AN: Because I like doing impossible things. Mage/Templar is a loved trope of ours but seems to be on Cullen/mage. Let's try Templar/Solas. Because I had one in Awakening and if there was ever a place that would accept a crazy Templar with unpopular views/history?..Wardens. And the weird potential..yes. Yes I'm going there. Assume you know nothing and there's a point to seeming conflicts in what I'm up to. Safer with my writing.
Luria, Ria to almost everyone, was a no last name templar who had been recruited into the Wardens. Her frame was petite if tall for an elf, her hair long and kept in the side braided bun that had become so popular among warriors who wished to keep their locks without losing it to armor. Silvery blond with bright pale gray eyes that had more than a few teasing her about being 'blind gazed'. Her skin though was a warm tan what little showed around her face. Because she was in massive armor. Not even her own.
"Remind me again.." She drawled playfully.
"Inspection." Came the easy voice of one of the recent additions to the ranks post joining though many had been there for a long time without going through the ceremony. This branch of the Warden's had always believed in training, having many potential recruits for years before actually allowing them to try the joining. They were mocked for it and indeed the First Warden often was trying to order them to just combine everyone already but headstrong and determined was a warden trait. Besides, the longer the variety of those who had time before the calling, the better.
"Uh huh. Pre-conclave inspection. Must be shiny. Because we all know armor stays shiny and not smudged and tarnished.."
"Would you two stop it?" Their third wheel piped up. In truth they looked as much like Gray Wardens as you could get. One bright haired elf, one dark haired human, and one red haired ruddy faced dwarf. All of them female. "Blessed stone..got the tree humper n the nug humper.."
"At least we aren't waking up with the goats unlike a certain lovely dwarf who can't say no to another pint." Ria smirked and then frowned. "Seriously though. Why are we standing out in full plate? I don't wear it, Lily doesn't wear it, and you sure as the stone you love don't, Ruby." They were casually called 'Bitches Brigade' The trio of women covered most the areas in a fight if in ways that made no sense. Berserker who only wore medium plate? That was Ruby. She had hand axes and yet could pick locks and open any door with a big black mark of the casteless on her face. Lily was a cousin to the Cousland's that now had a Queen ruling Ferelden and she was quite happy to never bring up her last name again. She had actually been in Orlais at the time, a recruit who was learning if they could handle the physical aspects and unlearn much of her other circle training but not taken the joining until a few years after the Blight. She'd been too young to join until then being scantly fourteen and had been at the circle in Orlais because her mother still wanted her 'cultured' Nobles were crazy. She was still the baby of their group. Also, she was a mage. A blood mage to be precise but such a strong healer and could toss barriers around like they didn't take a thought. And the Warden's never let things like 'proprietary' lessen what they'd resort to.
She had befriended the other two right off the bat.
"Because the temporary captain is a nugshit even if he's at least one of Our Gray's?" Ruby snarked and made Lily grin. "Seriously Ria, can you do that thing you do whenever he finally comes over? I mean. I'm pretty sure I was made to wear a codpiece."
"You'd think the armor master was still upset you slept with his wife." Ria agreed and Ruby's bellowing laughter poured out.
"But the tits on her..."
"Captain coming." Lily said.
"Hopefully not, I'm not polishing that out of his armor." Ria muttered and heard the other two 'clanking' from trying not to laugh.
"And what is so funny?" Their captain had a normal name -Theo- but the entire group currently under him usually called him Captain Nug. He couldn't force them to stop either as the only reason he was captain was by name when getting supplies or staying at an inn. For some reason the average soldier when they passed through town had trouble accepting a female knife ear as being in charge.
Well and for very good reasons no one was to ever give Ria a proper title and rank. There was even that in writing, in five languages and a bad stick figured drawing she kept in her belongings as faded as it was. They could (and should) all listen to her but she was not to be given a rank.
"We were instructed to wear armor that is not fitted properly, not suited to our specialties so we'd all match." Ria answered calmly and stepped forward. Theo towered over her, well over six feet and in oversized plate. It meant nothing. "I understand your desire to impress when we make an entrance at the conclave.." Even though they were not supposed to be there as Gray Wardens, it was supposed to be a subtle thing. No political statements and all that. That they were even going was because for a group that recruited all over Thedas to be unaware of what was happening had hit Ria the wrong way. That it had been an absolute order not to go? That had made every Warden in their outpost determined. You got misbehaving children to do things by saying no, after all. "A suggestion?"
Theo paused and then recognized her soft reprimand for what it was. He was not a bad man at all, just so eager to do something, feeling cheated over the Blight being done before the Orleisian forces had made it through. And for some reason the First Warden was being really stupid lately and the other groups didn't see it. "All right."
"Let us.." She gestured to the girls, including herself. "Go in our usual attire. Not the gryphon and blue, we keep silent. We ...observe. You and the others go in, again not Gryphon and Blue, be soldiers. Live as soldiers even our sparkling mages, feel and act and just watch your tongues. We'll learn more than as Wardens. Not like they can sense us."
