I remember there being movement but this kind was much more gentle than before. I remember hearing voices; Cassandra’s. Cullen’s at one point. Leliana’s. Fucking Solas. Even Varric. I couldn’t really focus on what they were saying, I kept moving in and out of consciousness. I was warm now though, undressed at some point and I think cleaned up. By who I couldn’t tell you. I can say that the magic being used to heal me is a hard feeling to describe but it felt weird. The sensation is slightly uncomfortable, soothing and a little painful at times, what I imagine getting stitches might feel like, but maybe less. When all that was over they let me sleep.
I couldn’t say how long it was before I finally regained consciousness. It came back slowly, warmly, but I didn’t mistake where I was this time. I blinked open my eyes and was pretty happy I could see out of both of them. I felt sore, but I wasn’t in any where near the kind of pain I had been before. I was back in the cabin in Haven. And sitting at the table up against the wall was Varric. Bianca was propped up on the table leg next to him within easy reach. I could hear the scritch as a quill moved over parchment and I silently delighted in the fact he was writing.
I smiled a bit and didn’t move, just laid there and listened, marveling at the fact that I was actually watching Varric Tethras write. I would have loved to compared notes with him on things I’d written, not that I had any of that with me. I slowly sat up, and the rustle of movement drew his attention. He turned his head and smiled. “Welcome back Scardey Cat.”
I laughed a little at this nickname he’d given me. I liked it a lot more than Herald. “How long was I out?”
“Just two days. Chuckles said you needed to rest. Apparently you’re a weird one.”
A flicker of fear moved through me. Had Solas found out what I was? Did he know what I knew? “What do you mean?” I tried to ask casually.
“He couldn’t explain it, at least not in a way any of us could understand. Something about the energy around you is different than any of the rest of us, could be the mark, yadda yadda. Long story short, let the Herald recover.”
I grimaced. “Am I really the Herald?”
“That’s what people are saying. Herald of Andraste, on account of the woman in the rift behind you. And because of what you did at the conclave,” he smiled again. “I promise not everyone here thinks you’re a murderer and wants to kill you.”
I groaned and pressed my hands against my face. Leaving them there for a moment, before I dropped them and looked at Varric. “It wasn’t Andraste. It was Justina and because I’m a scaredy cat, I couldn’t save her.”
Varric gave me a warm, understanding sort of expression. “Look, people need to believe what they need to believe. So long as you don’t loose sight of who you are, that’s all that matters.”
I loved Varric Tethras in a completely platonic, please-be-my-friend-forever sort of way just then. “Thanks, Varric.”
“No problem. Occasionally, I say things that are deep and profound and not just useless babble with intent to get on Cassandra’s nerves.” He grinned and dropped down out of the chair. “People want to know that you’re awake so I’ll get on that and I’m sure you’re hungry.” He collected the pieces of parchment he’d been writing.
At the mention of food I realized how famished I was. “Food would be great.”
“Can do. And, don’t worry about getting snatched again. You’re under guard. Should have heard Leliana and Cassandra when they found out you’d been taken.” Varric looked amused as he picked up Bianca.
I felt my emotions warming to that bit of information. “They… didn’t believe I ran away?”
“Not for a second, Scaredy Cat. Not that it wasn’t hard to see through the Chancellor.”
I swallowed back a lump in my throat. By the goddess could I not stop crying in Dragon Age? They were going to have to rename it, “The Crying Inquisitor” if this kept up. “Is he still here?”
“Unfortunately. Whatever power he had here is gone for now. But I’ll let the inner circle fill you in on those details after you’ve had a good meal.” Varric went to the door and pulled it open.
“Thanks a lot, Varric. For taking first watch,” I gave him a smile.
“You know, interesting thing that. I wasn’t the first watch. I’d bet you’d never guess who was.”
I paused, thinking back to what I could remember and I zeroed in on that hazy moment. Leliana had been here, in a chair by my bedside I think. She’d brushed the hair back from my face, stood to go – I’d grabbed her hand and I think I’d asked her to stay. Fuck. Crying, embarrassing myself in front of Leliana and getting my ass kicked, that’s how I rolled apparently. Now I was blushing. Fucking hell. I could feel it and covering my face would only draw attention to it and Varric looked all knowingly amused anyway. “Not a word. Not one word,” I said.
Varric chuckled but, he didn’t say a thing, just backed out of the doorway.
