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New Fic, seriously.

Khrm. ::dusts chair and desk off:: Is this thing still on? Okay, if so, I am jost going to post this here as well (already on AO3 for those who poke around there). Insporation is back, which is good, also tons of boring RL stuff which anyone who has kids and a house probably understands. But I am playing DA:I now that stupid PC bugs are mostly fixed and has Opinions and Feelz, so. Fic series happened.

Not Alone

Author’s Note:
This is the first in a series of interconnected pieces in the Dragon Age: Inquisition universe, featuring my Inquisitor, the proper Andrastian  warrior, Roxanne Trevelyan and Commander Cullen.  There is discussion of PTSD and triggers in this first piece and it will be a theme recurring: I always thought it was something that naturally connects a relatively young Trevelyan who just went through an absolutely harrowing experience that would break lesser people for certain, and a much more experienced ex-Templar who’s been to hell and beyond several times in the past fifteen years of his life.
The Chant quotes here are actually from the Bible: Psalm 104:13-15 and Isaiah 21:8 respectively. The title is borrowed from Sara Bareilles’ song of the same name, while Cullen’s ‘Wounds’ quote is from another song that became a theme-lead song for this pairing: Veteran of the Psychic Wars by Blue Oyster Cult (and I just dated myself with that one right there).There will be further songs and quotes hidden in subsequent chapters as well, but those two songs establish this particular pair quite well, I think.

I don't want to cry when you go
Stay a little longer, you know
You're making me feel
I'm not alone

--Sara Bareilles, Not Alone

You see me now a veteran
of a thousand psychic wars
I've been living on the edge so long
where the winds of limbo roar
And I'm young enough to look at
and far too old to see
All the scars are on the inside

--Blue Oyster Cult, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

The first time he realizes just how much is wrong with the Herald of Andraste is when he catches her doing her own laundry.

It’s not normal that there’s light coming out of the washhouse after the midnight change of the watch, and Cullen decides to investigate as he passes the courtyard in front of the Chantry and spots it. He is not particularly looking forward to this: just last week, he stumbled upon two recruits in there in a more than compromising situation, but those at least kept the place dark, it was just the noises. Maker, they were loud.

He blinks slowly as he pushes the half-closed door in and steps through the threshold: it’s not from tiredness, even though he could really use some sleep. The constant stream of refugees coming into Haven and organizing the fledgling Inquisition tasks them to near breaking point, and he has not seen his bed in about twenty hours now. No, it’s the half-shadowed form of someone he absolutely didn’t expect to see here, now, and in this position, hunched over one of the washing tubs, scrubbing and scrubbing at a piece of soapy clothing, concentration etching lines by the sides of her mouth, wrinkles on her forehead emphasizing the pale scar there.

“Herald?” he says hesitantly, letting go of his sword he palmed earlier, just in case. “Lady Trevelyan?”

“Oh.” She drops what looks like a shirt in one hand and a scrubbing brush in the other, and turns towards him. “Knight-Commander, I did not hear you coming in, my apologies.”

“Just Commander,” he says almost mechanically correcting her, like many others:  the Templar commission is gone, and his title is different as the general of the Inquisition’s forces. “It wasn’t my intention to disturb you, my lady, but… what is it that you are doing, may I ask?”

She is the only one matching him with the care with which she chooses her words, he already noticed that and it makes him even more self-conscious of his own humble origins. She always speaks slowly and with the crisp yet effortless enunciation of one from the Free Marches’ nobility: Cullen has yet to hear her lifting her voice even once.

“It is the laundry room, is it not?” She cocks a brow at him; it’s dark and thick, in stark contrast with the almost-white of her hair. It is striking, and, alongside the sharp green of her eyes, is a very recent change: in Leliana’s files, the heir of the Bannorn of Ostwick had grey eyes and dark hair. She had to be identified by two acquaintances of the family amongst the survivors of the Rift explosion before they believed she was who she said she was. “I hardly had the luxury of clean shirts making sure the camps of the Hinterlands had enough to eat for the cold months; I only possess one spare, courtesy of the Lady Pentaghast, and both have plenty of grime and blood on them. And…”, she pauses and Cullen, for the first time, detects some emotion on her voice, “I don’t sleep as much as I used to lately.” A tiny, elegant shrug. “Hence: laundry in the middle of the night. My apologies if I caused any alarm by lighting a candle so late at night here.”

