Haylan found herself sat between Peanut and and an elf with a large bowl of popcorn balanced on her lap. She’d protested weakly about spying on the ball, but the chance to watch the goings on of an Orlesian court event live was too tempting to pass up. Besides, Fiowyn had repeatedly assured her that the Inquisitor was aware of the fact that the video was being streamed to Skyhold.
“Ooohhh good one Millie,” Fi said as her cousin promised to take a bite out of the Templar. “I’ll need to remember that.”
Varric had pulled open his tablet and started typing furiously, no doubt this would show up in his novel about the Inquisition. At least, Haylan //hoped// there would be a novel about the Inquisiton. One that conviniently left her out of the story so she didn’t feel weird about reading it.
“Well if she didn’t, I’d volunteer to,” the male elf –Aldes?– said.
“Millie’d fight you,” Karya said quietly. “And you know how she fights.”
“Pretty?” Peanut asked.
“Dirty,” Aldes answered.
“Booooo!” Fi said, throwing a handful of popcorn at the screen as the Chevalier Frederic and the Grand Duke appeared on screen.“Go away Fred. No one wants you.”
“Who’s that? Why are we booing?” Rumbled a deep voice from the doorway. Haylan looked over her shoulder to see Warden Hawke and the giant Qunari standing there. Carver looked confused, the Qunari, Metal Bull or something, just looked amused.
“That’s the Inquisitor’s ex, Nils’s dad,” Fi said over her shoulder, waving them in. “We don’t like him until he proves he’s not the asshat he was.”
Bull nodded thoughtfully, walking over and sitting on the floor to lean against one of the couches. Carver joined Varric at a cleared off desk, still not sure what to make of the whole situation.
“So, what’d he do that was so bad?” Carver asked, looking towards the elves.
“He locked her up for like five years,” Fi said.
The room went quiet, and all eyes shifted to the Inquisitor’s cousin. Fi, realising that what she’d said sounded strange sank into the couch and pulled her blanket up to her nose.
“Well. At like, an estate? Cottage thing? All I know was there were bears.” Both Aldes and the quiet young elf made a face.
Carver’s eyes narrowed and he looked back at the screen. “And he’s still alive. Why?”
“Politics,” Haylan said quietly. “What’s that the Duke was saying? I missed it.” But it was too late, the Inquisiton was entering the ballroom, announced one by one to the Orlesian Court.
“Lady Inquisitor Milliara Lavellan, Herald of Andraste, Protector of the Apostates of Redcliffe, former bard of the Orlesian Court and former mistress of Chevalier Frederic Rousseau.”
Bull let out a low whistle.
“Someone’s playing dirty,” he muttered. “Former mistress. That’s gotta sting.”
Haylan stayed quiet, but she was glaring at the screen. You didn’t do that to someone. Not- not when they were there to help save the nation from demons. It was just so petty and rude.
“Bottle of wine says whoever paid the announcer to say that will be dead before the night’s over,” Fiowyn grumbled. When no one answered she looked around at them, an eyebrow raised.
“Fluffy, aint no one gonna take that bet who’s ever met Sunshine,” Varric said with a dark chuckle.
Rythlen - The Winter Palace
Hand tucked into the crook of her husband’s elbow, Ry cast a last look over him before reaching out to straighten his tie. The Inquisition was entering the ballroom now, and they would be next. She missed what was said that caused the gathered crowd to gasp, but the sudden bristling of the members of the Inquisition told her it wasn’t something that was in their favour.
“What’d he say?” she asked Alistair quietly. Her husband’s ears turned red and he cleared his throat.
“Uh, I… don’t know. I got distracted by how pretty you are,” he admitted, the blush spreading to his cheeks. Anyone else and it would be the worst kind of line, saccharine and ridiculous. But this was Alistair, he was exactly that kind of sweet. Ry couldn’t help but smile and steal a light kiss, careful not to transfer any lipstick.
“Charmer,” she chided with a wink. Smoothing her hand over the dress one last time, Rythlen took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Ferelden politics were one thing, but Orlesian court was a whole different playing field. She’d dressed for social war, a sleek dress of silver silk on her left and blue on her right, cut through the centre by a panel of sheer mesh than dodged towards her hip and became a slit for ease of walking. A similar sheer panel cut down her spine and off to her other hip, suggesting skin without actually revealing more than she was comfortable with. Alistair looked dashing in a suit of the same blue, trimmed with steel grey and silver medals that hung from his chest.
They were war heroes, and as silly as that felt, Rythlen knew that flaunting such status would work in their favour among the foppish, frilly court of Orlais.
“I wish you could have brought Fyr,” Alistair muttered from the corner of his mouth, resting his hand over hers as they stepped forward to be announced. “Just imagine her slobbering all over Celene’s fancy guests.”
