Fear & Surprise, Chapter Four

by artrald

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*

My brothers and sisters, there is a thing that I would have you hear.

What seemed a scant three days ago to be a precipice from which there was no return, has been shown to be the very threshold of history. The death of the Most Holy, and of so many others – the shattering of the Sanctuary of Sacred Ashes – the scar in the sky – these things have been revealed for what they are: trials. Mere trials that we must face together, overcome together, and go forward. The Maker’s plan for us – some fraction of it, at the very least – has been revealed. For here in my hand I hold a warrant that was found by the Seekers of Truth among the personal effects of the Most Holy. It was addressed to the senior officer of the Chantry Militant at the Sanctuary, that is, it was addressed to me.

It says that the War of Apostasy has gone too far. It says that wherever it is that the truth lies, and whatever it is that the Maker’s Will truly is, it is very clear what the Maker’s Will is not. My brothers and sisters, the Divine wrote this on the morning of her death and she said that it was very clear who the foes of the light were. And what her clear eyes saw then, I believe that even those such as you and me would have little difficulty seeing today.

On that terrible day, I ascended the stair that you see behind me; I climbed to the high places, to the centre of the desecration and together with one you may have heard of, we met that foul thrust to the heart of the world and we turned it. And without some of those here present – without the stout shields and sure blades of the Order of the Temple – we would never have made it half the way. And without me and my sisters – without the valiant hearts of the Seekers of Truth – we would not have had what we needed. And without our mages – without the Gift of the Maker – we would not even have known what it was that we were there to do. My brothers and sisters, the last order of the Divine was as follows. Unite the Chantry Militant under the ancient banner of the Holy Inquisition. End this foolishness of an apostasy. And save the damned world.

And to those that will not set aside their rivalries and their mortal differences? Those Templars who will follow no order that is not from their own; those mages who will never obey, never trust in one un-Gifted; those lay-folk who will not stand up and be counted? I say this. There is the door. The Maker would not have given you feet if he did not intend to use them. And if we succeed, then you shall live the rest of your lives in shame, that we called and you did not come. And if we fail, then I shall see you in hell.

speech ascribed to Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast upon the founding of the Inquisition
as recorded in the memoirs of Giselle, Revered Mother of Haven Chantry

*

The Revered Mother had been seen approximately once since they took over her office, her receiving-rooms and also what had been her private dining room; right now she was either out there playing chanter or she was preparing to take to the road like half her congregation, and nobody seemed to care which. Nevertheless, her dining-table made for an excellent place to put maps. Cassandra frowned at the tall golden-haired Templar who’d followed her in. “So, what’s the damage?”

He made a face. “Worse than I’d hoped; better than I’d feared. Not a single novice went, of course, but we’ve lost Knight-Lieutenants Richan and-”

Cassandra rounded on him. “Ser Cullen.”

He met her gaze evenly. “Seeker.”

“You are telling me that some of your subordinates have left us? That you have permitted this?”

“That’s what came out of my mouth, sera, yes.”

“Are you aware of what it is that we are doing, here?”

“The Maker’s work.”

She gritted her teeth. “And what else, pray, would you consider that the Order of the Temple was for?”

“I wouldn’t, sera. That’s why I’m here, see, rather than with two of my three immediate subordinates and seven of our veterans.”

“Do be so good as to remind me of your rank within the Order of the Temple, Ser Cullen.”

“As of this morning? None.” He hadn’t even blinked. “Lady Cassandra-”

“You are honestly telling me that-”

“-I made it a matter of individual conscience whether the men and women under my command should discard their vows in favour of-”

“-a direct command from the Most Holy herself? What is it that you imagine you are given your authority for, if-”

“Excuse me.” Nightingale raised her voice just slightly and Cassandra actually stopped talking and glared. “Ser Cullen, you are telling us that when asked to come with us rather than return to their unit, fully four-fifths of the templars who survived the Sanctuary have joined the Inquisition?”

He nodded. “As I said, Seeker, we’re longer on enthusiasm than experience.”

“Doubtless we can find a way of converting the one into the other.” She looked to Cassandra. “This is a victory, sister. This morning, we had nothing. Now we have, what. Thirty templars?”

