"In another life," she was fond of saying, all dimples and robust cheeks as she worked, "I was a fool in some Orlesian court."

Sometimes she claimed a harlequin for the Queen of Orlais herself, or a mime or a clown in Antiva, or a jester at the side of the king in Ferelden. Never a bard or a minstrel, nor even a storyteller—leave that to the dwarf and to the Nightingale.

Today, though, today she was a fool, even as she smoothed a map over the table in what was dubbed the War Room, passing the comment over her shoulder with a grin.

Cullen shook his head, arms folded, leaning slightly against the table's edge. "For some reason, I don't doubt it."

"It's my irresistible charm," Leona assured, twirling a compass and charcoal between her fingers.

"Somehow I doubt fools are kept for their charm, Inquisitor."

She shook her head. "That's exactly why they're kept. Why so formal, Cullen?" Leona carefully marked out a small circle where the newest intelligence-gatherer had been sent. No word yet. "If I didn't have magic," she mused, "I can tell you I'd be charming the gold off a bunch of nobles instead of waging war against demons."

Among other things. The thought sprang unbidden to Cullen's mind as Leona leaned deliberately over the table, contours of her robe stretching rather appealingly—

His gaze snapped away—anywhere else. The arched ceiling, the bookcases full of tomes on strategy, the shuttered windows, the map-no not there. She was grinning. As though she knew. Maker help me.

"Something troubling you?"

"No, ma'am."

"Now, Knight-Commander, you know you can speak to me with perfect candor."

Oh—oh, Maker. She was approaching.

"Leona, no."

And she was doing something with her hips on each step, Andraste save his soul.

"Inquisitor, you should really—"

"Really should refrain? But rhyme is a harmless pastime."

It wasn't the silly rhymes he was worried about, suddenly clumsy in his armor as he stumbled back across the flagstones.

She grinned. "I know proper poetry, as well. 'All ye that lovely lovers be/Pray you for me:/Lo, here we come a-sowing, a-sowing/and sow the sweet fruits of love…' "

The door was in sight.

"Or do you prefer the Chant of Light?" Her grin was positively salacious.

Cullen's cheeks reddened. "I should go, I think, Inquisitor—I bid you good aft—"

"Whoa, where do you think you're going, Paladin?" He almost stumbled right over Tethras.

"Pardon me, serah." Cullen clasped his hands tightly behind his back and chanced a glance back at Leona, but her face was perfectly impassive; she leaned against the table as though nothing whatsoever had occurred.

The dwarf raised his brows at Leona. "Well, don't let me interrupt: 'In your sweet hearts, well may it prove!'"

The Inquisitor gave a delighted giggle. "Oh, you're familiar with Peele!"

"My lady, I'm familiar with any poet who writes risqué poetry… though on the scale of dirty verses, that one is laughably mild."

Cullen fought the urge to bury his face in his hands. "Please don't encourage her."

But Tethras just grinned and reached up to elbow his ribs. "Should I start calling you loverboy from now on? I can teach you some verses so you'll be able to keep up with your lovely lady…"

"I didn't want to overwhelm him, Varric, but maybe next time it would be a good idea to—" Leona fixed him in a burning gaze, and by the Maker, Andraste, and all that is holy, it was positively unclean and he braced himself for whatever was next "—ease in with something a little more forward, perhaps a bit lengthier next ti—"


The dwarf and the mage stood and watched an exasperated Templar march through the door, cheeks red enough to put a blushing maid to shame, armor clanking as he went.

Leona pursed her lips. "Too much?"

"Too much," Varric agreed.

She heaved a put-upon sigh. "Next time, let's try a more forward approach. Less talking."

"You're on your own with that one, Inquisitor."