Prologue

"Auurgh! Maker's bloody balls!"

The branch he'd used to steady himself after the jump snapped as he tried to regain his footing. That was much too close.

This girl was insane. Not one hour ago they were preoccupying themselves with safe and harmless activities like watching birds and tracking small woodland creatures. But of course Elissa had to suggest they do something she thought would be more fun; such as climbing bloody twenty-foot-tall trees.

"Heh…" the young girl smirked as she successfully landed on the nearest branch. "What, you surprised you made it to the first branch there, kiddy?"

"Hnf… no," he huffed, "I'm just surprised that I was talked into this at all," because of course she also had to suggest jumping through the trees as well. Hopping around like blasted squirrels. "So what does that make me? A fool, right?"

"Maybe… but you haven't fallen to your death yet. You could still redeem your honor and prove yourself wrong." She jumped to the next branch.

He took a deep breath before jumping after her. "Well you could at least not act as if you do this type of thing all the t-time-!"

"Gotcha!" She'd thankfully caught the boy before he could fall and die and get them both into trouble. "Geeze, Cyrus I know you're clumsy but could you at least pretend to have both a left and a right foot when you're jumping so high up through the air?"

"Shuttup! I didn't want to do this in the first place, dammit!" She had the nerve to mock him for going through with her idea? What did he follow her around for, anyways?

"Oh-ho, look at you using all that grown-up language." she couldn't help but smirk at his flushed face, the idiot was truly panicking. It was amusing to see this usually laid-back kid shaking in his little leather boots. "I should tell your parents so they can see what a delinquent their little big-eared boy is turning into."

"Like I care right now," he countered. "It's your fault anyways. You're a bad influence, and if you don't help me down now, I'm gonna to kick you off," Cyrus threatened. Heights were seriously his only major fear besides maybe dying; which would definitely happen if his feet weren't on the grown soon.

"And how would you do that if you can't even lift your foot off the branch now, sonny?" Elissa enjoyed taunting him. With her being two years older, it was like she had a younger sibling to torture whenever she wanted.

"Oh I'll show you how! Just you watch when my foot goes up your—BAHHH!" It seemed Cyrus was able to lift his foot a full four inches off the branch before he'd slipped and was now hugging it with his arms, holding on for dear life. He really shouldn't have listened to his crazy friend. He'd make sure to remember that for next time if the Maker could just grant him a safe return home for today.

"Hmmm, your foot was to go where now? I only see them thrashing in the air with your legs down there. You want me to hang from the branch like that too so your foot can hit its target? Any way I can help. Just let me know." Elissa grinned.

"Ohhhhhh no. No no no, Blessed Andraste please no. Just, please Maker let me live! I promise, I'll become a layman or a monk – a Templar, anything! I won't do anything else like this ever again, I promise!"

"Oh so now you believe in the Maker, eh? If this is what it took to convert you, I'd have done this with you much sooner. Okay Brother Amell, let us pray now, and preserve your soul before you fall to your death so that you may be saved." She made a crossing motion over her chest and bowed her head slightly. "If you please, repeat after me: 'Blessed Andraste, Holy Bride of our Maker-'"

"ELISSA!" he sharply interrupted, "If you want to save me so bad, then please get me out of this blighted tree! I swear I'll haunt you for the rest of your life if you don't get me off this damned branch!" Maker, he hated her so much right now.

"Oh, very well. But only since you asked so eloquently. But seriously, I think your parents have a right to know that their little boy genius uses such nasty language. You're too smart for your own good." She frowned and waged her finger at him in a mock-disapproving manner.

"Well that wouldn't matter, IF I DIED BEFORE I COULD EVER SPEAK TO THEM AGAIN!"

"Oh come off it. You should know by now that as long as you've got me with you, you'll be fine." She began to lower herself to the branch below. "Without me, I doubt you'd have been able to climb the tree in the first place…"

"Which means I wouldn't be stuck up here in the first place, either!" He craned his neck to try and look below himself. "What're you even doing?"

"Saving your arse, what's it look like?" She hugged the tree with one arm as she got her footing on the branch beneath her. "Now let go so I can catch you." She held her other arm out.

"Are you crazy?" Then he thought for a second. Well of course she was crazy; completely mad… ok he really shouldn't have asked that, but still. "I'm not gonna just let go of the branch. Do you think I'm stupid?"

Elissa rolled her eyes at that. "If you're not letting go of the tree, then how do you expect to get down from it at all? Now come on Cyrus, don't you trust me? I'm like, almost your big sister." She reached up for him.

"Uh-huh. More like an evil step-sister who secretly wants to kill me. There's no way I'm completely letting go – just help me climb down or something."

She shook her head in amusement and looked back up to him. "Isn't that what I'm already doing? Alright then. If you won't come down on your own, I guess I need to go find someone that'll help me drag you home. Or maybe I could just do that myself…" she frowned. "You know what? Not taking any chances. I'll be right back then - with some servants or something." She grinned cheerily over her shoulder at him and began making her way down.

Cyrus' eyes billowed out of their sockets. "E-Eliss- hey! I can't wait up here that long! My arms are already getting tire- HEY! Come on!" He was seriously about to be left up here? He reviewed his options: either wait for her to bring some guards back, which would be a long time for him to hang onto this branch – or trust her to get him down safely. He was an extremely impatient person to begin with, and on top of that he really didn't think his arms could hold his weight long enough for Elissa to make it back to him. He most likely would have already fallen by then. Seems he had to trust her on this. He really didn't want his parents to find out that he'd been out here in the first place, especially since both their parents had forbidden them from wandering so far without an escort.

"Wait," he called after her, "I just wanna get off this branch without getting into trouble or… or dying." He sighed, "What do you want me to do?"

"Awwwww," Elissa turned and cooed, "you twust me then, widdle cub?"

"Yes! I do, now stop making fun of me and get me down!" This was seriously getting annoying.

"Oh alright, but only since you asked and you trust me so much." She enjoyed taunting the kid, but she really didn't want to see him hurt. They were best friends after all. "Alright then," she instructed, "I'm on a branch directly below the one you're clinging to. Try to let go a bit until you're mostly hanging with your hands. I'll grab and hold on to your legs."

"Fine," Cyrus sighed. "But I'd better live through this to see my 11th birthday."

"You will," Elissa assured him, "and I'll be there for the party next month, too." She positioned herself so that she was secure in her footing. "Now," she coached, "let go."

Cyrus took a deep breath and began lowering himself from the branch. He could trust her in this. It's not like she'd ever let him down before.