she pressed to those long fingers.

Chapter Text

Drowsy predawn light cast dim stripes on the tangled forms of Cassandra and Lasater. The fire was out, embers cooled to blackened lumps, and the bear fur beneath Cassandra’s back did little to block the chill of the earth-cooled floorboards. A pleasant sensation at her core jerked her into full wakefulness. Her legs were trapped under Lasater’s thigh, and stiffness ached in her spine, but the hand moving up and down on her morning-roused dick pushed all discomfort to the back of her mind. A sleepy voice murmured into her collarbone:

"I love your cock."

Cassandra's moan morphed into an admonishing tut, "Please. Call it anything but 'cock.'"

"No? How about," Lasater giggled, her breath tickling Cassandra's throat, "your 'aching branch?'"

"My aching branch?" She made that irritated noise again, which only served to draw more delighted laughter out of Lasater. The strokes along her dick quickened, and Cassandra gasped, tipping her head back.

"I thought you'd find it poetic," Lasater teased. "What do you call it?"

The alpha's cheeks flushed with embarrassment, and she tucked her face against Lasater's scalp, her voice a harsh whisper, "My…dick."

"Mm, I like it. Your dick, I mean." Lasater rubbed the thick pad of her thumb over the head, teasing clear dew to the slit. "You like lewd words, don't you?" Lasater's hand pumped and pumped and pumped.

Air hissed between Cassandra's teeth, and her shaft shuddered just as much from the elf's abnormally hot palm as her bold tongue. She nodded and swallowed, licking her lips. She clutched bear fur in one hand and Lasater's thigh in the other. Her heart beat a war march in her chest as a heat spread from her face to her throat and across the tops of her breasts. She had thought that taking a practical stranger to bed would make Lasater hesitant, but the Herald touched and talked to her as if they'd made love a hundred times.

Cassandra was not sure she ever been that comfortable with Galyan. The months spent together as she transitioned into her new role as the Right Hand had been wonderful, even if their lovemaking had been inexperienced and tentative. They directed one another where and how to touch but never with such passion or vocabulary. They certainly never left bruises or bite marks on one another. But alone with him, she didn't belong to the Seekers, didn't belong to the Chantry, to the Divine, to Thedas—she was his and he was hers.

She had true feelings for Galyan, certainly, but in some ways, she felt indebted to his attentions. He saved her life twice, showed her kindness even when she showed him scorn, proved to her that not all mages belonged on the end of a sword. Galyan had been handsome, too, and charming in a ridiculous sort of way. And he had been Byron’s friend. Galyan helped her mourn and shepherded her through the devastating blow of her mentor’s death.

Of course, they were also quite young, and Cassandra was not entirely immune to the fanfare or events that followed the failed assassination attempt on Divine Beatrix’s life. To be loved and to be in love on top of being named the Hero of Orlais and the Right Hand of the Divine? The romantic notion was easy to nourish and cling to as her life changed overnight.

And then her duty to the Divine became an active, journeying thing, and Galyan became an Enchanter at the White Spire. He had to stay, and she had to go, and their relationship became a thing of letters and unfulfilled promises to one day reunite. She returned to her quarters in the Grand Cathedral between travels, but they could somehow never find the time to meet.

And now Galyan was dead, and she was with the Inquisition. She was here on the floor of a hunter’s lodge, getting a handjob from the Herald of Andraste, an elven woman.

Lasater licked a line to Cassandra's ear, and her breath warmed the unpierced lobe. "What other words do you like?" She scraped her teeth against the lobe before sucking it into her mouth.

Cassandra was a slave to Lasater's attentions, and she spoke her reply involuntarily, "Pussy." Her hips canted of their own accord.

"What else?" Lasater grinned as her hand pulled a pleading sound from Cassandra's lips.

"Cunt."

Lasater traced the outer edge of Cassandra's ear with her tongue. She blew on the trail of saliva left behind, and Cassandra shivered, goosebumps skating along her arms and legs.

The elf breathed against the wet shell of the alpha's ear, her consonants crisp and quiet, "Do you want to fuck me again, Seeker? Do you want to feel my cunt around your dick?"

Cassandra growled and surged into a sitting position, gripping Lasater by the shoulders as she rose. She twisted at the waist, forcing the startled omega back against the bearskin rug. She nudged Lasater’s thighs apart with her knees and positioned her length along the omega's irresistibly glistening slit. Were it not for her dick's agonizing throb, she would bury her face in those dripping folds and drink from the origin of the omega's essence until Lasater begged her to stop.

Keening at the wet slide of Cassandra's hardness against the pinnacle of her need, Lasater bucked, and fresh arousal gathered between swollen lips. "Oh, Creators. I need you, ma tar'adahlav."

The Herald's possessive Elvish snarled in her mind and sent shivers down her spine to the tip of her dick. She'd heard the phrase enough to know what it meant now: my alpha. Was she Lasater's now? Was that what she wanted?

Searing heat interrupted her thoughts as Lasater palmed her shaft and increased the pressure of their frottage. Cassandra set her jaw, huffing at the omega’s impatience. She snatched the elf's hand away from her dick and pinned it to the rug by her hip. When Lasater tried again with her other hand, Cassandra pressed it into the rug, too.

Lasater knew she had other means of retaliation, but the way Cassandra was looking at her—eyes ablaze beneath the determined set of her brow, the flash of white as her lip curled into a snarl—sapped her will. She licked her lips, peered at Cassandra from beneath her dark lashes, and begged, "Please."

Cassandra snorted, her grip around the omega's wrists tightening. "Ask me without whining."

She gasped, her clit pulsing with the alpha's command and the pressure against her wrists. She struggled to still her writhing. Oh, Creators, "Please, Cassandra. Please, will you fuck me?"

"That’s better." Cassandra punctuated her approval with a plunging thrust.

 

Scout Lace Harding approached the roundhouse on foot just as the sun began to paint the sky in pastel puffs and streaks. Dew sprinkled the grass, and the trees were a-twitter with finches and sparrows. In one gloved hand, she gripped a sack of crabapples, and the other clutched a tightly-bundled, thickly-insulated basket of breakfast for the temporary paramours.

Two yards from the door, her freckled cheeks reddened for the second time that morning as the unmistakable sounds of fucking seeped from the roundhouse. (The first time was thanks to Ambassador Montilyet’s enthusiastic compliment about her braid, “Oh, Scout Harding, that is a most complex and beautiful braid! However do you manage on your own? Oh! How presumptuous of me. Perhaps you have a special someone to help you—no? Well! You simply must show me how you get it to look so perfect!”)

Her blush deepened, though she didn’t know if it was from the memory or the long, feminine wail that pierced the crisp morning air and startled the birds into momentary silence.

Oh, Maker. I can't believe I'm on glorified babysitting duty for the next however many days. She sighed. Well, better me than anyone else. At least I know I’m trustworthy.

Besides, she had a new chapter of Hard in Hightown, plenty of charcoal sticks, decent scenery, and a blank diary to keep her company. All she had to do was nestle into the bushes of a cliff with line of sight to the cabin—not too close to the edge, of course—and make sure nothing untoward happened to the Herald. And she had a horn in case real trouble came calling.

Might as well enjoy the breather while I can. She turned to regard the Breach as she neared the porch. Her mouth thinned into a grim line, and her fists tightened on the basket and sack, remembering how the whole world had turned green for an instant, how the earth and sky had trembled as explosive thunderclaps unfolded over the Frostbacks.

Sister Leliana had withheld the details of her task until after the war council, and Harding was glad of it. She already had to imagine everyone in their underwear to get past her war council jitters, and knowing that Cassandra and Lasater were ready to tear each other's clothes off would've made it impossible to give her report without gawking or blushing or stammering.

But she was picturing them now, especially as the sounds of their pleasure continued to echo around the cabin.

Harding mounted the porch steps, careful to avoid the warped part of the second step, and set the basket down in front of the door. She plucked a folded piece of parchment from her belt pouch and tucked it into the cloth folds covering the basket. Her note, which she penned before leaving camp, explained that she had tended to the horses—which she scurried off to do (and to hastily put some distance between herself and the amorous exhalations).

She found the horses some yards away from the roundhouse. The three of them regarded each other awkwardly as the sounds of exuberant sex crescendoed and then fell into sudden silence.

The Nevarran courser whickered.

“You said it,” Harding patted the courser’s neck before taking up his lead.

She checked their hooves and brushed their coats, feeding them apples between tasks. She hummed low to distract her mind from wondering what might be happening within the roundhouse. Perhaps a quarter-hour later, Harding heard the cabin door open. She held her breath, hoping against hope that no one came sauntering around the stand of pines. She wasn’t sure she could maintain a cool head, and she definitely didn’t want to cause the Herald or the Seeker any undue embarrassment when they realized that their sex might have been overheard. Harding felt like she and Lasater were on roughly equal ground—minus the whole walked-out-of-the-Fade-and-maybe-was-touched-by-Andraste thing—and she sensed there could be some kinship there. But seeing the Hero of Orlais flushed and mussed by sex? She would die.

