Power in Stories

“There's power in stories, though. That's all history is: the best tales. The ones that last. Might as well be mine.” – Varric Tethras

The Sordid Tale of Meryell Verlen, Chapter 32

“Meryell, darling.”

“Yes, Dorian, love?” called Meryell over her shoulder as she focused on the path ahead of them. Cassandra, riding next to her, made a distinct noise of annoyance in response. Likely because she knew what was coming.

Why ,” intoned the mage seriously, “is it always raining whenever you take me places?”

Varric snorted a laugh from where he rode at the back of their line with Hawke. “Obviously it’s your gloomy personality, Sparkler.”

Gloomy ?” gasped Dorian with mock outrage. “Varric, how dare you imply that I am anything less than perfect?”

Hawke chuckled as she pointed out, “Because my dwarven friend is a master of bullshit .”

“Now, Hawke, don’t say that. Tiny has perfect control of himself.”

Cassandra growled between gritted teeth and Meryell laughed under her breath as she turned her head to see the woman rolling her eyes skyward. She and Cullen shared a similar exasperated look when they were asking the Maker silently for strength; so similar that she half wondered if it was a Chantry taught thing.

“Is there a reason,” she asked under her breath, “that you brought all of them?”

Grinning, Meryell replied, “Well, I just knew that you couldn’t bear to be without Varric’s calming presence, Cass. Hawke had to come and Dorian was just a lovely bonus.”

The warrior snorted at that, shaking her head. “Calming is hardly how I would choose to describe him. He is more like a burr under the saddle.”

“Annoying but you can’t get rid of it without far too much work?”

Cassandra tipped her head forward in a nod, a small smile twitching at the corner of her mouth. “Justly so,” she murmured. Then her eyes hardened as she added, “Though that is not all .”

Meryell tilted her head to the side at the older woman and gave her Forder a press of her knee. Just enough to bring him closer to Cassandra’s mount, a big black Amaranthine Charger who stood at least two hands taller than her horse and was fit for a warrior according to Dennet. Keeping her voice low so it wouldn’t carry back to the others, she said, “You can’t be angry at him forever.”

The immediate look on Cassandra’s face said that she damn well could and was going to continue being angry.

Shaking her head, Meryell pressed, “He was just trying to protect them.”

“I was not his enemy.”

“He didn’t know that from shite.”

Cassandra pressed her lips into a hard white line and Meryell turned her attention back to the path that was leading them to the camp that Harding had managed to put together in the few weeks it had been since Hawke’s unannounced arrival at Skyhold. As she was tugging the map out of her saddlebag to make sure that they were still heading the right direction, the Seeker let out a little huff of air.

“I am being absurd again, aren’t I?” she asked in a quiet voice. “Turning my eye back to the past and regretting. It is unworthy of me. To doubt.”

“Doubt you made the right choice?” asked Meryell lightly, her eyes focused on the map as she laid it across her saddlehorn. Keeping her horse facing steady forward with her knees, she lifted up the edges as she added, “Or doubt that you made the wrong one?”

“Perhaps both.” The warrior next to her shrugged, a motion she was only aware of by the lift of the woman’s arms out of the corner of her eye. “As I said before, perhaps if I had merely explained …if I had told him what we faced…”

“Wouldn’t have mattered,” she interrupted and looked up at the other woman. “We may call Varric many things, Cass, but he doesn’t give away the secrets he’s trusted with.” As Cassandra nodded, Meryell tucked the map away before it got too wet before lifting a hand to rap her knuckles lightly against the warrior’s vambraces. “Besides, if you had Hawke for Inquisitor, it’s very fucking likely you wouldn’t have me.”

Cassandra’s expression softened at that and she smiled as she nodded in agreement. “You are right.” Then she flinched as she added, “I am sorry, my friend. I do not mean to imply that I would wish you…”


The woman grimaced in response and bowed her head. When she lifted it again, Cassandra said, “I would regret not having known you, Inquisitor.” As Meryell flashed a glare at her, she smiled and inclined her head slightly forward. “Meryell. My apologies.”

“I’ll forgive it. Just this fucking once though.”

Cassandra laughed lightly because that had been her response to every utterance of Inquisitor the woman had given her since she’d laid down the rule about her name in the war room. Then she smiled and said warmly, “I may regret some steps on the path but I do not regret where it has brought me. Nor the friend it has brought me.”

Meryell sniffed mockingly, immediately earning a light cuff on her shoulder as she said, “Aww, Cass, you’re making me cry.”

“You make light of me!”

“Only because you make it so easy.”

Cassandra made a noise of annoyance but there was a smile creeping at the corners of the Seeker’s mouth. Meryell grinned at her and picked up the reins of her horse again before calling over her shoulder, “Oy, you lot! We’re almost to camp!”