“Thirty-two counting myself and my squire, and we’ve had about half a thousand volunteers.” He looked from one of them to the other. “Apparently a holy woman tells the common people they’re either with her or against her, and she’s got herself as much of an army as they can pretend they are – I tell you, Seekers, if the Maker’s will were to cultivate a thousand acres of land, we’re all set to plough the hell out of Thedas. I’ve got my people going through them now and working out if any of them fought in the Blight, or if we’ve got any of the nobles’ household troops left. Presumably you have something for them to do?”

Cassandra nodded. “We will need troops, for shows of force if nothing else. Are any of your people competent to organise that?”

He ran a hand through his short-cropped hair. “It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve played instructor to a bunch of enthusiasts, sera. But more seriously – could I have some idea what I need to deliver, and with what? They didn’t exactly turn up with-”

“Lances.” Mynah – Josephine – spoke up from where she was sitting at the end of the table. “One mounted, one archer or crossbow, one pike, polearm, or other foot, one bearer, dog-handler or armourer: that’s a lance, which is how the mercenaries organise themselves. It’s a starting point, if you truly have no idea what we want. The village blacksmith has a strong Fereldan accent and was telling stories of the Blight in the tavern; I should think he was a weaponsmith once and could be again, and if he’s tried to make himself scarce then we shall ride him down and fill his pocket; we’ll need the other allied trades, but I’m sure we can do something to make shift. I’d suspect half of your volunteers are Blight veterans, those who weren’t soldiers to start with, so you won’t be as bad off as you fear; I never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad we’re in Ferelden. And of course horses are one thing that we do actually-” she looked up at the others – “sorry?”

“No, it’s quite all right, my lady.” Ser Cullen’s expression was that of a man rapidly re-assessing some assumptions – “Dare I hope that you were also a drill instructor in a past life?”

A perfect smile. “I’m afraid that I have a master-at-arms for that, back home. You ask what we want, ser? Well, if we ever want to get any more than what we have right now, we want appearances. You wouldn’t go to a usurer for a great loan when you need a lot of money. You would go to them for as small a sum as you dare; you would use your borrowed money to make yourself out to be a creature of exquisite wealth and refinement; then you would go to the goldsmiths, who never would have admitted your indigent self, and receive the balance at proper goldsmiths’ rates, and the usurer’s fee to boot.” She steepled her fingers. “The majority of any forces we need will be supplied by the allies we must make in order to use those forces in the first place. What we need to be doing is to create the impression that we are worthy of their trust.”

The thin line of Cullen’s mouth showed his opinion of that. “And our objective? Holes in the sky are somewhat complicated to make war on, I’m told.”

“One thing at a time, Knight-Captain.” Cassandra tapped a finger on the map. “Whatever that hole in the sky actually is, it is going to need combating. We currently stand at two mages – one of them a sickly apprentice – thirty-two templars, no noted scholars among them, and twelve Tranquil, whose reaction to the breaches is… unpleasant. Our best conventional magical theorist is one of those: she cannot look at that which she is studying, even in mirrors, without suffering blackouts and convulsions. We need the support of either your order’s scholars or your opposite numbers in the Circle or both, because we are currently shockingly reliant upon two people. Of that pair, one of them is an apostate. And the other -”

“The Herald.” Cullen raised his eyebrows. “I must admit-”

“Careful.” Nightingale held up a finger. “I know the troops are chanting it to the skies, but half of the Chantry would call for your head for using that title. It isn’t a good habit.”

“Indeed?” Cullen returned a challenging gaze. “Well, Seeker of Truth, let’s have two arguments as to why I’m going to keep using it. First – Do you know which half of the Chantry it is that forbade that? Compared, say, to those who would denounce us anyway? And second -” he looked around the room in slight disbelief – “am I the only one here who genuinely cares whether or not this cause is blessed?”

There was a moment’s silence.

“Ser,” said Cassandra quietly, “you misrepresent.”

Those who bear false witness and work to deceive others, know this: there is but one Truth.” He folded his arms. “Seeker.”

“If I were not convinced our cause were right, Cullen,” she said tightly, “I would not have placed over my head a sword that hung by the slightest of threads. If Nightingale were unconvinced? Then either she would be gone, by now, or I and everyone who agreed with me would be dead.” Nightingale smirked and said nothing. “And Mynah is a noblewoman of standing, with the name and honour of an ancient house to consider. Her very presence is statement enough-”

“I did not ask if our cause was just. I asked if it was blessed. Ordained. Holy.” He met her eyes. “Is it any surprise, my lady, that you call for warriors to avenge the Divine and you get holy warriors? Is it any surprise to you that the ones who stay when the others go are the true believers?”