Finished with the horses, Harding hauled her backpack onto her shoulders and started hiking towards the vantage point she’d picked out. She still couldn't believe that she was a lieutenant in the Inquisition, only the second of its kind, and that just a month ago, she had been herding her neighbor’s sheep. Now she worked in the shadow of such legendary figures as Seeker Pentaghast, the Left Hand of the Divine, and maybe even an Andraste-blessed elf. She felt like a side character in the pages of some heroic tale where everyone was beautiful and dashing and brave. What did that say about her, she wondered, her sigh clouding in the cool air of the morning.

 

The light of the day became hazy with humidity, and the occasional cloud dappled the ground with inconsistent shadows. Harding squinted as the harsh afternoon light reflected off her diary pages, and she gave up on her sketch of the cabin and surrounding landscape. She tucked her charcoal stick back into the side pocket of her pack, closed her diary, and checked in on the Herald and Seeker. The couple had emerged, laughing and carrying picnic supplies, an hour or so earlier.

It was strange to see them out of armor and even stranger to see them lounging beneath a plum tree like two people on a date. Lasater lay on her back in scrubby grass, knees bent with her bare feet flat on the ground, one hand tucked under her head. She shielded her eyes with the other hand as she watched the clouds. Cassandra sat propped against the tree, a blanket underneath her butt and a book in her lap.

After a few moments, the Herald pointed at the sky and said something to the Lady Seeker. The Seeker set aside her book after marking her place and followed the line of Lasater's arm with her eyes, which narrowed against the sky’s glare. Harding looked, too, but saw only clouds swollen with the promise of rain. When she returned her gaze to the picnickers, the Seeker had stretched out next to Lasater and allowed the Herald to extend her arm and forefinger toward the distant object. The Seeker peered down the length of her arm, one eye closed. The two exchanged a few words, and Lasater laughed and then leaned over the Seeker.

Harding couldn’t see the kiss, thank the Maker, but she sighed at the affection on display all the same. A smile flirted with her lips, and she turned her attention away to afford the pair some privacy. She tugged her book out of her bag and immersed herself in the gritty guardsman tale.

Chapter Text

As she stretched the sleep out of her limbs, Lasater admired Cassandra’s unconscious form. The alpha was on her stomach, one hand tucked under the pillow, with the sheets loosely bunched around her waist. Lasater traced each delineated muscle of the Seeker's broad shoulders and tapered back with her eyes, her teeth gradually dragging her bottom lip between them. If she weren’t feeling so unbalanced from being indoors for so long, she wouldn't have left bed at all. She'd have molded her body to Cassandra's back, kissed her neck, whispered adoration into her ear until she woke, and then…She tugged the blankets up around Cassandra's shoulders to avoid temptation.

With Cassandra in such an exhausted slumber, Lasater didn't put much effort into remaining silent as she ran a damp rag over her body and dressed. She checked on Cassandra one more time, unable to stop the smile that spread across her lips. Lasater thought to leave a kiss on the alpha’s forehead but did not want to risk waking her. She had plans.

On shuffling feet, she snatched up her bow and quiver and slipped outside with a new spring in her step. She felt liberated, the shackles of her heat finally slack enough to do something other than rut. The nas’athlan still hummed low in her gut, but it was not enough to distract her from the allure of the landscape surrounding the roundhouse.

Nothing had gone as planned so far—she hadn't been untied from Cassandra long enough to do anything romantic aside from the candles—but now that she was a bit more clear-headed, she could woo the Seeker as she'd promised, in a way that she knew how. It was nearing later afternoon, she reckoned, and waking the alpha with fresh-caught game filled her heart with warmth.


Harding perked at the sound of the cabin door closing. She peered over the edge of the cliff from where she was prone and saw the Herald jaunt down the three steps. The elf raised her nose to the air and, smiling, took a deep breath. A sympathetic grin began to form on Harding’s face, but the quiver and bow slung across the Herald's chest gave her pause. The scout pushed back a way's from the ledge before sitting up, but Lasater was out of sight. Harding drew up onto her knees for a better look, scanning the area slowly, but there was no trace of the Herald. Shit! She scrambled to her feet as she shoved her book back into the bag. She slung the bag over her shoulder, snatched up her bow, and pivoted on her heel to run. She had to clamp a hand over her own mouth to muffle the surprised shout.

"Hello, Lace." Lasater's grin pulled up the scarred side of her lips and chin, a bit of teeth showing.

"Shit, Your Worship!" Harding laughed her nervousness out, pushing a flyaway out of her eyes as she shook her head at the Herald. “You scared the crap out of me.”

"It's Lasater, remember." A pleased, impish gleam shone in her eyes.

Harding nodded as she unshouldered her pack to properly fasten the buckles and ties.

"You've gone hunting before?" Lasater appraised Harding's bow with a swift glance.

The scout nodded again, "Yup."

"Great. Let's go kill some dinner." Before Harding could protest, Lasater indicated the roundhouse with a quick tip of her head, "Seeker Pentaghast can take care of herself."

“Oh, I don’t doubt it. Did you know that she killed half a dozen dragons when she was like eighteen?”

Lasater gaped, “No! Tell me everything.”


The Herald flowed through the underbrush and trees like a wraith, and Harding was thrilled to be in the company of someone who shared her skill with terrain. The elf was certainly much quieter, and Harding watched her movements with all the focus she could muster. She found herself smiling as she easily interpreted Lasater's hand signals for "stop" and "over there," and then they moved as a fluid unit to flank a likely hiding spot for rabbits. As Lace nocked an arrow, Lasater flushed their prey from beneath the broad-leaved bushes and drove them right into Lace's path. The elf brought her bow up, an arrow ready, and let loose on a different target as Lace fired on hers. The dwarf's arrow caught the rabbit in the neck, and Lasater pierced her target's heart. Lasater gave Lace a congratulatory clap on the shoulder as they collected their kills, suffusing the scout’s freckled cheeks with rosiness.

The comfort of being in her element and the adrenaline of the hunt gathered in a neat coil at Lasater’s core. Successfully threading an arrow through the vitals always came with a jolt of victory, but it was not often that it traveled to the pink place between her thighs. She'd felt like this before, of course, during other heats, but knowing this hunt was solely to feed her alpha brought her a different sort of satisfaction.

Fenedhis. Not my alpha. Just an alpha. Just Cassandra.

Their next sweep was only a half-success. Lasater's arrow went wide by an embarrassing margin, careened off a tree, and skittered into the underbrush. She didn't even bother to look for the arrow.

As they trekked back to the roundhouse, she soothed her wounded pride by bagging a nug. Lace looked away as Lasater tugged the arrow from the nug’s chest.

"Don't hunt nug?" With a snap of her wrist, Lasater flicked blood off the arrow shaft.

"No. It’d be like eating a pet. And don't let Sister Leliana know you do. She breeds them."

"Our fearsome spymaster breeds nugs? Whatever for?"

"They're apparently pretty vicious."

It was a good thing they'd wrapped up their hunt because Lasater's laugh scattered the remaining game.


The Lavellan hunter carried their kills behind the cabin, and Lace returned to her post. Lasater skinned and dressed the carcasses, aware of the curious glances the horses tossed her way. She shrugged, everyone’s got to eat, but nonetheless stood with her back to them as she continued. Guilt welled in her every time she rode a horse, but no horse she'd ever ridden seemed to mind her weight or presence. She supposed it was a life they expected, one in which they were perhaps born.

Not long after her reunion with Shiva, the only thing stronger than Lasater’s ennui was her wanderlust. With her misery beginning to grate on the rest of the clan, it took little effort to convince the Keeper and First that it would be in everyone’s best interest to attach her to long-distance hunting parties, which meant learning to sit a horse. When she grew bored with that, she advanced into a different kind of hunting altogether.

She'd spent the last six years zig-zagging around the Free Marches with hunters from clans Lavellan and Sabrae, searching and reclaiming lost Elvhen artifacts and lore scattered across the countryside. She had been at the Conclave with two other such hunters—Lavellan's Master-in-training and a beta from Sabrae—to follow a lead on a particularly powerful artifact. Her comrades were there as observers, but they would have accompanied her in her quest once the Conclave had concluded.

Images of charred corpses stuck in mid-scream flashed in her mind.

The thought of their likely deaths pulled her mouth into a frown. What would life have been like if she had followed the path her parents and the Keeper had laid out for her? She wouldn't be here now, that was for sure. She'd probably be bonded, perhaps even living with another clan, with children to look after and babies to birth. As Lavellan omegas usually looked to Sylaise and her Vir Atish'an, the Way of Peace, the clan elders assumed Lasater would become a midwife as her mother had done, or at least learn the ways of healing. But Lasater had no interest in fulfilling someone else's expectations.

She didn't want to be a stereotypical omega—she wasn't a stereotypical omega—and she would not be a prize to control or to be used to curry favor with other clans. When she had proved her prowess with a bow (and after a fair amount of angst-laden cajoling), Keeper Istimaethorial allowed young Lasater to train as a Hunter. Only then did it feel right to accept Sylaise as her patron; not as the goddess of domesticity and omega piety, but as the cunning bringer of fire, a seeker of knowledge and old ways. She would not be cowed by alphas, would not be afraid of the shem. She chose to live her life with the anthem that she would never need an alpha to protect her.

