Trying to post this old fan fic AGAIN because Tumblr Mobile keeps eating it up and saying 'something frizzled'
Arryn Lavellan’s hand, that’s what frizzled. And being a vain chap, he is quite concerned about the loss of his limb and how it will affect his relationship with Cassandra. Enjoy some mushy feelzful stuff below!
So, it was done. The Inquisition was about to downsize and become Divine Victoria’s personal guard. Perhaps it would have been wiser to disband altogether, as Leliana suggested - to work from the shadows, while posing as boring, ordinary, law-abiding citizens. But he could never have given that order - not after all that had happened.
He lost Solas, his dear friend and mentor, perhaps even his father figure - he lost him the moment the image he had inside his heart, that of a wise, compassionate, loyal companion was shattered to pieces, and got replaced by a less ugly version of Corypheus (perhaps, this was not entirely true, but for now, he was too blinded by anger at being lied to, and refused to accept the thought that the Dread Wolf was not evil at heart).
He lost his faith in the Creators, something that he had always taken such pride in - like a foolish child, grovelling at the feet of mighty, legendary figures, who in truth turned out to be nothing but selfish, cruel, power-grabbing tyrants, not a whit better than the shemlen oppressors that came after them.
And as if all of that was not enough, he lost his hand, too… With so little remaining for him to hold on to - in every sense of the word - he would not have had it in him to let go of the Inquisition. His Inquisition. The mighty power that he and his friends raised from the ashes and, as good old Thom so wonderfully put it, wielded to shake the world.
The heavy gates of the palace closing behind him, Inquisitor Lavellan squared his shoulders and took a long, heavy breath of nippy evening air. The breath culminated in a short cough; hoarse, scraping, it clawed at his throat as though he had swallowed a large chunk of tumbleweed. By the… wait, he did not have anyone left to swear by, did he? Well, he pondered briefly to himself, there was still Mythal - yes, Mythal seemed like the only one among that rotten bunch with a name worth uttering out loud. So - by Mythal, he was parched! That high-strung speech had really taken quite a tremendous effort - even without all those stuck-up nobles giving him long judgmental looks, and Arl Teagan distrupting his flow of thought by twitching his ridiculous ears.
He could use a drink right now - but it would be probably no use stopping by at the tavern, as the publican had received pretty explicit instructions not to serve the Inquisitor anything stronger than that sickly warm apple cider that the Orlesians had imported, supposedly to cater to (or maybe insult) the Fereldan delegation. Aparently, precautions had to be taken after a certain… incident when, following the utterly humiliating amputation, Lavellan got drunk and almost burned down an entire palace wing (It was their fault for trying to comfort him! All he ever wanted was to be left alone - but the others just had to keep pestering him, until he lost his temper and cast a wall of fire to make them stay away!).
And because of that incident - which, again, was caused by no-one else but those meddlesome busybodies - he now had nothing to quench his thirst with. There was always water, though - didn’t he see a fountain around the corner somewhere?
Lavellan flinched, imagining himself leaning awkwardly down towards the edge of a stone basin, with nothing but a stupid stump to keep him balanced while he plunged his remaining hand into the cool, bubbling stream… What a pathetic sight he would make - and there were bound to be witnesses, gawking and pointing at the once proud and mighty Inquisitor, who now could not even drink some water out of a goddamn puddle without outside help!
So, the tavern it was, after all - the cider would have to do. At least they served it in tankards. He could handle a tankard without making a spectacle of himself; and maybe he could sit at a corner table, turning in a way that would block the shameful, useless stub of flesh from view…
‘Hey, there you are!’
Lavellan had not walked two steps down the path to the tavern, when he had to stop, with his path blocked by a familiar short, stocky, and hairy-chested figure. Varric. Got to trust him to pop up, all smug and full of mischief, whenever you were least expecting him - and when you were least in the mood for him.
'I’ve been meaning to give this to you - Cassandra already has one, and she is reading the shit outta it; but I couldn’t possibly leave for Kirkwall without making sure you had your own personal copy! After all, without you, none of this weirdness would never have gotten a happy ending!’
Lavellan blinked in slight confusion, staring down at the small tome that the cordially grinning dwarf was extending to him.
'Remember how during that big old We-Kicked-Corypheus’-Butt party, I told you I was thinking of writing a book about this whole mess?’ Varric asked, as he reached out to flip the tome open, saving the Inquisitor the trouble of fumbling about with only one hand. 'Well, here it is, fresh out of print! I even signed it for you!’