Theo's eyes lit up, he and many others were crooks and cast offs, no names like herself, those whose birth had screwed them over like Ruby and Lily. To be just a soldier? It would be like a game.
"We can do that."
"And be certain they don't go using bad lines on the girls and give themselves away. Warden humor isa thing of it's own." Ria said with a smile. They were good men, just...well. Eager. With all their commanders off meeting strange jobs according to the First Warden and pockets of them were milling about without any direction at the outposts. Theo had nodded and moved off in his plate to address the others. Most their forces were honestly warriors so it would serve them well.
"You did that thing. I love watching you do the thing. Talked him into doing what you wanted and getting them off your plate..think he will figure out you just put it all on him if they screw up playin soldier boy?" Ruby smirked up at her.
"Like she gives a nugshit." Lily smiled. "Let's go strip out of this stupid plate. I'm looking forward to going to this conclave a lot more now. Robes are stupid but they beat metal I mean, let's put the mage in metal..it only conducts electricity and everyone goes for the healer."
They actually ran into a snag when reaching the conclave. Despite the fact the talks were on mages, for mages and their future, Lily's being a mage was getting a lot of negative attention from the Templar trainees crowding around them.
Ria saw the flash of fear when one of the heavy plated men approached after he'd snarled about apostates and abominations and she moved in front of her friend. There was no Warden rank to protect her right now but Ria had never needed that. Her pole arm spun in her hand and was braced in the earth. The wicked halbred a weapon in her hands that had no equal. "She is leashed." She spoke, hating the term but it was one that Lily had gone over with her. Many times.
"Ha. Look a little knife ear protecting the mage? Whatya think you can do.." The man moved forward, his friends just watching. How far the recruit potential had fallen...
She sighed and felt Lily take a step back knowing this was just going to be for show. Still, she hated doing things for pointless reasons. The ground lit up in familiar patterns as she locked her gaze to the would be templar. He stilled. So did the others around them as while it omitted, carefully, with such striking precision Ria challenged any other templar to match her, the smite shining silver around them. She knew with her light armor, the filigree metal in areas she needed the protecting most over her neck and chest, her greaves and bracers would be all but seeming to glow as she managed to maintain the smite. Her pale hair and eyes would also glow from it, slightly more skewed to look impressive because it allowed them to side step issues like this one. Lily and Ruby had worked with her for weeks to figure out the precise control needed to make her 'pretty' when using a smite. The light show did something to the back of people's brains that made them behave far more than just a regular smite would on display.
She allowed the smite to fade.
"Oh. Ah, sorry about that..Templar..?" he asked for her name an she smiled at him. It was a tired false smile but most would never pick up on it.
"Templar Luria, where was your training held?"
"Mostly in private." She confessed the truth. "Though Ser Greogoir of Fereldan's circle at Lake Calenhad supervised when I would observe my first harrowing once under his command."
"Knight-Commander Cullen is here.." He clearly was expecting a reaction and he got one. Luria's eyes went wide and she smiled.
"Truly? Blessed fortune indeed." She did not swear by Andraste, by the maker. She was an anomaly amongst the ranks and always had been. Cullen though, Cullen would not betray her. "If you would?"
"Your mage charge will behave?"
Lily stayed silent because she knew Ria would slaughter any who came after her and Ruby would be right there with her. "She is an exemplary one, indeed I think all things considered we offer a suggestion of how a mage and templar can interact, the benefit to such a union."
Shoulder's eased. They did not need to know that Lily was anathema to them and Luria doubly so. Maybe far more. As they moved now through the outpost of Haven she was thanking every bit of luck that so often evaded Wardens. Because of all the Templars she knew, for it to be Cullen..
"Knight-Commander?" At the response to enter back to the guard, he waved Ria in to speak to Cullen and Ruby and Lily stayed out there, comfortable. None would act against them for now.
The first sight she had of Cullen made her smile genuine and his shock, dismay bled then into something more. Relief. Joy. A glimpse of long held understanding that made her heart ache for him to have come to.
She shook her head. "I'd been sent..was in Orlais. Deep in Orlais, like the sort of areas we really should never have had to go to tracking down myths and rumors and by the time I was cleared.." She spread her hands to show the impossible but a heavy gauntlet clapped down on her shoulder.
"I didn't know..ten years?" He didn't ask why she didn't write. Neither had ever been good about it.
Her hand covered his. "A lot of it was spent cleaning up messes and trying to find others to recruit."
"You've aged amazingly well. As in not at all." He teased her and she smirked back at him.
"Says the man who finally grew into his jaw."
Cullen laughed and then his hand slipped away. "I..you're a blessing to come now. Truly. But I'll share more about it later?"
"Do so." She agreed before chuckling. "I've a mage with me..and a dwarf."
