Wings Like Sails
I'm part of a very informal Dragon Age RP on Formspring/IRC that sprung up earlier this year and keeps rolling despite everything. The basic premise is that there's a bar in the Fade where the Wardens and Hawkes and various NPCs from DA and DA2 meet and mix. As you might imagine, the variety of personalities keeps things...interesting. (Not to mention the fact that there are at last count at least eight Zevrans, four Nathaniels, four Anders...es, three Alistairs, three Cullens, two Lelianas, several Carvers, and a Merrill in a pear tree.)
So over in the Fade Bar RP, Kathil Amell and solitae's Lilian Hawke (from The Thing With Feathers) have been having a…Thing. For months. And they're not even getting close to stopping. (And at this point, they're mostly no longer denying that it's a Thing, which for them is a step forward!)
These are thirteen moments from their relationship, tiny little glimpses into who they are to one another. And like the girls themselves, everything is written between the lines…
1. what is mutable
Kathil touches her face, watches in the mirror as the scars smooth away under her fingertips as if they've never been. It's like watching water recede from stones; drained of scar, the side of her face is whole and unmarred, the twist at the corner of her mouth smooth.
The face that looks back at her does not belong to her.
This is the Fade, and she should be able to appear however she wants. She can change her clothing with a thought, and the length of her hair. But this face belongs to someone younger, prettier, more innocent. It is a face from ten years ago, of a girl long since dead.
She killed that girl herself.
Kathil relaxes, and the scar slashing across her cheek resurfaces. Not the prettiest face in the world. But mine.
2. what is inevitable
"Oh, we were just discussing who prefers men and who prefers women." The woman speaking is a Hawke named Lilian, a bundle of dark hair and green eyes with a manic edge to her. A party girl. Another mage.
Kathil, of course, is intimidated. She smiles then, a little shyly, emerging deliberately from her usual façade of grave observation. "I like both," she says. "But I'm a little full up on men at the moment, considering I have two at home."
Lilian gives her a speculative look, and Kathil wraps her hands around her teacup and wonders if it means anything at all.
3. what happens when we part
She takes her leave with her stomach twisted up in knots, knowing that this may well be the last time she comes here. Philomene, her elven sister-who-should-have-been, has fled out into the Raw Fade, and Kathil dares not go after her. (There is dark laughter in the back of her mind; what lives there is patient.)
Lilian emerges from the crowd, slings her arm around Kathil. She's half a head taller than Kathil—not that it takes much to be—and for the first time Kathil notices that their bodies fit together like puzzle pieces.
The other woman kisses Kathil on the cheek. "Come back safe," she says, an uncharacteristic note of worry in her voice.
Before she entirely realizes what she's doing, Kathil turns her head and kisses Lilian gently on the lips. "I will do my best. And—" she smiles—"I don't bite, you know."
If she hadn't done that then, she never would have. And maybe she never would have found out that kissing Lilian leaves just the faintest trace of magic on her lips, too faint to identify as anything but her.
Later, after the battle is fought, Kathil lies between her husbands with her daughter curled against her chest and belly. Her magic lies quiet within her, exhausted. Everything about the last few weeks feels distant at the moment, as if they had happened to someone else. Someone else confronted the Grand Cleric, called an ancient spirit to that confrontation; someone else spent two weeks trapped bodily in the Fade, rescued only by the efforts of the memory of an old friend and a man who was once her brother.
She remembers Lilian, and the taste of her magic.
I'm coming back.
4. what is lost
"Aedan outweighs Fenris by a good four or five stone," Kathil says, considering the opponents. "My money's on him."
Lilian laughs. They're leaning companionably against each other, sitting next to the impromptu wrestling ring. Aedan, a great bear of a man, is grinning at his elven opponent inside the ring. "Fenris is stronger than he looks. But you know, there's nothing to use money on here. Care to wager something else?"
"Like what?" Kathil asks. She's been back for a fortnight, Fade-time; a month and a half in her waking world. The bar's Fade cat walks past, her tail held high and crooked at the tip.
