Thanks for getting this far guys, I really mean it. You've put up with my fantasy fulfillment and all my other nonsense, seriously, thank you.
And enc0432, you're my best friend; you put up with me when I babble on about criminology and neurobiology and theory and you read through this entire thing without batting an eye. You listened when I wasn't sure about something and you nod your head in an agreeing manner when I complain about people. You're amazing, I love you pal. Not all who wander are lost.
All good things must come to an end.
Chapter XX – Epilogue
The Fade had not so easily left him. Blackwall spent three days wrapped in her arms, needing nothing but her gentle touch and sweet words whispered in his ear. It was all he needed, to know that she was there, demon free, almost free of her sickness, and that she loved him. By the end of the week it was simply understood that it was their room now. With the demon culled and the traitors caught the guests were allowed to take their leave. Josephine saw them all off, claiming that the Inquisitor was too ill to see them. It was actually her temper that was flaring up; she wasn't happy about being cooped up for so long.
Robert de Blanc left some of his best Chevaliers as he had promised and the Trevelyan's said their goodbyes. Genevieve's older sister Lucille lived in Orlais with her husband and they wanted to see her before Bann Trevelyan passed. They left on better terms though, and Blackwall was glad to see a bridge slowly reforming in the family.
Blackwall left her in the morning to complete a few chores Josephine had asked of him, but now he returned with breakfast. Lemon poppy seed sticky buns slathered in frosting, a plate of bacon, four perfect hard-boiled eggs, and of course a pot of mint tea for her and watered ale for him.
She was in bed hunched over the little desk he had made her, hands stained in ink. She smiled when she saw him and then lit up at the sight of sticky buns. Quickly, she gathered up the papers and placed them on the nightstand, closed her bottle of ink, and wiped her hands on an old rag.
Blackwall set the tray down, kicked his boots off, and climbed into bed next to her. She reached over and kissed him. "This looks wonderful," she murmured against him.
"Good," he smiled as she helped herself to a sticky bun. "How are you feeling today?"
"Bored." Genevieve sighed. "My Esteemed Advisors must think I'm still sick, they've given me busy work." she reached over and picked up a piece of paper. "The refugees asked permission to begin building a village in the valley,"
"That seems worthy of the Inquisitor's attention," he peeled an egg and ate it in a few quick bites.
"Yes but, Josephine and I have a system. If she's positive in my answer she answers for me, I'm not going to tell the refugees they can't build a village." She licked frosting from her fingers. "What's worse, they want to name it the Village of Genevieve,"
Blackwall laughed. "I think it's a pretty name,"
"They seem very adamant about it," she grumbled. "I've been trying to think of alternatives. New Haven, Justinia, the Village of Skyhold. I dread the very idea of looking at a map and seeing my name,"
Blackwall sighed. "I think you're suggestions are fine,"
"Like I said, busy work." she put the paper back and focused on breakfast for a few moments. "Do you think you could help me go down to the garden?"
"That depends, little bird, have you been given the okay?"
"Contrary to popular belief I am not made of glass," she fell back against the pillows in a huff. "I spent most of my life locked up in the circle; I got to spend two hours every three days in the garden. You can't give me all this freedom and then take it all away like this,"
Blackwall peeled another eggs and handed it to her. "Well, fresh air might do you a bit of good. And it's just gardening."
"Exactly," she finished her egg and a few slices of bacon. He was glad to see that she had regained her appetite.
Blackwall cleared away breakfast and she threw the blankets off. She was still wearing her nightclothes. Slowly she got up and stretched. Blackwall got a chance to appreciate her lithe form, the slope of her shoulders, her shapely curves—a reminder that even though she was younger, she was still a woman.
"Oh Maker, just getting up feels good," she groaned stretching her arms up.
Blackwall smiled and could not help himself. He came up behind her, wrapped his arms around her waist, and kissed her neck. She giggled light as a bell and turned in his arms to stand on tiptoes and kiss him. He tried to pull away, but she threw her arms around his neck to stop him, she deepened the kiss.
"I thought we were going to the garden?" Blackwall asked as he pressed his lips to her temple.