Once the door clicked shut I groaned at myself and set my hands over my face again. Even through my embarrassment I couldn’t help but wonder if she had stayed when I’d reached for her. I couldn’t remember. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to ask her. In fact I needed to set this little crush of mine aside and get focused. I needed to determine where I was in this storyline that had taken that shitty detour and get back on track with getting home. And maybe not look like a complete mess when the inner circle came calling. I pushed back the covers and stood up, walking over to the basin of water and mirror on a stand near the fireplace.
I took one look at my reflection and groaned again. I was a mess. Never mind my unruly hair, I sported a black eye, but at least it wasn’t swollen shut anymore. There was a faint bruise on my jaw, but as I worked it back and forth it was tender but not that painful. I lifted up the plain, white cloth of the night gown I was in – the bruises along my sides weren’t that bad either. Light and visible but as I twisted back and forth I didn’t feel too stiff, which was good. I suspected I was going to get a lot more. At least my pain tolerance was going to go up, as shitty as that was too.
I dropped the shirt down and was splashing water on my face when the door to my room opened up and Leliana walked in.
You will not blush. You will not blush. You will not embarrass yourself for the millionth time. These are the words that rang through my head as I patted my face dry with the cloth and looked over at her, smiling. “Hi.”
Leliana shut the door behind her, keeping out the chill. She looked me over with an expression I couldn’t read, a set of clothes carried in her gloved hands. “You are well rested? How do you feel?”
I nodded, attempting to smooth down my unruly curls in a not completely self conscious fashion. “I am, very. And I feel fine. Thank you for asking.” I paused, and then tacked on. “Sorry I slept so long.”
Leliana moved further into the room, walking over to my bed and setting the clothes down on it, shaking her head. “Don’t be. You needed the rest and with the way things are you may not get much more of it.”
“How bad are things?” I asked.
“Not good. There’s much to be done. But, eat first. These should fit you. Our blacksmith, Harritt made them.”
I nodded. “Got it.”
“When you are ready, you’ll be escorted to the Chantry,” Leliana looked at me again and I really wished I knew what she was thinking.
“Escorted huh? Personal bodyguards?”
“For now, yes,” Leliana said. “We can’t take anymore chances with your safety.”
As much as I wished she’d said that because she was deeply concerned about my personal safety, I knew what was behind those words. Rifts opening up around world, demons and whatever else running amok. Fucking Corypheus and his bullshit. The mark. They needed it. I glanced down at my hand. “We need to talk about that too, but I’ll save that for the meeting.”
“As you wish,” Leliana turned and headed back to the door.
I watched her and a sudden conversation you could have with her in game shot through my mind. One that was vital in making sure she wasn’t, well, that she didn’t turn into this person who murdered people without second thought. I wondered if I was too late. And there was of course the problem of how I knew… fuck it. “Leliana wait just a moment,” I stepped towards her.
Her steps halted and for a reason unknown to me, she paused for a heartbeat before she turned around, looking at me with the unspoken question in her eyes.
I took a breath. “I’m going to earn this trust I’m going to ask you to give me right now, I swear it. But… has there been… did you loose an Agent? Because of someone named Butler?”
Leliana’s brows shot upwards a moment. They lowered and I could almost feel the subtle shift as her suspicion rose. “How do you know about that?”
“I can’t say. I can’t say yet,” I corrected myself, keeping my eyes on hers. “For a really, really good reason. Please trust me. How I know it’s because… I’m different. In the way Solas hinted at. But, what’s more important right now is don’t kill him. Butler. I know you may not think now is the time for ideals, but it’s exactly the time for it,” My voice gentled as the next words tumbled out of my mouth. “The person you want to be, you can still be that person Leliana and do everything else that needs to be done.”
The silence weighed heavily. She didn’t look away from me, and there was a lot in the silence, in the way her eyes bore into mine. I can’t imagine all the things that were going through her head. I just hoped a woman who could read people so well could read me and maybe give me a little bit of the trust I was asking for.
“I will think on your words,” she said finally. “Is there anything else?”
That was as good as it was going to get. I shook my head. “No. Nothing else.”
She gave me a dismissive nod, turned around and left.
I blew out a heavy breath, trying to calm my nerves. She did that to me, got my insides all twisted up and… no, stop it Simone. Focus. I reminded myself. I really did need to earn that trust I was asking her for, and that meant not be useless aside from pointing my hand at rifts. I walked over to the bed, looking down at the clothes that had been made for me. They looked familiar too and I couldn’t help but grin.
I was getting dressed as the elven boy I did recognize from the game came in with a plate. He was just as sweet and bashful as he was in the game. I thanked him and the moment I smelled everything my stomach growled. I didn’t linger, I shoveled the food into my mouth, thankful I wasn’t being watched because there were no table manners present. I was starving. When I was properly full, I finished getting dressed. Everything fit perfectly. The trousers, the undershirt, the thick jacket, even the gloves.