Ry had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from dissolving into laughter. She elbowed her husband as the Announcer motioned them forward.
“Announcing the Her Majesty Queen Rythlen Cousland-Theirin of Ferelden, Slayer of the fifth Archdemon, Veteran of the Fifth Blight, Hero of Ferelden, Ferelden ambassador to the Inquisition, and her husband His Majesty King Alistair of Ferelden, Grey warden and hero of the Fifth Blight.”
“Oooh, I get chills whenever I hear I’m married to a hero,” Alistair murmured, leading them forward to cross the floor slowly towards where Empress Celene waited to greet them.
“We’ve been married for almost ten years,” Rythlen said through her quiet smile, nodding at certain dignitaries as they passed by.
“I still get chills,” Alistair said, looking at her. Rythlen’s smile bloomed back up at him, and she nudged his side.
“I do too, but try to pay attention tonight,” she said, turning back to Celene to greet the Empress of Orlais with a graceful tilt of her head. The empress was wearing some monstrosity of a dress, with heavily emboroidered fabric artfully curving out from her waist in architectual tiers. It looked like it must weigh at least twenty pounds, if not more when Rythlen considered the glittering sunburst ruff that framed the Empress’s face.
“Empress Celene, many thanks for your thoughtful invitation,” Rythlen said. “Ferelden wishes only for the peace and prosperity of both kingdoms.”
Celene returned the gesture.
“We are pleased to host such distinguished guests. We hold great respect for your service for the system both past and present. Please make yourselves welcome.”
With that, they were free to roam. Alistair led Rythlen up to the gallery where Milliara was speaking with Leliana. Neither looked pleased. Were Rythlen to guess, she would place good money the reason being related to the gasps she’d heard earlier.
“Ah, you must be Millie,” Alistair said smiling and holding out a hand to the elf to shake.
“That’s me,” Milliara said, taking his hand and shaking it firmly. “Thanks for lending me your wife. She’s been a wonderful help with… everything really.” Milliara glanced at Ry and offered a fleeting smile, but a real one.
“Just so long as you don’t keep her,” Alistair said. “I want her back by midnight or so help me I’ll have to ground both of you.”
Rythlen bit back a laugh at the Inquisitor’s expression. Her eyebrows had lifted and Ry could see the elf working through how to react to that. Actually maybe it would be a good idea to NOT let her react to that.
Ry cleared her throat and waved at Theseus who was standing nearby. He nodded, and began to wade through the over-built dresses of Orlesian ladies that had flocked his way.
“So, apparently Theseus is my long lost cousin,” Rythlen said. “According to his father at least.”
“Really,” Milliara said, looking over to the Templar as he approached. “I can see it, actually. But, his father’s in Halamshiral?” she asked Rythlen.
“Unfortunately,” Theseus said, handing a glass of champagne to Milliara and Rythlen both. “I wish I could have recorded what Ry said to him though. I’ve never seen him turn quite that shade of purple. No offense,” he added, glancing at Millie who shrugged in reply.
“I had heard he might be in town,” Leliana said. “I have also heard rumours that a former companion of ours might be in attendence tonight as well.” The redhead tapped a finger to her chin, eyes scanning the ballroom. “Though what she could possibly be doing here is-”
“Maker, please tell me you’re talking about Wynne,” Alistair interrupted. “Please.”
Leliana’s smile was sharp and devious and it felt good to see a flash of her old playful self, Rythlen thought.
“Oh…no,” her husband groaned and bent his knees to disappear into the crowd as he looked around. “Where is she?”
“Question,” Milliara said, lifting a finger up from her glass of champagne. “Who are we talking about? Is this Morr-”
“Dont’ say her name!” Alistair hissed. “She hears it. I don’t know how she does she just does. And then she shows up like a vulture hovering over your shoulder and starts picking your life apart in bitter, angry pieces.”
“How charming tis hear that I am such a horrid creature. What ever Rythlen sees in you, tis not your mind, I assure you.”
Rythlen turned to look over her shoulder, face splitting into a smile at the sound of her friend’s voice. The witch, dressed in Orlesian finery, was indeed right behind Alistair. It was a bit of a shock to see the witch of the wilds that Rythlen knew to prefer leathers and unorthodox clothing in a grand ballgown, but somehow Morrigan seemed to be comfortable enough.
Ry supposed when you changed your skin so often clothes seemed to be just another shape to shift into.
“Tis good to see you, friend,” Morrigan said, clasping Rythlen’s free hand. “But I wish ‘twas in better circumstances. You are in grave danger here, as are we all.”
“Cheery,” Alistair muttered, crossing his arms.
“I’ll leave you three to reconnect,” Milliara said, then glanced up at Theseus. “Let’s go out to the garden, there’s a lovely fountain out there.” Without waiting, the elf had slipped her hand into the crook of the Templar’s elbow and steered him away from the small group, leaving only the Blight Veterans behind.