“It’s not that.” Cullen’s eyes narrow: is it a trick of the candlelight, or do the Herald of Andraste’s hands shake slightly? “It’s just… surely there’s someone to do this for you, my lady?”

She makes a little snorting noise in her throat: it is most unladylike, and more belonging to the warrior with a greatsword strapped on her hip than to a scion of a noble house.

“Commander,” she says, enunciating clearly, “this is a refugee camp and the base of a fledgling organization intended to lift people up and to give them hope. Not to ask them to do my laundry for me.” She pauses. “Not to leave offerings of little treats and prayers for intercession on my pillow, kiss the hem of my cloak or ask me to kiss their children for luck either—and yet I endure those for the sake of what we’re building here.” She turns back to the tub, the line of her back is straight, unbending and rigid. “I draw the line at the laundry, though.”

“This is…highly unusual.” Cullen says: a little warning bell in the back of his mind goes off as he starts to put several little signs together. He has been commanding troops for a long time now: if nothing, the ten years in Kirkwall made him very much attuned to the mood and morale of those  he fights with—and those senses are on full alert now. This woman stumbled out of the Fade scarce weeks ago, surviving an explosion of magical forces they still don’t understand and which obliterated the Temple of the Sacred Ashes, Divine and most of her senior Chantry members included, and was immediately plunged into the heart of insane activity forming a new organization that practically put her on their banner, glowing green hand, matching eyes, white hair and all.

Cullen hears the whispers, always, as he goes on his rounds, to his meetings with the other Inquisition advisors, as he takes his meals in the common mess, as he collects his own laundry, as he attends the services at the Chantry, as he sweats and swears with his recruits on the practice grounds.
The whispers are everywhere.

The Herald of Andraste. Sent by the Maker and His Bride to signal a new era, to bring hope when all else failed against darkness, corruption and wicked hearts. A true holy warrior, with the power to seal Rifts on the fabric of reality and to gentle grief-stricken hearts with a few well-placed words or a smile; a noble daughter of an old house, always  soft-spoken, always polite, always dressed in  simple black, no adornments on her doublet or armor…

Always under scrutiny, always watched, never alone (in the cramped Haven accommodations even she has to share quarters with Cassandra), always expected to be what everyone decided she was.

Right after enduring enough trauma to crack even a seasoned veteran. Cullen thinks about how Cassandra, how Leliana, how he himself were barely pulled back from the edge, how they had to find something to anchor them and were only able to due to their experience, training, discipline of long years…

This young woman had none of that.

I should have anticipated it, he thinks, almost angrily, as he watches her. I should have seen it the way I always catch it in those under my command.

But she is not under his command: far from it. She is the one everyone depends on. She is the one everyone wants to be the fulchrum of the tide, the lynchpin, the bedrock. They are not saying it, of course, but Cullen can see their eyes lit up watching her, their hands reaching out when she passes by, their backs and heads held just a bit higher and straighter.

The one sent by the Maker. Herald. Prophet.

Our saint.

Our savior.

He listens to his senses: the same way, it occurs to him, as Cassandra decided to listen to this woman, still shackled and slightly dazed, in that prison cell. As he, come think of it, decided to listen to Marian Hawke in Kirkwall that day.

“However,” he continues slowly, reaching out and pulling one of the low stools standing in a corner towards him, “there’s nothing in the books that says you should not be doing it.” He sits, back to the wall, legs stretched out in front of him, and hopes that the inevitable daily headache will be kinder than usual today. “I hope you don’t mind if I keep you company.”

She looks at him then, and finally there is something in the depths of that seemingly calm green gaze.

“I certainly can’t dictate what the Commander of the Inquisition’s forces does when he is not on duty,” she offers, sounding almost tentative. Head slightly cocked to the side, the dusting of freckles around her upturned nose make her look absurdly young.