She threaded her fingers through his beard. "I have another idea,"
"Me too," he picked her up and dropped her onto the bed. He sat down beside her, his fingers finding their way under her tunic. Just as her fingers found the buttons of his shirt someone stomped up the stairs, opened the door, and came up into the room.
"Inquisitor, we need—" Cullen stopped and coughed nervously. "I am…it's…"
Genevieve sighed and sat up. "Cullen. Stanton. Rutherford." The Commander visibly recoiled as she pronounced his name. "You're already here, I hope it's important."
Cullen cleared his throat apprehensively, "Um, its—Leliana has finished interrogating the…we thought it you were feeling up to—they need to be dealt with, Inquisitor. We will need an official order." The prisoners; it was time for judgment.
Genevieve nodded, suddenly all serious. "Let me bathe and dress," she feathered a kiss across Blackwall's lips. "I'm sorry," She stood up, grabbed a piece of parchment and went to her desk. She dipped fine owl feather quill into a well of black ink and began scratching away at the paper.
"How's this sound?" She held up he page and read aloud; "I, Inquisitor Genevieve Trevelyan—you know the title—do hereby call under judgment—I left the next bit blank, Josephine can fill in their names—on this day the Twenty-Seventh day of Cassus, Dragon Nine: Forty-Three, for the crimes of undermining Inquisitorial Authority, attempting to assassinate the Inquisitor, for violating the expectations of their positions within the Inquisition, for traitorous acts including but not limited to willfully and viciously poisoning their compatriots in a sacred desecration of trust. May they find mercy in Maker's grace."
Cullen nodded. "Seems about right, Josephine may add to it." Genevieve quickly signed the document, melted a little green wax at the bottom and pressed her signet ring to it.
"I'll be down within the hour,"
"Inquisitor, if you would prefer to wait," Cullen stammered out; Genevieve shook her head.
"Best to get nasty business over with,"
Cullen nodded, took the document, and left with a slight bow. Genevieve sighed, Inquisitor no longer. "Well, I said I didn't want busy work."
Blackwall got up from the bed and messaged her shoulders. "You don't have to do it now, if you'd rather wait."
"No, it want finish this. Our people deserve justice."
Blackwall nodded; "I'll go and see about having water brought up," she smiled sadly and closed the distance between them before placing a sweet kiss on his cheek.
"Thank you," she whispered and turned back to her desk.
Blackwall had never seen the main hall so packed with people. Ambassadors, agents, dignitaries, soldiers, and servants milled around waiting for the Inquisitor to take her throne. Cullen, Leliana, and Josephine stood by the undercroft door, speaking quietly to one another. Josephine caught sight of Blackwall and beckoned him over.
"My lady," he nodded politely.
"Stay close Serah Blackwall, we will show solidarity if we all stand together."
"Of course," Blackwall went to stand with the inner circle. Varric greeted him with a silent nod.
It didn't take long for the Inquisitor to finally emerge. Ser Marbrand escorted her to the dais and took his place by her side. Genevieve sat down and the hall fell into silence. She motioned to a guard at the end of the hall; he saluted and opened the doors.
The first of six prisoners was marched in. It was the attempted assassin. He looked better from the last time Blackwall had seen him. His arm had been bandaged where Genevieve had gotten him with her ice spell, the bruises on his face had started to fade, but his nose was broken. In the light and without bitter rage and fear fueling him, Blackwall finally got a good look at him. He was an older man; there were crow's feet under his eyes and worry lines across his forehead. Blackwall saw nothing but a desperate old man.
Josephine stepped forward. "For judgment, Arlo Mathias," she didn't bother to hide the disdain in her voice. "The man who poisoned the Inquisitor with a crossbow bolt. Without intervention, it would have taken your life, Inquisitor," Some Orlesian lady gasped as if she were unaware of this information. "The Inquisitor should know that through his cooperation we were able to capture the other traitors."
Genevieve sighed and crossed her legs. Her voice always dipped lower when she was the Inquisitor. "Arlo Mathias, I must admit I don't recognize you."
