The slew of horrified reviews on the previous chapter gave me so much life, folks. Just saying. ;)
Thank you all for the reviews and love on the last one, and apologies for the wait on this one; since my recent divorce I've had to return to university and it's cut significantly into my writing time.
To LostStranger - glad you found it again! Thank you for your sweet words! It makes me so giddy when people remember my characters. :) To Guest - I won't be leaving this unfinished, don't worry ;) Thank you so much!
Also, one last author's note: the lyrics used in the latter portion of the chapter are from a real song that I claim zero rights to. It's an Irish folk/sailing song called "Here's a Health to the Company." I thought the chorus embodied some of the feelings I had from writing this.
Here's to Us
Finn didn't want to think overmuch on how empty Skyhold looked and felt following their sudden arrival through Mythal's eluvian; the barrenness of it disconcerted him more than a fair bit.
He padded barefoot, as usual, past the dais where the Inquisitor's judgment chair sat, veering left and slipping through the doorway. Their party's jaunt through the Arbor Wilds, through the temple itself, lingered in his mind like the vestiges of a bad dream, soured his tongue like a taste of rotted fruit.
A fair few times he saw his last image of Warden Surana and Warden Tabris when he closed his eyes. He could see the little blonde mage stalwartly holding her barrier with every breathe in her body, see the haunted look in the warrior's pale greenish eyes before he turned away. In death, sacrifice...every Warden was taught the words, urged to feel the meaning in their bones. Finn couldn't help reverse the words as he took the first step up the stairs towards his sister's private quarters.
It had gone against every one of Finn's instincts to leave them there, and yet leave them he had, joining his sister and his lover and his mother and the others in safety instead. Perhaps guilt was what soured his tongue the most. And yet, his last glimpse of Radavin and Ellairia had seen them very much alive; he could only hope that remained the case, barring all odds.
But he wasn't visiting his sister to talk about the two lost Wardens.
He trotted near-silently up the remaining steps, heading up into his sister's chambers. There she sat, arse perched on the edge of her writing desk, a few letters arranged in her lap and a quill pen stuck sideways between her teeth. She was in the process of reading and pulling her long wine-red hair into a leather tie at the same time, but by the twitch of her long ear, she heard him; she glanced up, finishing the tie and pulling the quill from her teeth.
"Do you ever knock, Finn?" she asked, stacking the letters in her lap so the edges lined up.
He lifted his hand and rapped the wall nearest him with his knuckles.
"Cute," she said, with the ghost of an affectionate smile, one that didn't touch her eyes. Her thin shoulders were set stiffly; maybe she was stewing on things as much as him. "Is everything alright?"
"No," he said, shifting awkwardly on his feet.
She arched a brow.
Might as well get right to it. Finn had no talent for buildup or subtlety. "Nani...we had very little idea of what the Well of Sorrows would do to its drinker. Was there some purpose to forcing it down my mother's throat beyond punishing her for existing?"
His sister's body tensed, taut as a hide on a tanner's rack.
"I needed someone to drink it," she said, shuffling the letters in her lap and stacking them once again. "Someone who wasn't you. If you think for one second I was going to let you—"
She stubbornly lifted her chin. "Morrigan is my arcane advisor, as well as the temporary liaison between me and the Imperial Court of Orlais. Beyond that, she is a mother. Of a ten year old son. Who also happens to be the son of Warden-Commander Nalida. Who would probably incinerate me from the inside out if I let Morrigan drink from the Well and something happened. I am not needlessly angering one of our most powerful—and most unpredictable—allies. It's already bad enough that when he returns I have to inform him we've lost two of his Wardens."
Finn pressed his lips together. He hated getting into conflicts with those he cared about. But some things had to be said, uncomfortable or no. "So angering him wasn't an option, but hurting me was?"
Her expression crumpled briefly, like he'd struck a nerve.
"I wasn't trying to hurt you, Finn," she said, finally discarding the stack of letters on her desk surface. "I'd never try to hurt you. I just...needed an elven mage. And Solas refused, and it couldn't have been you, so…"
"You could have let Morrigan do it. She practically begged."
