IT IS A TIME OF UPHEAVAL AMONGST THE NATIONS OF THEDAS; THE MAGE-TEMPLAR WAR HAS RESUMED AFTER THE CONCLAVE WAS DESTROYED BY THE BREACH
TO COMBAT THE CHAOS, THE ANCIENT ORDER OF THE INQUISITION WAS REFORMED; AND BROUGHT PEACE AND ORDER TO BOTH THE TEMPLARS AT THERINFAL AND THE MAGES AT REDCLIFFE BEFORE SEALING THE BREACH.
THEIR SUCCESS WAS SHORT-LIVED. THAT NIGHT THE FORCES OF THE ELDER ONE LAUNCHED A SURPRISE ATTACK UPON THE INQUISITION IN THEIR BASE OF HAVEN. AT THE COST OF DESTROYING THE TOWN AND THE NASCENT POWERBASE OF THE INQUISITION, THE ELDER ONE WAS DELAYED, BUT NOT DEFEATED.
AWARE OF THE THREAT THE DERANGED MAGISTER REPRESENTED, THE SURVIVORS OF HAVEN PLEDGED TO REBUILD AND FORGE THE ALLIANCES NECESSARY TO STOP THE ELDER ONE.
HAVING FOUND A REFUGE AT THE FORTRESS OF SKYHOLD, THE INQUISITION CHOSE TWO CHAMPIONS TO LEAD IT THROUGH THE CRISIS.
THESE CHAMPIONS HAIL FROM A MYSTERIOUS LAND THEY REFERRED TO AS THE GALAXY, AND WHEN PRESSED ON ITS LOCATION MERELY STATE THAT IT IS FAR, FAR AWAY…
Cabot was halfway through polishing another mug when the door to the Herald's Rest opened, closing quickly behind Warden Blackwall. Cabot frowned as the usually friendly Blackwall sat limply at one end of the bar, eyes downcast, the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"Hello Warden, how has your day gone by? Can I interest you in anything to drink?"
"Too long of a day, Cabot; just something strong, and keep it coming."
Cabot beamed with a pride usually reserved for mothers of overachieving schoolchildren "Oh, don't you worry, Warden; you look like you need a nice pick me up and I have just the thing…"
He was about to chide Blackwall to taste the various flavours inherent within the mead rather than downing the drink blindly when in through the door walked the Herald of Andraste, Saviour of the Free Mages, and Hero of Haven: Gilad Pellaeon. A friendly halloo died on his lips when he saw the Herald shared a similar mood to the Warden, eyebrows furrowed, mustache bristling over a mouth frozen in a tight frown. The staccato beat of the polished boots matched the even stride too rigid to be a walk but not quite a march, and the Herald coming to what looked suspiciously like a parade rest before mechanically seating himself at the bar next to Blackwall.
"Your Heraldship, a pleasure as always to ha-"
"Double whiskey, neat."
"Whoo boy," thought Cabot as he poured the amber fluid and placed the drink in front of the Herald, "It's going to be one of those nights. Maker's breath, it was either sad sacks like these two or the Iron Bull & and the Chargers starting a bar fight, could the Maker spare a polite, appreciative patron who could carry on conversation with a humble bartender?"
The Maker evidently answers prayers, for Varric strolled up and planted an empty mug onto the counter.
"That was excellent pale ale, my friend, you certainly know your alcohol. Care to hook me up with something stronger? I trust your good judgment."
Burbling happily to himself Cabot trucked off to the cellar to find a particularly fine Nevarran brandy he knew would be worthy of Varric's palate. By now Blackwall was half into his stein and Pellaeon had taken his second measured sip.
"So fellas, anything interesting happen today? I saw you had a chat with the lady ambassador, Blackwall; have you two solved the mystery of who's been leaving wildflowers on her desk?"
Varric grinned as Blackwall's flushed face turned scarlet while the Herald kept his gaze forward.
"Come on, Hero, you obsess over that woman almost as bad as Broody did over Marian back in Kirkwall. And you, Cap, how is your sword form doing with the personal lessons from the Seeker?"
"My skills advance. Lady Cassandra is an excellent teacher, Master Tethras." Pellaeon kept his face fixed ahead as he took his third sip, neither larger nor smaller than the previous two.
"Oh she teaches him far more than that," murmured the scarlet haired spymaster whose sudden appearance caused Blackwall to nearly drop his stein and sent Pellaeon into a coughing fit as his whiskey slid down the wrong tube. "They talk endlessly before they practice, during practice, after they practice. They speak on politics, on religion; they have even discussed your stories, Varric." Leliana's smile grew. "I've noticed she has begun to join you on the after dinner walks you take, Herald, they seem to be getting longer each day... You two almost came in late for a War Table meeting yesterday, looking quite flushed; I assume you ran back? Or were your exertions from something of a more... scandalous nature? There are many discrete rooms in Skyhold."