With her horn-handled knife, Lasater removed the fletching and tips from the four spent arrows used to kill their game. She whittled each end into a point and then spit each carcass. Afterward, she cleaned up her work area, wiped her blade on the grass, and carried the skewered meat into the roundhouse. While Cassandra snored, Lasater built a fire and arranged the game over the flames.

The smell of cooking meat soon roused the alpha, and Lasater sighed as she watched the groggy Seeker wiping the sleep from her face. They exchanged shy smiles as Cassandra dressed, and desire welled in Lasater as she watched the muscles play underneath the Seeker’s skin. She imagined the warrior on the back of a dragon, and the pulse of her want was strong enough to turn Cassandra’s head.

The Seeker wavered, torn between primal need and spiritual health. In the end, thanks to the sore length between her legs, she begged Lasater’s pardon to attend to her faith and stepped outside.

When the meat was cooked and while Cassandra finished her devotions, Lasater bundled and delivered one of the rabbits to Lace. Upon her return to the cabin, the elf washed her face and cleared the table. She opened a new bottle of wine, leaving it to breathe on purpose this time, and placed the figs and almonds on the table. Next came plates and utensils, and finally the rabbit itself. She dimmed the oil lamp that hung nearby.

As Lasater poured wine into their cups, Cassandra re-entered. The Seeker stood in the doorway for several heartbeats, taking in the omega and then the meal. A smile eased its way across her face, and she pushed the door shut.

Lasater returned the warm gesture, though she ducked her head at the last moment to hide the self-indulgent gleam in her eyes. “Hi. Sit.” She dropped into the chair facing the door and pushed the other one out with her foot. She could see color rising in Cassandra’s face as the short-haired woman approached the table.

“Hello. This looks lovely, Lasater.” Cassandra took her seat and drew it closer to the table. She folded her hands in her lap as her lover carved the rabbit. Lasater placed the best pieces on Cassandra’s plate before serving herself.

They ate with their fingers, grease dripping down their elbows and chins, and chewed figs and almonds between mouthfuls of rabbit. Conversation was lacking, but they studied one another as they ate. Where Cassandra took measured bites and chewed with deliberation, Lasater tore the meat from the bone with her teeth until her cheeks were packed. She had not realized how hungry she had become.

Despite the ache in her muscles and dick, Cassandra felt her desire stoked to flame once more as she watched Lasater lick and suck the grease off her fingers.

When Cassandra had only a few bites remaining, Lasater swallowed some wine and tugged a folded piece of paper from her trouser pocket. “This may not be the most romantic poem, but it seemed fitting for our circumstances.” She unfolded the paper and cleared her throat.

“a tremor traverses the ironbark bough
and shaken by the sky-breath, it leaves
seeds scattered amongst open blooms.
in sun-soaked nests of succulent leaves,
morning dew collects on robust blooms
and trickles along stems that hotly bow
beneath the weight of bursting blooms.
silken wet petals tease the turgid bough
dripping glistening trails on veiny leaves.
ecstatic blooms splatter leaves and bow”

The fig Cassandra had intended to eat was forgotten between her fingers as she absorbed the lines of the poem. The color of her cheeks betrayed her composure. “Read it again, please.”

Lasater tucked her hair behind her pointed ear, her expression somewhere between mirth and nervousness. She read the poem again, each ess perfectly sibilant.

Cassandra placed the fig on her plate and pushed back from the table. She held her hand out to Lasater as she stood, “Let us go to bed.”


The sun was low in the sky when they rose from bed to wash the enthusiasm from their bodies. Between long bouts of kissing, they filled the tin washtub with heated water and bath oils. Afterward, Lasater lay on her back, fingertips resting against her droplet-dotted belly, and watched Cassandra going through her post-bath routine. It was much more involved than Lasater's, which was merely to air dry in front of the fire with the wet tendrils of her hair splayed out on the rug like a limp river grass.

Cassandra dried with a bath sheet as she did every time: first drying her face and hair, then her arms, torso and back, and finally her legs, groin, and backside. She would normally massage oil into her hair and face—she preferred lavender or sandalwood—but she already felt deliciously moisturized and scented from the bath itself. She settled for rubbing a liniment onto her feet, and as she worked it into each toe and between them, reality encroached on her bliss. She sighed because every time she and Lasater had physical distance between them, she would start thinking. Cassandra had never flitted so much between being so uncertain and so at peace. It was infuriating.

She swallowed, catching sight of the fire’s undulating dance reflected in the water beads trailing between Lasater’s navel and the bath-fluffed hair atop her mound. Cassandra’s eyes lingered there, and she remembered how it felt beneath her hands and mouth, remembered how many times Lasater had called her "my alpha" in breathy Elvish.

A sigh flowed free, and Cassandra turned away from Lasater, feeling as if she had been staring into the very rays of the sun. She could tell that Lasater's nas'athlan was waning because her mind was quicker to wander toward the "what next" questions that had been niggling at the back of her mind. She wrapped the bath sheet around her body and approached Lasater on cautious, mint-scented feet.

"Lasater?"

"Mm?" A smile tugged at one corner of Lasater's lips as she opened her eyes. She blinked, clearing the haze from her eyes, and then registered the stern line in Cassandra's forehead. She made to sit up, but Cassandra held her hand out and sunk down into the shaggy rug beside the elf.

"You called me your alpha."

Color rose to Lasater's cheeks, her eyes retreating from Cassandra's steady gaze. She sat up then, drawing her knees to her chest, and wrapped one arm around her shins. The omega plucked at the rug with nervous fingers. "Yes."

"Is that what I am now? Yours?"

The sharp turn of Lasater’s head was accompanied by an audible intake of breath, and what Cassandra saw in the elf’s expression stilled her heart.

The elf's brows knitted, a pained, downward curl to her lips. "You can't be."

Cassandra’s heart and lungs gained two stone, sinking into her gut. Blood surged in her ears and spread to her cheeks.

Lasater broke their eye contact, her features pinching at how unmasked Cassandra's disappointment was. She felt horribly cruel.

"Is it because of her, the other alpha?"

"No. Sort of. It's complicated, Cassandra. If my clan even finds out that we've had sex, there could be serious consequences for me. If we were to be together…I would be exiled." Her marked hand sought out the Seeker's. Cassandra did not draw back, but Lasater could feel tension ripple along the woman's strong forearm. "I am…terribly fond of you, Cassandra, but I still have a duty to my clan after all of this is over."

Cassandra’s eyes fixed on her lap where the edges of the bath sheet parted. A sliver of firelight highlighted the inside of her thigh. She took a slow breath and held it three beats before exhaling. Lasater had reached into Cassandra’s chest and gripped tight fingers around her heart, crushing the space that she had unknowingly reserved for the younger woman.

Lasater warred with herself, feeling compelled by loyalty to her clan to protect its secrets but torn between whatever she had with the human alpha. She found the words spilling out anyway, her conscience—perhaps even instinct—unable to keep it contained any longer: "Cassandra, I was not at the Conclave to spy."

The Seeker's head canted, anger drawing her brows and jaw into severe angles. The fire reflected in her eyes, making Lasater flinch.

Lasater sputtered but willed herself to continue, trying to push past the way Cassandra made her want to submit. She combed fingers through her coal-dark hair, sweeping it over one shoulder to expose the mark on her throat in hopes that it would tide the rage that was building in the Seeker's eyes. "I accompanied two others who were there to watch the proceedings, but I was looking for an artifact."

The alpha surged to her feet, casting her towel aside. She couldn't believe what she was hearing, "You are a…a thief then? A treasure hunter? A graverobber? What could elves even want from the Temple of Sacred Ashes?"

The way Cassandra said “elves” felt like a slap in the face, and Lasater's expression crumbled, her brows knitting. "No! I don't just kick open tombs and steal jewels—the artifact was elven. I'm trying to give my people their history back."

Cassandra began to dress as Lasater continued, her voice trembling just so in the wake of her lover’s anger. "After the Breach is sealed, I plan to pick my search back up. I have a duty to my clan. Of all people, I know you understand what that means." Lasater got to her feet, grabbed a blanket from the barrel, and wrapped it around her body. She approached Cassandra as the Seeker stepped into wool leggings.

As Lasater reached out to touch her, Cassandra recoiled. Her voice quivered with unrestrained fury. "You lied to me!"

“Cassandra, please. Let me—” She tried to touch the alpha again, knowing the soothing effect the contact could have, but Cassandra batted her hand aside.

“Don’t!” Cassandra growled as she gripped Lasater by the shoulders, pushing the elf flush against the closest wall. The blanket granting Lasater modesty fell to the floor, and the alpha could not keep herself from looking down the plane of her lover’s body. An irritated sound of pleasure rumbled in her throat and her dick stirred. Red clouded her vision as she pressed in close, but Lasater’s whimper made her pause.

The Seeker's aggression stole Lasater’s breath even as the contact of their bodies coaxed her nipples into straining points.

Cassandra came back to the moment, disgusted with her behavior and her body and Lasater, and hurried to put distance between them. She tore her eyes from the nude omega and pulled a plain blue tunic over her head, grabbing her satchel in one hand after. She breezed past a stunned Lasater and stepped outside barefoot. The walls trembled as she yanked the door shut.