"I couldn't cause harm to a ten year old's mother," she said.
"And what about mine?" he shot back. She opened her mouth to speak, but he lifted a hand, silently asking her to let him finish. "We don't know what bound forever to the will of Mythal entails. Maybe it's nothing serious. Maybe it is. Mother didn't even offer. I'm sure she might've considered it, if you asked. But you gave her no choice."
"It's my job to make hard choices, Finn." She slipped off her desk, crossing her arms tight over her chest. "I had a matter of minutes, maximum,to decide who had to swallow the entirety of an elvish artifact before we ran for our lives from some immortal darkspawn god who wanted the thing for himself. I had no guarantee that Morrigan wouldn't drink the Well and bail two seconds later. She left us for the entire fight with Samson, didn't she? She couldn't have cared less about whether we lived or died."
He gritted his teeth together, shoulders slumping with an exhale.
"Our alliance with the Wardens?" she said. "Temporary. Tenuous. They aren't tied or obligated to the Inquisition. And now we've just lost two of their senior members. I'm already worried we're going to lose that alliance as-is."
"You looked her in the eye and told her you'd barely lose a thing if something happened from the Well," said Finn, a lump forming in his throat.
She exhaled through her nose. "I told her to do it. But I didn't hold a weapon to her throat. She could have turned into a damn bird and flitted off if she'd wanted to, and that would've been that. She could've done what Solas did and nigh on chewed me out for asking. But she didn't."
"She's a mother," he said. "Mothers make sacrifices."
His sister turned watery aquamarine eyes on him, fixed him with her gaze. "You mean like how she left you with Clan Lavellan for over two decades of your life? Left you to a Keeper who punished and berated you time and time again because you couldn't manage a healing spell? You mean like how she made you go to the Frostback Basin just to see her again and nearly got you killed by a fucking Avvar god and an entire tribe of lunatic zealots?"
"Say what you will, Finn. Drinking from that Well and proving her loyalty is a small price to pay for the torture you suffered under the hands of the Hakkonites."
"That's not what we do," he urged her, taking a step closer. "I get it, Nani. If anyone hurt you, caused you harm in any way, I'd want to rip their damn heads off. But we're better than this. We're better than punishing someone for well-intentioned mistakes, or unfortunate events. We're better than treating the people working for us like they're expendable."
She thinned her lips and looked away.
"I love you, lethallan," he said. Sister. He took her pale, fine-boned hands in his, squeezed them. "Always will. I know the fact that we suddenly have different mothers makes you feel like that's on shaky ground, but it isn't. I will always be right at your side, until the day something actually manages to kill me. We're in this together. But if something happens to my mother from the Well...it's on your shoulders. Don't forget that."
"Wine?" Cullen asked, going about the seemingly tedious process of sliding a corkscrew into the tightly-fitted cork of a dark glass bottle of cabernet sauvignon. "Normally I don't drink things quite so…Orlesian…but I thought it might relax you, Nanyehi."
"It's the thought that counts, Cullen," she said, offering him as much of a smile as she could muster. "Where'd you even get that bottle from?"
"This I was actually gifted by Dorian, believe it or not," said Cullen, fetching some goblets from a cabinet. "He says he found it in Finn's room, was righteously offended that Finn dared drink something Orlesian, and gave it to me."
That sounded like Dorian. "I'm surprised Finn's drinking Orlesian things now. He used to hate everything Orlesian."
He made a contemplative noise. "I have no explanation for you, unfortunately."
Shame. She slipped back into thought.
A fair few of her Inquisition had arrived back from the Arbor Wilds only this morning, Cullen being one of them—with Samson in tow. The latter she'd had tossed in a jail cell, to be judged once her mind was capable of steadier thought.
She'd hated herself for lots of things, before. Different things, varied things, stuff she'd taken too much responsibility for over the years. But the loss and very likely death of two senior Wardens, two of the Hero of Ferelden's close companions and friends, two people who'd willingly given their lives to the Inquisition…she felt like invisible barbs were sinking into the flesh of her heart, twisting painfully in her chest.