"I am a lowly soldier, your Worship."
"Was!" Someone shouted angrily from the back off the hall, there was a flurry of agreeable shouts.
Genevieve raised her hand for silence. "Do you have anything to say in your defense?"
Mathias shrugged. "What can I tell you? That I believe you some heretic? That the Inquisition is the only thing standing between the true god and his destiny? Is that what you want to hear?"
"I want to understand why," Genevieve frowned and tented her fingers.
The man nodded. "Your life would have bought safety for my family," he spoke in a reasoned tone. "It would have put them in comfort for the rest of their lives. I knew your men would find me, I knew they would execute me for my crimes, but it didn't matter, the Venatori would pay my wife and children for my sacrifice." It was as reasonable as it was wrong. "I accept whatever punishment you set down. I joined the Inquisition in good faith, your Worship—I swear on the Maker I did—but I got mouths to feed and a farm that's dying. Inquisition gold, Tevinter gold, makes no difference to me."
The Inquisitor nodded slowly and sadly. "Take Arlo Mathias back to his cell and bring in the next one, I will judge them at the end of the proceeding." The man was escorted out and the servant Cullen had caught was up next.
"Davis Kimball," Josephine announced. "He stands accused of willfully poisoning the people of the Inquisition, Commander Cullen found potion vials under his bed, the Grand Enchanter can confirm that the substance found in the bottles is the same material we identified during the plague."
"Are we certain he is the one?" Genevieve asked.
"The others confirmed his involvement," the ambassador explained. "He was also assigned to the supply lines just before the outbreak."
"Dorian and I tested the potions," Vivienne stepped forward. "The substance was a match."
"And you Davis Kimball, have you anything to say in your defense?" Blackwall could already see how drained she was. It was a hard thing, holding life and death in the palm of one's hand. But she would see justice done, she always did.
Kimball remained silent and Leliana stepped forward. "He refuses to speak Inquisitor; I doubt you will hear anything from him."
Genevieve nodded but tried to question the man anyway. After fifteen minutes she submitted to defeat and ordered Kimball taken away. The next two were escorted into the hall together. "The Hayden Brothers," Josephine said. "They were on watch when Arlo Mathias climbed into your room, Inquisitor. He paid them off and promised them a share of his reward."
They were boys, both younger looking that the Inquisitor. Their time in the cells had given them a chance to grow patchy scruff. Lads. Kids who've ruined their lives for coin. Was Blackwall's firsts thought about them. They were like him, and that made it all the worse.
"Please your Worship, we only meant to take care of our families!" One of the boys cried. They both had fallen to the ground, their heads pressed to the stone.
"I have three little ones to feed!" the other moaned, he was crying actual tears. Or at least Blackwall thought them real. Tears or no, he didn't want mercy for them, they had taken their oaths and their uniforms and the trust of the Inquisition and traded it for gold. A crime much like his own, but it was his little bird's life they had endangered and in his mind that warranted a painful death.
"Inquisitor," Leliana came forth again. "I had my people check in on these too." She shot a cold glance at the two prostrate men. "They do not have children, they are not even married. They began spinning that story in the cells, thinking I wouldn't look into it."
"Your Worship please! Mercy, we didn't understand, we were addled by drink and—"
"And he just promised us gold for keeping our mouths shut, didn't say anything else, just that!"
The brothers kept interrupting each other like fools and for a moment the hall seemed confused about whether this was a judgment or a mummer's show. Blackwall could see Genevieve's patients running thin, finally she rose from her seat. "Enough!" she barked, her voice echoing off the hall and shutting the boys down immediately.
Now that it was quiet, she sat back down, wet her lips and said; "When you joined the Inquisition you spoke an oath with the promise that you would stand vigilant against all threats, guard against all danger, value the lives of those you protect above your own. Tell me, what if I was not the only target of that night? What if this was about killing as many members of the Inquisition as possible?" she let her words settle for a moment. "And you were paid to look the other way? Did that not come off as suspicious?"
