dedication: to emily, who has had to listen to me yell about all the shitty fic i've been writing for the last month and who hasn't complained ONCE
notes: anyway i love leandra hawke and you all can just deal with that
title: dreadfully unsolicited advice
summary: Leandra Hawke invites Grand Enchanter Fiona to join her for a cup of tea. — templar!au coda; Leandra, Fiona.
The reports come in from Adamant nearly too fast for the Inquisition's spymistress to keep up.
But only nearly.
Sister Nightingale burns oil 'til midnight, and oftentimes much later. Thre news out of Adamant is grim; down near half the numbers they'd gone in with, which is still better than she had expected. Down to half is better than down to a quarter; she'll have to send Charter on recruitment again.
(Wasteful, but necessary. Charter has a decent sense about people, and the Nightingale learned her lesson with Painter. Close, but not too close.)
She is halfway through skinning the next report when she almost spits out her wine for the laughter.
Oh, but the Maker has a very queer sense of humour.
Nightingale reads through the missive a second time, pleased when the letters don't change. She cannot say she is not amused by the though, and she smiles an old killer's smile.
She does owe Lady Leandra one back for that little stunt the Hawke matriarch pulled with the apprentices. While it had been a stunt that Nightingale agreed with in theory, it had still made her life markedly more difficult, and if anyone can appreciate how difficult Nightingale's life already is, it is Lady Leandra Hawke.
Things used to be so simple, Nightingale reflects.
But maybe they had never really been simple, and had only seemed to be so, and the Maker has always been a cruel taskmaster. She thinks of her love, sequestered away in Denerim at the behest of another monarch, and does not have to reconsider.
Sister Nightingale yawns, stretches. Her spine pip-pop-pops, and the hour burns so late. Her eyelids droop.
But still: one last letter to write and send across the Waking Sea, and then she will rest.
Skyhold is much as Leandra Hawke had imagined it would be: a could draughty castle in the middle of the mountains, with a quickly-growing village sprung up at the bottom of the valley for trade, a truly impressive dearth of structural integrity and sense, and a very large number of Carta dwarves whom Leandra eyes shrewdly and thinks loudly in their direction, don't make me write to your mothers, because I can and I will, do not test me.
(The Carta dwarves shuffle off. Leandra is appeased.)
But for all its drawbacks, Skyhold is big enough to house a proper mage tower, and has plenty of space for Leandra's own charges. When they'd been riding up, the youngest of her templars had shuddered and shaken her head. Sommat's not right here, m'um, she'd said, and Leandra had been inclined to agree.
Her charges will be safe here, and there is no Divine to call the Exalted March that Leandra has spent more months than she can count dreading. Skyhold itself is walled in from all sides, which is both a blessing and a curse; they'll see their enemy coming clear for leagues, but they'll have nowhere to run if it comes down to it. And—
Leandra has missed her grandchildren.
"Liana, darling, don't talk with your mouth full," Leandra reminds the oldest of said grandchildren.
"S'rr'ee Gran," Liana says, with a full mouth. All three of Leandra's grandchildren eat as though they've never seen food in their lives before; if Leandra's daughter was anything but what she is, Leandra would think that she were starving them. But the truth of the matter is that really, they're simply all growing children, and they need energy to continue doing that.
Leandra reminds herself of the regular bill to feed fifty-odd mage children and six teenage templar-initiates, and tries to count her blessings.
Carina seems to have finished, because she's started to push her food around her plate in a gesture very reminiscent of her mother. Leandra thinks that this is fitting: if Carina is Bethany in miniature, then Liana is Alistair, and Malcolm, for all that he is the youngest of the three, is Leandra's own Marian exactly.
Her daughter's children all each have their own mannerisms, but it's rather amusing to see which one fits where, all the same.
And oh, but she does love them so dearly.
"What is it, Rina, sweet?" Leandra asks. "You look like you're thinking about something."
Liana looks at her twin, just as she always has done whenever anyone is addressing her twin. They exchange wordless glances, and then Liana opens her mouth.
Leandra holds up a hand.
"Lia," she says, only a little stern. One day, they'll learn. "Let your sister speak, please."
Liana slumps backwards, put out. Leandra knows that she's truly the one who forces them not to communicate in tandem as they prefer, but she also does think that Carina needs to learn to use her own words, and not always rely on Liana's ability to interpret her ever thought.
They won't always be able to do that, Leandra knows. She thinks of Revka only for a moment, and then she puts the thoughts away.
"…Are we going to keep staying with the Grand Enchanter?" Carina finally asks. She pushes the food around her plate some more, brows furrowing together with the concentrated effort of it. "Or are you going to look after us, Gran?"
The Grand Enchanter.
Ah, Leandra thinks.