“In a rumour.” Her mouth twisted. “A thing we never spoke or wrote. Ask him yourself; he’s with the elf at the moment, having that hand of his dissected.”

“You left the Herald alone with a mage?”

“He’s not alone. And that mage is the one individual who appeared to be able and willing to deal with that hole in the sky, and in the absence of other experts I shall take what I can get.”

“I will ask him.” Cullen shook his head. “And if this is ordained, Seeker, if this is indeed the holy mission we were all born for? Then I’m surprised that the Templar’s part in that mission is to keep the Seekers honest, but we shall wreak as we are made.”

*

I thought I knew elves. I mean, I’d even had conversations with some, which put me head and shoulders above almost every single blue-blooded noble in the south. I knew the difference between an empty promise that they made to get you off their back and a sworn word they’d move heaven and earth for. I knew the difference between the ones who’d steal the moment you turned away and the ones you gave a quiet word to and whatever had gone missing would turn up, no matter who’d nicked it or where. I knew that most elves sing the Chant as well as most humans. And I prided myself on being able to read an elf’s body language – I knew enough to tell scared from angry and surly from tired, I knew enough to see when there was a problem and get someone’s duty shifted onto someone who’d actually do it, I knew not to stare at them or show teeth when I smiled. And our mage might as well have been a different type of creature entirely.

The feral elves tattoo themselves on the face with their own blood, or so it’s said, and Solas didn’t have that. The regular elves have the accent of their alienage, thick enough you could cut it with a breadknife, but Solas didn’t have that either. Most elves won’t look you in the eye, but Solas would – catch his eye and he’d stare, and it was like staring down a wolf or something, he wouldn’t blink, he wouldn’t look away till I did. And – well. I asked him how old he was, just making conversation. And he gave me the fakest of fake smiles I ever saw and lied, “nineteen”. Knew perfectly well that I couldn’t tell. Knew that nobody has a really good idea of how long an elf lives, except that it’s somewhere more than a human and it’s not forever, and they look pretty much the same to us at twenty and at sixty.

But his needlework was excellent.

I made the mistake of looking at my hand, at what the odd little man was doing, and my determined distractedness shattered and all the blood rushed away from my head again. It wasn’t so much that it hurt – I’d kind of got used to the repetitive prickling pins-and-needles pain of it – as that there’s something deeply, deeply disturbing about being able to see the bones of your own hand, not to mention the whole terrifying fact that the wound was giving out enough sickly flickering green light to cast shadows, that this was happening to me, that both Solas and Varric had used the words ‘end of the world’ and here I was with a bit of that on my hand. And what it looked and felt like was that he was hemming it.

“So,” I said, dragging my eyes away from it. “There’s still a reason you can’t just heal it?”

“As is well known,” said the elf, painstakingly folding over another little bit of skin and adding another tiny stitch, “I enjoy causing pain and suffering, especially inefficiently, at great length and significant personal effort, and especially to people who whine. Come the new social season, Trevelyan, everyone who is anyone will have a unique magical phenomenon sewn into their hand; the rarer and more esoteric the better; with this, you shall still have them all beaten.” Another stitch. “But come. We have had little time to chat, and while I’m engaged in painstaking, important and difficult work is as good a time as any. I am afraid I’m totally incognisant of the affairs and attitudes of the humans’ ruling classes, and have heard of you neither by family nor reputation. What manner of man are you, where knowledge is concerned? Are you content with the fact of my decision, or d’you wish to distrust it and fashion your own?”

“The way you’re working, there. I think it’s fair to say that -” I winced – “that I’m going to be stuck with this a while?”

“If this takes, you will be stuck with it until we solve the associated problem with the sky.” He gave a little sardonic smile. “If it doesn’t, you will be stuck with it for the rest of your life.”

Charming fellow. “So I figure it’s worth my knowing -” ow – “It’s worth my knowing a little more about it, perhaps? If I’m going to have to do anything else with it?”

Not looking up, he raised an eyebrow. “You cannot look at it without your gorge rising, and you are evidently terrified of the supernatural. What makes you think you are capable of knowing?”