"Y-y-your Worship we—"
"Quiet," Genevieve hissed and crossed her arms. "You're either traitors or you're stupid, though I think you're both." The audience laughed nervously. She took a deep breath. "You do not deny that you took a bribe for your silence?"
"We do not, your Worship." One said, his voice quivering like a child's.
"And they surrendered without a fight, your Worship." Josephine said. "Suggesting they at least felt a modicum of guilt."
Genevieve rubbed her temples and sighed. "What you have done is a violation of your oaths, and you are no longer welcome with the Inquisition. I hope you think upon your actions on the way to the nearest Grey Warden outpost, I'm sure they'll make a use of you."
Blackwall did not like it, but the Inquisition had used resources to train the two whelps, at least they would put it to good use fighting darkspawn. He hoped they were at least thankful for their lives. They didn't seem so thick as to not recognize that their lives had been spared and they heaped thanks and praise on her as they were escorted from the hall.
They brought the mage in next; she was escorted by Templars, her hands tied behind her back. The Templars were not gentle with her and when she did not bow, one of them put his hand on her head and shoved it down.
Genevieve stood; "Ser," she growled. "You know better,"
The Templar drew red with embarrassment and bowed himself. "Forgive me, your Worship. I am not a barbarian; I will do well to remember it."
The mage laughed; "Well you have all of them eating right out of your hand, don't you?"
"Mage Rena Lockwood formerly of the Ostwick circle," Josephine said, tapping her quill nervously against her board.
"Ostwick?" Genevieve frowned; she looked as if she were searching for some old memory of the mage. "You fled to Redcliffe then?"
"I did what you should have done," the mage snapped. "I rallied to our people. And you, well, you were always so good at doing what the Templars told you,"
If the Inquisitor was insulted, she did not show it. "Forgive me; I do not remember you,"
"Well of course you don't." the girl snickered. "Genevieve Trevelyan was too busy playing with her flowers and doing as she was told. You know, me and the other apprentices could never figure out how you did it. The Templars just…left you alone. I just guessed you're young and pretty and all those older ones were missing their wives and you just sucked them off."
Blackwall nearly charged her, but it was Ser Marbrand who put voice to the hall's collective outrage; "How dare you," his outburst even surprised Genevieve. "Her Worship saved your life; that Tevinter monster would have made you slaves if not for her!"
"Better a slave to mages then caged by Templars!" Lockwood screeched and tried to glare the knight down.
"You're the kind of mage that deserves to be—"
"Silence!" and the hall flashed with lightning. Genevieve was out of her seat, hand outstretched and the corona of magic still around her. She was red faced with embarrassment or anger, Blackwall couldn't be sure. "If there is another outburst I will clear the hall, is that understood?" she shot a look at Marbrand, and the knight cowed under it. He bowed, and stepped back in regret. "Josephine," the Inquisitor said calmly and took her seat again.
Josephine nodded. "Arlo Mathias claims that she provided him with the poisons and was the one who brokered the deal with the Venatori,"
"Have you anything to say then?" Genevieve asked the mage. She looked calm, but Blackwall could see the icy wrath building inside her.
"The Elder One will destroy you and your Inquisition. If I had known you would become this I would have killed you in the tavern that day. I would have told Alexius about you,"
A flash of recognition came across Genevieve's face. "You were at the tavern the day I met with Fiona and Alexius; it upset you that I removed Tevinter from Redlciffe." Blackwall thought upset was an understatement.
"Unlike the other mages who allied with you, I remembered my promise to the Magister. I went with the other mages, but only as a spy." He words were becoming a confession. "I wasn't privy to the important stuff, but I could tell them things I observed, and I had access to the garden and to potions,"
"You made the poison and you used your magic to help it spread faster." Genevieve filled in the blanks. Nothing more had to be said, everything else simply fell into place. She had given the potion to the servant to put in the supplies, he had probably been promised money. Then when the poison was stopped she formulated a new potion and decided to attack the Inquisitor directly.
The Inquisitor stood. "Return the prisoner to her cell and empty the hall. Leliana, Cullen, Josephine, you will remain." Her advisors joined her on the dais.