The Grand Enchanter is the reason, no more and no less, that Leandra has made the whole long trek all this way, to this godforsaken, better-forgotten place. Her grandchildren are part and parcel to it, certainly, and the scolding that Marian and Carver are both going to get, as well, but—
Grand Enchanter Fiona is Alistair's mother, and Leandra wants to know why on the Maker's green earth she's only learning about this now.
"I think we'll share that, darling," Leandra says, lightly. "There's no reason to uproot, not when your mother and father will be back so soon. How does that sound?"
All three of them brighten. Leandra isn't offended; they've been uprooted enough, her grandchildren, and there's no reason to do it with exception for her pride.
Leandra has never put much stock in pride. It only ever makes a mess, does pride.
"Thanks, Gran," Carina says, very softly. She wiggles a little in her chair, reaching over to throw her arms around Leandra's side in a haphazard attempt at a hug.
Leandra smiles. They really are a very wonderful set of grandchildren, and they'll grow up to be wonderful adults, too; they're shaping up for it already, Liana and Carina, and Malcolm is going to put Marian to shame with the trouble he's going to manage to stir up, in all likelihood.
If Leandra were a better person, she'd probably try to put a stop to the trouble bit.
But she is not a better person, and Leandra privately thinks that frankly, the world could use a little more trouble, so long as it's the good kind. Malcolm isn't likely to try to set Orlais on fire, overmuch. And really, the Orlesians could probably use some well-planned ruckus.
It would certainly shake up their little Game.
Never let it be said that Leandra Hawke is not a petty person. She is. She simply hides it better than most other petty people do. Orlais is Val Royeaux is the Divine, and despite the fact that Justinia is dead, Leandra still hasn't forgiven her yet.
Perhaps it is unhealthy, to enjoy spiting a dead woman so.
But Leandra is perfectly aware that the Divine had had the power to have stopped Knight-Commander Meredith in her holy silverite-greaved tracks, and she did not.
There are many things that Leandra cannot, will not, forgive, and this is among them.
And so, for the issue at hand: if Malcolm starts another holy war, it won't be anything that Leandra's oldest hasn't already done first. She supposes that really, it could be far worse; Malcolm is arguably less feral than Marian ever has been in her entire life.
Leandra can hold her peace.
Right now, she has bigger things on her mind.
For example: how in the Maker's hallowed name to convince Alistair to even speak to the Grand Enchanter once he finds out, because he will find out, and Leandra knows her son-in-law; the boy balks the second anyone so much as brings up the breath of who his parents might have been. This only gets worse, when whoever it is brings up who Alistair might have been. It would be adorable if it weren't so frustrating.
Other lives, Leandra thinks, bemused. Other worlds. Perhaps what it would like to be dead; she wonders, sometimes, about how that long, nightmarish stasis down in the dark of the foundries would have gone, had her youngest not been there.
Yes, dead and dying and drowning all the time.
She banishes the thoughts. This is not the time for them. She is here with her grandchildren, her little monsters, and they are not anywhere else. There is no loss to them. There is no pain. There is only bright clean joy, and love, a thick smear of love.
Leandra returns her attention to the table.
She can think on the little deaths of her own life later.
When the Grand Enchanters knocks on Leandra's chambers, she leaves the letter she'd been writing at the desk with the ink still wet, and pulls the door open with a flourish and a smile.
An accepted invitation to tea, albeit a strange, hesitant acceptance all the same; this is far more pleasant than the alternative.
Leandra had prepared herself, for the alternative.
"Lady Hawke," Grand Enchanter Fiona says. She is a slim woman with a low, musical voice that would be very lovely to listen to read. Her skin is pale, and her eyes are very, very dark.
"Oh, Grand Enchanter, please, come in! I've made tea," Leandra says, gestures inside gently enough to coax a recalcitrant cat. "Thank you for coming. I wasn't sure you would have the time, what with looking after the children."
The Grand Enchanter relaxes minutely, and steps inside. "They have been no trouble."
"No, I can't image they would be," Leandra pronounces, as she leads the Grand Enchanter to the parlour. "At least, not Liana and Carina. Malcolm—he's very much like my eldest. Too much, perhaps. But I am glad they've not turned you off them entirely. They can be a bit of a handful, but I suppose you'd know that."
The Grand Enchanter shrugs delicately. "Less than most."
Leandra laughs, very softly. The tea set sits low on the trolley, laden with little teacakes and a large teapot that steams thinly. The cups are bone-china, brought from her Leandra's own mother's collection; Kirkwall's dwarven artistry, again. "Give Malcolm a few years. I think he'll give the Carta a run for their coin. Rina's too shy for it, but Lia's like her father.
"Is she?" the Grand Enchanter asks, perhaps a little too quickly, as they sit.
She pours. Guests first, as she taught. Pearlescent tendrils of steam drift through the air.
