Moments

Moment of Choice pt 3

Silence, colder than that first morning step from bed to stone floor, dampened the air around me. Twists of snow rolled atop the never ending drifts. My coat snagged in a blast of frigid air, tossing the hem back dramatically and tightening the knot upon my neck. I yanked it down, along with the bow strung across my shoulder. Rhodri sniffed again, his head even more burrowed inside the cloak's hood. He'd snorted the air every few meters away from Skyhold before pointing in a random direction, as if elves could smell a ram over top the snow instead of spotting the obvious footprints. Even Cullen picked up on the prints scampering where the ram pawed through the endless snows for a scrap of untouched tree bark, then doubled back down the mountain. Varric chuckled at Rhodri's act, unimpressed by the fellow charlatan.

Rhodri twisted to me, always an arm's length away, "We are more likely to spook the prey in such a number."

I didn't know what he really wanted dragging me out in the woods for a 'hunt,' but he was right about this. "Tip the arrow," I agreed, getting a nod from him. "With a half start of the fletching to envelop."

Those blue vitriol eyes tried to crack through my armor, "A wise plan. It seems you haven't forgotten all your skills."

I snorted at that, "As if I wasn't the one to teach you how to thread the shaft." I directed my voice behind me, "Right, that should work or is it too great a distance for you two?"

"Um," Varric's wobbling voice echoed through the imposing cliffs. We both turned back to watch the dwarf struggling with snow rising past his thighs. Cullen marched beside him, fighting a battle against his armor weighing him deeper into the flimsy ground than either lightly clad elf. At least the fur on his shoulders should keep him warm. Even my overcoat wasn't enough; my skin burning below the thin leather.

"Not that I want to complain or anything," Varric said slowly lifting his legs high to try and stomp down upon snow waist high. "Been a great trip freezing every bit of me off in the snow so far, but what the shit were you two talking about?"

"I'm sorry." More than the burn of the wind lit up my cheeks. I forgot I was 'talking elfy' again. "It's an old hunting pattern. Rhodri and I will scout ahead, trying to flank the ram, while you two take up the rear to scare it towards us."

"Why not have one of us come with you?" Cullen asked me. The cold brought a brighter blush to his cheeks than anything I could manage, but his lips hung down, pale from the pressure. He'd worn a queer look from the moment we set out. I'd seen the Commander in almost every emotional stage imaginable, from heartbreak and sorrow to joy and another kind of joy not to mention in polite company. But now, with his breath puffing through his nose, and his eyes drawing a line across Rhodri I wondered if this wasn't the first I'd seen of jealousy.

He was left to trail behind with the grumbling dwarf while I flitted lightly through the snow, speaking in code with one of the elves who came to whisk me away. The tint of green was not without merit. I stammered, stepping towards him to answer his question, but, in a rare move, Rhodri spoke directly to him.

"Your mass would drag us down, spoiling the snow and obliterating any tracks we might need to follow."

"Excuse me?" Cullen shot back.

But Rhodri only sighed emphatically, spinning away as if he had no more reason to speak to the shemlan. I glared at him, but had to admit the truth, "It's the jangle of the armor...your heavier breathing would serve better to push the ram towards us. We'll hunt out an outcropping to try and line up a shot, then signal you to drive it towards the spot."

"Why didn't you say that before?" Cullen said, a pout trembling in his bottom lip. He hated being out here. Then again, in his past life when going hunting the prey were mages.

"I..." It wasn't something simple to explain. The tongue slipped back so easily to me, not just speaking elvhen but sharing the shorthand commands, old references, and half formed thoughts as speech. Not even conversing with another dalish was the same as working with a member of your old hunting party. It was like slipping on an old glove, perhaps one I'd outgrown, but with a nostalgic fit.

Struggling to come up with an explanation, it was Rhodri who spun around to tell him, "She already did." Cullen's teeth ground so loud, the noise carried above the crying winds.

"You're gonna head all the way up there?" Varric asked, patting Bianca and pointing her towards the cliffs ringing above our heads. Creators only knew how the Marcher born dwarf could stand the unimpeded winds ruffling his chest hair. Did he ever button that thing?

"No, we have other resources," I said. Rhodri grinned from my careful words. "We will not be far. When we give the signal, drive the ram towards that hollow beside the stand of trees."

Varric patted the butt of Bianca a few more times, but accepted his fate of walking through more snow in the name of research. It was Cullen who fiddled with the hilt of his sword, the eyes burning a warmth deep inside me.