The elf squinted down at the bold handwriting that sprawled across the title page. The message, dashed down in slightly splattering ink, read,
To the one and only Arryn Lavellan.
Hope this will help you always carry the good old days around in your pocket - and you can’t deny that, though weird like the stuff you see when you’ve had too much ale, it was all pretty good!’
As the Inquisitor read the inscription, his lips, which had not been touched by as much as a ghost of a smile ever since he stepped through the final eluvian to confront Solas, slowly slid apart - and this made Varric draw a swift, quiet sigh of relief. But the smile did not last - it faded away the instant the elf, who had begun casually flipping through the book (which the dwarf was still holding up for him), stopped at a random page and began reading more intently.
For the paragraph that he had chanced across ran as follows,
After finally eeling out of the grabby hands of the Council members, I decided to check on the Inquisitor. Last time I saw him, before the Orlesians swept me off (for what must have been the third time that evening!), he was heading towards the balcony with the Empress’ favourite apostate. As a devoted friend, I felt it was my duty to make sure he had not been turned into a frog.
When I made it back to the ball room, I discovered that it was jam-packed with fidgeting, whispering masked nobility of all shapes and sizes - well, mostly of shapes and sizes that prevented me from seeing what in blazes was going on to get them so excited. Most of them were so enthralled that even the trusty old 'Didn’t I see Commander Cullen pass over where?’ did not work. All the same, some of them did get distracted, fluttering off so that I could elbow my way towards the front lines. And when I did, the only reaction I was capable of was a loud whistle.
There was only one couple on the dance floor, and it drew the gazes of everyone for miles around like an generous spoonful of honey draws bees and wasps. Well, you could hardly blame those stunned onlookers - it’s not every day that you see a tattooed wild elf not only make his way into the palace, but also save the empress and (more importantly!) knock all their socks and garters off by dancing first with the Grand Dutchess, and then with a (somewhat) blue-blooded Nevarran lady!
That’s right - the show-stealer was none other than my good friend Lavellan, sweeping Cassandra off in a fast, rhythmic dance that echoed her ecstatic heartbeat. Apparently, after we cleaned up the Grand Dutchess’ mess, she had had time to attach the skirt to the dark-blue dress-slash-light-armour-piece that the Inquisitor had tricked her into buying in Val Royaux - and it seemed to me that every rustle of the cloth against the floor was accompanied by intense crackling, as the air around every Orlesian lady electrified with envy.
Lavellan’s partner did not mind the whispering Orlesians one bit, completely lost in the elf’s deep amber eyes - but Lavellan himself, though halfway towards that dreamy, unresponsive stupor that came over him when he spent a long enough time with Cassandra, was still alert enough to hear my whistle. For a moment, the Inquisitor turned his head to face me - and when our eyes met, I gave him a silent thumbs-up, which he returned, while still supporting Cassandra’s waist with his free hand…
'I worked extra hard on the lovey-dovey bits,’ Varric confessed, 'Do let me know if you hear Cassandra squeal while reading them. Giggles would be nice, too. And please tell me how she reacts to the description of that birthday present of yours - you know, when you hid naked in her room and…’
Lavellan did not let him finish. Jerking his hand off the book as though it had stung him, he turned on his heels and marched off without saying a word. As, utterly flabbergasted, Varric gaped at the elf’s withdrawing back, he thought he saw his shoulders twitch.
'He wanted to, you know,’ a soft, sing-song voice breathed into the dwarf’s ear, as a lanky, pallid boy materialized at his side.
'Hey kid!’ Varric exclaimed. 'You not back to the Fade yet? I admit, I’m gonna miss your riddle-talk…’
As it was usually in his manner, the 'kid’ ignored him, and went on,
'Sunlight warming the white stone steps as they sit side by side, unravelling tangled threads of confusion. It was all a joke, a trick - your trick - but he wanted to make it real. He wanted to propose - no, not wanted; wanting. He has been wanting. For a long, long time. But he kept putting it off, storing it away, a little pure thought, hidden in his mind like a tiny glass marble in the furthest cupboard drawer. But it grows now; it swells and burns - a coiling clot of hurt. He feels broken, useless and worn; an empty, bent-in flask, with good wine all spent. He thinks that if he does it now, he will tie her down… An old ball and chain… He fell in love with the fire inside her heart, and he is afraid of putting it out. The light burns for the Seekers, for order restored; she should be out there, helping, building, inspiring - not baby-sitting a cripple…’
The dwarf shook his head.