"Loser gives the winner massages for a week?" Lilian suggests. "Or, you know, we could bet something else. Stories, songs, pickaback rides."
Kathil gives the other woman a sidelong glance and discovers that her green eyes have a mischievous look in them. "Massages," she says. "I like that wager."
Fenris beats Aedan soundly, of course.
But with her hands digging into knots in Lilian's shoulders, feeling her body tense and then loosen under her fingertips, Kathil can't bring herself to mind losing. Lilian's hair smells faintly herbal, with a hint of dark loam, and it's intoxicating to breathe in. Or perhaps that's the woman herself.
She remembers this later and thinks, I knew so, so little.
5. what never was
Three women announce their pregnancies in quick succession and Lilian winds herself into silence, a silence Kathil knows better than to try to crack. But when the tears come slipping out in the silence after her climax, Kathil holds her and whispers, "I have you."
She does not ask.
6. what we are in the dark
"I want to fly," Lilian giggles in her ear.
They are drunk. They are very, very drunk on Aqua Magus. And they have been trying to work on flying spells. There's an odd pain in Kathil's side where she landed during an attempt a few minutes ago that went rather spectacularly awry. She is ignoring it, because she is drunk and happy and she is tangled up with Lilian on the floor of the room that is not theirs but that they share more often than not.
She bites the other woman's earlobe; Lilian makes a yelp of protest that settles into a purr when Kathil gentles her teeth. "I know how to fly," she says. "But you have to promise not to kill me."
Lilian pulls back and looks down at her; her eyes are wide in the dim, the pupils catching hints of the light slipping in from under the door. "Really?" she asks.
A few minutes later, they are in the Raw Fade and Kathil is unfolding the memory of a dragon around her, wings making sounds like sails in a wind. Lilian is looking at her with wide eyes and there is a moment when Kathil is certain that she is about to run back into the bar, rouse the sleepers, scream the place down—
But Lilian is laughing, delighted, and her eyes are burning hot as they rake over Kathil's scaled and winged form.
(She does not know, Kathil realizes through the bright haze that the Aqua Magus has cast over her thoughts. She has never seen an Archdemon.)
Lilian comes forward, stumbles, fetches up against Kathil's leg. "Flying now," she says, all grins. "Let's go!"
In the morning, Kathil is startled to realize that that actually happened. A bit more startled when it happens again when they're not drunk and can remember it properly.
If she tries to think back and find the place where the balance between them shifted, that moment always comes to mind—the moment when Kathil expected to see loathing and found nothing but joy.
7. what secrets we hide
She's afraid of the water.
She loved the water once, but that was before the hundred lectures about the dangers that lurked in the depths of Lake Calenhad. And in her dreams, the dreams where she doesn't come to the bar and spend time with the friends she knows from a thousand Thedases, she drowns.
So when the grotto is made, with a pool that seems to beckon all present to come for a swim, Kathil is cautious. She clings to the rocky side, experimentally kicking her feet.
Lilian jumps in and swims over to her, hair plastered to her scalp with water. "What are you doing over here?" she asks.
Kathil passes a dripping hand over her hair, a nervous gesture. "I can't swim." She shrugs, awkwardly. Literally out of my depth.
Lilian looks surprised, and eyes her. (Has she ever admitted before that she can't do something? She doesn't remember.) "Well, come on." She holds out a hand.
They float together for a while, and Kathil eventually relaxes. Later, when Lilian is sitting on the rocky side of the pool and Kathil is still in the water, she leans over to press a kiss to the inside of the other woman's leg and thinks, Maybe so.
8. what is found
Lilian gets lost.
Kathil comes into the bar and knows this without knowing how she knows. Only knows that there is panic thrumming in her chest and sodding Void woman she's an adult she can take care of herself.
Except that, only a little while ago, she looked Lilian in the eye and told her, if you get lost out there I'll come after you.
It was a promise, and she keeps her promises.