Blackwall turned, prepared to stay; "Inquisitor," but the look she gave him told him enough. This was her burden to bear; she could not share it with him. He sighed, turned, and left the hall with the others.
He was surprised to see Cole at the bottom of the keep stairs. He had not seen the boy for days and had never gotten a chance to properly thank him for his help with the demon. According to Varric, he'd been spending a lot of time in the tavern's attic and had insisted he be left alone.
"Cole, you have a minute?" Blackwall asked. The lad cocked his head and then nodded slowly. They walked together to the barn. "I never got the chance to thank you for helping me with Remorse." Blackwall began as they sat down before the cold firepit.
"You—you did all the work," Cole muttered. "I didn't help very much. But I tried."
Blackwall nodded. "You did better than tried, if not for you Genevieve and I would still be stuck there,"
The lad frowned. "But I got chased away,"
"Aye," Blackwall patted him on the back. "But you got me through the tough stuff, lad. And I am thankful for that,"
"Oh, okay," Cole muttered, although it seemed like he didn't quite understand how much he had helped.
"Have you spoken to the Inquisitor?"
"Yes." Cole answered. But that was all he said on the matter.
Blackwall sighed and decided to pass the time as he always did, with some wood work. He offered to show Cole a more difficult design than flowers and the boy was happy to get a chance to try his hand at carving again.
"Can you show me how to carve a duck?" Cole asked almost eagerly.
"A duck?" Blackwall scratched his beard. "I don't see why not,"
Blackwall chuckled slightly. "Let's start with the bird first, then I'll show you how to cut an axle and wheels later." The satisfied the boy. Blackwall got the carving started and let Cole take it from there.
Eventually, Varric came to join them. He chatted for a while but he spent most of his time writing in a little notebook. It would have been a lovely day had the specter of judgment not been hanging over the keep. Judgment days were always like this, as if the castle itself began to mirror the temperament of its Lady—grave and authoritative. And with such a serious crime brought before the Inquisitor, the mood would no doubt linger for days to come.
Before long, it was past noon and the hall was opened again. Genevieve was seated on her throne, legs crossed, face passive. Cullen and Leliana stood on one side of her and Josephine on the other. Blackwall and Cole walked to the head of the hall to stand with the other members of the Inner Circle.
Once the hall was full, they brought each of the prisoners in to stand in a row before the throne. The room was silent as graveyard. Blackwall was sure of the verdict and the punishment. The crimes brought to her were not crimes leniency could be laid on. He would not pretend that death was not what he wanted for these people, even the young mage, who was old enough to throw her lot in with Venatori.
Genevieve uncrossed her legs and sat up; she tented her fingers and sighed. "There are some things in this world I hold as sacred as the Maker's Word. Oaths are one of those things." Blackwall took note of the emotions playing across her face; the minute movements of her lips, her eyes. To everyone else she looked steady, regal even; but to him she was screaming I don't want to, but I will because someone has too. "To join the Inquisition, you took an oath, a solemn vow before men and Maker that you would faithfully and honorably execute the expectations of your position for the good of all Thedas. You broke that vow."
She let her words soak through the hall before she continued. "I sent the Hayden brothers off to the Wardens where they might be of use, but to you three I cannot be so merciful." She rose from her seat and Josephine brought her a document to sign. "I, Inquisitor Genevieve Trevelyan, Herald of Andraste, do hereby sentence you Arlo Mathias, Davis Kimball, and Mage Rena Lockewood to death for the crime of treason. You will be stripped of rank and title, your name struck from the Inquisition's ledgers and all money from your service has been forfeited. At day break tomorrow, you will be hung by the neck until dead. May the Maker have mercy on you."
It came as no surprise. And with a collective sigh of relief the prisoners were escorted out of the hall. Cullen was about to follow them, Genevieve stopped him; "At first light, Commander." She told him. "And the bodies will not be displayed. They are to be burned and returned to their families."
"Yes, Inquisitor," Cullen bowed and left.
Genevieve came down from the dais to stand with her inner circle. She wrung her hands for a moment before saying; "I'll be in the garden," then she turned heel and left.