“There had better be dry tents!” came Dorian’s immediate reply and she just shook her head at his antics. It actually was barely drizzling fucking water on them but judging by the state of the clouds that wouldn’t likely last long. So instead of replying to him, she put her heels to the sides of her Forder and sent him forward into a steady lope.

“Well, come on then, tarlan ! Before we soak all of your skirts through!”

She heard Hawke laugh loudly from behind them as Cassandra pushed her Charger to follow, the big horse’ hooves eating up what little lead she’d gotten. Then Dorian said loudly, “I’m not certain what that word means, darling, but I feel as if I’ve been insulted .”

Meryell tipped her head back at that and laughed until her sides hurt by the time they rode into North Gate Camp.


Despite the fact that she was sharing a tent with Cassandra on this trip, somehow all four of them (Hawke had insisted on heading on on her own) ended up crammed into it by the time the skies unleashed their full fury upon them. She still wasn’t quite certain how they’d managed it, but they had.

Cassandra was settled on her side across her cot, a small smile on her face as she read whatever book was her current project. It certainly wasn’t one of the more racy ones that Meryell had caught her reading on one of their first occasions of sharing a tent. There wasn’t enough of a blush on her cheeks for that.

Varric had dragged a folding camp chair with him when he and Dorian had practically raided their tent. After settling it at the end of Meryell’s cot nearest the securely tied door, he’d sat there in near silence as he carefully balanced an ink pot in two fingers and wrote. It was impressive because the ink was in the same hand that was balancing the board he was using to write on with only his folded knee as minor aid.

Somehow Meryell had found herself in the floor – which was thankfully protected from the rain by two of the camp soldiers digging shallow trenches around every tent – and Dorian had planted himself behind her on her cot. She had an arm looped over each of his knees that he’d settled on either side of her and hummed randomly as he run his fingers through her hair in an attempt to tame it. Attempt was the word because he kept pausing to curse under his breath in a slew of Tevene that she only caught the occasional word that she knew of while his fingers nimbly banished a knot from her hair.

“Darling, this is a disaster ,” he muttered in the common tongue as he worked on another knot, buried deep in her hair towards the base of her skull. “How do you put up with this?”

“Basically go fuck it in the mornings,” she replied with a slight shrug. When he made an appalled noise, she tipped her head back to look up at him with an arched eyebrow. “I normally don’t let it get this long. Keep meaning to cut the shit.”

“Well,” he said strongly, “if you are determined to let it remain in this state and not care for it, I will cut it for you myself. This is an insult to such glorious locks.”

Meryell shrugged. “Long hair just gets in the way.” She then drew one of her legs up to her chest and dug a thin dagger out of a sheath on her boot, flipping it blindly in her hand before lifting it towards him hilt first. “If you would do the honors, good ser.”

He sighed theatrically, muttering about it being such a sin to waste such lovely hair, but took the dagger from her nonetheless. Shaking her head lightly at his antics, she instantly stopped as his hands caught her head and held her still while looking down at her with an arched eyebrow.

“No moving if I’m to be doing this. Cutting you is the last thing I want to do. Now…how short?”

Short ,” she replied as she lifted her head back upright. “Almost as short as yours.”

Dorian made another mournful sound that earned a glare from Cassandra and a low chuckle from Varric. Then he gave a low, “Very well, whatever pleases you, darling,” and grasped a long lock of brown hair in one hand. Meryell felt the blade of her dagger ghost along her neck for a brief instant before he found the spot he wanted and cut upwards with it.

It was a little strange to realize that it hadn’t been all that long since they’d met in Redcliffe but she trusted him utterly with a dagger at her throat. Or, given what they’d gone through together, maybe not so strange at all.

He was moving along just fine until he’d cleared away most of the longest bits of her hair and made an amused noise in his throat. Meryell frowned as his warm hand gently tipped her head forward, his thumb gliding down to brush the neck of her tunic away from the base of her throat.

Darling ,” he purred abruptly with abject glee in his voice, “have you and our dashing Commander finally decided to tangle beneath the sheets?”

Meryell instantly regretted the loss of the long hair as she felt heat sear across her cheeks. Looking up from her position, she caught Cassandra’s eyes and the woman merely arched an eyebrow at her in silent comment. It said I will stop them if you wish it and she smiled in thanks before shaking her head. In all actuality…she was a bit eager to spill the fact to her friends that their relationship had moved forward the little bit that it had.

“What’s that, Sparkler?” asked Varric and she heard him hurriedly settle his things somewhere else and rise. While Cassandra scoffed loudly, the dwarf laid a warm hand against her shoulder as he leaned forward to look at what Dorian had found. As he whistled impressively, she allowed herself a little smile.

