The Sordid Tale of Meryell Verlen, Chapter 22

“So,” Meryell drawled as she dragged a stool out from under the war table and sat down on it, “what exactly does me being named Inquisitor mean?”

Across the table Leliana and Josephine glanced at each other while Cullen folded one arm across his chest, bracing the elbow of the other against his vambrace so he could use his hand to cover the smile on his face. From behind her, she heard Cassandra snort and knew exactly what the woman was thinking as she’d discussed this whole thing with her and Cullen (together and separately) before she’d even really considered taking it.

Both had expressed faith that she could handle it and swore up and down that both of the other advisors expected her to likely give them mostly free reign. A fucking bad call in general, that was. Inexperienced at leading, sure, but she wasn’t a fucking idiot. And it turned out that a decade in the Fangs had taught her a lot about leading even with their chain of command pretty much consisting of Arnald and Zarru (and the former second, Noralt, who’d had the position when Meryell had joined up). Until she’d talked it out with Cassandra and Cullen, she hadn’t realized just how much she’d already known; most of it just seemed like good common sense to her. She wasn’t about to let anyone get away with whatever they wanted, not even Cullen.

The paperwork was going to be a fucking bitch though. She dreaded it already.

Well?” she asked, arching an eyebrow expectantly.

Josephine coughed before replying, “Well, Inquisitor…”

“Fuck sake, really?” asked Meryell at the new title, completely interrupting the other woman. “No. Fuck no. I’m putting my damned foot down right fucking now.” Wheeling around to look at all of them in turn, she slammed her hand down hard on the surface of the table as she came to a stop. “I won’t have any more of this shit,” she growled.

Pointing behind her at the ridiculously large closed doors, she plowed onward. “I’ll be Inquisitor or Herald or Andraste’s Fucking Wiper out there. Not in fucking here. Not to you. You can call me that outside these fucking doors – though I’d prefer you did it only when we’re actually out in the damned public or have some piss skirts here – but in hereI wanted to hear my fucking name.”

Josephine looked outright appalled, Cullen looked like he was barely holding back outright laughter given the furious shaking of his shoulders, Cassandra did laugh out loud, and Leliana looked like she’d swallowed something sour.

“But,” began Josephine, “protocol…”

Hang protocol ,” spat Meryell. “I’ll bend to it out there, Josephine, but in this keep I don’t want to hear it, not from any of you, unless some noble with a stick up their arse is nearby. There, that’s my first ruling as Inquisitor, if I have to make it that for you lot to do it.”

“May we inquire as to why we are hanging protocol?” asked Leliana as she folded her arms, her voice practically dripping with the concept of hanging Meryell instead. At least that’s what that tone coming from the el’u’verelan sounded like to her.

Sighing, she planted both hands on the edge of the table and leaned forward onto it. “Because,” she began slowly, “I’m a fucking lowborn alienage brat who never gave a shit about titles until I got told this here’s the Captain and his word is law by Folke. I never had a title till now and I sure as shit never wanted one. So…”

Taking a pause to breathe deeply and close her eyes, Meryell asked, “So, can you please call me by my actual name and not any of the titles I absolutely fucking loathe unless otherwise necessary?”

“On one condition.”

Opening her eyes, Meryell stared hard at Leliana and deliberately twitched her right ear.

“Which is?”

The spymaster smiled then replied, “Tell us why it makes you uncomfortable.”

Narrowing her gaze at the older woman, she answered in a short, clipped tone, “For the same reason that Cassandra hates being reminded she’s actually royalty and Cullen doesn’t appreciate anyone calling him a templar. It’s not me. It will never be me. I am me and I won’t be shit for anyone else unless I’m fleecing them for everything they fucking own.”

Leliana gave her a long, assessing look for a moment then tipped her head forward just slightly, her eyes still remaining focused despite the shift in her orientation. “I can…respect…your reasoning. Then, Meryell, shall we begin?”

Flashing a tight smile at the spymaster, Meryell turned her gaze to Josephine and the Antivan woman dipped into a motion that was something between a curtsey and a bow. “As you will, Inquisitor,” she said with a sly smile and a gleam in her eyes that reminded Meryell that the seemingly unassuming woman could be just as conniving as the redhead. She’d been a bard herself once, after all. “It shall be Meryell from now on. Though I hope you will excuse the occasional slip.”

Nodding sharply, Meryell straightened on her seat and turned to look at Cassandra. The dark-haired woman just arched an eyebrow before she smiled and inclined her head as she murmured, “I will endeavour to do as you ask, my friend.”

“I’ll take it,” replied Meryell as she shifted back around. She then smiled and asked again, “Then let’s start again. What the fuck does being Inquisitor mean?”

Three hours later she left the war room with her arm tucked into Cullen’s and the impression that being Inquisitor wasn’t at all different than being Herald. It came with fucking paperwork since it was an official position instead of a largely symbolic one amongst the Inquisition and the stipulation that she periodically cast judgment upon those who’d stood against them and hadn’t died in a bloody mess. That, by-and-large, seemed to be the only difference.

“You look deep in thought,” he commented as they passed through the door that separated Josephine’s office from the main hall. She noted absently that he was steering her across the space that was still largely filled with stacks of wood, piled up bolts of cloth, crates of foodstuff and other amenities, and whatever else had been carted into the keep without a place yet to go, towards the open doorway that led to Chuckles’ rotunda and the library.

Snorting, Meryell replied, “Not really deep. Just thinking about how not different being Inquisitor is.”

Cullen chuckled before saying, “I wouldn’t count my mabari too soon, dear thief. It’s still early.”

“Maker’s cock, count my mabari,” she mused in response, shaking her head. “Fuck, I haven’t heard that since I was still with the gang.”

“Not a lot of Fereldens in the Fangs?”

Shrugging while she waved at Varric at the table he’d seemingly claimed in front of the hall’s fire as soon as it’d been set up, she answered, “Thinking on it, not really. I mean, there are some but it’s not like we all get together and have parties. Folke was born in Ferelden technically but he’s been serving with mercs for so long that he’s like the Captain, bit of an amalgam of everyone in the company. That and his claim of his mother being Chasind and all. I mean, we’ve got a bit of everything so I sometimes hear Ferelden phrases but not enough that it’s obvious. Maybe it’s a regional thing.”

“Except South Reach is nowhere near Honnleath,” pointed out Cullen as they passed through Solas’ rotunda, though the somber visage of the mage was absent at the moment.

Meryell looked up at him at that and asked, “Were your parents both from Honnleath?”

