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Trials 15:1

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Leliana looks out from the rookery and breathes deep.

Below, in the courtyard, the Inquisitor is drilling with Cullen’s soldiers and the Chargers, voice ringing out like blades kissing, harsh and echoing like the clanging of shields.

Leliana smiles to herself, seeing much of her love in the newly named Inquisitor—both so strong, commanding unwavering loyalty.
Inquisitor Lavellen was not as tall or physically imposing as Isana Cousland, but there was something familiar in their manner, though Leliana couldn’t place it.

She turns back to her work and sighs, rubbing her eyes.
It was getting harder to remember her face.

♔♔♔

There were easier things to recall, things that lasted long after the exact shade of blue of her eyes had faded.

The feeling of firm fingertips on soft skin.
Silken tongue and soft kisses under the moonlight or beside the dying embers of the campfire.
Half sighs and swallowed words, teeth and nails, a surge…then stillness like a crypt. Laughter.

Leliana chuckles as she recalls Alistair’s red face, and Morrigan’s biting remarks. Maker, they fought so much in those days.
So much had changed…

The candles flicker lower, and Leliana finishes her report with a flourish of her quill. She hands it to a scout with whispered words of thanks.
“The poor light makes my eyes red,” she asserts.
She summons a deep breath, then sits in the darkness, stars piercing through the slats in the stone.

A small moment of calm.
What color was it? Like a still lake, or a slow-running small creek, or the eye of a storm on the coast.
None of them quite fit.

♔♔♔

Isana had tried to leave at night, too.
She had planned to leave before anyone knew she was gone, creeping out with only a note to give any indication of her absence. Before Leliana could raise any objection or attempt to join her.
But as close as the two had become over the years, there was still a rift between them that could not be crossed…not without darkspawn blood, at least.

The Calling was Isana’s burden to bear, and solving it would no doubt prove to be a dangerous task. But as much as Isana loved her, Leliana did not just belong to the Hero of Ferelden alone. A devout and pious woman, Leliana had pledged herself to the service of Revered Mother Dorothea, who was in the business of helping the downtrodden and lost, as she herself had once been in Orlais. Her increasing duties to the less fortunate were of no less importance, in Isana’s mind, than curing her Calling, and she’d be damned if she would keep Leliana from her own.

She said as much in her letter, but as she knelt to place it on her pillow, a hand reached up and gripped her wrist tightly.
“Don’t. Please don’t,” Leliana whispered.
Isana hadn’t wanted this—hadn’t wanted to speak, for fear she could never again work up the courage to leave.
Leliana wipes her eyes, as she had done back then, willing her vision to clear for what might be one last look at the woman she loved. Whom she still loved.
There had been words that had passed between them, she was sure of it, but all she recalled were Isana Cousland’s arms wrapped tightly around her, embracing her tightly, as if the world would crumble apart if she let go.
And tear stains on her shoulders…
But she had let go, because she needed to leave, not because she wanted to go.
It’s what Isana had said, and what Leliana clutched onto as fiercely as she had her love that day.
She needed to leave, but she did not want to leave her . In the candle-less darkness she questioned even this.

…sky blue, was it?
My love…where are you?

♔♔♔

It’s evening when the Hero of Fereldan returns.

The newly appointed Divine Victoria walks into her chambers, with a sigh, making sure the door is firmly secured before removing her tall hat.
Crowns may be heavy and weigh down the heads of their bearers, but Leliana thought they had nothing on her robes–both literally and figuratively.

She walks over to her ornately gilded side table and is about to place her thick woolen and embroidered regalia down, when she sees something out of the corner of her eye.
Leliana’s bard training kicks in, and she pulls her thin dagger from its sheath. (She never leaves her chambers without it strapped to her leg–just to be on the safe side.)
Walking over to the shadowy figure in the robes of a sister, she steps silently, knife gripped tightly and held before her.

“Who are you? What is your business here?” Leliana stalks forward.

The figure spins around with boisterous laughter.

There is Isana Cousland, wearing Leliana’s old clothes–but it’s the Warden, all the same.
“What, no hug? Were the robes too much? I hope I didn’t scare you too much.”

All the words that Leliana could think off just leave her, and she she finds herself standing with her mouth agape, silent.
Her eyes fill with tears and throws her knife to the floor with a clatter.
“Oh, my love, is it really you? Have you returned to me for good? Were you successful?”

Isana embraces her tightly, pressing her face into Leliana’s still-lovely copper hair.

She still smells the same.

“Yes to all those things.” She takes a step back to look at Leliana’s face.
Aside from a few more lines around her eyes, and a few stray grey hairs (from age, or stress, she couldn’t tell), Isana sees the same fiercely loyal and devoted woman whose side she left a few years prior.
“So…” Isana starts, “Divine, huh? That’s quite the promotion. Does this mean…”

Leliana stands on her tip-toes and presses her lips to Isana’s with a watery smile. “I am yours. I will always be yours, and you are mine. Anyone who takes issue with that will just have to find a way to cope.”

The quickly fading sunlight turns the entire room shades of pink, orange, gold, and red, and two long shadows mingle beneath the fluttering curtains, blown about with a summer evening’s breeze.

"It’s good to be home,” Isana finally speaks–-not of the Orlesian walls or its finery.