A little earlier than the day before and definitely with more strength, the bright sun climbed over the high with snow covered mountains that surrounded the impressive fortress of Skyhold. The birds sang a different song this morning, louder and more virtuoso and full of zest. And on their bright notes there seemed to travel a touch of warmth down from the sky. There hovered something invigorating in the tantalizing crisp air, a promise of a new beginning. The beginning of something better. It was as if something shifted under the blanket of winter and slowly started to awake. It was as if the soil softly shuddered and hitherto sleeping life rose up from the long hibernation that had held the world in its cold grasp. Roots stirred, ice turned into drops of water and with admirable courage the first flowers braved the still freezing temperature of the early morning and pushed their little heads through the white sheet of snow to look upon the altering world. With reluctance but inevitable winter was yielding.

Something hung in the air.

The castle was already bustling with activity. In fact the kitchen staff had been busy for hours with preparing breakfast for the many inhabitants and so, perhaps, had missed the changing atmosphere. They had been cooped up in the steaming kitchen, trapped between the hot ovens and burning stoves as they were. But even they got tipped by the soldiers who emerged from their sleeping quarters to fill the mess with their presence and seemed to be more boisterous than usual. Their merry mood was infectious and soon the kitchen was full with laughter and songs. Even the nobles came somewhat sooner than they used to trickling from their rooms in the main building to gather in the great hall.

And Vivienne, who normally strode through the vast space like a stern inviolable queen, ready to assault anyone with a haughty jab or sneer, or simply with her superior attitude, seemed to tread lighter. There floated a vague smile around her lips. And most astonishing, this morning she even smiled benignly at the servants who in a flurry went off and on to see to all the needs and wishes. All around her people were laughing and joyfully chatting, and most of them returned her smile. She gracefully sank down in a seat and with satisfaction reached for a fresh baked bread roll. 'Sometimes simple life is good,' she murmured.

Something hung in the air.

Cole was observing the mood from the entrance of the room Solas used as a study and as a kind of studio. The ghost boy was sitting on the threshold, as always with his legs crossed and his hands clasped together. But he wasn't as tense as he normally was, he wasn't rocking back and forth in the compulsory way he usual did. Some way or another the atmosphere was rubbing off on him. 'There is less fear,' he remarked, 'the people are more happy and light-hearted. Their smiles are real.'

The elf looked up from the wall he was painting. He watched Cole with a gentle expression. 'I know it's hard for you to understand,' he said, 'because nothing like this exists in the Fade.' He gave the wall another brush. 'Sadly,' he added nearly inaudible. He turned his attention back to Cole. 'But even you must feel it: spring is in the air.'

The Iron Bull stepped out off the room he had claimed as his private domain onto the ramparts, leaving two still sleeping redheads behind in the big dishevelled bed. Two exhausted but satisfied redheads. He stole a look before he closed the door behind his back and grinned broadly. Hmm. Redheads. Worth every moment. Let them have their sleep. They needed it and moreover they earned it. With a grumbling grunt he stretched the muscles of his ox-like shoulders and he inhaled with deep eager breaths the fresh morning air. 'Ah,' he rumbled content, 'smells good.' He sentenced the subtle shifting roots, the melting ice and rising flowers through his nostrils and savoured it.

Something hung in the air...

And then he noticed a small figure struggling along a steep slope and burst out laughing. 'He is persistent, I must give him that. Brave man.'

Cullen looked up from the letter he was reading when something was placed with a not to miss determined thud under his nose on his bureau. The something turned out to be a plate holding a piece of cake. To his dismay he saw a springy Sera standing in his line of sight. Hastily he fumbled the letter away. Maker forbid she caught even a single word, he'd never hear the end of it. He tried to compose himself. 'What's this?'

Sera scoffed, 'It's cake, mister bright-head Commander. You can eat it. It ain't no friggin' prank.'

'Then why are you giving this to me?' Cullen asked befuddled.

The elf rolled her eyes. 'It's spring, innit? People do nice things for other people when it's spring.'

'Do they?' Suspiciously Cullen eyed the piece of cake. It looked innocent enough and smelled alluring but he trusted Sera as far as he could throw her.

Defiantly Sera put her hands on her hips. 'Look at you, mister fancy-pants, skinny as an elf! That ain't good! Our Lady Inquisitor won't like that when she returns.' She winked conspiratorially. 'Your Lady Inquisitor,' she said in a husky voice. Cullen's eyes flew wide with horror. 'Ooh,' Sera cooed, 'someone has a crush on the Lady Inquisitor!' She mimicked a firm embrace and pouted her lips in a fake fat kiss.

'That's enough!' Cullen said sternly while he felt his face turn beet red.

In a fit of giggles Sera skipped out off the room. 'Eat the cake, Lord Commander! You'll need it!'

Cullen pushed the plate aside. No way in the world he would hazard even a crumb before he had had it tested by Dagna. And he would let her test the cake, if only out of curiosity. Instead he removed Evelyn's quickly concealed letter from the drawer of his desk, but only after he had made sure Sera had really gone, and reread the contents. Or better he reread the last lines, only meant for him. He blushed again and let out a deep sigh of happiness. He counted the days till her return.

There hung something in the air and it was more than the tang of spring.

'Look! Crocuses!' Delighted Josephine pointed at a small vase sitting on her desk. It was filled with a bouquet of little lilac coloured flowers. A generous splash of sunlight streamed through the high window and laid a silver sheen over the petals that surrounded tiny hearts of gold.

Captivated Leliana stared at the still-live. 'Such fragile looking little flowers,' she mused, 'and yet they survive in the harsh climate of the mountains.' She smiled. 'Where did you get those?'

'From my secret admirer.' Josephine's voice sounded elated and as a-matter-of-fact at the same time.

'Oh. Blackwall,' Leliana said, her expression souring.

'Don't give me that disapproving face, Leliana. Blackwell is a good man,' Josephine tittered, 'perhaps somewhat austere but with an unexpected romantic streak. As you can see.' She bent over her desk to happily sniff the faint smell of the crocuses.

The spymaster straightened her shoulders and folded her hands behind her back. 'You know very well romance is best enjoyed from afar,' she remarked snappily.

'Do I?' Josephine reacted a tad prickly. 'Really, Leliana, you could at least make an effort to set your education aside, if just for a short while. Not all is the Game, you know.'

'All is in the Game,' Leliana murmured, 'and all is offered to the Game.'

The Ambassador shook her head. She knew Leliana for such a long time ... the Game seemed so vital back then. It was still important now but Leliana seemed to be absorbed with it. Like some kind of addiction. There is nothing like the Game ... that couldn't be good. But right now she didn't want to quarrel, right now there was something of more significance. 'Look at the flowers! They are telling something!'

The Spymaster awoke from her contemplation and frowned although with certain amusement. 'And what are they telling ..?'

Josephine leant back in her chair. She had taken one little crocus out of the vase and now turned the flower between her fingers. 'Wintersend, Leliana. It is time for the celebration of Wintersend!'

Thank you so much for reading!