She’s barely twenty-two. Andraste protect us, she should be learning command as a young officer at a comfortable garrison posting, not killing demons, bandits, renegade mages and lyrium-crazed Templars by the dozen every week.

He watches her eyes narrow as a new thought occurs to her.

 “I planned on turning in my mission report in the morning at the council table, but if you wish to hear it now, I can give you the short version while I finish this.” She swishes her shirt in the water, waves her soapy brush in the air vaguely, and her voice cracks upwards just a little at the end.

Yes, definitely the shakes.

Why did I never ask Cassandra how she sleeps?

“Not at all,” Cullen says slowly and carefully. That also confirms what he suspects, falling neatly into the list of symptoms he is intimately familiar with since Kinloch Hold. “There is no rush at all, my lady.”

She snorts again; this is new, the second time since she’s here with him that she makes this sound.

“’My lady’ is elbow-deep in sudsy, scummy water, Commander, scraping maker-knows-what off her only good shirt. I believe that form of address no longer applies and given the situation, we should progress onto using first names.” She hisses and yanks a hand out of the tub: the brush flies high and Cullen ducks it as it barely misses his head, hits the wall with the distinct ‘thud’, speckles of suds hitting his face and cloak as it falls to the ground. “Scrubbing my knuckles bloody, too, apparently, and…oh, Maker, and I almost hit you with that too!”

Cullen makes a mental note (“irritability and outbursts of anger”) and as he does so, hears the dispassionate voice of the infirmary Tranquil all those long years back, ticking off the causes and symptoms, standing by his own bedside.

Exposure to an highly stressful situation of exceptionally threatening or catastrophic nature; possible reliving of said events when repeatedly exposed to circumstances resembling or associated with the stressor event;  sleep disturbance or sleep hours reduction; exaggerated startle response; feeling of detachment or estrangement from others…”

Cullen is not good at relating to nobility, at dealing with women, Fade, dealing with people in general except when it’s about yelling at recruits to get in shape or discussing plans and strategy, he knows this. It really should be Mother Giselle sitting here now, and he briefly toys with the idea of just getting up and walking away, muttering about something he just remembered, and leaving a note to the Revered Mother to talk to her later about this.

He almost walks.

What stops him is the knowledge, sudden and painful, like the headache that just arrived and slammed between his brows with the vengeance of an Arch-Demon : he, however, is the one who has been there.

The one who has comparable enough experience to hers. The one who knows how to deal with what her mind tries to cope with now, falteringly and erratically, threatening to overwhelm her and make her break under the weight of it.

It’s all too familiar.

Wounds are all I’m made of, he reminds himself, and lifts his head to look the Herald fully in the eyes.

“I don’t think you know how to wash clothes, Roxanne,” he says quietly, watching her eyes widen: he suspects not many outside of her immediate family use her given name, even though she just gave him permission. “I think you’re doing this because you need to do something. All the time. To occupy your hands. To occupy your thoughts. To distract you from remembering when that happened.” He nods towards where a faint green wisp of light surrounds the odd-shaped mark on her left hand. “Listen: it is not…”

“Commander!” It’s sharp, and loud, her voice now, but cracking: just like that forced calm on her face that, Cullen knows now, is merely a façade. “This is not…I am not…” She falters, and Cullen sees her physically staggering, putting a hand out to gain support from the wall. “I don’t think it’s…” she grinds out, contractions sounding strange coming from her mouth, and then she makes this odd, hitching, hiccupping sound, almost choking, and she crumples, slowly sliding down with her back to the washhouse’s wall, knees coming up to her ears and arms circling them so she is one tight ball, slightly rocking side to side from the shakes that make her whole body tremble violently.

Cullen is definitely familiar with that one, and is by her side in an eyeblink.

“Roxanne,” he says her name, balancing it between firm and soothing just so; exactly as his own name was spoken to him back then by that Chantry sister. “Roxanne, listen to me. I know what’s happening to you and I can help. Keep listening: I know this is bad now, but we’ll get through this, all right?” He thinks he can see an almost imperceptible nod there between the tremors racking her whole body, but he can’t be sure, and he can’t quite touch her just yet, she is in too deep, so he squats down next to her, as close as he can without touching, pitches his voice a little bit further down and continues.

