[Found this bit of fluff while doing so housekeeping. This would be from the Inquisition’s First Winter at Skyhold. 1k words. Cullen and Dorian and a terrible game of chess.]

Cullen knew where she was, of course he did. But he still wondered what she was doing at that moment. Was she fighting or riding or had they taken a much needed break? He knew she was fine, better than fine. Essa excelled in the field. There were regular reports from ravens and Leliana’s most intrepid scouts. The most recent had come only a few days ago, so he knew she was in Orlais, no doubt cursing the heat or mocking Varric for cursing the wilderness. Her last letter had been wary, still testing the footing between them. He should have written her back, told her that there was no need for such caution, but his dreams of her left him uncertain.


Maker’s breath, he missed her. Spring–and her return–felt years away.

“You’re losing.” The cheerful singsong was Dorian’s and that the man hadn’t obnoxiously crowed the declaration of his impending victory was further proof of just how subdued everyone was. “Your usual formidableness appears rather lackluster this afternoon.”

They were both off of their game. Dorian had only tried to cheat once since they sat down. Winter had become an interminable drag of bleak grey. The snow had melted in a rare warm day weeks ago, or perhaps from whatever enchantments lingered in the Skyhold’s stones. Either way, none had yet fallen to replace it, and all that remained was brittle and barren.  A near melancholy listlessness had taken hold of the fortress. Sera was more churlish than usual. Cassandra spent nearly every waking hour taking her frustrations out on the training dummies; her “favorite” had been replaced twice in as many weeks. Cullen was faring better than most, though lately he had been unable to do much more than harass his paperwork in a vain attempt to scratch thoughts of Essa from his mind.

Dorian cleared his throat, dragging Cullen’s attention back. Again. He had lost track of how many agains.

“Where has your mind wandered to?”

“Nowhere,” Cullen replied a shade too quickly. He forced his gaze back to the board before him.

“It doesn’t look like ‘nowhere’,” Dorian argued cheerfully. “Orlais perhaps? With a stubborn chin, a crooked nose, and a pair of brooding grey eyes.”

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Mary Rudge (1842-1919) was an English chess master, at a time when the sport was almost entirely male-driven. She was the first female member of the Bristol chess club, joining in 1872. In 1889, she became the first woman to give simultaneous chess exhibitions, and was recognized as the leading female chess player in the world.

She won multiple championships for her club, and also gave a blindfolded simultaneous display against ten opponents. In 1898, she played against Emanuel Lasker, world champion and one of the finest players in history, who conceded defeat in front of her.