Damn her, Cassandra wrote. When I look at her, when she touches me, I see someone I must protect. And for a moment I thought that something real was happening. I do not recall the last time I have laughed or smiled this much. The way her body feels against mine, the way she bites her lip, the way she speaks her desire. How can I feel this way about a woman I have only known a week? Is this what it means to be an alpha? To be a slave to unwanted feelings, to be drawn to someone you can’t want? She is a tempest, and I am in the eye of the storm.

The tip of her pencil broke again, her handwriting heavy and angry, and she shoved it and her journal off her lap and onto the ground. She stood up, a suffocated snarl echoing in her mouth as she crossed defensive arms over her chest. Her hands ached from where she’d pummeled the pine, bits of bark clinging to the shredded skin of her knuckles. She shook the pain out and paced, aware of Lasater’s proximity by the way their bodies called to one another even through walls and betrayal. Would she always be drawn to omegas like this? Or to Lasater alone?

Maker, please don’t let it always feel this way.

She squeezed her fingers into tight fists, causing her knuckles to ooze anew. She focused on the stinging pain, desperate to feel anything other than the weight in her chest. She wanted her sword, but it was inside with her—she could not even bring herself to think the woman’s name. Her usual methods of self-soothing weren’t working—Byron and his advice to put feelings to paper; Anthony with his joking, “Go punch a tree, sister.”

Cassandra halted her pacing, jaw clenched so tight that it hurt. She snatched up her satchel up with both hands, and howling, hurled it with all of her might. The leather bag landed a dozen yards away, the contents spilling out like a battlefield disemboweling.

She huffed at herself and ran irritated fingers through her hair as she walked to retrieve her abused things. When she was satisfied that everything had survived her wrath, she neatly repacked her satchel. She was especially glad her frustrations had not damaged the books on loan from Leliana.

Back at the pine tree that had become her stand-in sacred space, she tugged out the book from Leliana, Human Exoverts of Thedas, and sat against the trunk. If Lasater had lied about why she had been at the Conclave, what else had she withheld?


Lasater sat on the bed after dejectedly pulling on clothes and rubbed her face with her hands. Her eyes burned with tears, and she considered returning to Haven—or better yet, forsaking the Inquisition altogether and resuming her quest. She scolded herself for the momentary lapse into cowardice. It was not as if the prickle between her thighs would even let her stray far from the alpha. She had no leads on the artifact and she had not yet made contact with her clan besides.

Groaning, she flopped back onto the bed. The mingling of their scents on the sheets surrounded her, and she released a shaky breath. She rolled onto her side and burrowed her face into the Seeker’s pillow. The nagging in her belly was not just her nas’athlan; there were feelings there, strong ones, and a terrible sense of foreboding.

Lasater wiped her tears onto the pillowcase and wriggled beneath the sheets, releasing a great sigh as she settled. What a hypocrite she was. She had judged Cassandra for stating that, were it not for their bodies’ demands, she would have chosen duty over exploring attraction. And then, fearing that she could not trust the Inquisition or the humans involved with it, she withheld information. Yet here she was, denying her desires in the name of duty and lying about who she was.

She wanted Cassandra, wanted to return the mating bite that throbbed so insistently on her throat, but she could not forsake her clan. She did not agree with all of their ways and beliefs, but they were kin, her family. What would she be without them to return to?

She kicked the sheets off and sat up, pushing hair out of her face and sniffed through sluggish tears. She would throw herself at Cassandra’s feet if she had to, but she needed to fix this before the Inquisition had her in irons again.

A sudden flurry of sound came from around the partition, and before Lasater could get to her feet, Cassandra was stepping into the sleeping nook. Agitation rolled off of the alpha in waves, and the omega froze—not that she could have gone anywhere with Cassandra blocking the only exit and broadcasting an imperious presence. She waited, instead, for the alpha to put voice to the words so clearly on her tongue.

“I cannot believe I trusted you! How could you lie to me in one breath while spreading your legs for me in another? You took me inside you, you let me bite you, and then lied to my face about its significance!” She took a step into the space and tossed Genitivi’s book on the bed, balling her hands into tight fists.

Lasater could see the Seeker’s pulse in her throat, right in the place where she wanted to put her teeth. She whimpered and squeezed her eyes shut. Cassandra was every bit the intimidating alpha, and her command only encouraged wetness to gather between Lasater’s thighs.

“I have been nothing but forthcoming with you. If you were not the Herald, I would—” Cassandra stilled her tongue, not actually sure what she would do.

The omega wiped her sweaty palms on her thighs and found her voice. “Cassandra, you’re right. What I’ve done is awful. I was an idiot to keep anything from you. I’m s—”

“Don’t! Don’t apologize. I do not want to hear the words on your tongue. I want to know why. Why did you lie to me?”

Swallowing, Lasater forced herself to meet Cassandra’s furious bark-colored eyes. Her voice came out smaller than she’d intended, “Because I was afraid.”

The angry tension squaring Cassandra’s shoulders loosened some, and she took a shaky breath. “Of?”

Lasater laughed, touching fingertips to her brow. “Where do I fucking begin? The world might be ending, and I’m the only one who has a chance of fixing it with this fucked-up gash on my hand. I’m stuck in a world of humans, far away from my people with a title I don’t want. I can’t even remember what happened at the Conclave—what if I did kill all of those people?” She shoved her fingers into her hair, gripping the graphite-colored strands.

Cassandra’s fists trembled as she tried to retain her anger, but was Lasater’s omission of truth so unreasonable? Would she not have done the same thing were their roles reversed? She sat heavily upon the bed, a sigh pushed from her lungs, and took Lasater’s hand. “I do not believe you did. We will find out what happened, but we must be able to trust you. I must be able to trust you. Without that, how can we hope to work together to seal the Breach?”

Lasater nodded, lacing her fingers between Cassandra’s. “I’ll do better, I swear it. Ask me anything, and I will tell you the truth.” She shifted on the bed to meet the Seeker’s gaze.

Cassandra turned to face Lasater and considered where to begin. “Tell me of the artifact. What does it do?”

“We do not know. Our First dreamt of it. It called to her from across the Beyond as a whisper, a promise of something powerful and old. As the date of the Conclave drew nearer, the call became louder until she heard it in her waking moments. When it became clear that the Conclave and the artifact were somehow tied, my Keeper sent me with our Master-in-training to observe the meeting between your mages and Templars and to locate the artifact. Another clan sent an adahlav with us to record the events, as well.”

“Where are they now?”

“Dead, I presume.”

Cassandra squeezed Lasater’s hand.

Lasater stared at their tangled fingers. “How can you bear to touch me after what I’ve done?”

She cradled Lasater’s cheek in her palm so the elf would look at her. Stern resolve had hardened Cassandra’s features, but they softened as she peered into shame-clouded green eyes. “Because I…” Her inclination was not to admit to her feelings, especially as she could not be sure what was genuine and what was heat-driven, but she had just said they needed to be truthful with one another. “Because I feel protective of you, and I suppose I…care for you.”

Lasater drew in a deep breath and hoped to find insincerity in Cassandra’s eyes but there was none. She exhaled her fear and fumbled to reply. “It’s hard to tell with my heat between us.” She wanted to voice that she felt it, too, but she could not be sure, and she did not want to lie. She sighed instead, looking to the long scar on Cassandra’s cheek and then to their clasped hands.

“Tell me of the other alpha.”

“Her name is Shiva.” Lasater lifted her gaze to Cassandra’s face, needing to see her reaction. “It’s been ten years. Whatever I had with her has been over for a long time. I just wasn’t ready to let it go.”

“And you have now? What changed your mind?” Cassandra asked even though she knew the answer.

“This time with you.” Lasater’s voice cracked with emotion, but she would not let herself break eye contact again. “But we can’t—”

“No, we cannot.” Cassandra squared her shoulders. “You are right. We both have a duty—first to seal the Breach and then to the lives we had before this happened. A romantic entanglement would only be a distraction.”

They both took deep breaths, hearts thundering with warring thoughts and feelings.

“What do we do from here, Cassandra?”

The Seeker steeled herself. She would normally withdraw to process her feelings alone until they were dealt with or otherwise controlled, but she could still feel Lasater’s nas’athlan tugging at her instincts. She found it entirely too easy to surrender to the promise of comfort that would accompany sating the elf’s need. “We continue with our original plan.”

“And after?”

"I do not know. We cannot pretend that this did not happen, but we can also not allow it to distract us from the work ahead.”

“Then we must be satisfied with being friends.”

Cassandra let a long breath and nodded, “Friends.”

Chapter Text

The fervor of their sex cooled once the word “friends” filled the uncertain spaces between them. Shyness crept in like nighttime fog over a lake surface, and Lasater lost the confidence to tell Cassandra how she wanted to be fucked. She let the alpha, instead, follow instinct and whim.

Cassandra wanted to mark every moment, wanted to remember it like she remembered the Chant of Light, and she was no stranger to the commitment of worship. She explored, her hands and mouth reverent. She stroked Lasater’s skin and hair with her hands, fixating in places where the texture changed. She skimmed her fingertips and palms up and down Lasater’s back and kissed a line down her spine. She pressed her thumbs into the small of the omega’s back, gripped her buttocks in possessive hands.