“I need you to try and breathe the way I tell you now: it helps with the shakes and clears your mind just enough that you can think. “ He watches her very carefully as he leads her through the breathing exercises; this is the hard part, a clear sequence of actions she needs to take, following his lead to guide herself out of the abyss her memories plunged her. It’s her choice, her decision to hear him, that’s the part he can’t help with, only hope for, and Cullen can’t deny a small amount of pride flushing through him as with the last count of deeply exhaled breath he sees her head lift slowly, and a still-shaky, but almost normal deep sigh escaping her lips.

“There you go,” he says, still in the same tone, but allowing a bit more warmth in it, because she’s back and she needs it, along with some encouragement . “Good work, soldier.”

She blinks, those strangely almond-shaped eyes looking confused for one more second, and he realizes just what he said.

“I mean…Herald. Lady Trevelyan. Roxanne.” The words rush out, jumbled and breathy and Cullen curses himself silently: yes, this is why he really shouldn’t be…

“’s allright,” she mumbles, her normally clear speech all slurred. “’s what I am, ‘fter all. Soldier of the Inqui....” Her breath hitches, but differently now. “Cold,” she says, almost in a surprised voice. “So cold… like there.”

“May I?” Cullen lifts an arm, keeping his face and voice carefully neutral: this was expected, and due to his experience with this kind of condition, he knows exactly how to do it. “Your body needs warmth after the…episode, it’s normal.”

“Oh.” She sounds even younger now, despite everything, and he takes careful notes as she scoots closer to accept the warmth of him and his old cloak: the scar on her forehead, obviously from a slender Orlesian dueling sword he really need to ask her about one day; the nose that looks like it was broken at some point, dorsum flattened and a bit out of place (another story there, obviously); the almost-glowing green eyes occasionally flashing to silver with their uptilted corners suggesting faraway ancestors marrying exotic strangers (just how many odd stories this woman has in her past); the tightly coiled and pinned mass of silver-white hair that is so characteristic she took to covering it up with hoods or scarves most of the time when not in armor. “Thank you, Commander.”

“As a matter of fact…” he says, curling the arm carefully around her shoulder as she stiffens a bit upon contact (also expected), and despite everything, his mouth twitches to a smile. “I would suggest, given the situation, that you start using my first name as well.”

“Of course.” She nods, head slightly lolling onto his shoulder as she turns into this warmth. “I beg your pardon, Comm… Cullen.”

“All is good,” he says, as encouraging as he can. “Can you talk a bit?”

“Well, I can form words, obviously…” she chuffs, sounding a bit annoyed, then breaks off sharply. “Ah. I am being too literal. Yes, I feel better.” She gathers her knees to the side, scooting even closer. “You obviously know what… what just happened to me. If I may ask: is that from battlefield experience?”

She is still so polite and formal, despite what she just went through: the smile, and that proud feeling, he finds, does not want to go away, despite the topic.
“I am familiar with your condition, Herald. Roxanne. Yes. It happens after extremely traumatic experiences, and can affect even the strongest warriors so please don’t feel like this is a shameful…thing.”

He falters again: once out of the immediate threat to sanity and safety, he really can’t help but stumble with words again, because, really, they are not his strongest suit. He rubs the back of his neck with his free hand  where the memory of Kirkwall in the form of a scar still itches on bad days and hears that odd snort from her that now he knows to be a sign of amusement she tends to hide.

“I appreciate the reassurance.” Another shaky sigh. “And the way you…” She scrubs at her face with a hand, almost like a child. “I am normally not this…. Fallen-apart is a good description, I believe.”

“I honestly don’t believe anyone I know or know of could have done better in your stead.” Cullen now has some steel in his voice. “You kept it together much longer than I ha…than I thought possible,” he corrects hastily, and hopes that she didn’t catch that. This is not the time to share remembrances: this is a time for her to keep on the road to which she found the way back.