"Bloody..of course you do. Still going on about ideals that to be honest, perhaps should be heard here.."
"I do not want attention Cullen."
"You never have but it would do good. A lot of good."
Cullen had met her shortly after she had come to the Fereldan circle, already grown and from another part of the order. Ser Gregoir had her tested at a harrowing to be certain she could do it and the utter swiftness of her action, without hesitation, even before the first manifestation of the abominations take over, had won her comforts that her ears would otherwise have denied her. In contrast, it was to Cullen as he had shyly spoken of his adoration of a mage named Amell who learned that her actual ideals were so different.
A mage is burdened with a gift of power that mortals should not have to bear. They are not at fault for this any more than we are for our forms and born of a specific gender. They have no control over that they were given this ability to touch and meld the Fade with their desires. It is not shackles they need, but shields. Swords to protect them so they need not be forced to use that power when they cannot think right. I feel it is my place to be there for them, and more so since the world turns against them.
"Are you certain?"
"It did for me." He confessed and looked to the side. "Even with what nightmares I saw in Kirkwall..Templars abusing mages, inflicting the Rite on those who did not deserve it. A mage destroyed a chantry and all within..and your words reminded me. What if it was not fear that had driven them to these things? What if they'd had someone to turn to and helped them speak of what they needed and found common ground?"
"We are not here as Warden's." She warned him softly and he sighed, nodded.
"Okay. So templar, mage, and a dwarf..soldiers coming?"
"You do know me too well, Cullen."
"Well we've no other Warden's to out the lot of you." And if he saw her shoulder's ease, he was polite enough not to comment on it. Instead he found them lodging, and arranged for her to speak with some of the others there giving their points of view in a few days. Cullen insisted the Divine Justina would find her experiences, especially considering she had brought her mage friend, fascinating.
They never had the chance because things went and blew up.
Someone, during the nightmare, most likely one of her fellow Warden's disguised as soldier's actually grumbled out.
"Here we go again.."
Perhaps it was something to the success of those who became Warden's, to have a touch of insanity in your nature. Perhaps it was that which later made the calling, the taint, so powerful? Well in the age old Warden battle mindset which came after the lilting, In peace Vigiliance..came the more well known one.
"Ah to the abyss with it!" Ria growled and spun low, halbred streaking with silver light as she twisted and cut into more demons.
"Wardens! To me!" She boomed, her voice echoing as Lily's hand clasped hers, using a twist of her fade powers to send out Ria's voice as they all had gone with the soldiers to secure the Temple after the explosion. What was this but another form of the Deep Roads to them?
"AYE!" And around them soldier's looked startled at the booming return as the scores of men shifted, moving closer into familiar formations.
Theo did not even attempt to wrest control, not here and now. No, instead the madness filled his eyes and he slid into position and the Warden's were ready. "Orders?"
"We show these demons that this is OUR world!" She bellowed, Lily's hand working to cast a spell but she didn't need it. Not then. Not when battle and bloodlust surged around them. Not when they had a duty to protect. "They are not darkspawn but they dare to try and claim dominance over the free folk who are meant to live here!"
"What do we say to that!?" Ruby screamed out, banshee wail as she tore into another wraith.
"In Peace..." One of the men roared, sword and board a weapon of fearsome power as he charged. Beside him were his three usual battlemates, who matched volume with their answer. "Vigilance!"
"In War!" Theo shouted and tore off on the other side, to the aid of common soldiers being overrun, with eager steps following him and their voices echoing in the massive chamber. "Victory!"
"And in death.." Came Lily's voice, even, controlled, strong as she ran forward with bleeding hands, determined to heal and guard all she could. Ruby at her feet from being thrown back but the dwarf was up then and back into the fray.
Ria's response was heartfelt. It seeped into the ears of those who knew to listen for it, even and strong and unwavering with the bittersweet note of grief and pride. "Sacrifice."
The rift spawn had no chance.
"They say someone emerged from the fade." Theo said to her later as they had pulled away, the babbling of the soldiers silenced by little more than awe for those whom they had just watched battle, living legends brought to life.
"So fate has chosen another plaything." Came a weary agreement from one of the Wardens who had seen all the chaos before. "They'll string them up or do something. Shall we step in? Conscript? Word is they've a glowing hand.."
"We have removed our helms." Ria answered calmly. "The conclave is gone. Any further stay could be political."
"The soldier's who live will come with us. They're badly shaken and a bit awe struck."
"Best go before we get company." Ria agreed but she hesitated. Something had changed here, a turning point. Could she afford to not be there?
"I'm staying." Ruby said and scowled at her feet. "The stone. Something happened. Something's not done. I'm supposed to stay. The red shite doesn't sound right.." Ruby thwacked her own head. "But I can make out that something's not done." She spoke voicing better the unease that had struck at Ria. In a place that reeked of power, the stone would speak clearly enough that Ruby was best listened to. Her heritage was one not to be denied after all. The red lyrium had given her pause, she bitched about the song of it, but had only moved closer to Ria.