He frowned at that, looking thoughtful as they went through the last doors separating them from the outside. As they strode across the newly repaired walkway that led to his tower, Cullen replied, “Now that I think of it, Ma wasn’t a local girl. Pa always told us that Rutherfords had been in Honnleath for Ages – yes, with a capital – but Ma rarely spoke of her family.”

“Maybe that’s it.”

“Maybe,” he said with a shrug. “Honestly I don’t remember where I picked that phrase up. It might have been from back home but it might also have been at the Tower or during training, since we were sent to Denerim for the bulk of it. Maybe I served with someone from South Reach.”

“Whatever way,” she noted airily before he could get distracted trying to figure it out, “we both happen to know it.” Meryell then cocked her head to the side, looking sideways up at him as he opened the door of his tower for her, and asked, “And do you know that you get this little twang of an accent when you say Ma and Pa?”

As his face immediately flushed in response, she laughed and spun away ahead of him, grabbing his hands and dragging him into his office. “No, no!” she exclaimed. “I like it.”

“You likeit,” he muttered, shaking his head as he kicked the door shut behind them. “Of course you do.”

“And why not?” asked Meryell as she paced a step forward, moving their joined hands up to where she could steer him backwards. He obliged with a smile, backing up until his shoulders hit the door and she leaned against his breastplate. “I rather like imagining you as the country farm boy with wild curly hair.”

Cullen just chuckled then asked, “Should I imagine you then as a little girl in pigtails?”

“With dirty knees from climbing things.”

He started to open his mouth, a wicked gleam in his eyes, and Meryell fully expected it to be an utterly filthycomment he was about to make. Then one of the side doors opened and one of the soldiers that served as one of his main aides strode in with a writing board piled up with papers.

“Commander…! Maker’s breath!

Turning her head, she nearly laughed as she saw the young man was hiding his beet red face behind his board. It wasn’t even as if they’d been fucking doing anything. Literally the only not innocent thing going on right then was going to be whatever she was now not going to be hearing coming out of Cullen’s mouth. She managed to hold herself back from laughing, though. Barely.

Instead she smiled slyly up at Cullen and freed her hands from his before tip-toeing two fingers in a walk up his breastplate. “So,” she purred, “I hear the tavern is having its official opening tonight. Inner circle and advisors gets first dibs at the stores according to Flissa.”

Though his neck was red from embarrassment at being caught like they were – even as innocent as it was! – he smirked down at her. “Is that a broad hint at where I should be tonight, dear thief?” he asked, his voice low and warm as he ghosted his fingers over her waist, just barely touching her.

“Perhaps.”

“Hmm. Well…judging by what Jim has there, I get the feeling I’ll be late.”

Meryell just smiled brightly in response and said, “Better late than never.” She then arched up onto her toes and he bent forward enough that she could press a light kiss against his bottom lip. “Would the incentive of walking me home be one to get you there faster?” she asked.

Walking her home meant the possibility of further drinks in her tent in the upper courtyard right outside the tavern and wandering hands and warm kisses and the absolute certainty of them squeezing into her cot to sleep heart-to-heart.

Cullen touched a leather-clad finger to her chin, putting enough pressure to have her arching up into another soft kiss, and murmured, “I am convinced, dear thief. I will see you tonight.”

“Holding you to that, vhen’an’ara,” she replied before turning to walk out the still open door Jim had entered through. He lowered his clipboard in time to see her and Meryell grinned as he squeaked her new title and went bolting across the room. Cullen’s dorky bray of a laugh – the one she’d honestly fallen a little bit in love with in what seemed such a long ago conversation on the barrels outside of Haven – followed her out the door.

Shutting the door behind her with a smile, Meryell laughed herself silly all the way around what had been repaired of Skyhold’s battlements.

Being Inquisitor wasn’t that different from being Herald at all.

ornament

“Back already, Swears?” asked Varric as she popped back into the main hall. He leaned back in his chair as he blew dry the ink on whatever he’d been writing and carefully set his quill aside before he fully turned to look at her with an arched eyebrow. “I figured you and Curly would be busy.”

Meryell just smiled and shook her head at the dwarf’s obvious innuendo. Tugging one of the heavy wooden chairs out from under the table, she collapsed into it and propped her elbows on the table with her chin resting on her closed fists. Varric’s bet about them getting together had been rather properly smashed by the events of Haven as every location that had been bet on by those involved as to where they would make kissy faces (Sera’s words) at each other was now under several feet of snow and rock.

Given that no one had even bet on the Chantry – and, again, it being buried along with the circumstances of nearly dying – Varric had expunged that particular bet and let those that had cast bets redo theirs at the same cost as their previous if they so chose.

Of course now the bet was not where they would kiss since that had happened but where and when they would do the nasty (Sera’s turn-of-phrase, again). Literally the only thing that was stopping Meryell from stealing Varric’s list was that she didn’t steal from friends unless they deserved it.

That and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know what the Iron Bull had come up with. Or Chuckles. Or, Maker fucking forbid, what any of the Fangs had come up with because most of them couldn’t withstand the temptation of putting down a bet.

Varric, of course, gave her prodding questions every time she actually had a moment to sit down with him nowadays. It was overly obvious and she played along on the rare occasion with a few comments that seemed like she was about to reveal something juicy before completely smashing it to pieces. Those were rare because half the time she got dragged off only moments after she’d sat down to have a breather.

Today, though. Today she was fucking free.

So she propped her chin on her fists and gave him a shit-eating grin as she said, “Of course we were busy, we were having a war meeting.”

After the war meeting, sweetheart,” he pressed teasingly.

“We were having a conversation.”

“Better be havin’ a conversation with yer bodies,” commented Sera as she abruptly plopped onto the surface of the table, sprawling out across it. Her impact very nearly upset Varric’s ink pot and he looked panicked for a moment, reaching for it before realizing that Cole was suddenly there with it in his hands. The boy just smiled and sat it back down before he was gone again, as if he’d never been there at all.

Shaking her head, Meryell said, “We were having a conversation with our mouths.” Realizing a moment later how that could be taken as Sera’s head popped up, she hurriedly added, “With words, Sera.”

“Aww. Does the jackboot need pointers about how to handle your lady bits?”

“Andraste’s dripping cunt, no.”

The younger elf cackled brightly at her curse and propped herself up on her elbows as she crowed, “Should be your dripping cunt, Quizzy!”

Meryell clipped her teeth shut over her immediate response of oh, it does that just fine and turned her attention back to Varric as she felt her cheeks flush with a mix of sudden heat and a smidge of embarrassment. “So,” she drawled, “tavern’s opening up tonight. Flissa is going to do the official naming and everything.”