“Solas had this new spell.” Roxanne whispers, suddenly going still. “A lot more fire than usual, this time, and that mage simply… went up in flames and fell to the ground, all charred to cinder and ashes. Little wisps of smoke and magic leaked out of her, a kind of green that only comes from the Fade and some… some of her, I guess, got on my shirt when she exploded finally and it just would not come out…”

Maker’s Breath, Cullen swears silently, as he understands: during the last expedition to the Hinterlands to secure supplies and close some Rifts, her memories, normally blocked and tucked away, got triggered. Charred bodies and green light: it must have reminded her of whatever happened in the Temple of Sacred Ashes that day.

It’s a wonder it didn’t happen earlier, really. She kept it together as long as possible, until they were back here, in Haven, safely: until she could escape from everyone and occupy her mind and hands with something repetitive and mechanical in a vain attempt to forget…

The way he kept cleaning and cleaning and cleaning his sword after that day in Kinloch Hold, hands  raw and bleeding at the end, eyes red from concentration, back burning from bending over

“Listen,” he says, with some urgency in his voice: he learned how to tamp down on those memories a while ago, albeit there are some issues now that he’s no longer taking lyrium and the headaches are getting worse. “This is important, and I apologize right now ahead of time if I’m forceful, too upfront or rude: I dealt with this many times, as a Templar, commanding people I’ve led. You are not one of my green recruits, falling apart at a first kill or seeing blood magic up close and personal: you are the Herald of Andraste, carrying the Mark, and I need to know if you can… if I can talk to you about it, and tell you what I think you should do to learn to control it and get better.” He pauses and looks at her, listening attentively. “I can’t do that if I need to worry about calling you Your Worship or consider your family title, and…”

And there he goes, he thinks, mentally shaking his head again, because Maker, this is beyond awkward, and the headache just keeps relentlessly pounding beyond his brow, and Roxanne is now resting her head fully on his shoulder and it has been a long time any woman did that, regular visits to the Rose back in Kirkwall for health reasons notwithstanding.

“It is perfectly all right if you leave out the titles, Cullen,” she says into his shoulder just then. “I don’t…I can’t even begin to thank you for this and you keep apologizing in a roundabout way for it.” She sniffles. “If it makes you feel better, we can keep calling each other Commander and Herald in front of others and I am perfectly fine with ‘my lady’ and even ‘Your Worship’ if it helps the cause, but please. After I completely fell into pieces and almost threw a wet brush at you and currently quietly crying into your shoulder…”

 She sniffles again: he roots around in the inside pocket sewn into the lining of his cloak, finds a clean handkerchief and hands it to her.  It’s at least clean, unlike the old cloak itself, patched a thousand times and worn thin: traces of ash and dust from the Temple still cling to it, but he does not have another to replace it with.

“Thank you.” She takes it and wipes at her eyes before blowing her nose into it without any hesitation. Cullen had not thought about seeing the Herald of Andraste doing that tonight, or ever, for that matter. “I am sorry, I can’t even remember when I cried last time,” she says, nose still halfway in the fabric, voice muffled a bit. “A Trevelyan never shows emotions in front of others, we are always calm and even-keeled and perfectly in control, must be our devotion to the Chantry that keeps us so, but…”

There’s that face-scrubbing again. Her freckles, from this close, are strangely even-spaced and dark—Cullen suspects those are also somehow related to the events making her the Herald, they look like a spatter of some liquid across her cheeks and around the bottom of her nose.

“And I can manage to do that most of the time, I think, but…” He has never heard her talk this much at once, and not in this manner: the speech patterns and the enunciation are still there, but she is not restrained or measured or calm right now. “Maker, I’m only twenty-two, my only claim to fame so far was winning a few duels at the Academy in Val Royeaux, getting into the finals of the Grand Tourney in Tantervale and being heir to a minor bannorn in the Free Marches. I don’t…We don’t stand out, we blend in and be good Andrastians and avoid any…” her hand flutters around helplessly, indicating her changed appearance, the Mark, the Inquisition, Haven, the Breach in the distance, and the single candle-lit washhouse where they huddle together on the floor all at once, “…Any situations like this.” She shakes her head. “Josephine would have a field day seeing me like this, not to mention my mother.”