Her talk with Finn not long ago had only solidified the notion in her head that she'd become some sort of heartless tyrant over the course of the months she'd been leading the Inquisition. Perhaps those gossip tabloids circulating around Val Royeaux spoke true. She'd cried for a while in the bath by herself, when the weight of so many lives on her shoulders became too much to bear for a moment.
She crossed one leg over the other, trying to sit less rigidly on the sofa in Cullen's office. An orange fire crackled invitingly in the hearth, drawing her gaze with its steady and predictable flickering, and she barely noticed Cullen handing her the filled goblet.
Absentmindedly, she took the goblet in two pale, slightly shaking hands, and brought it to her lips, swallowing a swig of it. The fermented grapes and berries stung her throat, and she winced, but took another pull of it all the same.
"You can't blame yourself, Nani." Cullen sat slowly next to her, as if trying not to startle her, and rested a warm hand on her shoulder. "Warden Surana and Warden Tabris were not unaware of the risks. They were very brave."
"I just…" she swallowed, trying to ease the tightness of her throat. "I can't stop imagining Corypheus apprehending them, or torturing them, or murdering them and jumping his soul into one of their bodies, or—"
"Hey." He gently plucked the goblet from her hands—she hadn't realized they were shaking so much to nearly spill the deep red liquid inside—and set it on the table, reaching to cup her cheek with the other. His thumb stroked softly over her cheekbone, ever so gentle like he handled glass instead of an elf, and she fluttered her eyes shut, leaning into his touch. "Thinking about it will only eat you up inside. Stop. Trust me."
"I can't stop," she said, her voice sounding wavery and pathetic to her own ears and likely worse to his. "My Inquisition sent them to their deaths, and I'm not just…brushing that away. No matter how much it hurts to think about…they're going through worse. If…if they're still going through it at all. So I'll keep them in my thoughts. Send as much good will as I can. And once we have another idea of where Corypheus is…I'm going to get them back."
Aiyana, at least, seemed to have suffered few ill effects from swallowing the Well, beyond a few moments of her eyes glazing over and scattered elvish mumblings falling from her lips. Nani had her on a near-constant watch, all the same. If anything remotely concerning happened, a healer was on standby.
Cullen kept stroking her cheek, tucking a strand of hair the same color as the cabernet behind her long ear.
"Then let me share the burden with you," he said softly, watching her face.
She nodded once, swallowing thickly, and shifted closer to him. She wasn't used to cuddling, let alone much else, but she crawled unsteadily into his lap this time, settling as comfortably as she could with her legs stretched out longways across the sofa.
"That's it," he murmured, petting her long silky hair, smoothing it down. Sometimes too much touch frightened her, but this didn't.
"I didn't…see them die," she said, trying to reassure herself. "They were alive and fighting when the eluvian closed."
"Warden Surana is a phenomenal healer, Nani," he said. "She has one of the strongest barriers I've ever seen. I've not interacted with Warden Tabris much beyond a greeting here and there, but he would not be among the Wardens if he didn't possess the same skill and bravery. You've always pressed me to be optimistic. You must do the same."
She took a long, deep breath, expelling it slowly through her nose. "I know."
"We will keep fighting," he said firmly. "But in the meantime, I'm here. Right by your side. Or, as the case may be…right between you and the sofa."
"No need to be so literal," she told him, a smile creeping onto her face despite herself.
"Aren't I always?" he said, chuckling softly. "Would you rather remain up here for a while? I think Varric has some sort of game going soon, but I will remain with you, if you'd prefer."
"Wicked Grace," she reminded him. "I'll go in a minute. You'll come, too?"
"Of course. I don't see the harm in a few minutes of relaxation."
"Things I never thought I'd hear come out of Cullen Rutherford's mouth," she said, sweeping her hand in front of her like she was writing a headline.
"Oh, come off it," he said, laughing softly. "It's been pointed out to me before that being a workaholic isn't always…healthy."
"Nor is being a worrywart." She pointed matter-of-factly at herself. "We can start being sane, healthy people once this Inquisition mess is over with."