The dwarf hummed in response before he asked, “Should I get my cards ready for another round of Diamondback? Or are we going to go for Wicked Grace this time?”

“I think Folke was hoping for another round of Diamondback now that we’ve the opportunity. He wants to try to win some of his dignity back from the last game.”

Varric just snorted at that, shaking his head. “Swears, your dear dad didn’t have a shred of dignity after that game was done. He’ll have to work awful hard to win it back.” He then winked and added, “Invite Rylen and we’ll fleece him for all he’s worth. The Captain’s apparently a terrible distraction for him.”

Meryell just laughed and said, “Baba can’t resist an accent…and I can’t resist watching him embarrass the shit out of himself. I’ll see if I can find him on my rounds today.” Turning to look at Sera, she asked, “Are you planning on showing up tonight?”

“For drinks? Fuck yeah.” Sera then pushed herself up into an upright position, her knees spread wide across the edge of the table as she bent to prop her forearms on them. Grinning wickedly, she added, “More chance to tease you and your Cully-Wully too. Always up for that.”

“Buttercup,” drawled Varric with a wry smile, “you’re always up for teasing anyone if you have the chance.”

The elf just grinned at that.

“That’s ‘cause people make themselves easy targets. Mostly. Quiz and Cully are just good fun since they blush so hard, like we don’t all already know they’ve been getting handsy in the corners.”

“Where our hands go involving each other is no one else’s concern,” Meryell noted a little snippily. She was used to the sort of ribbing like what her friends put out given her years with the Fangs but Cullen hadn’t even bedded a woman until recent years due to everything he’d been through at Kinloch. He wasn’t used to that and so she tried her best to keep her silence on their actual affairs while making it a point that what they did wasn’t for anyone else to know.

“Of course, Swears,” assured Varric. He then waved both of his hands at them as he went on, “Now off with both of you. I’ve got some chapters I need to get finished to send to my editor before he gets frustrated and sends the Carta after me.”

Sera blinked, stopping in the middle of jumping off the table, before she scowled and grumbled, “Sounds like a twat.”

“Obviously you’ve never worked with anyone from the Merchant’s Guild, Buttercup. They’re all twats.”

Smirking as she rose from her chair, Meryell pointed out, “Varric, aren’t you a member of the Merchant’s Guild?”

He just smiled broadly in response as he replied, “I’m just special, Swears.”

“You’re special alright,” commented Sera with a laugh. “Later, Quizzy! Tonight we’ll show your jackboot how to please a lady!” With that she was gone, disappearing in a flurry of red and bright yellow plaidweave, and Meryell shook her head several times after her backside disappeared out the wide open doors of the hall.

Varric chuckled, saying, “Buttercup’s something else.”

“She’d actually fit in right fucking well with the Fangs,” Meryell commented. “The archers love her already and she almost out shoots all of them. One word about me and Cullen would get her right in the middle of the bets and teasing that they put out and I swear half the company would declare her an honorary member.” She then clapped her hands together and added, “Anyway, I’ve got rounds to make. I’ll see you tonight, Varric.”

“I’ll be there, Swears.”

Smiling at him, she nodded and turned away, debating whether she should head across the hall to Josephine’s office to invite her or turn right through the door next to Varric’s table to hit up Chuckles (who probably wouldn’t come anyway) and Dorian since his new haunt seemed to be the library. Deciding that starting with Josephine made more sense, Meryell headed that way and poked her head into the office.

The ambassador was hard at work at her desk, dark head bent over stacks of parchment as she stroked the end of her quill idly against her cheek. She then dipped it into her ink pot and made some kind of notation on the parchment before she looked up and saw her. “Inquisitor,” she greeted and Meryell immediately rolled her eyes before stepping into the room.

“You’re seriously going to never call me by my name unless we’re in that room, aren’t you?” she asked as she strode over to the desk, planting her fists on her hips as she scowled down at the other woman.

Josephine just smiled before replying, “It would be improper for me to not call you your title amongst those who come to visit Skyhold, Inquisitor. The walls have ears when nobles are within them.”

Snorting, Meryell noted, “The walls have ears when Leliana is in them, which means they always have fucking ears.”

“Also true.” She then shifted the parchment around on her desk and put her quill away before folding her hands together and resting them on the desk. “So, what can I do for you, Inquisitor?”

Rolling her eyes at the title but knowing that she wasn’t going to get anywhere with the woman beyond her little victory this morning in the war room, Meryell replied, “Nothing Inquisition official. Just that the official opening and naming of the tavern’s tonight and Flissa’s declared that our lot get first shot at the stores.” When she got no immediate response – not even a bat of the eyes – she added with a smirk, “Varric’s planning another round of Diamondback. Though I get the feeling that the goal of the game is going to be how much more money and dignity we can make my baba lose than anything else.”

Josephine chuckled, a soft little sound, and replied, “Given the direction our last game was going before I left and what I heard of the aftermath, I’m not sure there is much further he can fall.” She then sighed and gestured at the papers on her desk before adding, “I shall see how much of this I can get through, Inquisitor, and perhaps make an appearance.”

“No promise needed, Josephine. I’m just informing everyone that there’s drinks tonight.”

The other woman nodded at that and said, “I shall try, Inquisitor.”

Meryell just tipped her head forward in a nod at that, saying, “I’ll let you get back to work then. You’re probably saving all of our fucking hides, anyway, so best not to interrupt that.” That brought a merry little laugh out of the ambassador before the woman waved her away and she went with a smile. With that settled, she headed immediately across the hall and entered the rotunda below the library.

Spying Solas up on his scaffolding, she started to open her mouth then immediately clipped it shut when her eyes drifted past him and saw that a good part of the mural he’d been working on since he’d claimed the area for himself was actually starting to come together. The art style was a kind she’d never seen before, though the only art she’d really been introduced to previously was the sketches that some of the company were good at (mostly landscaping and building plans) and the occasional job they got to filch a painting. It was simplistic but even her untrained eyes could see that he was good.

What he had almost finished was all yellows and oranges with some grays and blacks. There was a half circle of darkness high up towards the rotunda’s ceiling with a red orb inside of it and around the circle were more than a dozen eyes. Below those, a field of gold curved downward in an arch before there was a space and another line of gold from which burst several of what someone unfamiliar might mistake as the rays of a sun. The beam of golden light that he was depicting lancing downward from the orb, however, down through the orange sky that was littered with an obvious rain of yellow triangles, was unmistakable. Even though she hadn’t seen it, didn’t remember anything but the aftermath, she’d heard enough people describe what had happened to know what it was.