Shifting of armor as those around them thought.
"We'll go meet up with the First Warden, say what was here. Await proper orders." Theo decided and then looked at Ria. "You've that look to you."
Ria smiled. How well he knew her. Knew that in a place of stone and lyrium she would listen to the dwarf. "I was not here."
"I'll be certain to pass it on." He promised. He knew after all that she was unruly and different.
"If you and Ruby are here.." Lily smiled and spread her hands. "You know I am."
And it burned. It hurt because Ria did not trust anyone else with Lily's safety as her own, she'd made a pledge, but Lily was still a green horn and it worried her. Ruby would be being back like one of the Carta thugs, easily forgotten and blend but Lily...
"I must hide myself in plain sight amongst those who will seek camaraderie in me and you cannot amongst the mages who see the blood and not the healing and protection." She said and the hurt bloomed in her tone but Lily's smile gentled.
"Of course. I suppose..time in the gray..I had forgotten."
"I'm no templar." Theo said but he smiled, he may be a Nug of a captain but he was a Warden and would never abandon his brothers and sisters. Especially not his section of the Order. "Give me the words you like to use."
Ria reached over and clasped his hand in her own. "Shield her, Protect her. Guide and Guard. Remember she will need understanding as much as you her healing." She spared him the floral terms and poetry usually drawn from her because that was not Theo's way.
Lily moved then and hugged her fiercely. "You taught me to trust those who have weapons to strike down my own, to keep my head high. Promise me.." and it trailed off because promises among Warden's were brittle sad things.
Ria's hand found Lily's cheek. "I promise, little sister, you will not walk alone into the Deep."
"We best go. Scout's caught sight of a small group coming." One of the others piped up.
"Two can be believed to live.." Ria agreed, one of the soldiers came up then, not a Warden.
"Three." He held up his hands. "I'm not fit to go fight I'm too long in the tooth. But I saw whatcha did, yer takin my buddies n letting them live, to try n be more an we'd all be dead otherwise. I'll keep my mouth shut."
"Three." She agreed and then with perfect timing, more riftspawn came. Just a few, enough to fight, to cover the tracks of the escaping Warden's and their newest conscripts. Though not before the oldest Warden who had seen it all and was the one they all turned to for advice as it was a wonder he'd lasted so long before his calling, took a moment to bend low and whisper in her ear. "Be on yer guard, Sister. Wardens not of our own were here." Warden politics and infighting did exist, and groups tended to not trust each other far more than they wanted outsiders to believe.
He fled then with the others swiftly. There was no shame in leaving. It was not their place and information on these events, this breach, which none of their mages had been able to touch, needed to get to the First Warden. As a precaution, also to the Warden-Commander of Fereldan. Because maybe this was related to so many hearing the Calling early.
"Ye got me." Ruby said and Ria looked down, smiling.
"You did warn me you weren't leaving my side when we met before your joining.."
Ruby's grin was madness as the Berserker came back over her. "I follow ya, Luria. We're Sky n Stone we are." And then a grip of her halberd and the two eased the last soldier into their fighting style as they beat back the rift spawn.
There was a lull, they met a little Dalish slip of a girl, a hunter apparently, with a glowing hand and strange companions. Their third soldier, he was good and solid, a counter to Ruby that made Ria humm in contentment that her friend had someone at her back she could do well. Her senses screamed of magic to her though and as the little Dalish ran past, a dwarf firing bolts and the Seeker with a wisp of faith borne magic to her blood tore after him it was the final member that pulled at her.
"Mage." She said as there was a lull, twisting her spear free and approaching him.
He was wary, staff brought up to defend.
"Hey Sky! Stop scaring the mage! He doesn't know you from the helmed dorks."
Ria felt her cheeks turn red and smiled, but did not set aside her halberd not now. Not when they knew more of the beasts would come. "Of course..."
"Hello! I'm Ellana!" Piped up the tiny Dalish "Everyone is calling me Lavellan. That was my clan name.." The girl laughed awkwardly. "I'm sorry it's just so nice to see another elf, and a girl at that!"
"Luria, though I go by Ria." She returned and smiled. Fond memories of another whose face was marked by Mythal floated through her mind. "And this is Ruby."
"Tcha!" Ruby grunted with a wicked smile and waved, then looked up at her amused. "Don't mind Sky here, she get's all funny with the mages."
"You can't hurt Solas!" The little Dalish insisted, her eyes narrowed and it set Ruby to laughing even as Ria blinked in confusion. "He's an apostate but he's done nothing wrong!"
"He's outside a circle." The Seeker sneered before nodding. "Cassandra Pentaghast."
"Oh. Right hand of the Divine..I'm Stanley" The soldier with them sounded awestruck and then nodded, before her eyes went to Varric.