"True enough," he said, combing slow fingers through her hair, playing reverently with the strands.
Only the crackling of logs in the hearth stirred the silence for a moment.
"Do you think I could still be a sane person, after all this?" she suddenly asked. "Go back and live some sort of normal life? Or am I...too far gone?"
"Too far gone?" he repeated, frowning, an arm tightening around her. "Whatever do you mean?"
"What I mean is…" She paused a moment, organizing her thoughts. "How many lives have I been given power over, now? All these judgments I do. All the soldiers you and I command. They always say a leader has to act for the greater good, no matter what sacrifice that takes. But isn't that exactly what Corypheus does?" She exhaled slowly. "But at the temple...I ordered Finn's mother to drink from the Well without regard to her safety. I left two Wardens behind. That isn't what a good leader does. They don't throw around people who've been nothing but loyal."
"I don't think there's any particular formula for being in command, Nanyehi," he said after a pause. "I think you do what you must, and you do it to the best of your ability. We cannot afford to lose. I loath to remind you of the burden on your shoulders, but Orlais and Ferelden depend on you, as well as potentially the rest of Thedas...we must do what it takes."
"Be that as it may..." she said, "...I won't be the kind of leader who takes for granted the people that have given her their lives." She shook her head. "Not anymore. We're better than Corypheus. We have to fight for good as well as victory."
Cullen gave a firm nod, lifting her chin with his fingers so he could look her in the eye. "Then that's what we will do, Nanyehi."
She searched his face. "I'm still a leader worth following?"
"Hey." He frowned. "What you've done, how you've uttered perhaps a callous order or two...pales in comparison to the atrocities I allowed myself to commit while among the Templars. I have committed some evils of my own, Nani. Evils I don't know if I will ever fully repent for. I may spend the rest of my life trying." His callous fingers cupped her chin, gentle as ever. "But even when I was struggling with myself, and with the lyrium...you were at my side. Now let me do the same for you."
Tension still constricting her throat, she nodded once, fixing her eyes on him. "Let's win this. The right way."
He smiled warmly, brown eyes softening, and leaned to press a soft kiss to her mouth. "As you say, Inquisitor."
Corvis stared numbly at the wall, idly stroking Kieran's dark hair where his son rested his head in his lap.
He'd gone up to his Skyhold quarters, intent on attempting an afternoon nap of sorts—but decidedly unable to. Losing a Warden had been one of those worst case scenario things that passed his mind on the odd and unfortunate occasion, haunted his thoughts until he could convince himself his Wardens were better than that, too skilled to ever be lost for good. Certainly he wouldn't have lost two at the same time.
He didn't even believe in any deity, but he'd been blaspheming religiously all the same.
He leaned back against the headboard with a sharp sigh, continuing to thread his fingers through Kieran's silky near-black hair; slowly, rhythmically, like it would calm him some. The young boy had jumped on him mere moments after he'd sat down on the bed, as young children often did, and Corvis couldn't say he wasn't thankful for it.
Morrigan stepped quietly out from the bath, a thin towel wrapped around her body, wringing stray drops of water from her long black hair. She regarded him with her sharp yellow eyes for a long moment, then sat on the edge of the bed and twisted to face him.
"This melancholy is not like you," said she, studying his face.
"I don't generally receive news that Radavin and Ellairia are gone," he replied, stilling his hand and resting it lightly on Kieran's head.
How quickly the years could pass. Corvis couldn't help but remember watching Ellairia find her way in the Circle Tower under Wynne's tutelage, couldn't help but remember finding Radavin bloody and broken and dying after he'd tried to defend Denerim's elven alienage from the onslaught of darkspawn during the Fifth Blight. They'd been at his side for every step, helped him establish the Wardens at Vigil's Keep after the Blight ended, offered an unwavering stream of support and friendship that he was suddenly and starkly without.
"Tis not the first trying situation they have encountered, yes?" she said. "Surely they can manage the survival you assume them incapable of."
"Less of an assumption and more of a worry, cara mia." He sighed heavily, trying to fight the slump of his shoulders. "You recall the ability to influence Warden minds I told you of?"