"Be careful," he said, that brown butter voice dropping to a whisper. I smiled imperceptibly, and closed my eyes. Cullen rose back up, his voice in full range, "Inquisitor." As if tacking that on was enough. But Rhodri either didn't catch on or did not care; he already moved towards the copse, parting the snows faster than before.

Shrugging once more to my men, I chased after him, still noting the ram tracks in the snow. A few steps behind me, I heard Varric scoff. "Did we just get left behind for being too fat?"

"I am not," Cullen said indignant.

"Are you sure about that, Curly? You seem to be licking up plates of those butter treats Ruffles gets for you."

I missed Cullen's response, his no doubt infuriated growl drifting away upon the wind. The mountain was in no mood to play nice today, the sun blanketed behind an angry nest of clouds, the wind howling through the rocks. It pierced up to a shattering whine the nearer we drew, my fingers working away from the warm wad of bear fur across my midsection up to my head to protect my ears. Rhodri was no better prepared for this, his proud stance stumbling in the shifting snow. His boots slipped upon the sheets of ice below, careening his face towards the ground. He pinwheeled his arms, trying to maintain a balance. It was a shame Varric missed it all. Still, letting ones hunting partner fall flat on their ass was poor manners, so I reached a hand out to anchor him. He grabbed tight, twisting to face me until his body slammed into my side. But I was moored to the ground, as unbendable as the mountain. Rhodri only lightly bounced against me.

In the manic paddling, his cowl slid off, revealing the green vallaslin etched across his forehead and down his cheeks. They radiated like a fade rift against the white pallor the cold pulled to his face. Perhaps that was why we stayed in forests and out of the snow. Hard to remain in camouflage when nature spotlighted your face for you.

Releasing my hand, he slicked back his hair and tried to compose himself by adjusting that stupid shoulder harness. "Not even a thank you?" I said.

His eyes tried to bore into mine, but I'd seen their tricks a hundred times before and thickened the callous to them. "Yes, thank you. Does this mean I am indebted to the Inquisition?"

"First one's free," I said.

"How quaint," he jerked his head towards the left where the snow indented near his own flailing. "Fresh tracks?"

Dropping to a squat, my thighs straining against the tug of the leather, I inspected the twist of the prints. To the right, the same jolly hop of the ram was still evident, though parts were obliterated by Rhodri's flailing. This was different, larger than the ram but partially covered, as if the animal crossed before the winds rose. But doubt nibbled at my mind. Why did that seem wrong?

"You did not speak to the Keeper." Rhodri's voice whipped back along with his cloak, posing in the wind.

I rose, patting the snow off my knees before it melted and then froze into ice. "She seemed busy at the moment and not in the mood."

He rolled his eyes towards me, "You know how she is."

"Yes," I left the 'better than you' unsaid, "which is why I didn't bother."

"You should have," Rhodri continued. He tested his footing in the snow, and -- finding purchase -- continued to trudge towards the trees. I followed behind, but my eyes kept drifting back through the snow. More of those odd tracks followed beside, buried in strange depths.

"Cariad's death, it..." his voice faded into the unforgiving embrace of the wind, "it stung the Keeper. It hit all of us, losing a first like that."

Is it possible for a heart to sneer? If so, mine did just that at his implications. Clearly you were too busy off in the south playing with your little human friends, and forgot your own brother's death. Here, let me remind you how you failed him. "I mourned him, I still do," I cursed, tramping through the snow, smashing my boot deep through the ice crust. "He was my brother."

"The Keeper thought you would return to us after she sent the note. Even if it was not to stay. But you must have been entertained with your life here..." he held his hand out, encircling the desolate mountaintop, "saving the world."

I wasn't about to tell him the truth, of how close I nearly came to doing just that. Of course, that was why she sent me the letter, in elvish so I'd be certain to read it, and as detached as the ones Josie sends in my name to faceless nobles. To remind me how quickly my place in the clan was dwindling. Every little pinprick was placed to manipulate me into running back to her. But I had a job to do here, and I don't regret the choice I made. In the Skyhold garden, a young vehnedal tree clings to the sparse ground growing stronger under constant care. I may have not been able to be there for my brother's burial, but I could still honor his memory.

"The Keeper needed you, it nearly broke her. If it weren't for that shemlan working with the red crystal monsters..."

I laughed at Rhodri's poor attempts to worm into my heart, "The Keeper never shows weakness, not even to her daughter."

But he paused in his climb and turned to me. An earnestness burned behind that icy glare, "Are you so certain of that?"