"Varric Tethras. Master storyteller, rogue, all around charmer..and yeah Chuckles there is not gonna hurt anyone."
"Pfft..they get this worked up over your just saying Mage and walking over.." Ruby snickered and Ria sighed, but smiled and nodded.
"Shall we try again before the next batch of rift.." She paused then as she could sense the crackle of magic beginning. A perk to being a templar was the mage sensitivity and these lovely rifts were certainly warning her like they were alive. "After. After then. Ruby?"
"Oh I do love the messes we get in.." The berserker hue fell over her eyes and the Dwarf was off with a scream, Cassandra and Stanley not far behind her. The two archers fell back and though her instincts screamed to do one action, Ria moved into another. The mage felt strong, he was not Lily. The first offensive attack proclaimed as much and so she twisted her weapon and flowed into the fray.
There was no need of any of her better attacks here so she saved them, the precious energy it would take. Until there was a sudden secondary opening and a demon too close for the mage to act in time, rapidly she slammed into the demon, using her polearm to launch her and as the blade on the balancing end struck she used a concentrated smite, severing it's connection to the fade and making the creature dissipate with the single blow.
"What was that?" Came the awed voice of Cassandra and Ria turned. "A smite? But no..so directed.."
"Sky's special." Ruby sang with a still unhinged berserk laugh and then went over to start looting the bodies.
Ria inclined her head to Cassandra before turning to the apostate. "It did not strike you, I hope? I was moving too fast to control it as much as I prefer but I did not know if you would have a barrier active that would hold..."
Wide silver eyes and a dropped jaw met her. "I..have never heard of such an action with a smite.."
"Tis not easy." She said but shrugged it off. "Time, practice, and a very generous roster of friends willing to work with me. You are fine though?"
"I..yes." It appeared she had completely thrown the mage for a loop and Ria turned to Ruby, an eyebrow up. Ruby snorted.
"Really missing Nug humper right now. You're forgetting what most Templars think of mages again, Sky."
Ria sighed and nodded. "Another time. Since you arrived you have a plan, yes?" And they moved onwards. The red lyrium made her sneer, and Ruby growl but that was all. Witnessing the flash of the fade image made Ria's eyes narrow but she stayed quiet. She'd been looking further back, not at the obvious.
Because her fellow Warden had claimed others had been there..and whilst she did not see any she knew, she also recognized the shape to the gear those helping to capture the Divine wore. Her breath whooshed out. Was that why they had been told not to go to the conclave? If so..she nodded inwardly. A message needed to go out tonight to find Lily and the others. They needed to go lie low and be careful. If a branch of them were doing such things, without telling everyone? Something was wrong.
Though fighting the pride demon was a whole new level of "Can the crazy be over now? I need to drink. And eat. Oh I could eat a horse.." Ruby whined as she moved to lean into Ria. The after affect of berserker blood was at least tolerant and friendly.
"Only a horse, my Stone?" She asked softly and Ruby laughed.
"A herd. I'd share with you."
"We are ready to go down now.." Cassandra was eying them with suspicion but Ria shrugged it off. Down below was Cullen and outside of the Gray he was one she trusted. Perhaps it was now outside of her immediate Brothers and Sisters in the Wardens because there had been some here and it seemed terribly out of place.
"All right. Does anyone need assistance?"
"Solas has healed them." Cassandra admitted begrudgingly and they began to go down.
Only partly through and Ria was having to help Ruby climb down. They got a few stares but neither woman thought anything of it, that a dwarf was permitting such assistance or that an elf was strong enough to do so.
"A question..?" And Ruby looked over at the dwarf who had the best fuzzy man rack she'd ever seen. Nor did she hide her appreciation in her gaze.
"Go for it."
He quirked a grin, dimple showing before he started. "Sky?"
"Yeaaaa would you believe the first time we met she was falling off a high dragon and landed right in front of me and the others? Killed the thing but got knocked off in the process."
"...You met with her killing a dragon."
"Right!? No one ever believes me though so I just say she fell off a cliff and when I went over she said 'Well that was a big step down.'" Varric broke into chuckles at that and Ruby grinned. Neither was the truth and she was certain the other dwarf could tell, but so what. "Anyways there you have it. Of course the reasons for it when everyone else started using my nickname for her got so bad that it's stuck. Kinda like her calling me Stone because I'm named Ruby."
"Notice the hair an eyes? All light? Letsee how did Steven put it ..like cloud Stuff."
"They got worse."
"Buy me a drink."
They shook on it and Ruby glanced back with a grin as Ria just shook her head smiling. Clever dwarf, getting in for gossip and hiding in plain sight.
They ended up staying. Cullen asked, and with all that was happening Ruby and Ria felt it was a good move. Stanley turned out was a silver smith by trade and went to help the blacksmith. It wasn't like they knew all forms of weapons and technically the other man was really a leather master but could get other goods shipped in. They'd sent off a message first thing, Ria had written it and Ruby had taken it. Former Carta members just had 'ways' and it was less suspicious if Ruby had a note that no one would be able to decipher.