I glanced at myself in the mirror. “This is as good as it’s going to get, Simone,” I said to myself. I didn’t look bad. My curls were still a little more unruly then I wanted them to be, but my frizz really wasn’t the most pressing issue right now. “Thank the goddess for winter,” I mused and pulled open the door and froze in the doorway.
“Oh fuck,” I said underneath my breath. Here it was, the scene from the game. What the hell? Had that eleven boy told everyone I was awake and about to come outside? The game hadn’t really done this scene justice either. There were a lot of people in Haven and it seemed like all of them were lined up and looking at me. It was overwhelming, it really was. There was so much emotion coming from them all too. I could see the hope in their faces, their fear, the ones that were wary of me as I looked over the crowd. It was a little exhilarating but it came with this sudden weight too and that knowledge that most of these people were putting their hopes and their lives on the line because they believed I was sent to them by some divine providence.
I swallowed hard and for another moment I didn’t move. I didn’t know what to do. Wave? Smile? Not smile? I was at a complete loss.
I recognized Lysette who came forward, saluting me with her arm to her chest. “Herald. I’ll escort you to the Chantry.”
I felt awkward again. Did I salute her back? What was the proper procedure here? Crap. I settled for giving her what I hope was a respectful nod, reaching behind me to close the door to the cabin. “Thanks,” I said quietly and followed her. I could hear whispers as we moved down the path, throngs of people on either side, though I couldn’t quite make them out. But, I’d played Inquisition enough I could guess what they were saying. I kept my head down, though I did meet the eyes of some. I’m not sure if they got the reassurance they were looking for.
I breathed a sigh of relief once I was inside the Chantry; Lysette leaving me at the doorway. I thanked her again and moved inside. There were a lot less people here, I could hear faint prayers coming from the vestibules on either side and I paused to just take in how pretty the architecture was. Reminding myself I wasn’t a tourist and I had shit to do, I strode over to the door at the end of the hall. I paused because I could hear the hum of voices from inside. It sounded like they were all in that room. I took a deep breath steeling my nerves and and opened up the door.
I’m not going to lie, I almost shut it and walked right back out.
I had often joked back in my world that if I was ever actually in a meeting with all the Inquisitor’s adviser’s I wouldn’t be able to concentrate because they were so hot. This was a completely accurate statement. The first face that greeted me was Cullen. He was…. look Dragon Age Inquisition the game was a gross under-representation of literally fucking everything. Cullen was… strong. But there was something in his eyes, a depth and a kindness that I knew based on his history he’d worked to hold onto. He was stupidly handsome with that strand of his blond hair caressing his forehead. He smiled when he saw me, and I felt like my knees were going to give out. That sensation only got worse when I noted the concern that moved unconcealed across his face when his gaze touched upon my injuries.
“Herald. Welcome. It’s good to see you up and about,” Cullen said.
Even his voice was sexy. What the fuck. Get it together, Simone. Get it together, I chanted mentally.
“It is. I am glad you are all right. And I feel I owe you an apology,” Cassandra came to my side, looking me over like a mother hen.
I managed to pull my gaze from Cullen and looked over at her. This put me in a line of sight to see Leliana who stood just behind and to the side of Cassandra, though her gaze upon me was still unreadable. Even so she said, “We all do. Chancellor Roderick should not have been able to do what he did.”
“It’s not something you have to worry about happening again, you have my word on that,” Cullen added and half smiled at me again. “Though I suppose that won’t mean much since we’ve just met. I’m Cullen.”
“Commander Cullen leads our armed forces. He is a former Templar,” Cassandra made the introduction.
I cleared my throat and prayed my voice wouldn’t shake. “It’s good to meet you Commander Cullen. And I believe you. But, really, you all don’t owe me an apology. In fact I need to thank you.” I looked at Cassandra and then Leliana. “For believing that I wouldn’t run away and that I want to stay here and help you make this right.”
“You showed us the person you are at the Conclave. And Roderick is slime,” Cassandra said the disgust and anger in her tone evident.
“He is scared Cassandra, ahe should be. And it drove him to make a foolish decision,” Leliana said.
“Be that as it may, the Chantry is still a problem, regardless of Chancellor Roderick’s transgressions,” Josephine spoke up.
“Herald this is Lady Josephine Montilyet. She will be handling our diplomatic affairs,” Cassandra said.
Josephine was utterly charming. And I think, just by looking at her, she would have given Leliana a run for her money in a fight. It wasn’t that Josephine looked like a fighter, but knowing what I knew about her, I just felt like she hid that side of her well, but it was there, the knowledge of it was there, a part of her that made her so good at what she did.