“It can’t be moved, or you’d’ve taken it off and put it on yourself.”

“Would I.” He made another stitch. “I like the smell of wild-flowers because I have two hands?”

“What?”

“Your logic is flawed. Yas is true therefore hae is true, I pose, but I have not established that yas is either a necessary or sufficient condition for hae, and certainly it is not self-evident. Or for another example – the phenomenon is stuck to your hand, therefore learning will empower you rather than terrify you or make of you a persistent nuisance? It does not follow.”

“No. But it’s a damn good reason to try anyway.” I made myself look at the thing again. “Surely you have better things to do than drag me around by the wrist.”

“Oh, I don’t know.” He looked up for an instant. “But by all means, let us perform that experiment. The truth is, I know very little about this at all. The principle of sympathy says that a piece of a thing is sometimes as good as the thing itself. And you have a piece of something in you – that would be the best way I have of describing it.”

“A piece of the sky, you said.”

He pursed his lips. “I could not work out how to say ‘a principal emanation of an inconceivable instantiation’ in words of one syllable. A better description would be that you have attached to your palm a piece of the fact that there is a hole in the sky, somehow made physical.”

I frowned. “You know, that actually made sense.”

“Then it was a miscommunication: everybody knows magic is fundamentally incomprehensible.” Another brief smile, gone almost before I saw it. “This thing that I am sewing a circle around on your hand, and its big brother up there, are against the natural order – so much so that shock of the truth rebounds and resonates as the world tries unsuccessfully to deny it, and as it does so the Veil suffers – hence the breaches.”

“And the demons?”

He made another stitch. “Those to whom you are referring are always there. The breaches just give them a foothold.”

Happy thoughts. “So touching a… breach with my hand is like saying ‘yes, we know, there’s a hole in the sky’, and it all calms down and stops fussing?”

“Hmm.” The eyebrow again. “Perhaps Viscount Trevelyan did not raise a complete idiot. To continue the analogy – what I wrote in the air was roughly ‘it’s all right, this is all a lie’, but it will not stand forever. The time that I have bought is hopefully sufficient to study the breach in more detail, but in the meantime we must preserve this mark on you – and ideally, understand why it is there – and so I have not even begun to undertake a study of what would be required to undo it.” He made a final stitch and tied the thread off. “I don’t suppose that your prophet informed you of her purpose in saving you, or something helpful like that?”

Blink.

“My – uh.” I swallowed. “You do realise that Andraste lived and died centuries ago? That I wouldn’t recognise her if she, uh, grabbed me by the-”

Solas smiled faintly. “I do apologise if I accidentally gave you the impression that it mattered to me whether what pushed you out of the Fade was actually the founder of your religion. Unless it was yourself?”

I shook my head. “No. It was a-a woman, a human. Clad all in golden light like Chantry robes. Not someone I recognised-”

Not yourself, then – What I care about is why. That emanation ought to have ripped you apart, or at the very least made you into some kind of walking breach. You ought to be an abomination of untold destructive nature, attended by choirs of spirits howling continuously for – Never mind. You were saved, and not likely by accident, and bound into your hand is a primary emanation, not the echo, the blasphemy itself. It is incomprehensible-”

“Perhaps I was just in the right place at the right time. Perhaps that was all that it was. I-I mean, if she saved me then she did so instead of the Divine-”

“No, no, no.” Solas scowled. “You nearly had me convinced you had a mind inside that head of yours. Not why were you saved, you’re quite clearly nobody. Why were you saved? Why was anyone? You are the piece that doesn’t fit. Clearly the mark is some kind of keystone, but I can’t see why this unknown entity stretches out her hand and links a mortal man into all of this: it makes no sense. No being I can think of would have this in their gift and deliberately give it to somebody not under their control.”

I frowned. “I, uh. I think maybe, she didn’t.”

“Explain your thought.” His eyes narrowed. “Thoroughly.”

“It’s all a little hazy. You understand that it felt like I had the Maker’s own hangover. But I’m almost sure that she didn’t give me the mark on my hand at all. O-or rather, my hand already hurt. Before she touched me.”

“Idiot!” The elf’s eyes lit up and he turned away from me, surging to his feet. “Fool of a – d’you not see how that -” He turned back. “Do you remember the previous? At all?”