'That stupid, stubborn elf! I did not write a wagonload of mushy scenes with these two only to see him break it off! You know what, kid - I am staying until this is sorted out!’
And so he stayed. They all did. Days went by, and the people of Halamshiral could still see the Iron Bull sitting languidly in the tavern chair, his legs stretched forward, shaking his head condescendingly as his second-in-command made tentative attempts to woo the resident bard; they could still hear loud bursts of laughter, as Warden Thom Rainier and Sera swapped stories of their escapades; they could still catch glimpses of Commander Cullen racing through the parkland with his Mabari, and Lady Josephine busily bustling off somewhere with a stack of important-looking papers tucked away under her arm. It was rather odd, they said to themselves, after dodging yet another pie thrown at them by the cackling blonde imp in a tattered red blouse. One might have expected a few of the Inquisition’s representatives to remain in Orlais, given that now they were bound to the Divine (who, incidentally, devoted suspiciously copious amounts of time to discussing something with Lady Nightingale is dramatic undertones). But, from the looks of it, the entire lot of them had decided to linger!
Whatever was keeping them, the Orlesians wondered. Didn’t Rainier have his duties at Weisshaupt; didn’t the Bull’s Chargers have to go out there and make a living as mercenaries; didn’t that Ambassador Pavus intend to head off to Tevinter as soon as the Exalted Council was over? And whatever was Seeker Pentaghast up to, sweeping as she did through the streets, accosting random merchants with emphatic gestures and brandishing what looked like a long and messy shopping list in their faces?
Nag as they did at the bewildered citizens of Halamshiral, these questions all slipped past Inquisitor Lavellan, who for days on end forcibly buried himself in paperwork, to keep his mind off the persistent urge to scratch an itch in his left palm - only to end up grasping at thin air and cursing furiously under his breath… and also to try and forget the dreams he kept having: a jumbled, painful mess of colours and faces, among which he could sometimes discern Solas, mocking him for being such a gullible little pawn in his game, or Cassandra, turning away from him in fear and disgust. The latter was the reason why Lavellan avoided the Seeker as much as he could in his waking moments. Whenever he caught sight of her, or thought he heard her voice, he remembered, with vivid precision that made his stomach knot painfully, the last kiss that they shared in front of the eluvian, after reassuring one another of their love. It happened so recently, and yet so long ago - back when he still had two hands to hold her, and comfort her, and protect her. And now - now that kiss, and all those words they said, for all their tenderness, meant nothing. Absolutely nothing. He had become a disfigured monstrosity, and she would never love him the way she used to; she would pity him, perhaps, as a devout Andrastian like her would pity any crippled beggar that had wandered into the Chantry seeking shelter - and he was too proud to accept pity. He would not take alms, thank you very much.
But even though Lavellan fled from Cassandra whenever their paths crossed, it turned out that he would not be able to hide from her forever. For one day, as he was poring over his papers, trying to figure out which Inquisition resources to give up and which to spare for countering the Fen Harel cult, he was distracted from his task by a polite cough. Lifting his head, he saw Leliana, standing on ceremony at a respectful distance away from his desk, with her forehead furrowed and her expression very sombre.
'Whatever is the matter?’ the elf asked gruffly.
'Cassandra wants to see you,’ the Spymaster reported. 'It is urgent’.
Lavellan stiffened in his seat, studying Leliana’s grim, almost ashen face. He had never seen her like this before… except maybe when she prayed in her tent in Haven, shortly after the old Divine had died. Oh dear heavens… Whatever had happened to Cassandra?!
His heart racing so madly that he felt deafened by the ringing in his temples, Lavellan jolted to his feet, knocking back his chair, and cried out incoherently,
'You had better come in person,’ Leliana responded, in the same solemn manner. 'You will find her here’.
She pointed down at the sketchy plan of the royal residence and the surrounding streets, laid out before the Inquisitor. Lavellan glanced down at it hastily and, jerking it out from beneath a rustling heap of paperwork, rushed off, too busy chanting, 'Please, please let her be safe!’ to hear the Spymaster exhale loudly, as if she had been underwater all this time, and let out a burst of laughter.
When he arrived at the place that Leliana had marked on his map, he felt more than slightly disoriented. He was pretty certain that this was supposed to be a dead-end back alley; he had gotten a pretty good idea which passage led where during his trotting hither and thither in search of Qunari spies - and yet, this particular alley looked nothing like what he remembered.