“It’s wonderful to meet you Lady Monitlyet.” I looked around at them. “I know there’s a lot to cover. The things I’ve missed.”
“We have officially formed an Inquisition,” Cassandra said. “It is good to say you want to continue helping, because we need you and your mark.”
I looked at Casandra. “Let’s be real here, okay? You don’t need me, you need my hand. If you could cut off my hand, and use it yourself to close rifts you’d be in better shape. I may want to help but right now I’m more of a liability in a fight than anything else. I need that to change, I want that to change.” I took a deep breath. “So, while I know you’ve got a long list for me, the first order of business needs to be, I need to train. With your soldiers, with you, with someone else it doesn’t matter. I have to learn how to defend myself, how to navigate all this, at least a little so what happened to me with Roderick can’t happen again.”
Cassandra frowned lightly at me, but I could tell she was considering my words.
“She’s right,” Leliana said. “Though not completely. You have become a symbol. They believe you are the Herald of Andraste-”
“I’m not,” I interrupted. “I understand giving people hope but, is there no way I can do that simply by closing rifts? It wasn’t Andraste behind me, it was Justina and… and I wasn’t strong enough or brave enough to save her.” I looked away. I’d never not regret that moment, never not wish I could have some how have turned into a hero.
There was silence around the table again, until Cassandra came closer and touched my shoulder. “Perhaps it was not Andraste in the fade with you. But you are still precisely what we need, when we needed it. I believe there is some Divine guidance in that. Perhaps Andraste’s hand, in all of this.”
“But she is correct in that she needs to train,” Leliana said. “And letting our soldiers see her among them will be a good thing. I will see to her instruction.”
I was surprised at that and hoped that any internal giddiness I felt at being able to spend more time with Leliana didn’t show on my face. “You don’t want me to train with Cullen’s men?”
“You will in part,” Leliana said. “But you are small and don’t have much in the way of physical strength. Your size won’t change, your muscles will grow, but even that won’t be enough against someone like Cullen or Cassandra or anyone who is simply bigger than you are. You must learn to fight in a different way if you are to beat opponents like that. That is something I can teach you.”
“That is settled then. And may I interject that some of this training will have to be done in the field. There is a Chantry sister in the Hinterlands who wishes to speak to the Herald,” Josephine said.
“And we have reports of numerous rifts there,” Cullen said. “The area is dangerous though, but it is a good place to begin to spread word of the Inquisition.”
“It is also a hot bed for the conflict between the Mages and the Templar,” Josephine said.
“We will need the Templar to close the rift,” Cullen said.
“Maybe not,” Leliana interrupted. “The Mages could do it just as easily.”
My mind immediately swam with what I knew would occur if we had to choose a side. “What if we could use them both?” I asked. “The Templars to weaken it, and the Mages to bolster the magic in my hand? I’m assuming that’s what it needs right? More juice?”
I could feel Leliana’s eyes on me when I said that. It was a heck of feat okay, trying not to be distracted by her, and not stare at Cullen because he was gorgeous. Even Josephine and Cassandra were hot in their own ways, and I just didn’t know where to put my eyes just then. So I looked at the map on the table. Studiously I hoped.
“That would be quite the diplomatic feat. But right now we don’t have enough influence to approach either of those groups,” Josephine said. “If we want them to help us and work with each other somehow, the first step is proving our worth,” Josephine said.
“Do we have that kind of time?” I asked.
“Let us hope we do. We know little to nothing about who is responsible for this or what his intentions are,” Cassandra said. “But we have a plan. We will act on. And let us all consider other ways we can spread the word of the Inquisition. I will not put this all on the Herald.”
“Agreed,” Cullen said.
“Spend the rest of the day familiarizing yourself with Haven. Let the people see you. Talk to them if you like. Tomorrow morning we will begin. I will have word sent to Mother Giselle that the Herald will met her there in a weeks time,” Leliana said.
That felt like a meeting adjourned to me, so I went to the door and pulled it open. “Nice meeting all of you,” I said to them and walked out, heading out of the Chantry. I was thinking back to Cassandra’s words. I did know who was responsible for this and what he wanted. If I shared it now, could we stop Corpehyus before he did any more damage? And how much could I share without tipping off Solas who already knew I was ‘different?’. I needed to talk to him eventually, try and feel him out, though I no idea how to do that either.