A dark, jagged slash stretched from the middle of Lasater’s butt cheek to the outside of her thigh. Faded stretch marks gave the scar a rippled look, and Cassandra felt it with her fingertips. She shifted on the bed to look at the scar more closely and couldn’t stop herself from pressing open-mouthed kisses along it. “How did you come by this?”

Lasater murmured into her folded arms, her cheek resting on them. “Couldn’t outrun a charging boar.”

The injury had happened on a hunt a few months after her first uth’dianth. She was still fucked up from an afternoon spent drinking tea, her own blend of rashvine nettle, deep mushroom, and biscanna. The first cup left her with an energetic clarity, but her mind strayed from the task of preparing to hunt boar. Instead, she thought of Shiva’s face, the deep rumble of her laugh, her warmth, the smell of her sweat.

The second cup of tea pushed her pulse into her ears, and prismatic streaks hung around the light of the fire and lanterns. She watched her fellow hunters, her friends, laughing across the fire from her. The crackle and pop of the flames and her friends’ raucous joy were too loud, too contrasted from the ennui that shrouded her thoughts. The thrum of her heart quickened, widening the hollowness in her chest. She felt as if the whole world fought to keep her mired in sadness, and the sadness was crushing her under an ever-growing weight.

In the forest, the moonlight had formed halos on their buckles and spear tips, and Lasater’s legs felt like loosely rooted trees. She kept reminding herself to unclench her jaw. After an hour of tracking, sweat prickled at the small of her back and upper lip, and she lagged behind the others. Her spear felt too rough and heavy in her hands, her clothes too stiff. She thanked the Creators that she’d done this kind of hunt enough to know the steps by rote, but muscle memory and training was no match for drunken hallucinations. As she saw the signal to get ready, that the boar was being herded toward her, her stomach clenched.

A violent rustle parted the bushes and the hammering of hooves echoed in her ears, the sound blending discordantly with the throb of her heartbeat and the alarmed shouts of her friends. She could not command her limbs to cooperate.

She turned to run but stumbled forward instead. The trod of hooves grew louder, paralleled by a snorting rasp.

The distance between her and the ground rapidly lessened—she was falling—but before she could impact, a terrible, tearing pressure in her backside stole her breath. The world spun as she was hurled upward: trees, patches of night sky, earth, the horrified faces of the others, the clatter of her spear against hard-packed dirt, a spray of red. Spinning, falling, crashing through thorny brambles of itchweed, wet warmth blossoming along her backside and thigh. And then… Nothing.

She woke on her stomach half a day later in the healer’s aravel. Something dry and flaking covered her face. Pain burned along her ass and the back of her thigh. Everything else ached, and she could not open her eyes. An acrid, stale taste coated the flat of her tongue.

The healer told her she’d been gored in the arse by a boar. Her face had been ripped up by itchweed thorns, its poison leaving every patch of exposed skin with a tingling rash and fat blisters. Her left eye was swollen shut with the toxins.

She spent two grueling weeks on her stomach or un-injured side, alternating between sleeping, sighing, scratching, and struggling not to cry. When her tears were able to seep past the thick crust caked in her eyelashes, they cut tracks through the analgesic mud on her face and aggravated the stitched cuts and burst blisters in their wake.

Friends visited, but they teased her about the injury or talked too long about their upright, non-itchy lives. The healer, Keeper, and First made sure she knew how lucky she was to be alive with two intact legs; how lucky she was to not have lost her eye to thorns; how she should know better than to hunt while intoxicated. Her parents even made the journey up from Markham to spend a few days with her.

Protectiveness flared in Cassandra’s chest, her growl barely silenced, and she wrapped Lasater in a hug. “I am sorry you went through that, Lasater. It must have been very difficult, very painful.”

“It was a lot of moping. Not my best moment.”

Cassandra made a small noise and pressed a kiss to Lasater’s forehead. “You were grieving.” She wanted to say more, ask more, but she kissed Lasater’s knuckles and the backs of her hands instead. She kissed each crease of each palm, and drew a line with her lips up one wrist. She chased Lasater’s sighs with her mouth, and one kiss became many. Kissing led to touching, which quickly stoked their desire, and Lasater spread her thighs and guided Cassandra to her opening.

Cassandra rolled her hips in a steady, rhythmic pound—driving herself in to the hilt and drawing out until only the head remained—until Lasater’s breaths came in long, keening gasps, and inner walls fluttered around her length.

Grunting, she fixed on the thin, semi-parallel lines that scored the omega’s bliss-contorted face. The scars were deepest below the left eye and lower lip, shallowest at the curve of her chin, and faded to conclusion at a line down the column of her throat—practically bordering the bruised, bite mark that Cassandra tried so hard to avoid with her mouth. To stave off her climax and to resist the loud roar of instinct to claim, she traced each scar with her lips.

The force of Lasater’s sudden orgasm pushed her out and splashed her upper thighs. Her lover’s breathy coos gusted against her cheek, her fingers digging into Cassandra’s ass. Still shuddering through the climactic waves, Lasater gripped her dick with fast, stroking fingers. Cassandra braced herself on her hands and knees, and groaned.

With a low chuckle, Lasater slithered beneath her, licking the sweat smeared between her breasts and trembling abdomen until she reached the swollen tip of Cassandra’s need. Lasater invited it into her mouth and swirled her tongue around the sweet spot on the underside. Cassandra bucked in response, pushing past Lasater’s lips a fraction more.

The muffled moan that shivered down her shaft made Cassandra bunch the sheets in her fists. She couldn’t stop her hips from rocking into Lasater’s hurried, pumping fist and wet mouth.

She was so close.

“Lasater.” It was as a warning, but the name came out as a desperate whisper.

The omega’s lilting hum sent a harsh judder along the length of her dick until it set her knot to throbbing. Lasater’s marked hand scraped over her hip and settled at the small of her back, encouraging.

Cassandra opened her eyes and looked down the length of her body, meeting Lasater’s gaze. An impish, wanting look gleamed in the omega’s eyes.

Maker, she wants this.

She nearly sobbed at the thought and let herself thrust in earnest. Grunting and white-knuckling the sheets, she watched her dick slide in and out of Lasater’s mouth, the shaft glistening with saliva and precum.

Fuck, Lasater. I’m going to come.”

Lasater’s eyes slid shut, her pleased sounds and slurps sending Cassandra into a near frenzy. The alpha shouted her completion, her eyes clenching tight as her whole body curled into the climax and her hips hitched forward. Her ears burned at the unfettered sound of her own moans.

The wet, sucking nirvana of Lasater’s mouth disappeared, and Cassandra’s eyes flew open to see why. The omega’s unmarked hand wrapped around her knot and massaged it as the marked hand cupped the head of her dick. The heat of the Fade-wound made Cassandra bark, and she watched open-mouthed as Lasater crisscrossed the scars on her face with the last of threads of her unraveling knot.

Trembling with aftershocks, Cassandra slumped beside Lasater, breathing hard, and her face burned with shock and exertion. Lasater gloated, scooping the come from her cheeks and forehead with deft fingers. Cassandra’s blush deepened as Lasater licked the come from her fingers, looking very much like a cat cleaning its paw after filling its belly with a kill.

When Lasater was finished, she leaned over Cassandra and pressed a firm kiss to her lips.

Cassandra sagged into the mattress as Lasater’s lips moved against hers, and she looped her arms around the omega’s strong upper back, her fingers losing themselves in her thick hair. Lasater’s mouth was hot and receptive to her seeking tongue, and before long, Cassandra’s dick began to twitch back to life. She ignored its insistence—the omega’s nas’athlan was so close to the end, and she instinctively knew that one more knotting would finish it. She wondered how long it would take to sate it with her tongue.

Cassandra turned Lasater over and slid off the bed, pulling the omega to the edge of it as she sank to the floor. She positioned herself between Lasater’s thighs, guiding them to rest on her shoulders, and leaned in to inhale the headiness of her sex. The grain of the wood planks bit into her knees, but it was a small price to pay to be able to coax out the last remnants of Lasater’s nas’athlan with languid strokes of her tongue and a curling pressure against her swollen front wall with two fingers.

When Lasater finally pushed her away, they slept curled into one another, Lasater’s head tucked beneath Cassandra’s chin.

Cassandra woke some hours later, feeling unsettled. She palmed herself.

No more dick. Her alpha state had passed, immediately replaced with a sense of loss and a reminder of what awaited her outside the cabin’s round walls. She would need to figure out what it meant to be an alpha—on her own perhaps. She and Lasater said they would continue on as friends, but Cassandra was not so sure that would be an easy task.

Anger rushed to encase the melancholy. It was so much easier to be furious than to be swept away by the flash flood of grief, and oh; she could do furious.

Letting rage fuel her forward momentum, she washed, dressed, and packed as quickly and quietly as she could. Just looking at Lasater’s sleeping form made her chest hurt, and to think that she would have to suppress whatever connection had been forged between them… She squared her jaw and set to preparing the horses for travel.

As she saddled the horses, she thought about the task at hand. First, there was the Breach. The Herald could not seal it alone. Solas said she would need the backing of the mages or the Templars to have enough power to close the giant hole in the sky.