"I..." In the distance, a ram bleated against the wind closer than expected. "We should get to the trees."

"As you command, Inquisitor," he sneered, but still obeyed. Massive conifer trees were all that could find purchase upon the mountain tops, their lowest branches nearly six feet tall and skimming just above our heads. Needles clung to the edges but one could avoid them if you knew how to climb. I paused beside a thick tree swaying in the breeze and stared out across the small clearing. Mountains cut off the northwestern edge, the cliff's broken black rock poking free from the snows. There was no way it could escape through the north, the face too sheer for even a ram to climb. Surrounded by trees, the winds dampened down to a soft breeze. Even the sun broke free from its prison to cast a few disjointed rays upon the snow. Despite the picturesque scene, hairs rose upon the back of my neck. More of those odd tracks, even deeper buried than before, dotted the area.

"The ram sounds close," I said, another bleat blasting in the air, this time behind us. Either my men were doing their job, or the ram was as excited to be out here as I was.

"Up we get, or do you need help?" Rhodri asked.

I ignored his offered hand, there were somethings a Dalish never forgot. Shaking my fingers loose, I ran towards the tree, the momentum pushing my feet up the trunk until I could grab onto a lower branch. Muscles underused after a year out of the forest cried in agony but still obeyed my orders, lifting me higher into the trees. Every branch I climbed, I'd pause and wait for Rhodri to catch up. He may be a pain, but he still moved like water across flat stone, the strain of climbing invisible in his innate movements as he landed upon each branch. After checking his balance, he'd smile and encourage me to continue. "I bet you missed this," he said, the grin widening across his cheeks. Now, I realized why the Keeper sent him. Remind her of what she's capable of, of what she does for us. I bet my mother even chuckled to herself after saying it, so proud of her little machinations, as if I didn't deal with something ten times more devious when asking Vivienne to pass the salt.

But, he wasn't entirely wrong. Even with a burn shredding in my shoulders, a giddy thrill invigorated my skin with every lift of my body. This was what I trained to do since I was a child, not kill demons or decide the fates of nations. I was dalish; I climbed trees, I hunted game, and I loved it.

Midway up the tree, the winds returned, shaking our narrow foundation and cracking the withered branches. Needles rained down upon my head, stabbing what little exposed flesh, and stuffing into my hair. "I did not miss this part," I muttered. Rhodri rose beside me, his lips pulled tight. He wanted to commiserate but was under orders. This was supposed to be a magical hunt, the easy one where everything goes right and no one falls out of a tree.

We could easily climb higher, but the danger of slipping and snapping a neck grew with each branch further above the ground. He gripped onto a branch prodding off ours to steady himself and squatted beside me. "This should be high enough."

Picking my legs up, I inched off the branch towards the clearing. Little was visible beyond the white swirls of snow. Twisting to the south, I spotted a shadow in shades of tan, its head buried deep as it searched for food. Beyond that, two more waited less than patiently for the signal.

"They're in place," I said, rolling the bow off my shoulder. I reached for an arrow to test my aim, but Rhodri grabbed my fingers and slipped something inside them. Unable to turn around without smacking into him, I brought the arrow forward and noticed the familiar glint of ironbark. It was one of ours. Theirs.

Shaking off the thought as soon as it came, I notched the arrow, my legs dangling off either side of the branch. This wasn't the preferred position for archery if one was fighting in that fancy grand melee Blackwall went on about, but it kept the prey from panicking and leading to an hours long chase through the woods to finish the job.

Holding the bow to the side of the branch, I lined up a shot at a lone log in the middle of the clearing. Rhodri leaned closer, eyeing up my aim. His warm breath cracking the cold sent shivers up my neck, and he said, "I thought I should inform you, I'm with Eria now."

I loosed the arrow, my fingers sweeping back and up my ear. It stuck a few feet below the log, burrowing into the snow like a crazed shrew. Mentally adjusting for the wind, I reached for another arrow, this one specially designed by Dagna. A few breaths passed before I responded to Rhodri's need for attention, "Good for you. May you have many pretentious and neurotic children together."

My lack of a reaction flew over his inflated ego. "The Keeper wanted it to remain a secret for fear you may consider it another reason to not return, but in the interest of fairness..."