It was as if he had wandered into some sort of ornate pavilion, with a light, web-like wooden grid overhead, barely visible beneath twisting plant tendrils, heavy with brightly coloured blossoms. Frowning and twirling the map as best he could, the elf stepped forward - and choked a little, as the air had suddenly grown dense with some sort of heady smell, which seemed to somehow originate… from the ground? As he glanced down at his feet, he realized that, all along both sides of the path through the greenhouse, there were small, round incense candles, placed neatly in two parallel lines, at equal distances from one another - except in one place, where the line was broken… by an enormous jar, which stood perched against a flower pot.
Gradually beginning to give up any attempts to figure out what was going on, Lavellan approached the jar and peered inside. The curious vessel turned out to contain cookies - large, round cookies with chunks of chocolate stuffed generously into them. Lavellan clenched his fists… fist, dammit! He would never get used to his left hand being gone!.. and gave the jar a frustrated kick. Sera and her crazy pranks! Of course! He knew something was off with this street! But… He drew back from the jar, running his fingers thoughtfully through his hair. But why would Leliana condone her behaviour - and even take part in the prank herself? And what did Cassandra have to do with any of this?
His intensive pondering was interrupted by the sound of a voice coming out from the other end of the alley-turned-greenhouse - a voice that shot through his heart and stomach like a shard of red lyrium. Her voice.
’..And I shall love the still, my dear,
Till all the seas go dry,
Till all the seas go dry, my dear,
And all the rocks melt with the sun…’
She was pronouncing every word of those lines with great care, like a diligent student reciting her homework; but under the surface, he could feel her voice strain with emotion. Still puzzled, he walked forward, drawn towards the sound like a moth to a flame, feeling slightly dizzy with the incense smell - and then stopped, swaying slightly, as she stepped out of the greenish darkness, and embraced him before he could stumble and fall down. But he jerked free of her grasp, as it finally dawned on him what this was supposed to mean. She was reenacting his very first attempt to properly court her - only with roles reversed; and by doing that, she giving him a cruel reminder of how sweet, how idyllic everything was once.. when he was whole. Granted, that did not quite explain the cookies - but, damn it all, he did not care about the cookies any longer!
Perhaps it was the inebriating influence of the incense, or the overwhelming torrent of memories that flooded his mind - but instead of snapping angrily at Cassandra, as he expected himself to, Lavellan suddenly burst into tears.
'Why are you doing this?!’ he sobbed wheezingly, staggering a few steps away from Cassandra. 'Why are you mocking me?! T-taunting me with the past?’
'I am not!’ she exclaimed in protest, as she attempted to catch hold of his only hand; he thought he could see concern in her eyes, but he still pointedly turned away.
'I am trying to show you that things are not any different now from the way they were back then!’
'You are wrong,’ Lavellan said through his teeth, continuing to draw away from her every time she attempted to look at him. 'Everything has… changed…’
'Not everything,’ Cassandra objected firmly, finally weaving her fingers through the elf’s. 'You are still you, and I am still me. And I will stay true to my promise to always be there for you’.
'I will be a burden,’ the elf breathed, still not daring to look into the human’s eyes. 'You wanted to accomplish so much…’
'And I will,’ she said. 'With you beside me’.
He could tell by her voice that she had to be smiling; his heart jolting slightly, he finally brought himself to look at her face, to see if it was so - and proved himself right. She was smiling - one of the happiest, purest smiles he had ever seen light up her face.
'You… You are not disgusted, are you?’ he whispered, feeling flushed and breathless as she drew closer to him, their faces almost touching. This must have been how she felt, that night in the grove near Skyhold, when he surprised her with poetry and candles.
'Do you really think me so shallow? So ungrateful?’ Cassandra asked, wrapping her arms tightly around him. 'When I saw you writhe in pain as your Mark burned, my heart stopped… I thought I would lose you - but the Maker brought you back to me, again, and I could not be more thankful’.
He was not certain how the kiss happened - perhaps she concluded her little speech of encouragement with it, or perhaps he began it earlier, interrupting her; but before either of them knew it, the lock of their embrace grew even stronger than before, and their mouths crashed forcibly against each other, their breaths melting into one endless, scorching sigh.
It was Lavellan who finally broke away, panting slightly; jerking his head, as though to shake off the last remnants of the kiss’ enchantment, he frowned and said,
'Dammit, Cassandra! You made me want to…’
'Why didn’t you?’ she asked him calmly. 'I would not have protested’.
He gestured meaningfully towards his empty sleeve.