Cassandra hoped that they could ally with the mages gathered in Redcliffe under former Grand Enchanter and Grey Warden Fiona. After Kirkwall, she had little faith or trust in the Templars. Red lyrium had been a large contributor to Knight-Commander Meredith’s eventual descent into madness, but it had not been the cause. Hubris and hatred had festered in Meredith’s heart long before, and those who followed her feared the wrath of her retribution far too much to defy her increasingly totalitarian orders.

If not for Cullen, she imagined Kirkwall’s fate would have been far worse. Cassandra had recruited him into the Inquisition across the interrogation table. The Templar life had taken him down a particularly rough path, and after watching his direct superior abuse her power on top of everything else, it was clear that his heart had gone out of that fight. He needed a change, and the Inquisition needed a commander for its growing forces. His dedication and quick thinking would be a huge asset to the Divine Justinia’s goal to end the mage rebellion.

It did not take her long to see a kinship in him. The Templars recruited young, but Cullen joined in his early teens—just as she had joined the Seekers later in life than usual. His life had been hard, his faith in the Maker often tested. They were used to taking orders, making difficult decisions, never settling, and always striving to do better, be better.

He was a friend, she realized, and felt foolish that it was just now dawning on her. Especially as, not only did she feel comfortable seeking his counsel, she had come to look forward to the mornings when their schedule permitted them to train and attend the early Chantry service together.

He wasn’t bad to look at, admittedly, though his obsession with his hair gave her pause. She had never entertained the idea of him as more than a colleague…

Cassandra sighed as she tightened the straps of Lasater’s saddlebags. Perhaps it was best to not entertain that line of thinking at all. She had lost so many years of knowing who she really was, of being ignorant to the possibilities of attraction and sexuality. Why had it taken so long? Surely Lasater was not the only omega she’d encountered in her life. But none had stirred her enough for her true nature to reveal itself. What was different about Lasater? What had changed about herself?

Lasater’s palfrey stomped its foreleg and shook its tail. Cassandra loosened the buckle of the strap she’d over-tightened. As she opened her mouth to apologize, the horse lifted her head and stared over Cassandra’s shoulder. The alpha turned, spotting an Inquisition scout jogging her way.

As Cassandra walked to meet the scout, Lasater stepped out of the cabin. Cassandra let out a measured breath when she smelled Lasater’s approach. The elf’s subtle scent wasn’t as intoxicating, but it felt just as distracting if only because Cassandra could still detect it from afar. She fought not to turn her head to look at the Herald, but they shared a tentative glance as they fell into step. The scout met them several meters from the cabin porch, nervousness plain in his hooded eyes.

“’Scuse me, serahs, but I’ve got word for you.” He handed Cassandra a folded missive sealed with wax—Leliana’s signet. She popped the seal and unfolded the letter as the scout hurried off. She tensed ever so as Lasater stepped closer to read along.

The Crossroads were thick with fighting, and Lady Josephine, Leliana, and Cullen had decided to send Inquisition troops to intervene finally—Revered Mother Giselle waited there for a meeting with the Herald but would not leave until the refugees had Inquisition assistance. Mother Giselle claimed to have information the Inquisition would find valuable, and they were desperate for leads.

She and Lasater were to rendezvous with Solas and Varric who rode with the supply train. As the main Inquisition forces worked to route the mages and Templars, Cassandra, Solas, Varric, and the Herald would push through the fighting and into the refugee camps at the Crossroads. There, they would find Mother Giselle and hopefully, a lead to bolstering the power they’d need to close the Breach once and for all. Then, they could track down the culprit behind the torn Veil, and stop the war between mages and Templars before all of Thedas crumbled around them.

Chapter Text

Towering, rain-swollen clouds dominated the sky, casting the countryside in a gray pallor. Thunder echoed leagues in the distance. A ray of sunlight pierced the clouds here and there and illuminated patches of land. Lasater swayed in her palfrey’s saddle, drinking the final, bitter dregs from her flask. Cassandra rode a dozen yards ahead.

The distance was a relief—Lasater's sense of smell was still heightened by the nas’athlan, and despite the stench of war that soured the otherwise idyllic landscape, she could just catch hints of the alpha on the wind. She tried to concentrate on the scent of lightning that also hung in the air, wishing it could dilute the other smells assaulting her nostrils. She pulled her scarf up around her nose and mouth and tucked the flask into her belt pouch.

Though they’d been riding only an hour, she sagged beneath the aftermath of her first unsuppressed nas’athlan. She snorted to realize she had literally ridden it out with a newly manifested, powerhouse of an alpha who had almost two decades of unexpressed primal instinct buried under religious and societal edicts. It was no wonder she felt so utterly spent. And all of it was underscored by an overused throb between her legs and a fresh felt on her throat.

She touched the mark left behind by Cassandra’s tar’dahlav instinct and imagined that she could feel the heat of it through the thankfully high collar of the gambeson she wore beneath her cuirass. Her hand dropped to the saddle horn, and she fixed her eyes on Cassandra, the glare of the intermittent sunlight glinting off the Seeker's winged steel helm.

Being with Cassandra had been too easy. Lasater’s eyes burned as fragments of her wanton inhibition flitted through the forefront of her mind. She could not shake the impact of Cassandra’s enthusiasm or ability to follow direction; or the comfort that Cassandra’s solidity and strength provided.

Lasater’s gaze drifted along the alpha’s shoulders and back, calling to mind how those muscles had trembled and bunched beneath her palms, how her name had been a frequent hiss on Cassandra’s tongue; how her cunt had eagerly fluttered open for Cassandra’s knot, how her mouth had so often sought out the swollen glans of Cassandra's cock.

Lasater’s clit stirred despite its sore state, and she bit her lip until it hurt. Stop thinking about it, about her. You have to fight soon. Focus.

They were headed into war territory, where the rebel mages and errant templars battled out their hatred of one another. Inquistion forces were marching from Haven to the Crossroads, and she and Cassandra were due to rendezvous with Varric and Solas later that day. There was a good chance they would have to fight their way through mages and templars to reach their companions and, ultimately, a Chantry sister called the Revered Mother Giselle. According to Leliana, this woman had some leverage to offer the Inquistion but would not do so until she’d met with the Herald of Andraste.

A soaking drizzle began to filter down from the sky, and Lasater tucked her hair behind her ears and pulled up the hood of her cloak. The steady sound of rain continued for another bell, and it was not long before the combination of stormy weather, the rhythmic rock of being ahorse, and bone-deep fatigue tempted Lasater’s mind to tangential wandering. Her thoughts always came back to the Seeker and their sex. She tried humming Falon’din’s battle hymn to distract herself, tried counting the seconds between the lightning strikes and thunder skirting the horizon.

The only thing that could keep her mind on task, she found, was an examination of the glowing, open wound that cut a diagonal across her left palm. The mark did not so much hurt as it did hum, like something was brewing there, waiting. With fingertips from her other hand, she traced the ragged skin and probed the gash. The wound crackled and spit green sparks when she pressed too deep—deeper than should’ve been possible—and bile rose in her throat. The rift energy left her fingertips feeling bee-stung, and she shook her unmarked hand out to rid herself of the unpleasant sensation.

She used her other hand to extract her gloves from where they’d been tucked into her belt. She shoved the rift-slashed hand into a glove, immediately curling her fingers into a fist until the thin leather creaked and her knuckles protested. She put the other glove on, too, and looked to the path ahead.

 

 

A quarter bell later, Cassandra slowed her courser’s pace, and a quarter bell after that, the Seeker stopped at the crest of a hill. She lifted her visor, and her shoulders rose and fell in what Lasater imagined was a heavy sigh. Lasater gave her palfrey’s sides a light squeeze with her thighs, and the horse hastened her gait. A crisp, rain-scented gust threw back her hood as she lifted her eyes to study the clouds. The storm front stretched low just past the horizon. The clouds were dark monoliths, rolling ever closer, and she and Cassandra were riding right into it.

Lightning speared the cloud-choked skyline. Thunder resounded a heartbeat later, and Lasater felt her palfrey tense. The horse stayed on course, though, slowing her pace without any guidance from Lasater as they drew up beside Cassandra. Lasater laid a grateful hand on her palfrey’s neck and then followed the line of Cassandra’s gaze to the village edge sprawling before them.

A field of withering barley stretched from the bottom of the hill toward the charred, still-smoking husks of two wooden houses. The sounds of magic and mayhem echoed beyond the ruined homes, competing with the growing roar of the wind.

“The Crossroads are not far now!” Cassandra shouted to be heard.

Lasater pulled her hood back up and held it in place with her marked hand, twisting in her saddle to regard her companion. Cassandra’s gaze stayed fixed on the scene ahead.

“Neither is this storm! We should ride around the village!”

“No! We should help!”

“Even if it means fighting in a thunderstorm? Cassandra, there’s only two of us, and swords and lightning don’t exactly go together!” Lasater’s eyes drifted to the cracked wooden scabbard slung at the Seeker’s hip.

A bright blue flare erupted from behind the smoking ruins and washed the area in an eerie light. An inhuman shriek followed, making the hairs on Lasater’s neck stand on end. Her palfrey stamped the ground.

“That was a templar counterspell! Come on!” Cassandra urged her mount down the hill before Lasater could respond.