The Breach,” she breathed and the elf looked up then from where he was working on the grays and blacks at the sides of the mural – mountains, she realized, as they made the obvious valley that the Temple of Sacred Ashes had once stood in.

“Yes, da’len.”

“You’re painting….what’s happened?”

He just tilted his head to the side before shrugging slightly, just a simple lift of his shoulders, and replied, “I am.”

Meryell frowned and asked, “Why?”

Solas pursed his lips before he gestured with a paint covered hand towards the walls as he asked, “What will be left when the Inquisition is gone? What information will we leave behind? Were we tyrants? Saviors? Will what we did remain in truth or will it be changed as most history is when it is passed down?”

She blinked at him then leaned her shoulder against one of the upright poles of his scaffolding, folding her arms as she replied, “Well, shit, Chuckles. You’re having the hard thoughts today.”

“I always have those, da’len.

“Maker’s cock, hahren, you need to get laid or something to loosen up that stick up your ass.”

He sighed in response to that and Meryell rolled her eyes before she said, “I dunno what’ll be left after. Fuck, Chuckles, I never wanted this shit in the first place.”

“That may be,” he replied. “Now that you are here, however, it should be something you consider.”

Sighing, she grumbled, “I hate the fucking long game.” Then Meryell tilted her head back and found him looking down at her over the edge of the scaffolding. Scowling slightly, she asked, “So why murals?”

Solas just smiled and replied, “Have you never been to the Dales, da’len?”

“Rode through a few times on a job. What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Did you not see the remnants of what was once our civilization there?”

Meryell blinked and then pushed herself away from the scaffolding, turning to look fully up at him. She then darted her eyes past him to the mural and breathed, “History. The old elves, they painted the histories on the walls.”

Solas just nodded and she asked, “So you’re going to paint everything here. The basis of what we did.”

“Very good, da’len.

Snorting, Meryell said, “Evune told me about them when we were travelling through there the first time. Gave me the whole history lesson of the Dales – Dalish and human – since I’d never heard it before. We saw what was left of one after a battle with some stupid bandits who thought they could take us but you couldn’t make out what it was really since most of it had been worn away by the elements. I wouldn’t even guess you were doing the same thing with what little was left of it to compare.”

He hummed in response then turned back away from her, her ears picking up the subtle sound of him grinding whatever it was that he used to make his paints. She’d spent enough time dozing in the mage’s work room back at the Fangs’ headquarters to recognize someone at work with a mortar and pestle. “And what,” he asked after a long moment of silence, “brings you to me today?”

“Making rounds to let everyone know that the tavern’s opening up tonight and our lot get first dibs at the stores.”

She heard him go still and Meryell snorted before adding, “Flissa’s invitation extended to all of the inner circle. Which includes you despite the stick up your ass, Chuckles.”

“Ah.”

“That a ‘fuck no’?”

The other elf sighed heavily before he replied, “A simple ‘no’ will suffice, da’len, but I will not attempt to stop you from adding your particular…flavor…to everything. I respectfully decline the invitation.”

Shrugging, Meryell airily said, “No skin off my tits.”

He made an awkward sputtering noise in response to that phrase and she laughed before making her break away from him, heading towards the stairs that led up to the second level of the rotunda where the library was. She paused for a moment to breathe in the smell of the books while lamenting the likely permanent loss of her own little collection back in Haven before she started stalking through the floor on the hunt for Dorian in one of the alcoves. Eventually she did find him, curled up with his feet crossed over the arm of a rather plush looking chair and a glass of wine dangling from one hand as he propped the book he was reading up on his knees.

“And what brings you to the library, darling?” drawled the mage without looking up as he turned a page. “Are we to finally strike out from this lovely new location of ours and end up with spiders in our beds again?”

Chuckling at the reminder of the once she’d taken the mage out with her before Haven had been shit kicked into oblivion, Meryell replied, “No, that’s for three days from now with me, you, Cassandra, and Sera. Tonight we get first dibs at Flissa’s new stores in the tavern.”

That had the mage looking up at her, his eyebrows arching slightly, and definite interest in his eyes.

“Ah, so the grand opening is tonight?”

“Yup,” she answered with a sharp pop of the last letter.

“Well, I will certainly be there, darling. Never let it be said that a Pavus didn’t live up to the expectation that he would arrive somewhere.”

Snorting, she jibed, “Or turn up where there’s alcohol?”

Dorian just smiled before replying, “That is only a glorious bonus, my dear. I certainly couldn’t live with myself if I left everyone without the wonderful presence that is me. Everyone would be far too wounded to continue on with their lives and certainly too heartbroken to drink anything or enjoy themselves tonight.”

Meryell flashed him a shit-eating grin at that before saying with a laugh, “You’re so full of your fucking self.”

“And you adore it, darling,” he said with a chuckle. “I’ll see you tonight and we will have far too much fun to be legal.” Then the mage waggled his eyebrows before saying suggestively, “And perhaps finally get you and your dashing Commander actually into bed together, hmm?”

Fighting a flush, she just sang out, “Promises, promises,” as she walked away towards the stairs that led up to the rookery. Normally she wouldn’t have even considered inviting the spymaster to anything remotely like the goings on of the night but Flissa had made a point that everyone was invited, so she was going to get everyone.

Mounting the last of the stairs up into the dark top of the rotunda, Meryell looked around for the redhead and found her on the far side of the room. She was bent with a bowed head in front of a small Andrastian shrine, eyes closed and mouth moving silently, and Meryell promptly turned away to give the woman privacy. Religious she wasn’t and she spouted what was considered blasphemy half the time but she wasn’t going to fucking shit on anyone else’s beliefs.

She still respected her mother’s own adherence to the faith too much to do that.

When she finally heard the shift of leather and cloth against the wooden boards that made up the top-most floor, she turned back and found the spymaster regarding her with hooded eyes. “I was not expecting it to be you,” commented the older woman in a low voice as she crossed back over to the desk that was clear except for a small stack of missives that had obviously come via the hands of scouts or attached to one of the ravens given their small, slightly tatter-edged state.

Meryell just shrugged before saying, “I’m just making the rounds because Flissa practically made it an order that I talk to everyone.”

Leliana arched her eyebrows as she sat down in the chair next to her desk, her back deliberately to the wall and not the glass panes of the nearby window. “And this is after you have been made Inquisitor?” she questioned, an odd tone to her voice.