Straightening up against the light press of Dorian’s hand, Meryell turned to look at her oldest friend in the Inquisition in the eye as she said, “It doesn’t fucking complete your bet.”

Varric just laughed at that and said, “As if you two would let us know if it did! I’m not certain anyone’s going to ever win that bet, sweetheart.”

“Ah-ah,” chided Dorian as he lifted a hand, “I want to hear the story of that mark. It’s practically still new, which means you and our Commander were together before we left Skyhold days ago.”

Meryell just smiled brightly and nodded before proudly declaring, “In his Tower. Fully clothed. Against the door.”

She wasn’t about to share anything else about those hours of that morning with them. They didn’t get to hear how she’d perched on his desk for a kiss and somehow ended up against the main door with his hand inside her trousers. Nor would they hear how they’d terrified at least one guard who’d attempted to open that door – Cullen had snarled at him and all they’d heard was a hitch of breath and running feet. Or how they’d no doubt embarrassed another when one had started to open the east door and she’d called out I wouldn’t before Cullen had torn his attention away from her neck long enough to growl an angry Out. No, the memory of her legs wrapped around him as he pressed her against the door, his teeth nipping at her jaw and throat as he brought her soaring to completion was all for her.

It was certainly going to do a lot to keep her bedroll warm on this trip.

As the mage made a disappointed clucking noise in his throat at the words fully clothed , she heard a choked little gasp from Cassandra. Turning to her friend, Meryell quirked her lips into a wicked smile. “To paraphrase him once: he’s no fucking saint.”

Now there was a blush in the warrior’s cheeks.

The words just made Varric laugh harder before he exclaimed, “I think I owe Curly a drink! Maybe more than one.” As Meryell started to lift a hand to point at him, he held up his own hands in a gesture of surrender. “Don’t you worry, Swears, I’ll be quiet about it. You know other than the bet I respect you and Curly’s right to privacy.”

“Thank you.” She then tilted her head back slightly and asked, “Dorian?”

Sighing theatrically, he replied, “Very well. May I at least use it in our chess games? It might actually make him distracted enough to miss my cheating enough for me to win.”

Frowning jokingly, Meryell lifted a hand to tap her fingers against her chin as she hummed as if in consideration and Dorian whined, “Oh, darling, please . I’ll promise only to do it when you’re nearby even. Honestly, the man is insufferable when he wins all of the time.”

Cassandra snorted at that as she turned her attention back to her book while asking, “Insufferable? Is that really how you would describe him?”

“Oh, yes. He’s quite proud of his chess skills.”

“Can’t have Curly getting too big of a head,” Varric muttered with a wink at Meryell, which she rolled her eyes at. She then clapped her hands on the outsides of Dorian’s shins and let out a huff of breath.

Fine ,” she said sharply. “But only in chess games, Dorian, and only if he’s really being insufferable.”

“Ha, yes! This is why I love you, darling,” cheered the mage. She then felt him bend forward before he pressed a light kiss to the top of her head. “You let me do the best things.”

“Like set fools on fire?” piped Meryell as Varric shook his head and returned to his writing since Cassandra was already embroiled in her book again.

Dorian just chuckled as he turned his attention back to her hair, gathering up more strands before he carefully pressed the blade of her dagger up against them. “For you, Meryell, I would set all the fools in Thedas alight.”

“Now let’s not be hasty,” piped Varric from his seat. “We’re trying to save the world, not burn it down.”

“Fine, fine ,” grumbled Dorian as Meryell laughed. “Only half the fools then. Is that more acceptable?”

“Hmmm, well, probably some of those could be still used by Ruffles and Nightingale to get the Inquisition what it needs.”

With another theatrical sigh, the mage growled, “Very well, I will only set the fools we run across on fire. That way our rather terrifying ladies will have no need to possibly be angry at me.”

Meryell just smiled and patted his leg before saying, “Probably the best course of action. Particularly for Leliana.”

Dorian scoffed at that. “A fact,” he began pointedly, “that you would know very well. I feel no need to irritate our lovely spymaster into such a similar feeling of rage around me.”

Rolling her eyes at his words, Meryell relaxed back against the cot and deigned not to respond to that comment. Instead she merely let herself fall into the sensation of Dorian’s quick fingers in her hair, in the steady breaths and whisper of turning pages of Cassandra, and the rasp of Varric’s quill across parchment. The rain pattering the outside of the tent and the ground outside was a calming backdrop to the sounds of part of her Inquisition family and she smiled to herself.

Finally – fucking finally – things felt right again after that shit with Camden.


Elven/Elvhen Translations:

tarlan > princess

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