I kept pondering all this as I wandered around Haven. My new outfit kept most of the chill away, it was cold but not unbearably so and after a while I didn’t even notice it. I was slowly being drawn in by actually being in Haven. A real medieval village so to speak. It was also a lot busier than the game had depicted, and it felt more alive, no surprise there. There were just so many layers to the place, people rushing about, carrying supplies, actually chasing around chickens, and almost everyone cast wary glances up at the sky at some point as if they expected at any second it would start shooting out those green balls of demon eggs. I did talk to some, where I could. Awkwardly mind you. I had no idea what to say to these people, so all the conversations were mostly of the: “Hi, how are you, do you need anything?” variety. For the most part, everyone was friendly, though a few did eyeball me suspiciously and a few others ignored me all together. I really didn’t fault them for that, I might have been suspicious of me too.
Through my tour of Haven, Lysette tailed me though she gave me plenty of space. Still I knew she was nearby and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought that was comforting. I’m sure she thought it was boring as hell and probably had a dozen other things she’d rather be doing. I’d have to find some way to thank her, pay her back for having to babysit me though I supposed actually closing the breech would be a great start.
I eventually wandered outside the main gates and was startled by the actual amount of soldiers that were camped out there. The outskirts of Haven looked absolutely nothing like the game. There wasn’t a empty space, and the tents were far back towards where I knew the apothecary cabin was going to be. It was noisy, busy, the definition of organized chaos. I was standing there, taking it all in, so engrossed in the reality of it I didn’t notice when Cullen came beside me.
“It’s something isn’t it?” Cullen asked.
His voice startled me, and I jumped, which put a sheepish concerned expression on his face that was so adorable I thought I was going to melt. Like literally melt in the stupidest romcom way and by the goddess was it impossible for me to get my shit together?
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” his voice took on a softer note that was waging a new level of war on my ability to think straight. “How are you holding up?”
I stole another quick glance at him and then looked back out over the troops. I did not feel that I was at a level that I could safely look at him, while holding a conversation with him when he was talking to me in that kind of tone. “I feel better having Lysette near me for now, though I’m sure she’s got better things to do,” I said honestly. “But I’m okay. It’s a lot to take in, and I’m trying to… get my feet under me I guess, but I bet a lot of people feel like that.”
“She volunteered,” Cullen said, his words surprising me. “People saw what you did at the conclave. And you rescued our soldiers from the mountains. It’s a small start, but it was a positive one for a lot of people nonetheless.”
“I can’t take full credit for that,” I said, even though it was really nice to hear that my attempts to help had some kind of positive effect. “I just made a call, the rest of them did the heavy lifting.”
“You still made the call,” Cullen smiled. “And it saved lives. That’s not nothing.”
Cullen giving me a compliment made me feel like a teenager who’d never been in love before. And I couldn’t stop my brain from thinking back to how his romance progressed in the game, or how it was one of my favorites, and I think my cheeks were getting hot. I forced those thoughts from my mind, clearing my throat. “I hope we can save a lot more lives before this is done.”
“With you and your mark on our side, I believe we can,” Cullen said.
I shook my head. “Please don’t call it my mark. I didn’t want this. And my worth to the Inquisition can’t just be this thing I got because of chance. I want to earn my place here and this blind trust so many have in me.”
Cullen studied me in silence, I could feel his eyes on my side profile. I felt brave, and like I should really look at him at some point so I did just to watch a half smile move across his face. “I believe you will, Herald.”
I groaned. “You’re not going to call me Simone are you?”
Cullen chuckled. “If one of the men were to hear me address you so informally it could send the wrong message, and we need to build you up.”
That was probably for the best. If he used my real name I might have jumped him. Talk about the wrong message. Or the right one. Ugh. Hot mess. Me. Still I managed to speak, “Oh. Well. I suppose that means I have to call you Commander Cullen then,” I even grinned up at him.
Cullen laughed, and I could have sworn there was color to his cheeks as he glanced away from me. “I should get back to work.”
“Yeah me too. My tour. Finding ways to be useful. Thank you for the talk, Commander.”
“Of course S-” He opened his mouth. Closed it, gave me that half smile again that was so utterly sexy on him I really hoped I wasn’t just staring at his mouth. “Herald.” He walked forward, heading over to his troops.
I took a deep breath, and thoroughly enjoyed watching him walk away. Okay, so, maybe Dragon Age wasn’t that bad after all. At least right now. I cleared my throat again, and headed over to the Blacksmith stand. I figured I should thank Harriett for my new outfit, and continue my tour of Haven and use this downtime to come up with a plan. Tomorrow my ‘leveling’ as it were was going to start in earnest and I meant what I said to Cullen; yes I wanted to get out of here, but I wanted to save as many lives as we could too.
I just didn’t have any idea how to do that. Yet.