“If you seriously expect me to fucking run by rank and file after a decade in one of the loosest organized mercenary companies in the whole of Thedas, you’re one mabari less a kaddis. Our only rank is the Captain. Other than that, you follow whoever knows more than you do, even if they’re the newest recruit.” She then paused before adding, “Or whoever shouts the loudest. Depends on the hour of the day, really.”

The spymaster slowly arched an eyebrow at her before saying, “I am truly uncertain how your company has stayed together this long if that is the manner of your organizational skills but…perhaps it speaks most highly of the Captain’s leadership.”

“S’been the way it’s been for as long as the oldest can remember,” noted Meryell airily. She then rolled her eyes and said, “Anyway, not what I came up here for. Flissa’s opening the tavern tonight and she said that advisors and inner circle get first dibs at the stores. Hence me.”

“I see.”

“Come or not, I’m just extending the fucking invitations ’cause it’s what I got told to do.”

Leliana inclined her head slightly and said slowly, “I will consider it, Inquis…ah. Meryell.”

Out of all of them, she hadn’t expected the spymaster to correct herself. Or to actually do as she’d asked that morning and call her by her name. The older woman caught onto that immediately and smirked, tilting her head slightly to the side in a fashion that wasn’t far off from the mannerisms of her birds.

“You were not expecting that,” she noted.

“From you?” Meryell said. “Fuck no. You’ve hated me from day one.”

In response, the redhead immediately laced her fingers together atop the desk and leaned forward to brace her elbows along its edge. “I,” she began slowly, “may have…disliked you…” Meryell scoffed in the middle of the sentence, interrupting her briefly but not actually saying anything in response. “…but that has changed over these past months.”

“Since when?”

“Since Redcliffe,” replied the spymaster shortly. “Though more so since Haven fell.”

Frowning down at the other woman, Meryell crossed her arm across her chest and asked, “What changed?”

Leliana just smiled before answering, “I think, perhaps, it is something similar to what you saw in me in that alternate future. We each saw someone else in the other, someone we could perhaps respect. When you went out to face Corypheus without a guarantee of coming back…” The other woman paused and there was suddenly pain in her face, an old pain that Meryell could actually put words to.

It was a pain that tasted like ash and felt like tearing your own heart out of your chest.

The pain of a loss so great, it nearly tore you apart.

Shit, when she’d come up here, she hadn’t expected to get into this with the spymaster. She sure as fuck didn’t expect to feel sympathy for the older woman but she did. She knew that hurt.

“It reminded you of something,” she pressed softly.

The spymaster just smiled sadly before she looked away, out the window next to her through the few panes of glass that weren’t stained in muted colors or dulled to blur visibility through them. “Someone,” Leliana replied in just as soft a voice. She then stiffened, her shoulders drawing up into an obviously protective and stiff gesture, and Meryell knew the moment was done.

She wondered, though, who that someone was.

Obviously, judging by Leliana’s earlier reaction, they’d done something similar to her and gone up against something bigger than themselves without a clear chance of coming back alive. And, she was going to guess, that they hadn’t.

Whoever they’d been, the woman had cared for them. Enough that however long it had been between losing them and now, she still felt the pain. Of all the nughumping piles of shit she’d expected out of this meeting, Meryell hadn’t expected to learn such a thing.

“Well,” began Leliana in a stiff voice, “I thank you and Flissa for the invitation. We shall see, I suppose, if I have the time in the evening to make an appearance at the tavern.

Shrugging, Meryell said, “Make it if you can. If you can’t, Flissa will find someone else to drink the wine. Probably Dorian.”

“I have no doubt,” noted the spymaster with what almost resembled a smirk. “If you’ll excuse me, Meryell.”

With the second iteration of her name in so little time without a blink of the eye by the older woman, she decided she’d had enough herself even without the dismissal. Flipping a hand idly in an errant little wave, Meryell turned and headed back down the stairs, shaking her head as she went striding past Dorian’s alcove. He looked fully reengrossed in his book as she passed, so she continued on back downstairs through the bottom rotunda where Chuckles was still at work and on through it back into the main hall.

Varric glanced up as she passed and Meryell nodded briefly at him before she hustled towards the open doors. The outside world made sense. At least more so than having a remotely civil conversation with Leliana that didn’t have to do with that red lyrium drenched nightmare and feeling fucking sympathy for the woman.

Or…so she thought until she stopped at the landing of the stairs that led down from the doors of the main hall and found a full two dozen group of sweat-coated recruits occupying the open area of the upper yard with the Iron Bull, Cassandra, Blackwall, and Arnald arrayed in front of them. Every one of the quartet was wielding their weapon of choice in a blunted, practice format and were covered in dust and dirt with sweat staining their clothes underneath padded armor. The obvious exception of that being Bull because Maker fucking forbid someone find enough fabric to make the big Qunari a shirt that would fit properly. She didn’t think even Josephine was equipped to undertake a feat like that nor that the Bull would actually wear said shirt.

Judging by the looks on the recruits’ faces, all of them were being generally terrifying.

“New bloods!” boomed Bull, his voice so loud she swore it rattled the glass in the frames high above her head. “What have we learned today?”

“Don’t face Seeker Cassandra without an army at our back, ser!” piped back a random male voice from within the crowd. It immediately broke some of the tension amongst the recruits and laughter came as Cassandra let out a loud snort.

Meryell heard Arnald chuckle as she continued down the stairs before he asked, “Though that statement may be true, it is not an accurate answer to the question of what you’ve learned. Jenkins.

A young woman in the front line – built like a mountain and so short she might just be mistaken for a dwarf with flaming red hair – snapped to attention with a sharp, “Captain.” That was when Meryell realized that the group of recruits was a mix of Inquisition soldiery alongside a handful of new Fangs, identified by the patches of the heraldry newly pinned to their gear until Folke could craft new charms out of his collection of knickknacks or whatever they brought him if they chose something custom.

Report.”

Jenkins grinned broadly as she replied, “We learned how to take down an opponent bigger than us, Captain.”

“And how do we do that, recruit?” asked Blackwall as he crossed his arms, settling his weight back onto one foot. There was definite laughter in his voice.

The redhead’s mouth stretched wider at that. “You have a harder head than a Qunari, ser.”

Bull bellowed with laughter at that and turned to grin over Cassandra’s head at Arnald. That was when she saw that his nose and jaw were awash with not quite dried blood and the end of his nose looked more than a little crooked too. “If you hadn’t already nabbed that one, Spy, I’d be fighting you for her. She’s going to be a good one.”