Having subdued his coughing fit Pellaeon merely gave her a level gaze. "Lady Cassandra and I engage in nothing of the sort. She is, and will remain above, such talk. She told me just today that she has been put forward as a candidate to replace Justinia V as Divine, a position," his frown deepened "that is quite celibate in nature."
Leliana's smirk turned sour. "Yes, it seems that both of us have been volunteered as candidates, and my agents seem to think Madame de Fer is quietly lobbying to be Divine as well. I smell the Inquisitor's hand in this."
This comment twisted Pellaeon's frown into a smug almost smile. "He is quite capable of ensuring the future Divine knows exactly who she owes her position to, and he collects his debts with interest."
"Celibacy, that's a shame Cap, you and the Seeker make quite the couple." Varric mused in an all too innocent by half manner. Leliana jumped on the bandwagon.
"Yes, star-crossed lovers, like in one of the songs, I will ask Maryden to sing one."
"No, you will not, thank you." came the clipped reply from the Herald, now on his fourth sip.
"Well, someone is no patron of the arts. I don't understand why Cassandra would stick to the hidebound rules of the Chantry. Love should be for all of the Maker's children, especially the priests of His beloved Andraste."
At this a new voice added itself to the conversation "Well now Sister Nightingale, such a progressive stance. Does that mean we'll recreate that passionate night with Vito and Zevran in the halls of the Grand Cathedral itself? Count me in love" Most heads in the tavern turned and followed Isabela as she strutted towards the group, Leliana's face flushing as bright as her hair. Varric looked apprehensive for the briefest of moments before sliding back into his usual lazy grin.
"You see boys, you have to learn to take chances and live life to the fullest, and never let some hum drum social order get in the way of who or what you want." Isabela emphaized her points with a liberal pull at a bottle of rum in her hand.
"Oh is that so Rivani? Then why aren't you living life to the fullest with ole lover-boy Henry? There was a stud and a half. Say, where is Henry anyway? You two were joined at the hip in Kirkwall." Isabela sniffed, giving what was an attempt at disinterest.
"Ask his hag of a mother if you want the story Varric; don't ruin my drinking."
"Well that's news to me Rivani." Varric took a long pull at his brandy. "Well if you do cross paths, give my best to Henry and Tallis. The rumors I've heard have the two of them seen traipsing about Thedas together doing Maker knows what." Here Isabela broke into a charming smile that never reached her eyes and contained far too many teeth.
Deciding discretion was the better part of valour, Varric slid away from Isabela and closer to the Herald. "So Cap, cards on the table, don't you feel just a little bit cheated by the Inquisitor's politicking? Are you just going to let Seeker slip past you and into the clergy? "
Pellaeon ignored Varric until he finished another swallow of whiskey. "When Cassandra and I discussed the Hawke siblings I couldn't help but notice that 'true love' is so hard to obtain and hold onto. Of the siblings only Marian got the 'happy ending' with her love." Pellaeon mused. "Carver rarely sees Merrill because his unit of Wardens was deployed so far from her, Bethany is estranged from her family because Selina spared her love, Anders, which in of itself-"
"Wait," Isabela fixed an incredulous eye on Pellaeon "Who spared her what?" Varric's eyes gleamed with fear.
"Well, enough gossiping, who wants a taste of this amazing brandy? Cabot, bring a glass for everyone!"
"Just a sec Varric; Herald, you said who spared who?"
Pellaeon crinkled his brow in puzzlement. "I said Selina spared her love, Anders-"
Then she laughed louder.
Then she started laughing so hard she fell off her perch on the bar, hand still clutching the unbroken rum bottle.
She laughed again, ignoring Varric's increasingly babbled speech and furious hand motions across his throat. "Selina... loved..." She paused, caught her breath and explained her merriment. "Anders was the most unlucky sod who ever lived. Amell told me he chased robes in Kinloch Hold, and even Jowan had more luck. All the Hawke siblings turned him down and you think that he was lovers with Selina?!" Again Isabella paused for breath. "Selina was really head over heels in love from the very beginning with..." Varric could do nothing but put a defeated hand over his eyes, "Varric Tethras himself!"
The Herald's Rest went completely silent.
All eyes focused on the aforementioned dwarven gentleman.
The silence was finally broken by Sera.