"Mmm," Leandra hums into her tea, when they've both settled at last. "She is, yes. Less self-sacrificing, of course, but that's not a bad thing. Alistair is liable to get himself killed, I don't know how my daughter puts up with it."
The Grand Enchanter's knuckles are white as she sets her teacup down in lieu of an answer.
Leandra smiles into the brim of her cup, to hide.
Got you, she thinks.
"'Ow so, may I ask?"
"Alistair? Oh, it's simple, really. He loves my daughter more than life itself," Leandra sighs. Truths. All truths. "It's why I never objected, you know, even when he was still a templar."
"I assume 'e was not a very good templar?"
"My daughter is a mage," Leandra says, a little wry. "He can't have been that good at it, as they did end up married. Chantry law doesn't mean much to either of them, I'm afraid."
The Grand Enchanter makes a tiny noise, like a broken heart.
"I've been told he takes after his father," Leandra continues, pretending blithe obliviousness to the Grand Enchanter's growing melancholy. "But, you know, I don't think that's quite right. I met Maric, once, and they're nothing alike. Frankly, I think Alistair takes after you."
Leandra's tea freezes in its cup.
(Oh, what a waste.)
"I am sorry, Lady Hawke, I do not follow," says the Grand Enchanter, voice frosty.
"He has your eyes," Leandra says, easily. "Liana and Carina do, as well. I'm sure you see the resemblance far more clearly than I, but it is there."
"'Ou told you?"
"A little bird," Leandra tells her. "Oh, do sit down, Grand Enchanter, I didn't invite you here to threaten you."
The Grand Enchanter sits.
Slowly, jerkily, but she sits.
"I wasn't lying when I said that Alistair loves my daughter more than life itself," Leandra says, lightly, as she pours herself another cup of tea. She'd had the foresight to keep more than two cups on hand, and thank the Maker for that. It is a truly lovely Rivaini blend that Isabela ships out special from Llomeryn. That pirate of Marian's is really the girl's saving grave; Leandra doesn't know what Marian would do without her. "I would never do anything to put them in harm's way. Threatening you would be profoundly counterproductive! What would be the point?"
Leandra sets her teacup down, very, very gently.
"You're their grandmother, too," she says. "I thought you might want to get to know them, as such."
The Grand Enchanter slumps back into the striped salmon-and-cream silk of the pillows. "I do not have the right."
"Of course, you do," Leandra says, breezily. "They are your grandchildren."
"I should not, then."
"That's a different thing," Leandra says, delicately drinks her tea. "Please, Grand Enchanter, drink your tea. I only have so much, and it would be an atrocity to let it go cold and then have to get rid of it. It's darling, I promise."
The Grand Enchanter sips hesitantly from her cup.
Leandra smiles at her.
"There," the Hawke matriarch says, all well-pleased when startled pleasure flashes across the Grand Enchanter's face. It is very good tea, if Leandra does say so herself. "Now, tell me, why should you not?"
And, haltingly, the Grand Enchanter spills out the whole sorry tale. It's a long one, and a sad one, and Leandra gasps and exclaims at all the appropriate parts. Even as her voice grows hoarse with use, the Grand Enchanter continues; she could give Varric a run for his money if she wanted to, Leandra thinks.
"But that—that is why," the Grand Enchanter croaks the words, has to clear her throat. "He was better off without me."
"But that's untrue, isn't it," says Leandra, raising her eyebrows.
"Pardonez moi," says the Grand Enchanter, and Leandra's tea freezes over a second time.
(For burning Andraste's sake, Leandra thinks. Orlesians.)
She pours herself yet another cup of tea; it pours still steaming. Thank the Maker for a good old-fashioned flame run. She'll have to see if Sandal can't do something about reinforcing this one, it has been such a delight.
"He's not been better off without you, has he? It's untrue to say he has," Leandra says. "And rather silly, if you think about it."
"I am an elf, Lady Hawke."
"Yes, and he spent ten years in Redcliffe living with the mabari in the kennels and in the kitchens like a servant, and then he was sent to the Chantry to become a templar," Leandra says, flatly. "Which was the worst thing for him, if I may say so. No child is better off without parents who want them.
Grand Enchanter Fiona presses her lips together so hard that they turn white and bloodless. "You do not have any understanding of what it means to be a half-breed. He—non. You do not."
"No," Leandra readily agrees. "I don't."
"No buts," Leandra says, for this is true. She has no concept of what life would have been like for her daughter's husband if he had grown up in his mother's care, and she will not pretend that she does. "I have no idea what that would be like."
The Grand Enchanter's shoulders loosen infinitesimally. The acknowledgement seems to be enough. "I did not—I wanted to keep. More than anything."
"But?" Leandra echoes.
"But it would 'ave been very selfish of me. Ferelden—" the Grand Enchanter closes her eyes, and her accent comes a little thicker than a moment ago with the pain, "—Ferelden gave 'im a chance to be happy. And 'e is 'appy, is 'e not? I cannot ask for more."