Blackwall was about to follow after her, but Varric stopped him. "Give her a minute, Hero." And he did. But only a moment.
Ser Marbrand and Ser Brandon were standing at the entrance to the chapel, and there Blackwall found her. She was kneeling before the statue of Andraste. He stopped to watch her and waited patiently for her to finish her prayer.
It was a moment like this that he thought she truly looked the noble, righteous leader of the Inquisition. He could never tell if she was praying for guidance or forgiveness or if she just needed the simple comfort the Chant gave her. After a few more minutes, she rose and turned to see him. She looked tired.
"My lady," Blackwall greeted. He held out his hand to her, she took it and he pulled her into the circle of his arms. She placed her head against his shoulder. He could hear the rattle of her breath and felt the heaviness of the way she leaned against him. "Perhaps you should call it a day, little bird?"
She drew away from him and fixed him with a glare. "I haven't gotten the chance to look over my garden,"
"Your garden can wait another day, my lady."
Genevieve frowned and shook her head. "I will not let a judgment ruin my entire day." She left the chapel and went out into the yard.
"I understand," Blackwall followed after her. "But I don't want you to get sick again,"
"I am not going to get sick because I tended my plants for a few hours," she kneeled over a pot of royal elfroot and ran the pad of her thumb over one of the leaves.
She looked up at him; "Blackwall," she spoke so firmly it was almost a command.
Defeated, Blackwall nodded. "Aye, alright. I won't fight you over it," And he sat on one of the benches and let her do her work. She went and changed out of her finery into something she didn't care to get dirty.
She kneeled down before one of the empty patches of damp dirt and began digging small holes. He watched her for a little while before hoisting himself off the bench and coming to kneel beside her. He took the trowel from her hand and finished scooping out a cone shaped hole.
"I'll do this," he said softly. "What are you planting?"
She pointed to a burlap sack filled with tulip bulbs. "They'll be pretty when they come up," She dropped a bulb into one of the holes she made and then used her hands to cover it lightly with dirt. "I want to plant a new crop of that purple veined elfroot too, and dahlias."
"Will you plant poppies?"
"And roses," she smiled and filled another hole with bulb and dirt. "I want to have the prettiest garden this side of the Fostbacks. It isn't the biggest, but it will be the brightest."
Blackwall gently pressed his lips against her temple. "And it will have most beautiful Lady to tend it," it was enough to elicit a giggle and a proper kiss.
They carried on for a few minutes, Blackwall dug a neat row of holes and she would plant a blub and cover it. It was nice, Blackwall thought, calming and peaceful. He could see why she enjoyed it so much; giving a seed a chance to grow, to survive, that was what she did. In all things.
"I think the elfroot will make a nice compliment to the tulips." She said as she showed him how to properly plant little elfroot seedlings. She planted them in a semi-circle behind the tulip bulbs.
They planted the last of the elfroot together, but when they were finished the peace and joy of simple gardening fell from her face. Genevieve sighed and wiped her hand on her apron. She asked a passing servant to bring them something to eat.
When their food arrived she poured herself a large goblet of sweet wine but didn't touch the bread and cheese. She took a few sips and then leaned against him with another sigh. "Sometimes I wonder," she muttered so softly he almost didn't hear her, "if I make the right choices."
Blackwall knew she was talking about the judgment. She'd had no choice. What those people had done was not something you could forgive. It was not something others would forgive.
She took a deep, sorrowful breath. "Perhaps I should have given them all to the Wardens? At least they would be of some use there."
Blackwall frowned. He did not know how best to shape his words; he did not want to hurt her, he would never be as eloquent as the other members of the inner circle. He was forced to blunder through his words as he always did. "Do you truly think they would have made it to the Wardens? That they would not have had an accident along way? Fallen off the cart? Run over by a horse? A bandit attack?"
"I am not naïve," she growled, but there was no anger in her tone. "I know what might befall them on the road. I know that those Brothers may very die—if not by the hand of an angry solider then in the joining or by a darkspawn attack—I sentenced them to death, a slow one."