When Kathil and Anders find Lilian, the mage is trapped in a dream of a dark foundry, calling for her mother, puddles of blood at her feet. When they bring her back, Laica is there to help Lilian tell the story of what happened, to tell Kathil about Leandra and how she died. They lie curled together in the dim of the beach pavilion, the crashing waves regular as a heartbeat and the salt air washing over them.
Laica is Lilian's voice. Kathil is silent, anchoring her.
Together, the two of them bring her home.
Eventually, Laica slips away, and Kathil and Lilian slide out of their clothes, wrap around each other, skin to skin. They're gentle with each other that night.
When Lilian falls asleep, Kathil remains wakeful, her eyes open in the dark.
9. what we do when we're alone
They play with magic together.
Kathil's lightning mixes with Lilian's dark purple spirit magic, intertwining, melding at the edges. Sparks skitter over damp skin. The surface of their magic is like another skin, sensitive and yearning, and they spend countless hours experimenting.
Sometimes, Kathil thinks that it is their respective magics that brought them together and keep them close. All she knows for certain is that the power that lives within her knows Lilian's power, and together they never have to apologize for being what they are.
They lie intertwined, surrounded by shredded pillows and furniture that has been nearly destroyed by the magic they were throwing around. They are wordless but laughing, their magics still in contact with one another.
It's the first night that they fall asleep together with their magic still entangled. Afterwards, it is as if they never entirely disengage from one another. Not magically; not any other way either.
If they love each other, they never speak of it.
10. what is remembered
They create a place from an Old God's memories, the heart of an ancient dragon matriarch's territory. Thirty miles square, enough room for flying, with lakes and caves. Lilian has learned how to shapeshift into a dragon, and they fly together more often than not.
On one of these days, they are lying together on a stone ledge outside of the biggest cave, enjoying the late autumn sun. Kathil is easily six times Lilian's size as a dragon, two hundred and fifty feet from nose to tail. Kathil's wing, draped over Lilian, nearly hides her from view.
~It's simpler, being this way,~ Lilian says in the language of dragons, part silent gesture, part long breathy sigh through a fanged mouth. ~To be in this place, like this.~
Kathil looks over the landscape; from here, even sharp draconic eyesight cannot see the flat place by the door that is all most will ever know of this room. ~It is,~ she replies. ~Everything is clearer.~
The Old God's heart beats, and is content. For once, it is not screaming or laughing in Kathil's mind. Here, with my mates, it whispers.
Everything is clearer.
It is always autumn in this place. She draws her wing tighter around Lilian and sets her head down on the stone.
11. what is silent
She whispers I love you into Lilian's shoulder sometimes, when the urge to say something grows too urgent to bear.
Lilian does her the favor of pretending not to hear.
12. what small promises we make
Weeks turn to months; months threaten to turn into years.
They are gentler with each other, sometimes. Some nights are quieter than others. Kathil is a Warden, and Lilian is a revolutionary. Always between them unspoken is the knowledge that people like them do not live out their three score and ten and die in their sleep.
"Take care of them," Kathil whispers one night. "If it comes to that." Take care of my family. Comfort them. Tell them they did right by me.
"Only if you take care of mine," Lilian says. Her voice does not tremble, but her hands tighten on Kathil's.
And it is agreed, just like that.
13. what sleeps within us, and what is wakeful
She wakes in Cumberland, the smell of snow on the breeze. She wakes in Orlais to the sound of Chantry bells calling all to worship; in Antiva to the heavy scent of citron blossoms and dark woods. She wakes in tents and in ramshackle inns, on boats and wagons. She wakes with her husbands on either side of her, her daughter pressed into her, their dogs snoring at their feet.
She wakes, and the world changes around her as she watches.
Lying beneath netting one sultry afternoon in Antiva, her daughter dozing on her chest, she calls magic into her hand. A dark purple haze spills into her hand, prickling.
Kathil closes her hand, and then her eyes. She is asleep within moments.