“Is that-” Morrigan asked, glancing at Leliana and then Rythlen. “Such strange magic. How curious.”
Theseus - The Winter Palace
The ball was dizzying, more so than he’d expected. It seemed like every courtier was trying outdo the others when it came to the amount of excess they wore. What had to be wigs were vibrant in colour, dresses and suits covered in flowers or feathers or other designs. He was sure he’d seen one woman wearing a dress that looked like it was made with butterflies. Compared to the Orlesians, the simplicity of the Inquisition and the Ferelden delagates was a welcome break to his eyes.
Walking through the crowd with Milliara, he took the time to scan the crowd for any familiar –and unwelcome– faces.
“Sorry for not mentioning my father earlier,” he said, leaning over to murmur in Milliara’s ear. “You seemed like you had enough on your plate. I didn’t want to bother you with anything.”
Millie looked up at him, lips quirking into a smile. Since they’d left the front courtyard, some of the icy demeanour had settled. She seemed more comfortable now that she was in the very thick of things. Of course, thinking about the front courtyard made him think of what she’d said and now wasn’t the time for that. Later though…
“That’s alright,” she said, squeezing his arm gently. “I’m curious, I want to see what shade of purple we can get him to turn.”
The garden was thankfully open to the night air, with climbing vines on trellises, and a small quartet playing classical Orlesian arrangements. There really was a fountain, smaller than the one out front, the bottom of which glittered with small silver coins.
He might not have noticed Millie’s small sigh if he wasn’t so close, but he felt it through her hand. Glancing over at her, he wondered if the wistful look on her face was nostalgia for times past or something else. Gratefulness of being free of the crowded ballroom maybe?
Theseus meant to ask, but the sight of the Inquisitor had drawn attention and already a man was approaching them, wearing a white suit with a small cape pinned back over one shoulder. He looked faintly familiar, though it took the man’s accent to place him.
“Excuse me, Lady Inquisitor?” Starkhaven. The Prince of Starkhaven. It seemed that anyone important in Southern Thedas was at the ball. No wonder his father was in town, Ivan Trevelyan had never had much contact with the Vaels, to his father’s frustration.
“Yes?” Milliara said, hand slipping from Theseus’s arm to hang by her side, ready.
“Inquisitor, if I may make introductions, this is Prince Sebastien Vael, of Starkhaven,” Theseus said. “It’s an honour to meet you, your highness.” And he meant it. Unlike the usurpers who killed off the Vaels, Theseus had heard nothing but grudging praise for the Prince. He was honourable, he cared for his people and he’d sent funds and hands to help rebuild after Kirkwall… oh.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” the Prince said with a bow, “I was hoping. You were both with my good friend Hawke at the end, were you not? I-”
Milliara nodded, setting aside the glass of champagne to clasp the Prince’s hand in both of hers.
“He offered to stay behind,” Milliara said quietly, “To save his brother. To save us. There was a demon, I wish we could have stopped it and saved everyone. But…”
“But we couldn’t,” Theseus finished for her. “I am sorry your highness.” Just thinking about the Fade made his back itch and burn. Had that only been a week ago? It felt unreal, like it had happened to someone else, sometime else. Theseus twitched his shoulders to try to ease the itch deep in his muscle, but it wasn’t any use.
The Prince smiled sadly, resting his spare hand on top of hers.
“Please,” he said. “I did not come for apologies, merely a misguided need for closure. To have lost my good friend after so much strife… I would pledge Starkhaven’s support to the Inquisition. Should you need anything that we can spare, you need only speak the word.”
Calm blue eyes looked at Theseus then back to Milliara, and the Prince smiled slightly, though the grief was still evident on his face.
“I can feel the Maker in your actions, just as I felt Him when Hawke would stand up against the injustice done at Kirkwall. He and our Lady Andraste ask much of us, but I have Faith in your abilities Lady Inquisitor and Ser Knight.”
He bowed again, releasing Milliara’s hands.
“I have stolen enough of your time. Many wait to meet the Inquisitor who will save us from the demons of the Fade. I hope to remain in touch.” With another bow, the Prince stepped away, leaving both Theseus and Milliara watching him as he walked away, towards the Ballroom.
“That’s a real person, right?” Theseus muttered. “I feel like he can’t be real. I’d heard stories-” he trailed off, realising Millie had looked up at him, eyebrows raised.
“You’re one to talk. But I think you just lost your title of Prince Charming,” she teased with a smirk.
“Title ceded,” Theseus said with a smile back. “And maybe by the end of tonight you’ll have to retract 'boyscout’ too.”
He was rewarded with a blush and swat of her hand into his side. Grinning, Theseus picked up the glass of champagne and followed her into the crowd, taking a sip as he went.