Lasater took a deep breath and hoped they could avoid bloodshed. She had only fought in defense of her clan's safety—was not even sure any wounds she’d inflicted had been fatal. This was different; it was war. An uprising. She sympathized—she could barely go a day without being reminded of her ancestor’s oppression and subjugation at the hands of humans—but this fight had little to do with her people. She didn’t want to be involved. She had sworn to help, though, and had even shaken Cassandra’s hand on the promise even in the war room of Haven's Chantry. Sure, she’d made the decision under the influence of the nas’athlan and might have said yes to anything the alpha had asked of her in that moment, but there was a possibility that the wound on her hand could affect more lives than she could fathom. How could she turn away from something like that?

The thought put ironbark in her spine, and she straightened on her horse before urging it to catch up to the Seeker’s courser.

They skirted the field toward the smoking remnants of the houses, and midway alongside the wilting crop, Cassandra angled her horse into the rows of barley. Lasater followed, and they dismounted some yards from the smoldering, skeletal house.

The air was thick with steam and smoke, and the ground was a soup of mud and blood and Creators knew what else. Cassandra unstrapped her shield and unsheathed her sword as Lasater strung her bow.

The rainfall increased, ringing on the Seeker’s plate mail like soft bells as they moved closer, the muck sucking at their boots. Behind a portion of still-standing wall, they found cover and crept along until they reached the corner of the house. Both leaned out to get a closer look at the situation beyond the ruined dwelling.

Their choice of cover put them between what Lasater could now tell were three figures in full plate and two figures in robes. Templars and mages. One templar had the mark of an officer on their chest and another was missing his helmet. At least one templar lay on the ground, the armor blackened and flesh charred. Two mages still stood—one with a beard and another with hair piled atop her head—and a third twitched in the mud as blood pulsed bright red from every orifice. The templars were trying to close with the mages.

Lasater did not like the odds. They needed a plan. The storm would make diplomacy difficult. They carried no banner, wore no uniform. Other than the eye on Cassandra’s tabard, they had no visual authority to wield. It was impossible to know how those fighting would react to two unknowns striding out onto the battlefield, but that was exactly what Cassandra did when Lasater touched her wrist to get her attention.

The Seeker jerked back as if burned and stumbled out of cover.

Fuck! Lasater reached for the Seeker, but it was too late. “Cassandra!” she hissed.

Cassandra pivoted on her heel and raised her shield. As she walked into the templars’ and mages’ line of sight and shouted a promise of aid, the sky opened up and lightning lit up the village. The immediate boom of thunder drowned out Cassandra’s voice, “Stand down!”

A stillness settled over the skirmish. Lasater cursed under her breath, but at least Cassandra’s stupid move bought her some time to find a more advantageous position. Lasater sprinted along the backside of the house. Thunder muffled the splash of her boots as she cleared the length of the smoldering structure, her mud and rain-soaked cloak fluttering heavily behind her. She grabbed an arrow by the fletching with forefinger and thumb and readied her shot as she ran from cover.

Lasater surveyed the battlefield in the few moments she had: the templar officer broke formation to close with the Seeker, and the other two lifted their longswords and tower shields, their cries defiant as they as they charged the mages. Cassandra’s shouted reply dominated the templars’, and the undercurrent of tar’dahlav authority shuddered down Lasater’s spine to pool low, emphasizing the ache left behind by the alpha’s cock. She dropped her arrow and skidded on one foot through the mud as Cassandra’s primal authority rocked her off-balance.

The wind threw back her hood at the same time, and sideways rain plastered hair across her face as she struggled to stay upright. She could just make out a ruined structure a dozen yards to her right. It looked like it had been circular—a bell tower, perhaps—but some kind of concussive force had turned it into a pile of stone rubble and shattered, wooden beams. Behind her curtain of soggy hair and the torrent of rain, it looked like a horrible monster’s maw.

To her back, the sound of steel-on-steel rang, mixed with shouts and grunts and the blustery sound of coruscating magic.

Lasater clambered over the rubble, shoving hair out of her face as she got into position. She readied another arrow as lightning momentarily brightened the battle once more.

Cassandra fought one-on-one with templar officer as the mages pelted the other two with gouts of flame and shards of ice from the tips of their staves. The templars caught the brunt of the offensive magic with their shields, but the edges of one shield began to glow orange from heat while the other collected frost at an alarming rate.

Lasater hesitated after leveling a shot against the closest target, the fire mage. What if the mages are just defending themselves? She had heard the stories about mage circles, knew that templars even posed a danger to elven mages. Clans rarely kept more than two mages at a time, lest their existence bring the Chantry down on their heads.

Shouting over the cacophony of weather and violence, the unhelmed templar crouched behind his shield until the mage’s fiery onslaught ceased. He threw his shield aside and thrust his sword into the air before advancing on the fire mage.

At the templar’s sudden move, Lasater swung her aim to the left and released the arrow. It wobbled as it fought against the wind and rain before punching through the templar’s breastplate, wedging between two ribs. The templar jerked to the side and crumpled into the mud, sliding a few feet with the remaining momentum of his charge.

The ice mage—the bearded man—looked over his shoulder at Lasater, his facial expression blurred by the rain. He blinked out of sight with a whoosh of air and a sound like fluttering pages.

The fire mage renewed her deluge of flame, targeting the helmed templar now.

Lasater pulled another arrow from her quiver and scanned the village for signs of the disappeared mage. She found her attention once more drawn to the Seeker, who was lifting her shield to block a sloppy overhand attack from the templar officer. She’d lost her winged helmet since Lasater last caught sight of her.

Cassandra moved like a dancer, turning the officer’s sword aside with her shield as they attacked again. Her blade drew a gash along the templar’s inner shield arm, and the officer faltered. Imbalanced, the shield’s weight carried the officer forward, and Cassandra stepped out of the way to let them fall into the mud, which grew ever treacherous as rain fell faster than could be absorbed. The Seeker pivoted and backed off of the officer, turning her gaze in Lasater’s direction.

The omega felt a twinge between her legs as she imagined their eyes locking.

The bearded mage reappeared in Lasater’s field of view, his staff raised and a spell primed on his lips. This close, she could see that his eyes were rimmed in red and bloodshot, his cheeks gaunt.

Time seemed to slow as the mage turned the rain around him into long shards of ice. With a flourish of his wrist and a twirl of his staff, the mage flung the deadly icicles at Lasater. She barely dodged in time, her footing thrown off by the distracting ache between her legs and nagging memories between her ears. A nervous sound spilled from her mouth as she raised her bow, but the shot wasn’t right. She left the shelter of the fallen tower and backpedaled away from the ice mage.

The mage shouted, desperation clear in his voice. He pointed his staff at her, and the rain pelting her puffed out into snowflakes. It was just enough to alert her to the steaming lines of ice weaving a glyph into the blood-soaked ground behind her—she threw herself into a controlled fall just as her heel grazed the ice mine's outermost line. The magic exploded beneath her in a shower of expanding snow and ice blossoms. Frost clung to her trousers and climbed them like frozen ivy until she was anchored some feet off the ground, wreathed from feet to waist in a crooked pillar of crackling blue-white ice.

Grunting against the crushing cold around her lower body, Lasater tried to take aim before the mage could cast again. It was hard to breathe, to measure her shot and steady her shivering hands, but the release was smooth enough to cover the short distance.

As the finger-long arrowhead pierced the mage's chest, the ice crushing Lasater’s legs shattered into thousands of diamond-edged shards. Her armor protected her from the worst of it, but the breath was knocked from her lungs as she hit the ground. She rolled to her side, gasping for air and further tangling her legs in her sodden cloak. Her chin burned where icy shrapnel had shredded it, and she winced as she struggled to lay eyes on Cassandra.

“No!” The other mage howled, pulling Lasater’s attention back. Her spell-slinging halted, she stumbled toward Lasater, her staff held in a defeated grip.

Lasater wrestled with her cloak, her legs heavy and trembling as she tried to kick her way free of the wet tangle of cloth.

The fire mage broke into a sprint, raising her staff as she ran—but her gaze was lowered, Lasater could now see, locked on the spasming form of the bearded mage. Two handspans of arrow-shaft jutted from his chest, jerking obscenely in his death throes.

With the magical threat distracted, Lasater pushed the image from her mind and lifted shaking fingers to the clasp of her cloak. She was covered in mud, which at least weighed down her hair and kept it out of her face.

Ahead of her, the only standing templar heaved her ice-encrusted shield aside and launched into a run. Lasater finally unclasped her cloak and shoved at it with her hands and feet until she was free of its tangle. The slick ground almost proved to be the templar’s undoing, but she remained upright, barreling toward Lasater, whose bow was as heavy as a corpse as she lifted it and rose into a kneel.

But then Cassandra was charging into view with her shield raised. When she caught up to the templar, she pushed her shield out at just the right moment to crash into her. The templar flew headlong into the mud and skidded several yards through the muck, her sword knocked from her hands and into a deep furrow in the earth.

The templar struggled to roll onto her back as mud and rain streamed into the eye slit of her helm.

A greenish light bloomed from behind Lasater, and the smell of magic flooded her senses. She whirled to face the mage, bow at the ready. "Don’t!"

The woman looked at Lasater, her features and sodden form bathed in the soft light of the spell—it was too late; the magic was cast.

Lasater backed up, blinking against the rain that ran down her face.