“My lips are sealed.” Cullen nods seriously while processing what he just heard and before he can consider his words a bit more carefully. “Our lady Ambassador will not hear anything about you using my handkerchief.”

She looks at him incredulously exactly as he is about to kick himself mentally for just saying that.

“I’m sorry,” he says immediately: Maker, she is way too fragile right now to appreciate his crude attempts at joking. “I didn’t mean to imply that you were…”

“Cullen,” she says his name again, and there is exasperation in her voice now, “I swear if you do not stop apologizing right now, I shall start calling you Commander again even when no one is around.” She crams the handkerchief into the pocket of her obviously borrowed, too-big doublet. “Now: there was something you wished to tell me about how to handle my…condition, correct?” There is that edge of authority in her voice now: the voice of the Herald, Lady Trevelyan, She Who Was Sent Back. “If I am to be what everyone calls me, I need to know that.” She pauses, looking at him expectantly, then adding, more softly. “Please?”

“Of course.” He clears his throat: for a second there he might have considered them to be equals, but that edge of steel  in her voice and brief flash of silver in her eyes reminded him that even with her fragile state of mind and currently curling up by his side like a frightened feline, Roxanne Trevelyan is someone to respect, admire and follow, not pity or pamper. “Coping is something that you’ll need to learn and there are things that help,” he continues, choosing his words with great care as Roxanne listens with furrowed brows. “You obviously will encounter events during the coming times that might…trigger another attack, there is no avoiding that given what we do here, so we need to see if there is something that takes your mind off of it. Do you have something that you actually…enjoyed doing before all this happened? Besides swordplay, I mean,” he adds, wincing slightly at the clumsiness of the phrasing. “Erm, I don’t want to imply that you…”

“It’s all right, I don’t think you mean I am …oh.” She colors slightly, and Cullen feels her pulling away. He is confused: what, exactly, did he say? “Well. It’s obviously not washing clothes,” she continues, with just a hint of bite in her voice, “and I promise if you give me the name of your washerwoman I shall approach her as befits my station…” Cullen winces, “but in another life, back in Ostwick, I loved green things. My mother had a famous garden, still has, actually, for all that I know. Herbs, lavender mostly but others as well, and Orlesian roses, as many varieties as she could procure and that worked in our soil. I helped her when I was home, and…” She looks up, and tilts her head to the side. “Does that, perhaps, surprise you?”

“No, it’s perfect,” he says, with an inexplicable sense of relief that it was that easy. “Really, it is,” he continues, relaxing his back a bit as he clarifies, “because, you see, working with your hands, and with soil and growing things: it’s one of the best things you can do for this kind of…condition. We… me and a friend, I mean,  set up a garden next to the Chantry in Kirkwall where I last served, for those Templars that needed…similar attention.”

He explains what he has in mind: Haven is in need of various ingredients not being native of its environment, and in her travels she obviously is in a superb position to gather them, bring some back and then assist with the planting and caretaking as part of her efforts to control what ails her.

“He watereth the hills from his chambers:
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle,
and herb for the service of man:
that he may bring forth food out of the earth.” Roxanne whispers when he finishes. “It is, indeed, a fitting task. I shall endeavor not to disappoint.”

Cullen nods: it’s no surprise that the Herald of Andraste quotes the Chant of Light, but that strange surge of pride in his guts is back, the feeling that she is right, and she is good and he somehow, in a small part, helped her along on a road that will lead them out of the chaos and madness of the present.

“I shall see if some of the Chantry sisters can recommend suitable space for growing and perhaps find a family or two to assist with the caretaking.” He taps the scar on the side of his lip in thought. “Mother Giselle, no doubt, should be able to assist with the recommendation: I assume Adan, our reluctant apothecary could, as well. You would only need to spend a few hours of your time there a week when you’re here. I think.” He decides to allow some of that pride show: after all, their chance meeting has been a success. “You are very strong: with dedicating some time to this while on your missions and recognizing the signs of agitation once back here and idle, you should be fine.”