“I’m glad you approve,” commented Arnald with a definite smile in his voice. As she finally reached the ground, he snapped out, “Alright, enough for the day, recruits! Get cleaned up and report to your sergeants or Captain’s for the rest of your daily duty. We’ll see you back here in the morning at dawn for a run.”

There were immediate groans in response to that and she could sympathize as she’d been on many of the Captain’s dawn runs. But every recruit was grinning tiredly as they left, chattering with each other about did you see that one move the Warden did or what about that twirl the Captain used to bring down the Bull or several other variances of similar things.

“Boss!” boomed Iron Bull as he turned and noticed her standing behind them, which had the rest doing the same. “How long have you been hiding there?”

“Only a little while,” she replied with a smile. “I apparently missed the most entertaining part judging by your face, Bull.”

“Hmm?”

Meryell gestured vaguely around her own nose and he frowned before laughing, a fully on thing right from the belly.

This?” he exclaimed. “This is the best thing I’ve earned in a while. Your Seeker is a force of nature.” Grinning in Cassandra’s direction, he added, “If she weren’t so devoted to other things, I’d try to recruit her.”

It was a testament to how much time she’d spent with Meryell and Varric that Cassandra merely smiled and said softly, “You may still try but you will not succeed.”

Bull just shrugged at that, saying, “No fun if I know the outcome won’t change.” He then planted the end of his war maul – which was still a menacing looking beast even in practice form – on the ground and tipped his chin at her. “So what brings you to our practice?”

“Well,” drawled Arnald, “I know it’s not work for the company. We’re already planning how to get ourselves down into the Fallow Mire according to the message Commander Cullen sent me this morning. And I hear you’re heading to the Hinterlands before you meet up with us there.”

“That’s the plan,” confirmed Meryell. “But, yes, no jobs, no messages, no important shit to do.” She grinned as she finished, “Just our lot in Flissa’s new tavern tonight with first pick of all her wares. Inner circle and advisors both.”

Arnald arched an eyebrow, to which she added, “Yes, you and Folke technically count as fucking advisors.”

“Excellent!” exclaimed the Captain with a bright smile, his eyes gleaming behind his mask. “I will see you tonight then, my girl. It is certain I should take my own advice and see to it that I get cleaned up.”

He turned to toss his practice sword to Blackwall, who caught it one-handed as Arnald winced from his movement, before he said, “That’s going to bruise like a fucking whore, Seeker. Have a care with an old man next time, hmm?”

Cassandra just scoffed loudly before replying, “I am not much younger than you, Captain.” She then smirked – fucking smirked – before she added slyly, “And perhaps you should learn how to dodge.”

Si cruel! Vous blessez mon cœur, Chercheuse, vraiment.

The Seeker just quirked her lips in response and said, “Ce ne serait pas cruel si vous aviez appris à esquiver.” Her strong Nevarran accent gave the words a very different flavor than Arnald’s obviously still Orlesian accent did but she said each precisely with a well-taught firmness. Given her background, the language had probably been one of those things she was taught as a child.

Meryell snorted with laughter at the same time Blackwall did, causing Cassandra to turn to blink at her. “You both know Orlesian?” she asked, more than a little surprised.

“Enough to get by,” she replied with a shrug. “I’m not half as fluent as I am with Elven but I can follow most of a conversation in Orlesian.” Grinning at the Seeker, Meryell added, “I know you told him he needed to learn how to dodge again.”

Blackwall grunted in reply and she cocked her head at him as he looked uncomfortable for a moment before saying, “Spent a lot of time in Orlais once or twice. Half the buggers there won’t even give you a glance unless you speak the tongue.” Idly she wondered if his uncomfortable response had anything to do with whatever it was in his past that he regretted so deeply.

Cassandra cocked her head to the side and asked, “Are there any other languages you know?”

Meryell shrugged again before answering. “Astrid taught me a bit of Anders – mostly the curses – and I got a crash course of the same from Lortho in Nevarran and Tevene. Since headquarters is in the Free Marches and that’s where we operate most of the time, I know a bit of the weird pidgin they have. Though that’s mostly street language nowadays.” Turning to look at the Captain, she continued, “But most of the company knows at least one other language at least a little.”

“It certainly makes sending you lot on jobs either,” he commented. Then Arnald held up his hands and said, “Enough, now, enough. I am heading back down to my tent and I will see whichever of you are present in the tavern tonight.”

“Don’t break your feeble legs on the way down the hill, Captain!” called Meryell after him and laughed when he flipped a rude gesture at her over his shoulder. She then turned back to the other three and asked, “What about you lot? Going to make an appearance tonight?”

The Iron Bull snorted then hefted his maul off of the ground and up onto his shoulder as he grinned through the blood on his face. “Miss drinks?” he said cheerily. “I never miss an opportunity to drink, Boss.” Then he frowned and asked, “Tavern going to be open for everyone else? My boys are starting to get a bit antsy.”

“I imagine some of the Fangs are feeling the same,” she commented. “Surprised they haven’t opened their own sort of bar down there in camp.” Then she nodded and said, “So far as I’m aware, the tavern is open for business to everyone tonight. We just get first dibs at what we want before anyone else.”

“Good!” boomed Bull as he turned to stride off. “I’ll let the boys know.”

Cassandra watched him go then turned to say, “I will perhaps show up.”

“Oh, come on, Cass,” chided Meryell with a smile. “I’ll make sure you won’t have to sit anywhere near anyone you don’t want to. Cullen and I’ll protect you.”

The other woman quirked an eyebrow before asking, “And who will protect you and Cullen?”

“Flissa.”

“While she is busy with all of Skyhold wanting to partake of her wares?”

“Woman’s got skills. I believe in her,” replied Meryell.

That made Cassandra laugh and she finally said, “Very well. I will come for one drink. No more.”

Grinning, she replied, “S’all I ask.” Turning to Blackwall, she asked, “You?”

The Warden smiled, though the motion was mostly lost behind his beard, and tilted his head forward into a nod. “I’ll be there. Can’t imagine that there’ll be anyone else there that’ll actually keep an eye on Sera. And it’s been a whole month since I had a pint.”

Snorting at the reminder of the friendship that had seemed to have spawned between him and the younger elf (which she had first witnessed on the walk to Skyhold when Sera had called out a cheerful Beardy before nailing him with a snowball and Blackwall had replied with a gruff Fuzzhead that had made the elf giggle as he’d lobbed one back at her), Meryell said, “Good. I’ll see you both later then. I’ve got to go figure out where in this fucking keep my baba has gotten to.”