There were perks to having a bloodmage as your friend, a blend of their own blood and lyrium made into an ink where only they could read it was one of them.
Cullen had asked her to help train the various soldiers, knowing if he outed her as a templar to those who had survived and didn't remember it would cause trouble until they were familiar with her. Being a Warden doubly so and he still didn't know half of the secrets she kept. So instead she became the weaponsmistress to Haven and yet the men working under her swiftly learned you did not bad mouth anyone unless you wished to be black and blue.
Racial slurs and those against other career choices or paths swiftly found painful retaliation in front of the other trainees. Rumors of 'General Ria' being difficult and stern were rampant and every time someone called her General in the Tavern Ruby started howling with laughter and Ria would flush.
But they really had no interaction with the Herald or her inner circle. Ruby did with Varric, the two enjoying causing mischief in the most platonic relationship that was more friendly rivals. At times Cullen would seek Ria out but half of that was muttering about the Herald and how it was Amell all over again.
"She has no magic, just bears it as an anchor." Ria pointed out as she walked with the commander through the grounds, checking for if anything was in need of replacement. Cullen trailing after her for someone to talk to.
"You know..that sounds a lot like what you used to say anyways."
"The concept is similar."
"Yet I have noticed you do not seek the mages out here."
"Cullen, the only mages are those in the Herald's circle and often gone." She paused then and looked over at him. "Are you suggesting..?"
"I'm telling you I never knew you happy avoiding magic and I want to know why now."
Pale eyes locked to him, then away. "I sent away my mage charge to her safety away from this breach, from those who would judge her. I am feeling guilty."
"Why did you send her away?"
"Whom here would be open minded to blood magic?"
Cullen's swift breath told her all she needed to know and Ria gave a bitter smile. It was a good thing, they did not speak of most the horrors in their past often.
"A blood mage, Ria?" And Cullen's voice shook, angry.
"I know. I know what happened..she is my dear friend and Sister.." Ria walked over and put a hand on his arm, feeling the trembling in his limb. "But you were my friend as well. That I have never forgotten, so I sent her away but I feel guilty over it. So, to whom should I cleave? The cranky Vivienne or the rather moody elf that looks at me as though I am going to hit him?"
"He probably does. Cassandra said you used a controlled smite."
Ria blinked at him, and eventually Cullen could not help but laugh. "You have no idea how terrifying you are because you are so used to your view..talk to him. Vivienne would adore you but she'd try and play politics and then you'd tie her up most likely."
"I did that once."
"To the senior enchanter visiting." Cullen was grinning now however, it had been but a part of the many items that got her in such trouble she went to the Wardens. Ser Gregoir had often despaired of dealing with her. "If I recall..you also gagged him."
"He wouldn't be silent." Ria remarked.
"He had an armed guard of visiting templars."
"No, no Ria.." And here Cullen shook his head but went off to answer where one of his men was flagging him down. "Those weren't recruits. They were Highever Chantry templars."
Ria waited, and then shrugged before she hollered after him. "Think they minded being beaten by a girl?"
It was worth it to hear him laugh.
"Come to the Tavern." Ruby insisted as she pestered Ria in their room. Luckily the two women had been given one of the smaller cabins on the outskirts.
"You want me to drink? We have enough trouble with our appetites and my hunting and your smuggling can only help us so much..A dwarf that drinks as we do is possible..but me? " Ria asked her as she was putting her hair up, having just washed it out in the nearby bowl to remove the sweat from her scalp.
"Just a few. Not enough for them to connect things but there's rumors Ria. And you should be social." She reached over and patted her friend's knee. "Come on. We haven't had a drink together in almost a month since you started training the kids."
"Very well." And Ria smiled at her making Ruby beam as she all but pranced out, the templar following with no weapon on her save a long knife, no armor but the greaves and bracers she wore from habit. The rest was a soft tunic and skin tight pants, with a warm cloak over it.
When they entered the tavern neither woman blinked at the crowd, though Ruby did pull her over to the long table where Varric was setting up a game of wicked grace with the herald and others it seemed. "Ruby! You made it! And look you brought the elusive General!"
Ria groaned at the title and felt her face go red even as she sat down, amused that Ruby had maneuvered her to be between her and the elf mage, and only across from the sneering circle mage Madame de Fer. Her friend really did know her too well.
"No rank, please, Master Tethras." She pleaded gently and waved Ruby on at the look. They did know each other. "As you see fit, my Stone. I'll drink." Ruby knew what would get her looks and curious glances better than Ria did and so she just smirked back at her.
"The ale tastes like that piss we got back in the outreach."
Ria blinked. "But is it as strong?"
For some reason that made the massive qunari there roar in laughter and she wondered if that was so unusual.