Scoffing, I slackened my draw and tried to look over my shoulder at the man pressed close to my back. "Please. I was the one who ended things. Many many years ago, I might add." The bowstring pressed deep against the side of my nose as I aimed towards the sky, the arrowhead humming with an energy only our arcanist understood. Releasing it, the arrow skimmed high above the skyline then burst into a flare of blue and green lights. It was certainly enough to catch the attention of Cullen and Varric, as well as anyone in Skyhold staring off the battlements.

Rhodri gripped onto my arm, steadying me as I brought my quiver into easier reach. "We both ended it, a mutual decision."

I rolled my eyes at his rewriting of history. Youthful indiscretion is a fancy way of saying I was a bloody moron. But I wised up, just as the Keeper began to not so subtly ask if I intended to bond with someone soon. Dissolutions tend to cause chaos in the clan, leading one or both in the relationship to leave, but Rhodri maintained his illusion that he had no more use for me and was content to hunt with a second group. I was happy to let him. Not that it didn't take him more than a month to start sniffing around other women at the meeting of the clans.

"They're moving," I said, pointing towards the advance of my people. A few cries drifted on the wind from them, most intelligible, but I swear I heard Cullen shout, "Move or I shall strike you down myself!" Whether it was the threat he saved for obstinate soldiers or the huffing from Varric, the ram twisted about, running right to our trap.

"I only wished to tell you," Rhodri continued, unable to let anything go, "so things would not grow more awkward."

Yanking out another arrow, I slipped my bow into place - first watching the ram's movements with my eye, then down the tip of the arrow. "Why would I care?"

The ram skittered in the snow, its breath streaming behind it. I spotted the flash of a blonde head waving his arms and giving chase. A few paces behind, the lower strawberry blonde head jumped up and down, waving his crossbow to threaten the animal. It wasn't the most well choreographed plan, but it drove the ram deeper into my sights. I trailed it, my eye sighting down the shaft and leaving a gap to adjust for the wind.

"As the Keeper's First, it'd be your job to teach our children."

"What?!" My grip slipped, the arrow flitting through the air. It bounced beside the ram's hooves, the animal glancing around confused from the kick of snow. Beside me, I heard Rhodri click his tongue at my miss as if he wasn't the cause. Sneering, I notched another arrow, aiming for the ram. In the distance, the sounds of Cullen and Varric still whooping it up drew closer, but I ignored it. I wasn't about to let the clan starve just because my mother thought she could throw my entire life out of balance at her whims.

My fingers dug tighter to the bow, twisting my arm downward. Eyeing down the shaft, I watched the ram sniffing towards the human and dwarf racing towards it. Just one step to the right. One more. Holding my breath, I rolled my shoulders back, and a massive paw smashed into the ram's skull. It shrieked, but the bear roared back - larger than a great bear, it's fur as white as the snow. How did we miss it? Rhodri whistled at the sight of the predator at work, bouncing the ram between its massive front arms and chomping down upon that no longer bleating throat.

Oh no! Still holding the arrow taut, I whipped to my right where Cullen and Varric were still running towards the now eviscerated ram and a massive bear. They'd never hear my warning in time. Turning back, I finally released the arrow. It wobbled in the wind, but stuck into the bear's flank. Screaming from the indignity, the bear rose up in rage then brought a massive paw down with such force the ram's skull shattered. Brains oozed across the bloody snow.

"We have to stop them!" I shouted, firing off another arrow to distract the bear. But Rhodri was already ahead of me, scaling down the tree with the speed of a Dalish elf. "Warn the others!" I called to him, pissing off the bear further. He launched off the last branch, his feet running as he hit the snow. But Rhodri didn't head south to bisect with Cullen and Varric, instead he headed north towards the raging bear.

"You...Fen'Harel ma halam!" I screamed at him, but Rhodri didn't even glance back at me. His eyes lusted for that pelt, a massive prize in the clan and a certain death for him. Damn it, all! Securing my bow across my shoulders, I gripped my fingers onto to the branch and slid my body off it. Before my brain had time to tell me how unwise this was, I let go. The fall lasted only a second before the lower branch caught me, but needles jammed up my backside. Summoning every curse I knew in elvhen, tevinter, and whatever Varric used, I repeated the move, working down the tree fast. Needles and branches shredded at my armor and flesh, while yanking knots of hair clean off my scalp. But that didn't slow me. I wasn't about to let some glory hound kill himself and my people.

Dangling a survivable distance off the ground, I said a prayer to the only god who might be listening. "Mythal, make this work." And dropped. My feet shattered to the ground, reverberating up my legs and through my pelvis, but nothing broke. For once, I didn't feel the frosty snow poking through my toes as I chased towards Cullen and Varric in the distance. Rage and equal parts fear burned inside me warmer than any fire could.

