“The Templars must help us close the Breach. The Order was founded to fight magic!” I stress yet again.
Why must I enforce this point so many times? How could they think powering up the Mark could possibly be a good idea? A magical Mark they suspect of causing the explosion at the Conclave to begin with? This is ridiculous. The amount of time and energy I spent to convince the others to banish the foolhardy notion of powering up something we barely understand, is ridiculous. But I've gotten us this far, and the others are tittering on the verge of indecision by my words.
A legitimate cause for concern. A logical sense of caution drags them over that fine line, and they are finally willing to consider an alliance with the Templars I suggest to weaken the power of the Breach.
“We must first convince the Lord Seeker to bring the Templars out of exile.” Leliana points out, and honestly I can’t help but concede the point. I don’t know what that blasted man hopes to achieve with this ill-timed exile of the Order.
“I’ve received word from a Knight-recruit. They gather at Therinfal Redoubt.” I look at the map again, recalling the faint rumors of the fortress from my Templar days. “It has been vacant for decades.”
“We must approach the Lord Seeker again to get anywhere; but his reception of us last time was… discouraging.” Josephine mumbles, and I know what she’s thinking. Josephine would rather go for the welcoming rebel Mages than the Templars acting in a most unbefitting manner. But I can’t see this world thrown into more chaos brought on by magic, cannot allow for the uncertainty of the power of the Mark.
“I will go.” I announce. Stunned gazes land on me and I shrug at their incredulity. “I was the Knight-Commander of Kirkwall, as brief as that was. But it still carries weight. We can use that to our advantage. It would simply be a waste for me not to go.”
Silence stretches out for a beat while the others think. But eventually Leliana nods, and I know I’ve won her over.
“Yes, the Commander of the Inquisition, former Knight-Commander of the City of Chains with a retinue of former Templars from Kirkwall at the Lord Seeker’s doorstep? Accompanied by the Herald of Andraste? Even he would find it difficult to ignore that.”
“Me?” The Herald squeaks, color draining from her face. Unlike the numerous excursions to Hinterlands, I can’t quite fault her this time – a Mage marked a heretic by the Chantry would do well to avoid the Knights of the Order.
“Rumors you were saved from the Fade by Andraste have grown legion among the Templars. We’ve done our part to encourage them.” Josephine puts in with a sly wink. I cough a little to hide my chuckle, looking away from our mischievous ambassador.
“A Herald with a few companions may be dismissed. Easily set aside. That same Herald returning with their most distinguished and youngest Knight-Commander and Templars from the City of Chains will be reconsidered, as will the military might of the Inquisition.” Josephine finishes, and the Herald cocks her head in thought. After a moment, she nods with a determined glint to her eyes.
“This could be why Andraste saved me. To lead her Templars against the Breach.”
I must cough a bit louder this time after witnessing the look of disgust Cassandra throws at the Mage. But Josephine doesn’t miss the chance to solidify her motivation and adds, “perhaps also to convince the Lord Seeker to abandon the mania that has seized him.”
I throw a hacking fit, pressing a fist against my mouth as Cassandra’s scowl deepens and I tremble, desperate to swallow my bubbling laughter. Leliana sends me an annoyed glance, but I catch the flitting look of amusement crossing her eyes and I grin at her hidden behind my hand.
It was good to laugh before I left Haven, because I imagine my scowl is an identical pair to what Cassandra had worn back in the War Room.
During the long ride to Therinfal Redoubt, I have the displeasure of discovering the Herald’s unmatched talent for complaining. With attention to details I would not have believed possible from her, she speaks endlessly of the poor accommodations being made for the Blessed Hero of Andraste. I suffer through her complaints of bland travel rations, of the cold sleeping rolls, of lack of servants to warm her shoes, of the rocky road, of the thin tent walls… and somewhere after that I miraculously develop the skill of selective deafness to tune out her constant stream of voice. When she finally drifts away to inspect the soldiers carrying her possessions with Vivienne, I take the chance to mutter to Cassandra, “Is she always like this?”
“She’s actually behaving quite well. It seems having you with us is lightening her mood.”
Then and there, I vow to buy Cassandra a drink for her pains when we return to Haven. Or two. Or ten. I tell her so and Cassandra grins, punching my shoulder in response. I wince, my shield arm still sore from that ice bolt I blocked with a backhand.
“I’ll not fail to take you up on that offer, Commander.”
“Oh, is Cassandra actually smiling? How incredible!” Comes her voice, and we share a look of despair. Like so we continue to march on to Therinfal Redoubt, praying for the long winding road to end.
Each night the Herald insists on keeping me company by the fire, passing time with inane chatter. She nudges me for details of my life, and I reveal just enough to satisfy her. She asks of my time spent as a Templar, of my time in Kirkwall. Why does she ask me of what life is like in the Circle, when I already know she’s spent most of her adulthood in one? When my answers are unsatisfactory, she delves deeper into my mind, inching closer to where I have gathered and buried all the scars. She pecks at the dregs of my memories, pries into my time during the Fifth Blight and the fall of Kirkwall. She knocks at the dam holding back the torrent of nightmares, testing for its weakness and I twist away, locking and relocking the gates to keep it secure.
She doesn’t give up – she scratches away at the walls, pawing at my defenses. She nearly breaks through on the last evening of our march. She asks over the campfire when she senses I’ve lowered my guard, “Did you leave anyone behind in Kirkwall?”
Preoccupied with the correspondences from the Inquisition in my hand, I respond without much thought.
“No. I fear I made few friends there, and my family’s in Ferelden.”
“No one special caught your interest?” She persists, feigning disinterest.
Immediately, she floods my mind at the question. Her secretive little smile meant just for me. Her long flowing ebony locks curling around that little dip low in her back. Her porcelain skin, pale enough to make me wonder if I could see through it. Intoxicating scent which put me at comfort no matter the harsh berating I received from ranking officers. I remember the way her hands stretched up to reach for the books on highest shelf, the way she strained on her tip toes and cursed her height. And most of all, her soft black eyes seeking my gaze across the room to hold a thousand silent, wordless conversations with me.
Tearing down my barriers, making me remember.
I remember her with vivid clarity sharp enough to bleed my heart anew.
There was someone, someone special… someone so special that even to this day she occupies that deepest corner in my mind, always shackled shut lest she undo me from within.
The Herald pokes me for an answer, and I strangle out a few words, desperation clawing at my voice to just barely keep it from breaking. With my heart thumping too hard in my chest, I grind out my answer.
“Not in Kirkwall.”