“Not a thing. I hardly remember the Conclave at all – the hill, I remember that all bloody right – but once up there-”

“Nothing? Not a hint?” The elf’s amber eyes were suddenly piercingly fixed on mine.

“No, no, I said. Nothing at all.”

“You just woke up in the Fade with some hours of time missing and that on your hand.”

“Look, I’ve been over this how many-”

“No.” He turned away again, staring at nothing. “No, this is the first time you’ve said anything worthy of remembering at all – the rest is as empty as the hole in the sky.” And he turned back to me with a gleam in his eye. “Which, if your information was true, was an accident. A mishap. A failure. Not done on purpose – I knew something was wrong about it – I think that somebody was a hero up there, during that time you cannot remember. Perhaps it was you.”

I snorted. “Now that, I doubt.”

A crooked smile. “Learn. But not from me, and not now. must throw away all of this -” he gestured at the clutter that filled the little workroom – and start again from nothing. You may tell Raven that I believe I will have a solution by the time our little stop-gap measure fails us. Oh – and your hand will not worsen for at least the next six weeks, and the hole in the sky may be tracked by it. The dressing can come off tomorrow, though I recommend wearing a glove to avoid disturbing passersby. The only way your hand is now likely to kill you – provided you keep it clean and do not pick at it – is if I am wrong.”

“If you’re… wrong.”

“Did you think me some kind of benevolent, omniscient deity?” He looked at me very plainly. “I have made a number of assumptions and guesses. If some of them are wrong, then some of my actions will not be as helpful as I believe them. In the worst case, the hole in the sky will tear open within an hour or two and the whole question will become moot – in fact, if you have anything you crushingly need to say to someone who can be reached with less than an hour’s hard riding, I suggest you go and say it.”

I paled.

“That was a joke.” And that was a proper smirk. “If I were that far wrong, we would be dead by now. Get on with you.”

*

As it happened, of course, Varric nearly fell backward through the door when I opened it. He’d clearly been leaning on it, talking to a tall blond-haired templar with a long-suffering expression and a chiseled jaw to break your pick of recalcitrant rocks, hearts or shieldwalls with. Recovered with a stumble, turned it into a bow that I absolutely didn’t deserve – “And here he is, messere, note particularly the way that he still has all his parts and is still the same shape he was this morning.”

And you’d think it got easier to cope with being bowed to by scary people, but it hadn’t yet. That accent was Fereldan and blue-blooded. “My lord Herald.”

That title again, ‘herald’. What exactly was I supposed to be heralding? Had I just kind of not been paying attention for that bit? Fairly certain his nibs wasn’t anyone’s herald, and he certainly didn’t get deep bows like that from high-ranked templars. “Um. You really needn’t, ser.”

“Cullen Rutherford of Honleath, my lord, lately Knight-Captain, Order of the Temple.” He looked down at me. “Somehow I imagined you’d be…”

“Thinner?”

His expression went very, very straight. “Taller, ser. I imagined a warrior-prince such as the Free Marches are famed for. But there is one Truth. Speaking of which – I heard Cassandra’s reading of the Divine’s final order. If she hadn’t been spared, then that would have fallen to me – as it is, unless she wishes to turn the social order further on its head, I am to be the Inquisition’s second-in-command.” Glance at my bandaged hand. “I decided I would come to see what all the fuss is all about.”

I shook my head, pointed up. “You’re looking in the wrong direction. I was just in the right place at the right time.”

A raised eyebrow. “Interesting words from the one Andraste chose.”

“Is that what she told you?” I meant Cassandra. But I don’t think that’s what he heard, because his expression went flat and cold like I’d insulted him.

“You’re very well aware of every recorded utterance of the Bride of the Maker.” Actually, I was more sort-of aware that they existed than of what they were, but we’d let that slide – “You claim not to be her Herald?”

“I’m sorry, Ser Cullen, I meant no offence.” I backed off very slightly. Door behind me, though. “You know scripture better than me, of that I’m sure. Could you, could you remind me what it tells us of some sort of a Herald?”

And again, while I’d meant exactly what I’d said – the Chant’s the only way to talk to the really crazy ones among the templars, and I was mostly trying to conceal the fact that I was scrabbling through what little I had by heart, trying to work out what he was on about – my words hit him like a poorly-aimed slap in the face. He straightened his back, looked straight ahead of him. “It doesn’t, my lord.” Uh. Holy crap. Now he thought I was doing that thing where you make a clueless subordinate demolish their own argument for you – “I was just perhaps a little surprised to hear from your own mouth the words I just heard. Were you not sent back from the very Fade by Andraste herself?”