Varric's cheery voice called above the snow, "Think that was enough?"

"I have no idea," Cullen said. They moved with purpose towards the clearing, still eclipsed by a massive outcropping. Once they turned past it, it'd be a face full of bear. To my left, I caught the glint of Rhodri's daggers sliding out. He ran towards the bear, no plan in mind. The man thought if he simply believed in himself enough somehow it'd all work out. But the bears here were nothing like the ones in the north. We grew up chasing small ones that were more likely to run away than challenge you. Here, they'd knock your head off even as their intestines lay bleeding across the ground.

"Bear!" I screamed, waving my arms to get Cullen's attention. But he was absorbed in his own world, staring straight ahead.

Luckily, Varric caught my pathetic attempts and pointed towards me, drawing Cullen's gaze. Shock widened his eyes, probably from the needles still shedding off me as I ran towards them. "What's up, boss? Is dinner caught? I am not helping to drag that thing back," Varric called joyfully.

I whipped my head back and forth in rage and shouted, "There's a bear!"

That changed their stance. Cullen's half hearted fiddling switched to a tight grip, unsheathing his sword. "Where is it?" he called to me.

A stitch from falling out of the tree finally chewed its way through my side. My legs stumbled, smacking into the snow, but I kept from planting chin first into the ground. When I looked up, Cullen was racing towards me. I held my hand out to stop him. "No time," I said, kneading my side, "Rhodri's with the bear."

"Is he trying to kill himself?" Varric asked, sliding back the winch on Bianca and slotting in his bolts. At least they weren't unprepared now.

"Inquisitor?" Cullen asked, the overwhelming concern in his voice making the use of my title pointless.

"I'm good. Come on, we have to save him," I shouted, unsheathing my own daggers. Cullen nodded, any animosity with the dalish buried when there was danger in the air. Slipping his shield in place, he jumped ahead of Varric, both of them running towards the bear.

I staggered for a moment in the snow, working off more than the knot in my side, when the bear's roar shattered the cold air, kicking snow off the treetops. Summoning up the last of my energy, I rose up to pursue Rhodri. "I will never hear the end of it from the Keeper if I get someone killed on a hunting trip."

As I rounded the turn, the last to the fight, I was surprised to find Rhodri still in one piece. He was handling himself well, keeping out of reach of the bear's paws, and working cuts along the flank. Varric shouted something pithy I couldn't hear through the pounding in my ears, and unleashed the torrent of Bianca upon it. The bear turned away from the meal digging into its flesh to roar at the snack now pelting it in the face. Cullen used that moment to, of all things, smash the bear in the nose with his shield. Blessed creators, we need to have a talk later about how to deal with wildlife.

The move seemed to confuse the bear as much as me. It staggered back, the back foot slipping on the uneven ground and dragging the entire mass down. "Yes!" Rhodri cried, "We almost have her!"

Cullen growled, but swung his sword wide, enraging the bear but not doing much damage. He was too busy avoiding her paw swatting at the menace in her face, while Rhodri and Varric continued to chip away.

On a breath, the western winds shifted and a smell filled my nose. A familiar scent of oil and tanned flesh that did not belong on snowy mountaintops, or near bear caves. Of course, the tracks! How could I have missed it?

"Rhodri!" I screamed, trying to get his attention, but he only glanced at me for a moment. His eyes were all for the bear, he couldn't see the air shifting behind him.

I threw my daggers to the ground and yanked up my bow. There wasn't time to properly aim, not even to find a stance. Running on nerves, I notched an arrow, and loosed it right behind Rhodri's shoulder. He ducked, twisting to glare at me, but the scream of pain drew his attention back as a man appeared seemingly from nowhere. His blood dribbled from the arrow wound across the white camouflage, exposing him. Rhodri turned, but not quick enough. Even with an arrow sticking out of his chest, the man drove a dagger into Rhodri.

I began to pull back the bowstring, when that leather scent returned and a warmth radiated from behind me. Without thinking, I drove my elbow back, connecting with something hard, and spun around. Only the man's eyes were exposed out of the white leathers; a cold steel glared upon me, the sword in his hand glinting harder. I ignored them both and yanked my bow across his face. The carved horns slit across his eyes, and he stumbled back. Before he could recover, I kicked him in the knee, downing him to the ground. His sword slipped from fingers trying to stem the blood welling out of his eyes. The blade faded into the snow. Not that he'd have a chance to find it.