"Ha! This after Cass interragated ya on all the Hawkes' whereabouts innit? Yew knew where Selina was all these years! Ha! That's rich that is. What, was she hiding behind Cass's chair the whole time? Under the table?" Like a shark sensing the blood from a wound, Sera lit upon a chance to profit from Varric's woes. Leaping onto the bar she quickly gathered everyone's attention."Who will give me five to two on her strangling him with his own guts yeh? Four to three gets him replacing the training dummies!" Coin swiftly exchanged hands, Pellaeon stroked his chin as he took a sixth sip, Varric cradled his head in his hands and considered how far he could flee on his stumpy legs before an enraged Seeker rode him down and put him out of his misery. Thankfully it was at that moment the Iron Bull kicked the door nearly off its hinges.
"All right people! All hail the conquering heroes!" he gestured to Cole, Vivian and the Inquisitor himself: Grand Admiral Mitth'raw'nurudo. Gleaming red eyes swept the Herald's Rest, a small indulgent smile playing at the Inquisitor's lips as Bull continued bellowing.
"Guess who fought the biggest damn Ataashi you ever saw? We did! And the Dragonslayer himself: Cole!" Vivienne adjusted her headgear and examined the minor burn on the hem of her robe.
"Yes dear, we certainly did, thanks to the judicial use of magic, proper battlefield command by the Inquisitor, and the Demon's knife work. It is amazing the skills something can pick up as a serial killer in the White Spire."
"Hey leave him alone, he's done well and he'll continue to do good, right Kid?"
"I did it! It was hurting people, but it was also hurting. I found where I had to strike to stop it from hurting! I'm helping aren't I?" Cole's guileless eyes met the inscrutable red orbs of Thrawn.
"Yes Cole you help in invaluable ways." Thrawn's voice was a quiet, polite baritone that reached every ear in the Herald's Rest. "We can discuss at a later time how best to expand your capabilities." He paused to turn to address the entire tavern. "Today we defeated one of the most powerful creatures in Thedas; the planning and tactics we practiced will be essential to the defeat of Corypheus and his Archdemon and the end of chaos throughout Thedas. Together we will establish a New Order that will usher in a new age of peace and prosperity."
The Herald's Rest erupted into cheers and a spontaneous, but off key, rendition of a popular Provings song by Korbin that soon filled the room when the Chargers joined in. Bull laughed and clapped Pellaeon on the back, eliciting a slight wince.
"Whew! Good short speech, good company, now we just need good booze. Hey Cabot! Is my special order here? We gotta celebrate a dragonslaying! Oh yeah! Pour a big stein for the Herald here!" Bull beamed as enormous steins filled to the brim was plunked down on the bar. A ghost of smile tugged at Pellaeon's face.
"Thank you Bull, but I am at my limit for the night." He motioned to the scotch that he had just sipped from; three more sips and the glass would be empty. Bull's eyebrows rose.
"At yer what now?"
"As in, 'No more booze' limit? Don't tell me that's your first drink!"
"Fine, I won't tell you. I will tell you I am at my limit."
"Well each to his own, hey Boss here's yours!" Thrawn's eyebrows now lifted.
"Thank you for the gesture, I will abstain as the War Table meeting is quite early tomorrow."
The Iron Bull held up one massive hand. "Oh no, if you fight as a member of the hunting party that kills the Ataashi, you drink like a member of the hunting party. Bottoms up Boss!"
"Fine, hand me the Maaras-lok, Hissrad."
"Teach a few words to a blue skinned bas and it goes straight to his head," grumbled Bull good naturedly as he placed the suspiciously burbling brew in the Inquisitor's hands. Thrawn attempted a measured pull that became a chug when Bull's hand held the stein in place. The bar held its breath as bit by bit the tankard emptied, Thrawn's face unchanging even after he set the stein down on the counter.
"Damn, I was hoping Doom-eyes would at least change colour, take your money Cap" Pellaeon's only reply to Varric was a smug look as added the handful of sovereigns to his money pouch.
"There ya go Boss! Put some hair on your chest! Alright Dragonkillers, let's party!" roared the Bull. The next recipient of the Maaras-lok was Sera, who wasted no time in downing it, swinging from the chandelier and mooning Vivienne. The exasperated eyeroll of the First Enchanter, coupled with the look of sheer terror on Sera's face when Dorian re-animated one of the dead spiders on the chandelier brought a smile to Pellaeon's face as he finished the last of his whiskey. A hand pulled at his sleeve.