"You like strength, eh little lady?" He said with a wiggle of his visible brow. "I'm the Iron Bull.."
"Luria. Ria." She inclined her head and someone, Sera wasn't it..yes the bee obsessed one that Cullen complained over, snorted.
"Oh for..look can ya be less prissy elfy? Damnit Ruby I thought you said she was fun!"
Ruby of course started roaring in laughter. "You are just meetin her! Damn impatient little tits!"
"Perhaps I should make this simple?" Ria interrupted with a bit of wry amusement. "As I know the stories my friend likes to skew. I am Luria, you may call me Ria. I am a templar, yes I knew Cullen at the circle in Fereldan. I've been lectured many a times by the Commanders for my views on magic and mages and tend to be.."
"Socially oblivious!" Ruby sing songed
"Taken far more seriously than I intend. Any questions?"
"You forgot to tell them you're a filthy mouthed wild card when you feel like it." Came Cullen's voice as he sat down beside the herald, with a gaze that lingered just a bit too long.
"I know right? You ever hear her start singing when she's reaaallly mad? To the point she starts chopping things n people?" Ruby asked and Ria just chortled.
"That wasn't anger, my stone. Unlike you I was still in control."
"Yeah yeah you say that but you sent the dudes torso flying halfway across..." The two blinked and turned, noticing the shocked looks. "What?"
"Little thing like you?" Bull asked as his gaze fell over Ria.
"I have honed my body into a weapon, my mind into a shield, and my abilities into the force that keeps my allies alive. Why is this such an anomaly?"
"That directed smite you did.." Cassandra interrupted with an eager voice. "I've never seen the like.."
"Oh I like it better when she does the light show one." Ruby said and Ria just chuckled.
"It is just control. Directing the energies of the smite takes will and discipline but choosing where and how much of it to unleash is a fine practice and I intend to get it down until I can utilize it without fear of backlash on any mage allies. As it is if they are still too close I've been told it itches."
"Itches..." Vivienne couldn't help but pipe up. "My lovely girl if your smite only itches you're a terribly weak little addition to the order..what good could you do to the circle?"
Solas spoke up from beside her, his voice cold and yet rippling with mild condescension. "With a single strike she dispelled a more powerful wraith. A strike that had sent her across the room to do so, no less. I have little doubt were I the focus of such an attack I would have been fortunate to stay conscious. Even with barriers."
"You've done nothing to deserve a smite." Ria said and tasted her ale without watching her words. For some reason it made Ruby snicker and Cullen sigh.
"Ruby, do tell me she's at least stopped approaching every random mage and scaring them because she hasn't explained?"
"Scaring..?" Piped up Ellana.
"Back in Ferelden..we'd get new mages in and they'd be trembling at the many templars. Then Ria'd go up to them, usually just in a deadpan voice and talk to them. It'd take three or four days for them to realize she was trying to reassure them!"
"She's worse." Ruby assured him and Ellana blinked.
"Wait..so back at the...temple, when you were going ..I thought you were going to attack Solas!"
Cassandra and Varric voiced their agreements and were treated to Ria's startled expression before she turned to Solas.
"I didn't come across that way...did I?"
He smirked at her. "I did prepare to use a mind blast and get you out of the range of what I thought your smite would be. I didn't know you could use your muscles to practically fly across a room. After all, all you said was 'mage'."
Ria groaned then and tucked her hair behind one of her ears, the one that usually had the braided part covering it.
"What happened!?" Came the distressed tone of Cassandra. Her eyes were locked onto the suspiciously curved shape, notched partly up. Indeed save for the main point and the part closer to her face..the rest of the pointed shape had been cut away.
"Ah..." Ria ran her finger along it. "That was unpleasant. Suffice to say I got back at them and am relieved I was not 'turned into a more pleasant looking non knife ear.'"
Ruby said nothing. She knew. Knew of the mission that had gone horribly, the one they'd met Lily on. Knew that Ria had become a gladiator for a mad man who was collecting those who used their abilities in strange ways, the Collector he'd called himself. Trying to amass an army of specialists not to be found elsewhere. His lieutenant had become obsessed with the idea of Ria, but couldn't reconcile his elf hatred.
"Is long over with." Ria deflected and sipped at her ale again. "Besides I met one of my best friends for it, Lily is a fantastic healer."
Cullen shifted but said nothing. Solas hummed. "You asked if I was all right that battle, you are used to protecting a healer then?"
"I protect all the mages usually. Unlike some, I took my oaths seriously." She meant multiple pairs but it made Vivienne look over approvingly.
"To strike down those who are going against the chant?"
"Oh I'm a heretic there." Ria smirked and shrugged, stealing another mug from a nearby server who had brought the round. "Caused a lot of lectures and yelling..but I took to the discipline so well it was overlooked that the most I know of the chant is very awful mockery."
"I remember." Cullen snickered. "You misquoted to Ser Gregoire once..."
"I did not."