The sky brightened, blinding, as lightning twisted over the village ruins. Lasater turned her face away on instinct, her bow in one hand and an arrow in the other.

The resulting thunder drowned out the screams of the fire mage. Her resurrection spell had not worked. She dropped down over the bearded man's body.

Movement caught Lasater's eye—the other templars were beginning to rouse. The templar officer ambled toward Cassandra, sword held at waist-level. The other templar was getting to her feet, tugging her helmet off with one hand. Blood-streaked amber twists of hair fell around her face as they stooped to retrieve their sword.

Lasater lined up a shot and drew back on the bowstring. The arrow sank into the thigh of the templar officer. They howled and crumpled, falling forward into Cassandra’s legs.

The Seeker took a measured backward step to avoid falling, too, but it gave the twist-haired templar officer the opportunity she needed to attack. Cassandra’s armor thankfully took the brunt of the sword-swing, but her footing was wrong. The templar pressed the advantage, putting Cassandra on the defense. Lasater raised her bow, trying to find an opening to fire without risk of injuring the Seeker.

The officer hammered Cassandra's shield and sword with attack after attack, her ropes of hair rising and falling in kinetic waves. She landed a glancing hit on Cassandra's leg, and the Seeker went down to one knee, her shield taking the follow-up blows as she steadied herself with the tip of her sword in the sodden earth.

The templar kicked out with her foot, trying to connect with Cassandra’s swordarm, but Cassandra anticipated it and tucked into a quick roll that put her at the advantage. She flowed from a crouch to her feet, rising behind the templar officer, her bared teeth stark against the mud now smeared across her face, her shield left in the muck.

The templar whirled to face the Seeker, her swing wild. Cassandra ducked and parried the follow-up slash, and still Lasater couldn't find a proper window to shoot. She could see fatigue beginning to show in Cassandra's shoulders as she wielded her sword with both hands.

Several yards from Cassandra, the templar officer found the will to stand. Their legs wobbled, sword held low, but they lurched in to flank.

Lasater let her arrow fly. It caught the templar officer in the neck, the tip bursting out their throat in a shower of red that quickly soaked their tabard. When she put eyes on Cassandra again, the other templar was staggering back, blood pouring out of her nose and down her chin and breastplate. The rain washed the red away in moments.

Cassandra pushed forward, sword ready, and Lasater felt more than heard the command in the Seeker's voice as she demanded that the templar yield.

The rain was letting up—enough that Lasater could hear the grunt of exertion from the templar as she advanced, her sword arcing in a downward slash.

Cassandra caught the sword edge with her own and then shoved forward, tossing the templar off-balance again.

"Yield!"

Lasater realized she had the opening she needed and raised her bow, but before she could loose the arrow, a multi-tonal, otherworldly shriek penetrated the air around her. She turned, bow raised, to see the fire mage standing—no, hovering—over the still body of the ice mage. The mage screamed again, raking her fingers down her face. When she pulled her hands away, Lasater gasped at the dripping, parallel lines left behind.

The mage howled and lifted her arms up, clawing open her forearms with her fingernails. The hair on the back of Lasater's neck stood on end, and she backpedaled as the mage's self-inflicted wounds pulsed at a heart's pace. The blood stopped falling downward and began to swirl out from the wounds, turning into a pink mist that mingled with the rainfall.

"Lasater!"

She looked back, saw Cassandra trying to disentangle herself from the templar. Cassandra received a gauntleted fist across the face for her efforts, and Lasater felt the air around her begin to shift with wrongness even as instinct urged her to run to Cassandra.

The bloodmist completely obscured the mage's features and clothes, clotting into globules that grew ever larger as they coalesced along her arms and torso. With the sound of a sword being pulled from its scabbard, the blood hardened around the woman's upper body like plate mail. The veins of her neck turned black, and darkness mapped each blood vessel in her face until her eyes were marbled with black and red. Her cheeks hollowed, jaw elongating, until there was nothing human left of her visage.

The abomination turned its horrible face to Lasater and roared. Lasater’s heart stuttered in her chest as she stared. Oh fuck.

A wave of scorched blood shot from the abomination's fingertips, the sound of sizzling rending the air around Lasater as hot blood cut through rain drops. She shielded her face with her arm, trying to turn away, and the blood splattered her across the midsection and forearm. Her armor kept her from its burn, but the smell and the heat rising from it tore a feral sound from her throat.

Ohfuckohfuckohfuck.

A familiar scent bloomed in the space to her left, stirring the air with tar’dahlav presence—Cassandra!

The Seeker’s eyes blazed with challenge, her sword raised and gaze leveled on the abomination. On the other side of her, the twist-haired templar gave a taunting cry and moved to close with the abomination.

Cassandra regarded Lasater with a cool nod and moved to attack the abomination from the other side.

Lasater pushed out a shaky breath. I can do this. I've fought demons before. I'll be fighting them for a while.

She nocked an arrow and pushed herself into a quick jog, circling the field until she could position herself at the abomination's back. As the templar and Cassandra hacked at its sides, Lasater fell into the familiar rhythm of drawing, breathing, releasing, and nocking until the abomination’s back was pin-cushioned with arrows.

Just as she thought the abomination would finally fall, its form bubbled all over, folding in on itself, before bulking up at a frightened-heart’s pace. Cassandra and the templar weren’t quick enough, and the abomination cast them aside with a casual, broad swipe of its arm. It whirled on Lasater before the others hit the ground, moving much faster than should’ve been possible. It cleared half the distance between them before Lasater could react. She turned to run, hoping it would not take long for Cassandra and the templar to find their feet.

Sure enough, the sword-wielders closed again with the abomination. The creature struck out with arms that bent in too many places and in all the wrong ways, and Cassandra and the templar were pressed to block, parry, or dodge its talons. Blackish-blood cast off with every slice and swing, the heat of its mere existence causing the air around it to hiss and condense.

Lasater found it difficult to line up a shot without a friendly target getting in the way. Squaring her jaw, she set her bow down and tugged her dagger free from its sheathe at her low back.

"On your left!" she shouted at Cassandra as she rushed past, ducking under a clawed swipe from the abomination. She dropped her weight onto her knees and slid through the frothy pink mud, popping up into a crouch as she flanked the once-mage. With a yell, she sunk her dagger into where she hoped its spine still was.

The abomination’s resulting shriek sent shockwaves of terror through Lasater’s limbic system, and she let go of the dagger.

With a sickening crack and the sound of torn paper, the abomination's upper body swiveled to look at her, double-elbowed arms thrashing. Its skeletal hand connected with Cassandra and sent her tumbling into the mud. Scalding blood spewed from its maw as it yawned open and stretched, stretched, stretched until it could've swallowed Lasater whole.

She leapt back but not before her chin and chest were streaked with blood. Her skin burned where the blood struck, and steam began billowing up from her rain-soaked leather cuirass. She reeled back, arms lifted defensively, and it lurched, reaching for her.

The templar struck, their longsword piercing the abomination's side, punching downward and out the opposite hip. Still retching blood, it turned on them. The templar just barely missed being splashed in the face with burning blood, and as the abomination shifted to pursue, Cassandra surged back to her feet. She took two long strides, lifted her longsword in both hands, and brought the blade down in a strong slash.

The sword edge parted the corrupted flesh and muscle of the abomination's shoulder, shattering the twisted collarbone beneath, and continued diagonally to sever the spine, cleave the heart, and detach the thing's head and arm from its body. As Cassandra's blade burst out the thing's ribcage, the two parts of it hung in the air for a heartbeat before popping like a soldier's blister after a full day of marching.

Hot red splashed the three warriors, painting them a macabre, muddy trio.

The templar doubled over and emptied the contents of her stomach.

Cassandra made a disapproving face and spat before wiping blood and mud from around her eyes, mouth, and nose.

Relief flooded Lasater's chest as she surveyed the field, and she fought not to sag onto her knees. It was over.

The rain had stopped.

The novelty of surviving quickly dissipated as Lasater’s eyes settled on Cassandra, and she recalled how they'd wound up in a fight in the first place. Lasater took a centering breath and stepped into the alpha’s personal space, "What the fuck was that?"

Cassandra's brows arched, uncertainty drawing them together.

A surge of anger took hold of Lasater, and she chose to focus on it rather than the protective snarl that tightened in her gut. "What the fuck were you thinking, just striding onto the middle of a fight like that?"

"I—"

"You could have been killed or hurt!" She tried to remember—had Cassandra taken any blows? The knot in her belly loosened, and she swallowed. The Seeker was caked from head to toe with mud and blood and viscera. "Are you hurt?"

Her eyes landed on the neat tear in Cassandra's leather leggings, her mind’s eye remembering the metal-plated punch she’d taken across the chin.

"I’m fine. You? The ice and blood—" Cassandra reached for a moment as if to touch Lasater's raw and stinging chin.

Lasater turned her face away, looked to the templar instead of at the tenderness in Cassandra's eyes or the intentions in her fingertips.

The templar scrubbed at her face with a handkerchief, watching the exchange with a mix of discomfort and curiosity.

The baritone wail of a battle horn sounded in the distance, and their heads turned as one.

“The Inquisition,” said Cassandra.

The horn sounded twice more, and distant war cries of charging soldiers followed.