'How can I hold you? Touch you? It would have been awkward and fumbling and…’
'You would have found a way,’ she reassured him, smiling again. 'You have always been a crafty little elf. And so full of yourself… I rather miss that Arryn - and I…’ she paused for a moment to search for the right words. ’… I demand that you be full of yourself again!’
Lavellan did not say anything for a long time, allowing Cassandra to take hold of his hand again and steer him towards the nearest bench (there were benches here, too? How on earth did they get here?). When he finally broke the silence, he spoke through a smile - a rather strained smile, tinged with sadness, but a smile nonetheless,
'I wish I could reproduce that Tevinter time magic and go back to the Temple of Sacred Ashes to smack my younger self on the head, for constantly insulting the amazing woman he was fortunate to have at his side’.
'She was not that amazing back then,’ Cassandra said quietly, while fumbling around her in search of something that apparently kept eluding her grasp, 'She was harsh and unforgiving towards a certain elven mage… Ah! There it is!’
'What is it?’ Lavellan asked, watching her pick up a small, tattered, leather-bound book that she must have misplaced during the kiss.
'It’s something I want you to see,’ Cassandra replied, suddenly sounding a little flustered, 'It was… Cole’s idea, actually. He… sensed your pain, and came to me…’
'He wanted you to make me read poetry?’ the elf raised his eyebrows in bewildernment. 'How is that supposed to help me?’
'It is not… exactly poetry,’ now Cassandra’s tone was more than slightly flustered - much, much more. 'Just - look. I wroteit down because… I… I thought it would give my words more weight… I - I suppose…’
Glancing up at Cassandra, Lavellan saw that she was no blushing so deeply that her face almost seemed darker than her hair. Deciding to spare her from further embarrassment, he took the little book from her and spread it out on his knees.
Just as Cassandra said, it was not a volume of poetry - rather, it seemed to be some sort of journal or notebook… Only its pages were completely blank, save for two words, spelled out in gigantic letters, so that each of them took up the entirety of its respective page,
And that was it. Nothing but his own name. This did not make any sense! Although - wait, was that a comma after 'Lavellan’? Yes, definitely: a comma, not a period. This had to mean that there was more!
Catching the corner of the page between his fingers, Lavellan flipped it over - and sure enough, there were two more words, the very same words that he had been meaning to say but could not, shackled and silenced by his own uncertainty and fear and shame,
'I must say, it was quite impressive how you put that lovely pavilion together at such short notice!’ Josephine said, taking a delicate sip out of her goblet.
Rainier coughed loudly and stared down at his hands, the tips of his ears reddening.
'I, uhm… I suppose I am good at this sort of thing, m'lady…’
'And to think your lumbering gang almost ruined such craftsmanship by lugging all those flower pots around!’ Dorian clicked his tongue in mock reproach, as he allowed Bull to pour him another drink.
'Hey, watch it!’ the Tal-Vashoth retaliated, with a big grin. 'They pulled it off like darn professionals! Sneaking around in the back alleys, past all those Orlesians, not dropping a single pot! And Dalish making those vines crawl all the away up above with her m…’
'Mighty gardening abilities!’ Krem hurried to cut in. 'Yeah, we had good training in sneakiness during your birthday, chief!’
'Did any of you make sure that the candles were perfectly symmetrical?’ Divine Victoria joined the conversation, lowering herself on one of the couches around the chess table with as much grace as her long robes allowed. 'Everything has to be immaculate for such an important occasion!’
'Candles schmandles! I might have knocked over a few when I was stuffing the jar - but I put them back… I think. At least I didn’t start a fire or anything’.
'I’d say that candles are far more important for setting the mood than your cookies, my dear’, the Divine remarked, pursing her lips.
'Absolutely!’ Dorian agreed. 'I picked out the scents myself! This handsome nose is the only one you can trust around here!’
'They have been in there for a while now,’ Cullen remarked nervously, rubbing the back of his neck. 'Do you think the plan came through?’
'You worry too much, Commander!’ Leliana smiled. 'You should know better than doubt either Cassandra, or the Inquisitor! Focus on more important things, like what you are going to wear for the big day!’
'Big day indeed,’ Josephine sighed, 'I feels as if we invited half of Thedas!’
'You know that Cass will be mighty pissed if the finds out that you are throwing a party, right?’ Sera pointed out, picking up a frilly cake off the saucer on the table and stuffing it inside her mouth.
'She does seem the type to hate huge weddings,’ Rainier added.
'Yeah… And she hasn’t even seen the dress yet,’ Varric concluded with a chuckle.