“Uh.” I swallowed, very aware that this was probably the most dangerous man I’d ever accidentally made a fool of, and very glad indeed that the only audience was a carefully straight-faced Varric. “Funny thing about the Maker’s Bride, ser-”

“-There are statues of her, paintings of her, but all done long after she was gone; there was never a death-mask, and no drawings from life, yes, yes, of course. If you met her on the street, you wouldn’t recognise her.” He stared over my head. “Wouldn’t  know her from Andraste, as it were.”

“Look. I was saved, that’s a fact. And I did see – someone.” I turned my bandaged hand palm-up, and the green glow that had become a steady continuous slightly jagged line across my palm was just about visible through the bandage. “A woman, dressed as a priestess, all glowing in gold, and it’ll stay with me all my days. But it’s just like I keep saying. The Maker’s honest truth is, I have no idea who she was. I don’t know why me, or why anyone at all, and all I know about this thing on my hand is a tiny bit about what it’s good for, and -”

He drew his sword. My back hit the door. He offered me the hilt.

I looked down at it dumbly. “What’s this, ser?”

Cullen swallowed. Suddenly looked – if I was any judge at all – nervous? “There is one Truth. Speak only the Word. Sing only the Chant.” And he met my eyes. “Ser, I came here in truth because if you were an impostor it was worth all our lives and everything I am to put you down. And you demolished me in half a dozen words while being nothing but simple and honest.” He offered me up the hilt of his sword, again. I’d seen one of the viscount’s vassals do this for him once. “You look like a merchant’s least favoured son, you sound like you learned fair talk from someone’s manservant, and I’m pretty sure you meant it when you said that you had a grasp of the Chant that’d embarrass a novice. I really, really shouldn’t believe you. But – somehow – I find that I do. It shall be my honour, and that of my people, to serve the Holy Inquisition.” He bowed his head. “My lord Herald.”

I took the hilt. I mean, what else was I going to do? Turn him down and he wouldn’t stab me in the back; he’d stab me in the front, right there and then. I offered him the blade back over my arm like I’d seen the viscount do and he took it up in turn, sheathed it. Clicked his heels with a snap that I’d heard before. And left without another word.

And I put my back against the wall and let my head rest against it and stared up at the ceiling and took a long slow breath. “Varric?”

“Yes, Harry?” The sound of my name was like something between a soothing balm and a shot of well-deserved whisky.

“What did you just see me do?”

There was a smug smile to his voice. “Make your first devoted convert, Harry.”

“And how the hell did I do that?”

“Sheer bloody luck, looked like.”

“And why in everliving perdition was I even trying to?”

“Better than letting him stick you full of holes.”

My hands were shaking uncontrollably. “Tiger’s tail. Angry tiger. Except I didn’t ask for this tiger. I never. I’m just tied to it by the – fucking – hand.”

“Uh-huh. Been there, done that, got the scars, the ghosts and the hangover.” He snorted. “Piece of advice, my lord Herald? From someone who’s done more than his fair share?”

“Go on, then,” I said. “I’ll take anything you’ve got going.”

“The other hand is your fucking hand, now.”

I looked at him levelly.

“Trust me.” He broke into a broad grin. “Nobody wants to even go there.”

I shook my head slowly. That grin was infectious.

“Magic glowing horrors? You have no idea where they have been. And you heard him say keep it clean.”

“Thank you, noble ser dwarf.” There was a bit of a hysterical edge to the chuckle that bubbled up out of my throat. “I’ll bear that in mind, always. Clasp it to my -”

Solas opened his door, turned his withering gaze on the two of us sitting there. “Do you two jackdaws have nothing better to do than make noise outside the door of the one room in this place I happen to be working quietly in?”

“I do believe that we can find something to occupy us.” I held up my right hand as if solemnly swearing, and the dwarf burst out laughing. “Come, Varric.”

“If you think I’m laying a hand on you or anything you’ve touched, my lord Herald – with either hand? Or was it that you took my mode of speech and dress for that of a pimp or procurer?”

The elf made a disgusted noise and slammed his door.

*

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