Slipping an arrow into the groove, I yanked my arm back to a full draw and planted an Inquisition arrow through his fingers, his eye, and right into the brain. He toppled over, instantly dead.

"Ah shit," Varric shouted beside me, "We got assassins too?! Curly!"

I kicked into the snow, hunting for my daggers and watching the air. Cullen bashed the bear once more in the nose, throwing his weight into it, and rolled off her.

"Varric, protect Rhodri!" I shouted. The assassin stood over the elf, trying to work the barbed arrow through his shoulder. My heart paused at the pile at his feet, but then Rhodri tried to scramble away, his blood staining the ground. Chuckling, honest to Mythal chuckling, the assassin snapped off the shaft of the arrow and tossed it to the side. He reached down and grabbed Rhodri's shoulder, my clansman's screams piercing the air. The assassin rolled his hand back to dislodge a hidden blade and was so focused on his task he missed an ex-templar flying through the air towards him.

Cullen's shield and most of his body shattered into the assassin, both of them tumbling back into the snow. No longer held captive, Rhodri collapsed back to the ground. I began to race towards him, when the snows shifted.

"Varric?"

"Curly's handling that pretty well," he commented on my earlier command, which was accurate. The assassin was no match for the man pummeling him from above. Cullen took the conservative path of striking out only when his prey exhausted itself banging against an impenetrable shield.

"There are more assassins!" I shouted, pointing towards the east. As the beams of sunlight broke through the clouds, their forms faded into view. Three more stalking towards us.

"Today keeps getting better and better," Varric said. "Bianca says hello!" He unleashed the full power of her upon them, causing the assassin's to dodge and weave. But we forgot the other variable in this epic clusterfuck.

Now that no one was smashing in her nose, or digging into her sides, the bear focused on the snack that'd fired upon her face and was currently distracted. I reached behind to my quiver, but my fingers came back empty. Shit!

There was only one option now. Tossing my bow to my right hand, I aimed my left towards the sky and concentrated. Like shredding open an unpleasant package, I willed the veil to part, dragging open a rift just above the assassin's heads. Blasts of hot air burst across the snow as the green tear parted in the sky. Fade energy yanked at the men, dragging pieces of flesh off their bones and yanking them back in place. By the time they figured out what was happening, it was too late -- the assassin's each fell to their knees while the rift picked their skeletons clean.

Only the bear jumped to the side, twisting away from the bite of fade energy. She turned around and raced back to her cave, a small drip of blood following her from both Rhodri and the fade chewing into her sides. The rift I caused popped back to the fade, the veil reasserting itself. Rhodri! I ran towards my fellow Dalish, still face first in the snow.

Flipping him over, I got the reassuring sounds of coughing and incoherent cursing. "Blessed creators," I muttered, dropping down. Blood oozed from a wound in his side. Yanking off my scarf, I matted it up and pushed it into his wound, my fingers burning from the blood's heat. "Rhodri's hurt but alive. Cullen?" I turned, watching him bash his shield against the first assassin's skull.

"Almost done," he said.

"Keep that one alive for questioning," I ordered. His drawn elbow shifted, ready to strike the killing blow. But he twisted his arm back and gave one last smash to the assassin's face with the hilt of his sword. The man dropped to the ground, unable to move.

Varric prodded the still smoking skeletons, "Andraste's ass, I hate it when you do that. It's so fucking creepy."

"Do we know who they are?" I asked. Cullen placed a hand on my shoulder, squeezing it in reassurance. I wanted to reach up and return it, but I was too busy trying to stem Rhodri's blood.

The eternal opportunist, Varric kicked over the one I'd shot through the eye and dug into his pockets. "Nope, nope, nope, ah, here we go!" He unearthed a slip of paper and held it to the light, "Looks like Antivans."

"Wonderful, just what we needed," I sighed. "Is a giant going to fall from the sky next?" Perhaps it was the exhaustion catching up with me, but I turned to Cullen and moaned, "He needs medical attention."

He nodded and passed me his shield. Like a parent picking up a sleeping child, Cullen hoisted Rhodri in his arms. "Let's go quickly," he said and set off towards Skyhold.

I glanced back at the only living captive and rolled my shoulders. "We both grab a foot and drag him?" I suggested to Varric.

The dwarf sighed, but followed suit. We made it nearly a hundred feet from the clearing before he cheerfully said, "We failed to kill a ram but at least we got a crow to make up for it."


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