"The one you say Corypheus retains? I have not forgotten."
"Then you know how possible it is that they've been forced under his influence," he said. "Even if they've survived, despite not returning with the rest of the Inquisitor's inner circle, I dread to think of them as two of his thralls."
She considered that, turning it around in her mind, a little furrow forming between her brows.
"We must not dismiss the possibility, my love," she said slowly, resting a thin-boned hand on his arm and squeezing. Her skin tingled with a soft thrum of magic. "We must instead assume that two tasks now lie ahead, yes? Not only must we meet Corypheus in battle, and win, but also break his hold on their minds."
He rested his hand on top of her hand, studying briefly how dark his copper skin looked against the pale porcelain of hers. Their invisible mana pools brushed against one another, fire and lightning. "We have quite a fight on our hands, it seems."
She lifted his hand, brushing a kiss or two against his knuckles. "And I will be at your side, my Warden. Come what may."
Then be here now, he thought, almost a plea, one he could not force himself to voice. The thought of stepping out of his quarters and resuming command of his Wardens while two places in his ranks were so starkly empty was, for the moment, and for probably many more moments to come, too much to bear. His chest tightened. I can't…
As if reading his mind—not too off-the-wall, knowing her—she scooched closer on the bed and pulled his head to her sternum in a hug. He closed his eyes and rested his head against her chest, breathing in the soft, dark scent of berries and bramble and blackcurrant that always seemed to cling to her skin.
"I am here," she murmured, soothing her hands through his hair. "I know I have not always been. But we are in this together, you and I. This I promise."
He took a softer breath, and nodded once, just barely.
"Maker's ass, Curly," said Varric, tipping back the remainder of what must've easily been his third pint of ale by now. He didn't look affected. "If I'd known you were this awful at card games, I'd have made you play with us sooner."
Finn regarded the Commander of the Inquisition's Armed Forces, barely holding back the burst of laughter than threatened to bubble in his throat.
The only thing sparing Cullen now from complete nudity was a wooden soup bowl, situated precariously over his privates and held there by a death grip. Cullen had by now flushed a rosy shade of humiliated all the way to the tops of his ears and had his lips pursed tightly together, staunchly resisting the urge to bark back at the other folks around the table.
Dorian composed himself a little more fluidly than Finn, but likely with just as much effort. "Let the record show, my dear Commander," he said, his chair creaking a bit as he leaned back with a smug twist of his lips and rested a warm hand on Finn's slim shoulder, "that I did warn you not to bet against one Antivan, let alone three. They cheat."
"I do not, Lord Pavus!" squeaked Josephine from her seat, feigning innocence. "I am merely good at these games."
"I cheated," said Zevran, with the most casual of smiles. "And I would do it again."
Corvis nodded his similar confession. Nani let out a loud, dramatic groan and buried her face in her hands.
"Right, right," Krem said, pushing walnut-brown hair back away from his face; Finn might not've been the most observant person to ever grace Thedas, but he couldn't miss the way Josephine's hand lingered on his shoulder as she brushed off an invisible piece of lint. "Think the better question is, who didn't cheat?"
Finn lifted his hand high, then realized he'd been the only one to. Everyone looked at him.
"Don't think he was actually asking for an enthusiastic show of hands, Frosty," Varric said, shaking his head in amusement.
"I'm a giver," Finn said.
Dorian exhaled a small breath of a laugh through his nose. "More accurately, amatus, if you'd even attempted to cheat, the resulting laughter would have sent the lot of us into painful convulsions."
Finn screwed up his nose. "Or I just like being honest."
"Why not both?" Shesi said.
Cullen cleared his throat, nice and loud. "I think this marks the end of my participation in Wicked Grace. Indefinitely." He began the arduous process of trying to extract himself from the long table without dropping the wooden bowl jammed over his unmentionables. The table rattled as his bare knee jammed into it. "Maker. Whoever suggested this...everyone avert your eyes."