"Captain Pellaeon, Warden Blackwall, Cole, will you accompany me to my chambers to discuss tomorrow's mission? It is slightly quieter there," intoned the Inquisitor with the barest hint of a slur in his speech. Together they walked through the battlements towards the Inquisitor's quarters, with Thrawn only slightly leaning his weight onto his companion's shoulders. Once inside the door to his apartments the Inquisitor motioned to his companions to seat him upon a chair within. After drinking a glass of water offered to him, the Inquisitor finally commented on the night's party.
"That," he muttered while keeping himself upright with a firm grip on the arm-rest "was an excessive amount of alcohol." A second glass of water was soon followed by a third before he began the briefing.
"Tomorrow we shall be setting out for Val Royeaux and you three will be accompanying the diplomatic arm of our Inquisition. Cole, you will be at the Grand Cathedral, gather all information regarding the Grand Clerics and the potential candidates for Divine. I have business with the Council of Heralds, but I need you Captain Pellaeon to rendezvous with Seeker Pentaghast at the Nevarran embassy, she has been sounding out their possible support for our Inquisition."
Thrawn paused and held a hand to his head, drinking another glass of water before continuing. "Warden Blackwall, you will accompany Ambassador Montilyet to her meetings with the Antivan merchant princes." His gaze narrowed, unblinking eyes glowing bright. "The foodstuffs and equipment they offer are of great importance to this cause, Warden; do not allow the negotiations to be interrupted for any reason." At this Blackwall's cheeks coloured slightly, and the stout Warden made as if to protest the assignment before being cut off by an impatient motion by the Inquisitor. "You have your assignments; we leave as soon as the War Table ends tomorrow morning. I expect you in the stable yard, mounted and ready."
On that note the impromptu council was dissolved, the Inquisitor retired to bed and all parties whose room it was not exited to the walls of Skyhold.
"You are quite fond of Ambassador Montilyet; why the reluctance to be her bodyguard?" Pellaeon said as he and Blackwall stood on the ramparts after Cole had disappeared to Emperor knows where.
Blackwall shrugged moodily. "I'm a commoner; she's noble, it's socially impossible. Besides, she got a letter this morning, some poncy bastard's family made a pact with hers ages ago, and now the piper must be paid"
Pellaeon stroked his chin thoughtfully before replying. "You are one of the more noble men I have met Blackwall, it doesn't matter what your standing is. I think she loves you too and is following through with this engagement because of her sense of duty to her family, not for any love to this unknown Antivan."
"I'll remember that when we all receive invitations to the wedding."
Pellaeon's eyes suddenly twinkled.
"There is a way out, if this planet is anything like Anaxes..."
"...Never mind, the point is the engagement is only on if both parties agree to it... so you must ensure this Antivan suitor declines the betrothal by challenging him to a duel. The one who bore the letter is still here, send a message back to set up the fight."
Blackwall's demeanor changed from that of a whipped dog to a charger straining at the bit.
"I'll paste the little bugger," he swore as he reached for his sword and shield.
Pellaeon waved him down. "Wait, that's not how it goes, he'll be able to select weapons as the challenged party, and if my suspicions are correct he'll favour some light rapier or similar blade."
Blackwall's shoulders slumped at the news. "Well then I'm buggered, I don't know the first things about those swords, or the fancy rules to go along with those duels, and I'll bet you coppers to sovereigns that he's trained his whole pampered life with a rapier!"
Pellaeon stroked his mustache before replying. "Well it has been some time since my academy days, but I used to engage in duels from time to time to liven up my studies. I can tutor you if you wish." Blackwall's grateful look was all the confirmation he needed.
Pellaeon turned to go when Blackwall cleared his throat. "Thank you Herald, I'll never forget this. But you too need to pursue your lady love, don't let anything get in your way. If you need my help, just ask." And with that the Warden strode off with renewed vigor.
Pellaeon stayed on the ramparts, staring out at the courtyard until he sighed, pulled a small journal from his breast pocket and began writing:
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixed mark...
Right, this has been simmering away in a back corner of my mind for awhile, but with this being May 4th I was inspired to tidy it up and actually publish it for consumption. Hopefully this fic is able to combine the greatness of both franchises to further your enjoyment.
I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Nenalata, who has been both a gracious beta reader/editor for this fic and is an amazing writer in her own regard. She is responsible for the wonderful Dragon Age II fic: Swan Song, if you are not already following that story, get thee there now!
I intend to make this a goodly sized story, probably 10 or more chapters if I can, with a stated goal of an update every week to two weeks.
Reviews, comments are appreciated, and if possible I will respond to any questions contained therein.
May the Fourth Be With You!