He shook his head. "You gave them a chance to redeem themselves. And if they die by sword or not they will make their account in the end. You gave them a chance, that's what matters." He sighed and took her hand in his. "You gave me a chance, and that means something, but that doesn't mean I won't have to reckon with the Maker."
She smiled sadly; "Spoken as if my hands are bloodless." He kissed her knuckles and she said; "What the demon—Remorse—said was true. I feel the loss of every life I take and I am left to wonder what would have happened if only one thing in their life had changed, that they might not be what they are. That I might not be what I am." She drank the rest of her wine and stood up. "I am…not hungry," she rose from the bench and Blackwall with her.
Hand in hand, they made for the wall. It was a place where they could walk in relative solitude. Her knights walked a safe distance behind them, still in plain view but far enough they could not eavesdrop.
"What did the demon show you?" she asked after a while.
He was not sure what to tell her. That he had seen her men and even the Iron Bull speak about her like she was a some common whore—that he'd seen her with that dark part of himself that he would spend the rest of his days trying to shed?
When he didn't answer right away, she did; "It started with the cellar, tried to make me feel like that little girl again," he could see her as a little girl; small, with willful blue eyes doused in fear and darkness. "It wanted me to be ashamed of myself, of what I was. I could hear father's boots pacing above me, could hear my mother crying."
He had beaten the demon back with by facing his regrets he was curious to see how she had confounded Remorse for as long as she did. "How did you beat it?"
She snapped her fingers and a little wisp of light appear. Blackwall could see it glowing brightly even with the sunlight around them. She closed her hand into a fist and the wisp died. "I have light wherever I go," she smiled. "For the longest time I had been ashamed of what I was, but that was a long time ago."
They stopped to look out over the valley. Blackwall knew she was expecting him to share. He took a deep breath; "It tormented me every step of the way; the deeper we went in the worse it got." He took a soft breath and gently pulled her against him. He pressed a kiss to her temple and held her there against his chest as he spoke. "It showed me—the old me—with you." A shiver ran through him, even now the vision unsettled him so deeply it was like his body didn't know how to react. "I was smearing blood all over your back," he swallowed and touched her hair. "Into your hair. It was me and not me,"
It made him feel sick. The worst kind of sick. Like the twisting of knife in his gut and in his heart.
She gave him soft, sympathetic eyes. "Blackwall," she whispered and placed a hand against his cheek. "It wasn't real."
He put his hand over hers and drew her palm to his lips. "I know but…that man—"
"Is not you," she whispered. "I know you. You did some terrible things in the past, but who hasn't?" She looked out into the sky. "There are all kinds of demons, Remorse demons root around in your head and drag out your regrets. You regret Thom Rainer and the man you were, it showed those things to you because that is the twisted representation of how you perceive yourself."
Blackwall let her hand go and drew her against him. He knew what she was saying and how the things in the Fade had been shown to him. Not lies, but not the truth either.
"I stood between Rainer and the carriage," he admitted.
"And I made peace with Derrek," She sounded near tears, but there was a slim smile on her lips. "Demons are clever and they can snare even the bravest of us—but their greatest weakness is underestimating us. They show us the things they think will make us weak and sometimes those things make us stronger." She laughed, but it was short and melancholy.
They stood there for a time and watched the sunset. Supper would be soon and Blackwall knew it would be best to get Genevieve out of the cold. They walked back to the keep as the light started dying. He could see the exhaustion on her features but she looked better than she had in days, as if some great weight had been taken off her chest. And he felt better too. She was right; the demon had made them stronger.
Supper was set out in the main hall and the entire circle came to eat. It was a boisterous affair, as all meals with the inner circle were. Dorian, Solas, and Vivienne got into a debate about how the remorse demon even managed to get so powerful and ended only when Genevieve told them she didn't want to hear another word on the matter. Bull convinced her to open up the bottle of whiskey he'd gotten her for her Name-Day so that she and the circle could properly toast their victory.
Varric slammed his glass down; "that'll put some hair on your chest!" he laughed.