Leandra looks steadily at the other woman for a long, heart-rending moment. There are so many things that Grand Enchanter Fiona missed; the twins, Kirkwall, Malcolm. They're memories that Leandra wants for her to have, because they're memories that she ought to have.
The question, as always, is about where to begin.
Ah, Leandra thinks. There.
"Do you know how I knew that your son loved my daughter?"
Grand Enchanter Fiona lifts her head. Her eyes swallow all the light in the room, and Leandra adjusts her mental moniker: Fiona, now. Only Fiona.
"I eloped when I was twenty-one," Leandra says. "He was an escaped Gallows mage. Quite the healer, in fact, except when it came to healing himself. And do I promise, this is important—" Leandra breaks off to smile at the confusion on her companion's face, "—because half the Hinterlands knew that my husband was the only healer worth a sovereign between Lothering and Kinloch Hold. They even had a special knock."
Leandra pauses to exhale a dagger of pain. Think of Malcolm hurts, even after all these years. It might always hurt; she sees so much of him in Bethany. "Bless her heart, my daughter isn't half so good as he was. but it happened sometimes after he died, even still."
Leandra laughs. "And one day, when Alistair came to walk Bethany to the Chantry for services—because they'd taken to doing that to have more time together, if you can believe it—we had one of those visitors. A dying little boy. Alistair walked in without knocking, and my daughter's magic was everywhere. I thought my heart was going to stop. A templar in my house and my mage daughter, with her hands glowing on some boy's chest!"
Fiona inhales like a knife-cut.
Leandra sips her tea, continues. "He looked at her, and all he said was, what can I do?'."
The remembering doesn't hurt so much, Leandra realizes. Somehow both the most transformative and the most terrifying moment of her daughter's life, she's sure, and now it only makes her smile. She shakes her head, the crows' feet at her eyes creasing deeper. "But that's when I knew. He'd have done anything for her."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because that little boy's mother was an elf," Leandra says. She wonders, idly, where they are now. "Perhaps it still matters to some people, but it doesn't matter to my daughter, and I doubt even more it matters to your son."
"What is your point, Lady Hawke?"
"My point is that you ought to give them the chance to decide for themselves, rather than just pretending that it all doesn't exist. You don't stare at Alistair, I would hazard, but you certainly do stare at the twins, and you'd let Mal get away with murder. It's very telling, Grand Enchanter."
Fiona manages a smile at the mention of Leandra's grandson. "He is very solemn, for someone so small."
"He's going to drive them stark raving mad, I think," Leandra says dryly. "He really is just like Marian was, when she was that age. Poor dears. They have no idea what's coming."
"Would it not be better to warn them?"
Leandra laughs again, eyes sparkling. "No, I don't think so. Learning each other through it is half the fun!"
Fiona is very skeptical of this. "I truly do not think so, Lady Hawke."
"Call me Leandra, please," Leandra says, smiling out of the corner of her mouth. "But stories aside, we do have a practical matter on our hands, and it does need an answer."
Fiona tilts her head in question.
"Do you want to tell him, or not?" Leandra asks. "It does change where we go from here, after all, and it's no small decision."
Grand Enchanter Fiona makes a noise like a wounded animal. A flicker of regret goes through Leandra; regret, and pity, and yet—resolve. They all deserve a denouement, and Fiona, in particular, deserves to call her grandchildren her own.
"Not yet," Fiona says, whispers, an endless maw of grief inside of her. "I cannot—not yet."
"Yes," Leandra agrees. She pulls herself back from the brink, because she is not Marian, and she understands that sometimes, people need time to come to terms with what they are. "Perhaps not yet."
Leandra's children return from the desert more or less in one piece, which is nothing less than she'd expected. Marian's run off without even saying hello, and Carver is apparently the new Warden-Commander of Orlais—Leandra is going to have some words for the First Warden, when she gets around to penning the self-important twit a letter—but Bethany and Alistair seem to be alright.
This lasts all of a day, and then Leandra finds out that Sister Leliana has taken it upon herself to make Alistair aware that he is not, in fact, an orphan.
Leandra would applaud the Nightingale for her impeccable timing, except that Alistair is not, actually, an adversary!
That girl, Leandra sighs.
Knives before niceness. It never works the way a person expects it to. The Nightingale might be the Inquisition's spymistress, but she still has so very much to learn. The only thing to do, now, is to find Fiona and to inform her of the coming ballistae. There is not much time; they need to decide how they're going to go about this, and they must do it quickly, before the news hardens Alistair to the possibility of a reconciliation, entire.
They are all, Leandra thinks, so very, very young.
(Timing, Nightingale, Leandra thinks, wearily. Timing!)
And as such, Lady Leandra Hawke gets up from her desk, and makes her way outside.