"You called Andraste, Enaste!"
"I called her a blessing." She smiled. "Elvhen, Cullen. I said to those who followed the blessing and he started yelling."
"You speak?" Ellana looked at her wide eyed like a tiny owl and she nodded back. A string of Elvhen left her then but it was heavily accented and rapid.
"/Slow. Please. Your accent is unfamiliar and it has been long./"
"I..I missed a lot of that..I was just saying hello."
"Well perhaps we can work on it together."
"...if you insist, I may as well work on your pronunciations." Solas muttered softly even as Sera started screeching about elfy shite.
"/You speak? Fluently?/" She asked softly, her voice not carrying beyond. Again, Solas looked at her, curious. Wary. Why was he so wary?
"/I do. Where did you learn?/"
Ria chuckled. "/You wouldn't believe it./"
"/I learned in the fade./"
"A warden wrote down in a journal, and all the translations. It was back before Andraste and the journal is heavily preserved with magic. Never leaves one of the outposts. I was fortunate enough to spend time there.."
"You are a little off..but.." He paused and then gave the faintest of smiles. "It is nice to speak to another in the waking world."
"Thedas to Ria.." Ruby got out and nudged her in the side. When Ria turned it was to see the cards being held out. "You in?"
"I pass. Perhaps enough to drink for me this evening.." She excused herself, knowing that Ruby would have just told her 'Cards' if she was to stay.
"I likewise shall call it an evening. May I escort you?" Solas asked and yet everyone was already too focused on the bets to pay them any mind. Ria nodded.
Outside she took in a slow deeper breath. "Blessed luck but it is stuffy in there.."
"You don't believe in Andraste and yet you're a templar.." He said softly, as if the information was alien to him.
"I became a templar because of personal beliefs but not religious ones, Solas."
"May I hear them?"
Ria stopped walking, heedless that they were in the midst of a road on a dark night, with no one else around. She just looked at him as if he was the strangest thing she had ever seen. "You know, it is rare..anyone wishes to hear it."
"I can relate to that.."
"tell me your story, and I shall share mine."
"Very well.." And as they walked, twice around Haven fully and then into the woods around it, Solas told her of the fade. Of the wonders he had seen, of journeys and tales he had and where things were different. For the most part Ria was a silent audience but there was no mistaking her curious gaze.
When it was her turn she spoke of her time seeing mages even just an unknowing child, locked away. Taken away just because of something they had no control over being given. She told of her desire to protect, to defend, that drove her in all things. She spoke her personal pledge and at some point they had stopped walking. Just overlooking Haven from further up, both in their cloaks.
"...You wish to protect.." He said and looked at her as though she was the most fascinating book he'd never read.
"To the point I have endangered my existence many a time." She agreed. And had she ever..
"I..have never met a templar like you. Even Cullen, good man though he is, fears mages first not wish to protect them and give them another way.."
"You were born with the fade at your fingertips." She spoke and Solas repressed a sigh. How right she was... His eyes trailed over her profile in the light as she looked not down at Haven, but up at the stars in thought. "I have an unnatural predilection for my abilities or so I was told. Many times. I am willing to find new ways, to challenge how templars do things and have always done so, perhaps it is why I am not one to judge the users of magic who try for other ways. Only when it crosses over a line I think we can all agree on."
She turned and smiled at him then, and it was interesting how much he had found comfort in just speaking. At times they had woven in and out of Elvhen and she peppered her speech with the terms, correctly. Perhaps she would like to learn, as the Herald did not. Not that he could fault the Dalish her pride in her culture, for all it was wrong.
"Oh..it's almost dawn." She smiled then and tugging her cloak down so her head could fully turn to look at where the sun would emerge. "I try not to miss the sunrise, though I apologize I kept you out from the Fade all night."
"While I appreciate it, a single missed evening will hardly embitter my soul." He teased. "Fond of the sunrise?"
"Oh I love the two moons, do not get me wrong, their tale was a favored of mine growing up..but there have been so many times I was never certain I would get to see another sunrise that I do my best to not miss one." It was something a great deal of the Warden's all did in their outpost. Indeed, most mornings before training every one of them would be out to wait. The pinks and golds erupting, chasing away the blackness, the gray of twilight. It was a metaphor. They were the gray that stood between the blazing light and the darkness, a brief transient existence. Solas stayed silent beside her and since they could see down at Haven, she looked...sure enough Ruby was visible coming out of their cabin to watch for the light.
Her lips formed words she did not voice, knowing Ruby would be doing the same. 'Another day, another morning. I live, I serve, I pledge. Until my final breath, my final strike. Witness and hear my oath.' It was clumsy, simple. Though she did not speak it aloud she could feel her soul vibrating with it, knew Ruby's was. Knew that out there watching this same natural wonder was Theo and Lily and their Brother's and Sisters..and every one of them would be mouthing the words. If secluded enough they would intone it.
Morning reminded them to live.