“I believe,” replied Cassandra, as she started to walk away towards her tent, “that he has been in the mage’s tower all morning. He said something about an experiment when he stopped by earlier?” She looked to Blackwall for confirmation and the Warden nodded.

Sighing, Meryell grumbled, “Well, shit. I hope he hasn’t blown himself up then.” Flipping her hand at them in a parting wave, she headed towards the tower that had been appropriated by the mage’s upon their arrival. It had been one of the few with three floors and enough space for there to be a great number of cots brought in until something more permanent could be done when they’d first arrived.

Now, almost two months after their finding the keep, most of the mage’s were housed two or three to a room on the two floors that had been cleared out directly below their tower in the battlements behind the armory. There were still cots present in the tower itself but they were now tucked into corners and mostly hidden behind carved wooden screens or heavily laden bookshelves for when a mage was hard at work and didn’t want or couldn’t leave whatever they were working on. It had actually helped as well that a few of the mages had joined up with the Fangs and the Chargers and thus were now sleeping in the valley encampment.

As she walked across the battlements towards the tower, she saw the door was flung wide open and there was a templar standing in it with his back to her. And his sword free.

Memory lanced through her of another templar with a blade, followed by the terrifying run through a dark forest to escape him with a bleeding from the face and mana drained Folke more leaning on her than moving on his own power. Meryell laid a hand on the hilt of the dagger sheathed behind her hips (the only one she wore in Skyhold) and sprinted towards the tower as fear and bile rose in her throat.

The templar turned as he heard her approach and his blue eyes went wide. She registered short, dark hair and a strong jaw before she was level with him and he started to open his mouth. While his features hadn’t given him away, his voice immediately gave him away as Ferelden with just a little Marcher influence. The exact sort of accent that Cullen had.

“Inquisitor…!”

Filing her realizations away for later, she snarled, “Why the fucking fuck do you have that sword out, templar?

He blinked then turned fully to the side in the doorway before stepping to the side as he gestured for her to move past. Meryell eyed him for a long moment before she moved into the doorway and her hand immediately tightened on the hilt of her dagger until the leather creaked.

There was a fucking corpse standing in the middle of the first floor.

It was in a containment circle, the purple light of the spell just barely flickering along the lines drawn on the floor in a pattern she’d never understood the meaning of. That didn’t make it any less creepy or help the fucking smell coming off of it. On the opposite side of the room were Folke and Demut as well as another company mage, Mort, and a swarthy looking Rivaini mage who had to be one of the one’s from Redcliffe. All four of them had their heads together and were passing a sheath of notes back and forth while they chattered to each other.

“You’d think this far away whatever magic is holding it together would dissipate,” she heard Folke say.

The Rivaini man shook his head before saying with a thick accent, “No, no, it permeates the flesh, you see. The magic is in it.”

“It’s a demon , you twits,” growled Demut, looking utterly fed up with her male counterparts. Turning her head to eye Folke, she added in her thick Starkhaven accent, “I bet we could take even you, shit for brains, and you’d feel the Veil was thin there.”

Folke gasped theatrically and clasped a hand over his heart in response as he sniffed, crying, “Dem, my darling, you wound me so.”

“I’ll fucking wound you, you shithead.”

Mort looked up as Demut reached for the sides of Folke’s jacket and spotted her, instantly reading Meryell’s mood judging by the look on his face. Taking a hasty step away from the group, he said warily, “Um…Folke…Dem…” When they didn’t stop, he started pawing at the Rivaini mage’s shoulder as the man now had the notes all to himself to flip through.

“What are you,” began the man only to trail off as Mort gestured past him. He turned to look and instantly went pale (which was impressive for such a dark-skinned man). The pair of them immediately fled across the room out the door that led to the battlements above the still in progress garden and she vaguely registered the templar chuckling from behind her.

Folke and Demut were still utterly unaware that she was there.

Eyeing the corpse again, which she registered was wearing the remnants of what appeared to have once been simple Ferelden clothes, Meryell called out loudly, “Baba.”

“Dem, darling, there’s no need to…”

Shut. Up.

Closing her eyes and breathing heavily for a moment to control her rage and old fear, she ground her teeth together before shouting, “Baba!

There must have been some shred of the terror she’d felt earlier in her voice right then because Folke went immediately still. Demut’s grip on his coat went limp a moment later before quickly falling away entirely. Everyone in the company knew that when she sounded the slightest bit hurt and someone stood in his way, Folke turned damn near into a battering ram. She hurt and he would freely commit murder on anyone that stopped him getting to her. And the Captain wouldn’t bat a fucking eye if anyone was fool enough to get in his way.

“Poppet?” he asked, looking truly concerned. His gray eyes flicked to where her hand still tightly gripped her dagger, darted to her face, then went past her to the templar. Realization blossomed and he quickly strode around the contained corpse, reaching out to her. “Oh,ara vherain. Ir abelas. I didn’t think about…”

Meryell stared hard at the scar on his cheek for a moment before reaching out to him with her free hand. As soon as his fingers enclosed her wrist, Folke tugged her forward into his chest and put his mouth to her ear. “Forgive me for being a bad father and forgetting?”

She just shuddered, leaning heavily into him, and closed her eyes as she replied softly,” So long as you forgive me for being a bad daughter.”

His arms tightened around her in a quick hug and he breathed, “Bell’ana.” Folke then pulled away, moving his hands to her shoulders, and said, “I’m assuming you want to talk to me.” When she just nodded in response, he turned to Demut, who had quickly lost whatever anger she had. That was her and her temper though, quick to spark and just as quick to come down. “Dem, get those two back in here and figure out what the fuck this thing is. The soldiers need an answer soon before we send more of them down to the Fallow Mire.”

“We will figure it out,” she replied with a firm nod. Demut then turned towards the templar as Folke started to pull Meryell towards door she’d entered through, saying, “Ser Cutter, would you watch our little…guest…while I go see where our cowards have run off to?”

Meryell caught the edge of the templar’s smile out of the corner of her eye – it was a pleasant one, not at all like the templar she’d abruptly remembered upon seeing him with his sword out at the tower door. As Folke pressed her onward, she heard him say, “I’ll watch it like a hawk.” Then the door closed behind them as her father pulled it firmly shut and his strong hand against the small of her back pushed her back down the battlements she’d come across only moments before.

“I thought you’d gotten past that,” he said after a moment.

Blinking several times, she softly replied, “I thought I had too, baba.” Meryell then shook her head, continuing, “Seeing him at the door when I knew you were in the tower, though…fuck, suddenly all I could remember was our flight through the forest. How scared I was. I thought…I thought…”

“You thought something had happened.”