"Whyever would I do such a thing?" Dorian teased; Finn whapped him on the arm. River dropped her gaze to Cullen's arse as he attempted to free himself from the table's clutches, until Fenris grunted at her.
"Sorry, Cullen," said Nani, the only one to offer him a sympathetic look.
"I'm not sorry." Varric smirked, resting his elbows on the table. "Go on, Curly. Give us a nice walk of shame. Sway your hips a little. Don't be shy."
"Why do you want to see this?" Cullen squawked.
"I don't particularly. But this shit makes for instant scene material." The dwarf made a shooing motion with his hand. "Give me something to work with."
"Since when did you work with things that actually occurred?" asked Fenris, crossing his toned arms over his chest. River looked over and ogled her lover instead.
"Bite me, Broody."
"To the Void with you all." Apparently having decided to just make the proverbial run for it, Cullen cupped the imprisoned soup bowl more snugly against his privates and ran—shuffled was perhaps a better word—out of the tavern. Judging by a simultaneous "nice" from Iron Bull, an utterly shameless wolf-whistle from Zevran, a disgusted "euck" from Sera, a rather defeated-sounding "ugh" from Cassandra, and a couple other various noises, his rear was on full display as he did so. Finn hadn't felt the urge to watch, particularly.
He laughed lightly to himself, taking a pull of ale from his flagon.
This had been a much needed distraction from the current doom and gloom, he had to admit. They must've all been in here for a couple hours at least, playing Wicked Grace and chatting the night away. A rare warm breeze wafted through the tavern every time the door swung open, and Finn could smell beer and wood when he inhaled. Maryden cycled through her repertoire of ditties, her sweet voice ringing through the tavern, but Finn hadn't been listening to the words much.
"Well," River said, sweeping her inky black hair behind her shoulders, "I think that's a lovely enough note to end the last game on."
"But not the evening entirely, I would hope," Dorian said. "I'm rather enjoying this fleeting burst of camaraderie."
"Hey, look at us agreeing on something, twinkle-toes." Iron Bull leaned back contentedly in his chair, the wood creaking pitifully under his weight. "Let's sit around some more. Tell some stories."
"I must admit I am...tempted not to return to my work a little while longer," Josephine said, fussing with her up-do as she glanced at Krem, a rosy blush creeping up her cheeks. He smiled warmly, resting a well-muscled arm across the back of her chair.
"Alright, I need to hear about what's going on here." Varric whipped a quill pen out of a pocket in his coat. "Start talking."
She blushed even further, looking as though she wanted to recede into the grains of her wooden chair.
"Oh, leave her be," Nani said, shaking her head. "It's clearly a private matter." She folded her hands together on top of the table, fingers softly tapping a random staccato pattern. "Who else has got a story to tell?"
"I have hundreds," offered Zevran.
"Ninety-nine percent of which would be considered inappropriate," Shesi said, leaning her head on his shoulder.
He wrapped an arm tight around her, squeezing her, offering a bit of comfort Finn knew she silently needed. "You offend me, gattina. All of them are inappropriate."
"Oh, naturally. My mistake."
"I caught a nobleman flirting heavily with a garden statue in Halamshiral," Corvis said, inspecting the map of old burn scarring on his hands. "He complimented her on her posture at least twice. Pretended he was about to fall and 'braced himself' on her breast. Giggled. He was about to kiss la jolie dame when I informed him she clearly had her eyes on something else. I'm fairly certain that sent him into some sort of weepy rage."
Dorian arched a brow. "My friend, I believe we encountered the same gentleman. I was merely standing about with a glass of sauvignon blanc when a rather ruffled fellow marched up to me and demanded to know why I dared to divert his lady's attentions." He idly toyed with the back of Finn's hair as he spoke. "Granted, I am much too handsome for this to not occur on a regular basis, but I'm starting to wonder if this one might have been your doing."
Corvis chuckled. "Gold-rimmed monocle?"
"He dropped it in my wine."
"The wine there was nothing to marvel about," Fenris said. "Although it was probably preferable to the company."
"I wasn't that bad!" River protested.
He offered her a crooked smile and pressed a kiss to her temple. "I was not speaking of you, amata. I was actually referring to the dwarf."