“Thank you.” There is some color on her cheeks now, Cullen is glad to see. “I appreciate that you are saying that. May I…” she hesitates a second before continuing, “…Would it be all right if I continue to seek you out if I feel I need to…” She trails off, yet again looking uncertain and absurdly young for the responsibility thrust on her.

Almost exactly like him back then. That young, tortured Templar with the scars on his body and soul seems impossibly far away now: but Cullen realizes that this time, this time, the memories are there to aid, rather than  taunt. So he borrows from Knight-Commander Greagoir’s book, reaches out and places a hand on her shoulder, just like he did.

“You can always talk to me,” he says, squeezing slightly (there’s really quite a lot of muscle on her, he can’t help but notice), and finds that the smile does not need to be forced, after all. “It would be my pleasure.”

A week into the Herald departing to yet another of her Hinterland expeditions with Varric, Solas and Cassandra in tow, Scout Harding returns to Haven with a package for Cullen.

“For me?” He takes the surprisingly heavy parcel bundled in oilskin and raises an eyebrow at Harding. “From…?”

“Herald’s compliments, sir.” Harding salutes. “Her Worship wanted to make sure I give this to you personally. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Commander, I have a trip to make to the Revered Mother Giselle with some boxes of herb samples and transplants and whatnots. Herald wants them all catalogued, samplings prepared for planting and such.” She looks at the package, leans in and whispers, in that conspiratorial voice of hers that completely disregards rank and organization: Harding was never one for ceremony. “Master Tethras says please don’t swear too loud when you open it.”

He opens the piece of parchment tucked into the string that holds the thing together first: the handwriting is precise and evenly spaced, despite the poor quality of the ink and parchment.

To Commander Cullen of the Inquisition’s forces from Roxanne Trevelyan,” it reads. “I am well and I hope you are also. During our last conversation I could not help but notice that you had no opportunity to acquire a proper winter cloak as of yet. Therefore, I took the liberty of commissioning one of the refugees here at the Crossroads with some skill at tanning and tailoring to fashion something that might serve you well. The Hinterlands currently suffer an overabundance of bears, threatening livestock and people alike, but it appears that after some initial difficulties, our little group has found an effective way to ameliorate these conditions.” Cullen lowers the parchment for a second and shakes his head: the Herald certainly has a way with words that will never cease to amaze him.

It would give me comfort to know that you do not suffer the depredations of winter chills while serving the Inquisition,” the letter continues.” The Chant says, ‘And he cried as a lion: O Lord, I stand continually upon the watch-tower in the day-time, and am set in my ward whole nights’. It does remind me of you. I hope you shall wear the enclosed cloak in the same spirit: I pray it awards you some measure of comfort and protection. May the Maker keep you.”

Inside the bundle is a full-length bearskin cloak, supple, warm and decorated with stitching at the edges. From the size, it took at least two animals to make it: most of the cloak has the fur on the inside to keep its wearer warm, except the shoulder piece where the tailor expertly joined two layers; fur on both the inside and the outside.

Cullen wears it for the council meeting that night; Haven’s chantry is cold, and he is too practical to consider refusing it.

Leliana claps her hands when she sees him, and that mischievous spark, missing since the Divine’s death is briefly back in her eyes.

“Our lion!” she exclaims, and even Lady Montilyet’s always proper face lightens up a bit. “How perfect; I should have thought about having one made for you earlier!”

“It’s…bear.” Cullen mutters, not that it matters: the second Leliana’s mind latches onto an idea, it is made , he realized this early on. “Not lion, I mean. It is…” He leaves it off there because he just knows, with the sinking feeling in his stomach, from the way Leliana and Josephine exchange glances that there will be carefully cultivated and planted Remarks and Rumors about this, and ‘Lion of the Inquisition’ will become his semi-official title the way pretty much everyone calls Lady Trevelyan the Herald now.

The cloak does keep him warm, though. He finds that he quite likes it, despite the ridiculously huge shoulders.

It even has an inside pocket: and when he first reaches in it, he finds his washed handkerchief, folded around a sprig of elfroot.

The headache is better that night.

It's Aliiive!