"Because you need more," Dorian quipped and threw his drink down the back of his throat as if it was the easiest thing in the world.
Not to be outdone, Blackwall drank his in one swallow and coughed when the liquor caught the back of his throat and burned all the way down. It warmed through his blood and got him sweating. "Dragon's Breath is an apt name," he choked out.
Cassandra took a sip of hers and then pushed the drink away as she coughed and hacked. Bull snatched up the drink before Sera could and tipped it back. "Take a breath through your nose first," he instructed as Genevieve was looking down at her whiskey with wary eyes. "Then tip it back and breathe through your mouth,"
Genevieve took a deep breath. "Here goes," she muttered, took a sharp breath through her nose, tipped the whiskey into her mouth and swallowed before breathing through her mouth. "Maker's Breath!" she cursed and reached for her tea.
Sera grabbed the cup and saucer before Genevieve could reach it. "Too slow!" the elf giggled wildly.
"Sera!" the Inquisitor croaked, Blackwall could not help but laugh.
"Here, Inquisitor," Cullen passed her his drink and she took it. Blackwall had seen the commander pour himself a mug of un-watered Ferelden all and he tried to stop her but she took a swallow and Cullen burst into laughter. "That's for my desk, I know you and Sera did it," the commander dodged a playful swipe from Genevieve.
This, Blackwall thought, was what they needed most. This was their family, their odd, misfit family. And even though they were forced to end the night with talk of business and the morning executions, he went to bed feeling better than he had in days.
Dawn was still hours off when he felt Genevieve stir beside him. He opened his eyes and found her sitting up, the blanket's pulled up around her shoulders.
"Are you alright?" he asked, voice deep with sleep.
"Yes," she whispered. "Just thinking."
He sat up. "About?"
Even in the dark he could see the faint touch of a smile come to her lips. "Everything," she answered. "Corypheus, mostly."
Blackwall pulled her against his bare chest. She curled against him, her fingers gently finding the tangle of his beard. She pressed her face into the crook of his neck. He felt her kiss him and then again; each touch of her lips was feathery and sweet. She braced herself against his chest and sat up. Their lips met softly.
"I would rather think about you," she breathed. He could deny her nothing.
He pulled her on top of him and soft kisses turned passionate. "I think I can help you with that, my lady," he felt a wide smile come to his lips. She really did make him happy—happier than he deserved.
Her night gown came off easily and she was warm and naked against him. His fingers slipped down her thigh and he came to the twisted knot of skin where the assassin's bolt had taken her and he was reminded, that most importantly, she was here and alive.
She had such a small figure; he'd thought that the first time too. But now there was no urgency. He kissed her ears and lips, kissed down her body trailing each scar she'd accumulated in this war. All things melted away as they murmured sweet, unimportant things against each other's skin.
Genevieve twined their fingers together; their lovemaking was simple and sweet and gentle and it was all he needed. Just to be with her was enough—to love her was enough. She had offered him redemption and his payment paled in comparison. But he would spend the rest of his days devout in his affections, honest in his words, and be as brave and honorable as she thought he was.
And flowers. He would give her flowers too. Roses, he thought, I haven't given her enough roses. Then his thoughts were swallowed up by the woman in his arms. He would worry about flowers later—for now, his kisses would have to suffice.
I would like to extend my heartfelt thank you to the people who have been following this story and supporting it. You guys have made this an awesome journey; it's been a delight to write and to interact with my fellow Dragon Age fans. Seriously, this has been so cool and so much fun, thank you all very much.
I just wanted to say that I love Blackwall's character and this was the first Bioware romance that I felt actually hurt me. I struggled with his character especially when you take into consideration that I'm studying criminology. Roses began as a way to "fix" what had happened. I had to redeem him and this seemed like most natural way to do it.
I really hope you all enjoyed this as much as I did. I hope that those who are on the fence about Blackwall see that he has some redeeming qualities. He has a very complex character and I hope I was able to capture him as well as Bioware crafted him.
To end, I am working on some other projects. While this is not a promise, I hope to post them as soon as they are finished.
Thanks guys, this was an awesome ride.