A story that takes place at some unidentified time in the future of Saying Goodbye, as told from Knight Captain Rylen's POV…

Artful Dog'grr

Rylen was talking to two of the guards on duty when, from the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a short, broad, cloaked figure huddling suspiciously with a huge mabari on the bridge between the main keep and Cullen's tower. The figure offered something to the mabari who furtively crept across to the tower before pausing at the door as if listening. The Freemarcher waved the guards onward to resume their watch, then leaned casually against the parapet, observing unobtrusively. In most of the Freemarches' cities, this was a feast day that not only celebrated love, but was also known for practical jokes. There were enough Freemarchers in the Inquisition now that the custom had caught on and he'd already witnessed several practical jokes played today—not on lovers but on couples whose budding romances were proceeding too slowly for the taste of their friends.

He was almost certain the dwarf was Varric while the mabari had the coloring of Surana's partner, though at this distance it was hard to be certain. After a few moments, the mabari reached up with one large paw and very stealthily pushed the door handle down so it unlatched, then used a shoulder to nudge the door inward cautiously before slipping inside, displaying every evidence of an unexpected expertise at subterfuge, not to say breaking and entering.

Maker's breath, the question is, which one of them is the instigator and just what are they up to? Both Surana and Cullen were shut up in a meeting in the war room with the Inquisitor, discussing which teams to send out in response to a request for assistance. However Rylen also refused to believe that even Surana's mabari could climb the ladder to the loft which at least ruled out mischief involving the Commander's personal belongings. The Templar quickly concluded that it would be best to wait until the mabari left, then try to ascertain what the conspirators had been up to. Rylen scolded himself as his undisciplined imagination ran rampant speculating on the subtle mischief this pair might concoct together, especially since her mabari was the only one likely to be privy to, um, certain details about the exact…stage of development of their relationship. Of course, hardly anyone in the Inquisition was unaware of…rumors by now of the frustrating dance the two were doing around each other.

The mabari skulked back out the door less than a minute later, no longer carrying whatever the dwarf had provided. After pulling the door shut with the same surprising expertise, the four-footed trickster quickly crept back to the dwarf who slapped the dog's shoulders, almost shoulder high on Varric, Rylen noted with amusement. Then the guilty pair vanished inside the rotunda of the keep, still with that air of a cloak-and-dagger operation.

Rylen made his way to Cullen's office nonchalantly, entering as if on ordinary business, and scanned the room to rapidly eliminate everything except Cullen's desk. While not cluttered, it was also not organized with the precision of a Lady Montilyet's desk, but as he went around to Cullen's chair and glanced down, it took less than a second for the addition to leap out at him. Not even Iron Bull would consider that bright red cover "subtle," and Rylen had to smother a guffaw as he saw the carefully hand-lettered title on the booklet's cover—surely that was Varric's calligraphy?

So You Love a Fereldan, and They Have a Mabari:

How to Handle Not Being the Most Important Someone

in Your Beloved's Life

By The Hero's Mabari

As translated by Varric Tethris

Taking a deep breath to bring his amusement under control, at least outwardly, and smoothing his dark hair back from his face, he exited through the opposite door just as if he had made an ordinary passage through the office to check on the guards on the wall. Cullen and Surana's mabari had clearly come to their own understanding almost from their first meeting, so Rylen felt no particular urge to shield the Commander from this joke, might even have helped if he'd known. Admittedly he now had a raging curiosity about just how that pair came up with this joke (not to mention exactly what the pamphlet said) but discretion was the better part of valor. Pretend complete innocence, my boy.

However, it was no accident that Rylen just happened to be in conversation with some of Charter's agents right outside one of Cullen's door when the Commander returned from the meeting, and he managed to keep a completely innocent face at the sudden shout muffled by the door:

"Oh, for…DWARF!" then a sound that slowly grew from a reluctant chuckle into a long, rich belly laugh and a thump as if someone dropped heavily into a chair. Then after a few moments of silence, in a far softer voice, "Sweet Andraste. Timur…."

I blame Cerulione for the idea and thanks to wardencommanderrodimiss for title of the book and permission to use it. post/139178893429/i-hope-thedas-has-self-help-books-and-i-hope-one#tumblr_notes