"Losing points left and right, Broody," Varric grumbled, scrawling something down in his notebook.
"I confess I actually enjoyed the Ball," said Josephine. "The end of it, at least." She looked across the table at Finn, a touch of quiet fondness glinting in her amber eyes, a lingering glimmer of a what once was, before she closed them, and rested her head on Krem's broad shoulder.
He smiled softly to himself, looking down at his hands in his own lap, tracing the pattern of sea-blue tattoos on his tanned skin.
Offering Josephine a dance at the end of their time in Halamshiral so she could for once have the Ball she'd always dreamed of as a little girl...it felt like a distant memory of something he'd once read about in a book before he'd pushed it back into a spot on a dusty old shelf. He was suddenly, starkly, aware of the months he'd spent with the people around this table, of the battles they'd fought and the times they'd shared, and his throat tightened with a pulse of nostalgia.
"You remember when we all met?" he said, looking up, studying the faces of his companions, his allies, his family. "How long ago it was?"
A tiny, soft smile twitched at the corner of Cassandra's mouth. "I look back on the day with a vivid sense of shame for the way I treated you both."
"But I think I know what he's getting at," Nani said. She always knew. Differences though they had, she had always known him best. "Look at us now. Nearly a year ago I woke up in metal cuffs in your interrogation chamber, and now I...consider you my closest friend." She reached across the table to squeeze Cassandra's hand, a gesture the Seeker warmly reciprocated. "We've all come from...so many places. Dalish clans. The Chantry. Tevinter. Seheron. Kirkwall. Mercenaries, street vigilantes, local heroes, Grey Wardens…"
"I'm sure I can speak for both of us when I say that in all our years with Clan Lavellan...we never would have dreamed about meeting all of you," Finn said, his throat tight. He felt Dorian's warm arm tighten around him. "I'm glad I've...we've...gotten to know every single one of you. From the bottom of my heart."
His sister pressed her lips together, aquamarine eyes watering.
"And no matter what happens…" she said, glancing in turn at everyone around the table, "no matter what happens...we see this through to the other side. All of us."
River leaned forward in her seat. "We can do this," she said, stretching out her hands and thumping them down flat on the worn wooden surface between them all, bringing her Hawke enthusiasm quite literally to the table. "We've sent that bastard crawling away with his tail between his legs time and time before. And we will do it again."
"And we'll bring back Warden Tabris and Warden Surana while we're at it," Finn said, firming his voice.
"And we'll give him an ass-kicking so hard he won't be able to come back around for another one," said Varric, lifting his flagon.
"I like the sound of that!" Iron Bull said, slamming his own flagon against the table.
Nani lifted her flagon up in the air, a tad higher than Varric's.
"For the Wardens," she said, her eyes shimmering. "For the Chargers. For the mages and the warriors and the rogues. For the humans and elves and dwarves and Qunari and spirits and everyone else who's fought with us along the way." The bright green anchor pulsed on her left hand. "For all of us."
"For the Inquisition!" Finn said along with nearly everyone else in the tavern, as he and she slammed their flagons together.
It was only as Finn started to drift off to sleep that he really listened to Maryden's singing.
He'd not been paying much attention to the music while downstairs in the tavern; too caught up in chatting and enjoying the company he'd grown so close to over the months. But it was impossible not to hear now as the minstrel finished the strains of her final song.
"If ever we should meet again, by land or by sea," she sang, her pretty tones muffled through the floors, "I will always remember your kindness to me…"
Dorian stirred in his sleep; Finn settled more snugly against his chest, tugging the covers more closely around them both. He rested his head down, but kept an ear tuned towards the singing.
"So here's a health to the company and one to my lass...let us drink and be merry all out of one glass."
He always did love falling asleep to traditional tavern songs and sailing shanties. Finn let his eyes drift shut, nearly missing a piece of the chorus. But he heard the last of it as she finished, and it made him open his eyes and stare at the dark bedroom walls for a moment.
"Let us drink and be merry, all grief to refrain...for we may and might never all meet here again."