“I don’t know what I thought.” Closing her eyes, she lifted her free hand to pinch the bridge of her nose as she worked to loosen her now stiff fingers from around her dagger hilt. “Maker’s cock, I didn’t come up here intending to stress out.”

Folke chuckled, saying, “No one intends on stressing out, Poppet. Come, here, sit with me on the wall. That dwarven crew your lovely Anitvan lady hired just declared it sound last week.”

Baba,” Meryell scolded as she let him press her down into a seat on the low wall of the battlement with one foot dangling over the side courtyard between the armory and the back of the tavern, “Josephine is not someone with an accent that you want to toy with.”

“Toy?” he repeated in that tone she knew meant he knew exactly what she was talking about.

“She will eat you alive.”

“No, no, ara vherain,” replied Folke with a broad smile as he sat himself down in front of her, “that is your spymaster.”

Snorting a laugh, Meryell nodded, unable to argue with that. Then she found her hands in his and watched for a moment as he slowly worked his way over her right hand, massaging out the stiffness she’d put into the delicate muscles moments before. They sat in silence like that for a long moment before he asked, “Now…what was it that you came looking for me for?”

“Flissa’s opening the tavern tonight and advisors as well as inner circle get first go at the stores. That includes you and the Captain.”

Folke chuckled at that, saying, “I should hope so with the amount of business that we gave the lass back in Haven.” He then flicked his gaze up at her and asked, “Are we only drinking?”

Snorting, she replied, “Varric has already agreed to bring his cards for Diamondback.”

“Excellent! I can win some of my dignity back.”

Baba, from what I heard about the rest of that night we last played, you are so deep in the hole I don’t know how you’d win that back.”

“Hence why I said some,” he grumbled back. “Honestly, such rudeness towards your elders. Whoever taught you to be such a little shit like that?”

Meryell reached out with her left hand to shove him lightly in the shoulder, to which he feigned serious injury, and replied with a laugh, “You fucking did and you know it!”

“Told you not to follow my example too, didn’t I?” Folke shot back with a smile. He then released her hand to fall to rest against her knee as he looked up and cocked his head to the side. “I take it our dashing Commander will be joining us tonight?”

Smirking and feeling her cheeks flush slightly at the recollection of the moment in Cullen’s still sparse office earlier, she answered, “I gave him quite the incentive to stop working.”

“Mmhmm. And when, Poppet, are you going to explain to him the word that I’ve now heard him calling you?”

Recoiling a little like she’d been slapped in the face, Meryell started to open her mouth then snapped it closed as she jerked her head to the side. Honestly she should have already told him what it meant. Probably should have the moment he uttered it in that unsure way he handled most Elven words, carefully sounding them out with a tongue unfamiliar to the language. Yet…she couldn’t bring herself to do it.

Even with every reassurance from Cullen’s lips, word and gesture alike, she still wasn’t entirely convinced that this all wasn’t going to blow up in her face. Literally every other relationship she’d ever attempted in the past had, so what could possibly make this one any different. That was one of those things that her head whispered in the dead of night, when she was alone in her tent. And every answer she had, it countered with something from those past attempts.

She felt Folke’s hand at the side of her head then, his fingers brushing her far too long now hair back behind her ears with care not to touch them. “He cares for you,” he noted softly.

Nodding faintly, Meryell whispered, “More than he probably should.”

“None of fucking that now,” hissed her father harshly. “You are worth more than trysts in hay lofts and boys who don’t know a damned good thing when they’ve got their hands on it. And that man knows what he’s got in you.” He paused to touch his fingers to her chin and turned her head to face him, his expression gentle. “I’ve told you many a time to not let the words of felasilla bring you down.”

“It’s hard, baba.”

Folke shook his head and leaned forward to press a kiss to her forehead before he whispered, “The best things in life always are, ara vherain.”

Meryell shrugged slightly before asking the question that had plagued her from the first realization of the fact that Cullen liked her as something more than just a friend. “And what happens,” she breathed, her voice cracking slightly, “if he realizes he doesn’t want me?”

You are getting ahead of yourself.” Her father then pressed his hands to her cheeks, forcing her to look at him with a gentle tilt of her head, and stated fiercely, “But, in that event, I have already informed him that I take blood from those who hurt you. Do you know what he replied?”

Shaking her head, she watched him smile and knew with a wild flutter of her heart that Folke approved. And he’d never once liked the few other men she’d attempted relationships with. Not. One. Until now.

“He told me,” he said slowly, “that he would willingly surrender himself to my revenge if he hurt you. A templar surrendering himself to a mage. That man, Poppet, loves you even if neither of you have yet said or thought the word. Remind yourself of that when that foul little mind of yours decides to fuck with you.”

Feeling a smile touch her own lips, Meryell asked, “And promptly tell it where it can fuck off?”

Folke grinned broadly and nodded before leaning forward to kiss her forehead again, this one rougher than the previous. “That’s my girl,” he growled proudly. “That’s my little lioness.”

“Shall I roar too for you, baba?”

“Save the roaring for your Commander, Poppet.” he replied, laughing as she blushed at the obvious innuendo he injected into the word. “And tell him what vhen’an’ara means.”

“Yes, baba.”

Laughing, Folke said, “Now that’s how one talks to your elders!”

Meryell snorted a laugh and rolled her eyes before she swung around to punch him in the shoulder as hard as she could. He immediately tipped over backwards, landing hard on his back on the battlement floor, and let out a dusty sounding cough.

“Is that how I talk to my elders too?” she asked in a faux sweet tone.

“Only when we’re giving you shit,” he replied, winking at her from the floor. They both exploded into laughter at that and Meryell promptly rose to help him up, trying to dust off his coat and failing miserably. After several attempts, Folke finally waved her off and made a muttered excuse that he needed to get back to their little experiment. He kissed her cheek before he left with a smile and she watched him stride off with a far lighter attitude than she’d had only moments before.

Because he was right. Her baba often was about things like this.

Tonight she would do it.

Tonight she would give Cullen the meaning of the word.

And then…well, she would see.

ornament

General Translations

Si cruel! Vous blessez mon cœur, Chercheuse, vraiment. – So cruel! You wound my heart, Seeker, truly.
Ce ne serait pas cruel si vous aviez appris à esquiver – It would not be cruel if you learned how to dodge.
The above are actual French (because, Orlais). I don’t actually know French so I relied upon a translator for these. Many many thanks to Feliishiiaa for correcting the job that translator did.

Elven/Elvhen Translations:

bell’ana – forever (because no word for always in Project Elvhen)
felasilla – fools

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