Yep, I'm still kicking, and so is this journal. Just didn't get a lot of chance to do anything gamewise until lately. I had a brief and somewhat frustrating encounter with the Witcher series (let's just say for this female over-40-gamer it did NOT live up to the hype, especially the second installation), and as DA:I got pushed even more back, I mostly just watched The Husband working on his NWN2 persistent world, got that totally disintegrated (loong story) and him moving over to another server and toying with developing his own module.

Now, however, I finally found people who were interested in some good ol'-fashioned pen-and-paper RP. So I dusted off my all-time favorite gamebooks for King Arthur Pendragon, dug up all my obsessively detailed notes from WAY back when I ran a campaign back in Hungary, and as of the end of August, we are OFF!

I shall post any and all game-related shenanigans here soon as a semi-official chronicle of the party. If for nothing, beats writing everything down on paper.

Nostalgic These Days...

Courtesy of GOG.com, I managed to get a working copy of the original Neverwinter Nights and its expansions back on my computer again (previously sold versions did NOT play nice with new Windows version and graphic cards). It was a very pleasant distraction from work stress. Contemplating going back even further in time and getting a Win7 friendly Baldur's Gate series as well--man, I miss those old games for the sheer character-drivenness of th experience.

So--from that came this: enjoy.


Godspeed, Commander

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.



Happy Birthday, Commander Shepard!

although the cake, technically, is a lie with 3-colored frosting.

Well, that was...fun.

::cue Eddie Izzard voice::

So. Tornadoes. We were at work, of course, me in the middle of a huge meeting for my VP with out-of-staters, when there was some murmur on the corridor about weather turning bad. I ran out, checked radar, saw the forecast, went back, and told everyone 'heey, welcome to Texas, we might have tornadoes, so um, when the sirens sound, just get up and walk downstairs with me, please." Went around the floor, made sure all the other admins knew (we hold this place together, after all). Then spent about an hour downstairs with the herd, passing on updates and trying to stay calm--since the Husband and I work at the same place and on the same floor, it helped that he was around. I knew our daughter was safe at the daycare, we just hoped that neither of the tornadoes coming our way actually hits here.

Everything was OK until the hail started to hit.My boss saw the baseball size hailstones bounce off his Audi and went 'well, there goes my car' but he got off easy. At least three peaople I know got their windshields smashed. We just got our car finally fixed after last May's hailstorms this November, so we were REALLY happy we only got away with dents.

Then off I went to team dinner and The Husband called me to let me know that the daughter was fine but there was no power at the house. And there wasn't until 300am this morning. Daughter didn't want to sleep in an all-dark room (no nightlight with no power) so she fall asleep in the sunroom while Daddy was waiting for Mommy to come home. That of course, meant Daddy slept in that room too... and he was quite grumpy this morning, poor thing. Daughter, on the other hand, was extremely excited and happy. Adventure day for a three-year-old, whee!


Off to Memphis

Flying to MEM today for meetings. I love traveling so it really doesn't bother me that much, but I find it increasingly hard to leave the three-year-old behind. American canceled my morning flight so I need to go in later, which robs me from having a lunch meeting with a bunch of people apparently very much looking forward to see me but allows me to have lunch with the husband who drops me off at the airport (we work in the same building, yay!) We're touring our facilities tonight too, and I'm super excited--I worked for the company for eleven years and only now get the chance to see the operations. Definitely taking a nap at the hotel before dinner with the rest of the gals flying in and then the tour. Copious amounts of coffee will be required in the morning for all of us to stay awake, but at least I will not be alone.
Also, probably working more on fics. Hotel rooms are really great for that.



because today I'm dealing with complete and total wilful ignorance and stupidity both at work and in certain fandoms, this is the image of the day:

That would be all.


Love Is Our Resistance

I was working on this for a while now--music is an intrinsic part of my life,. and my writing process. These are the songs that I reached for when playing Mass Effect and romancing Kaidan Alenko. As I am an old f...excuse me, not a spring chicken any more, a lot of these are not quite recent.

The tracks cover Mass Effect 1 events from 1 through 17, then ME 2 from 18 through 21, and 22 is the bonus for the start of ME3.

Anyhow, enjoy.

Quotes, track list and links are behind the cut. Collapse )