Our Honored Guest
With no one able to answer any further questions, they all departed the War Room in silence.
Leliana quickly caught up to Eleanor and asked her, hands clasped behind her back, “How are you finding your magic?”
“Uh,” she looked up to Cullen, unsure of how much she should say. Cullen gave her a nod that signalled this was not his discussion, and he picked up his pace to give the two women room. Cassandra and Josephine, and Dorian and Varric hurried past. “Useful,” Eleanor confessed. “Dorian discovered that I have a bit of a knack for healing,” she said, and thought of the gaping wound in Pavus’ arm, the horrible gashes on Cullen’s back.
“Indeed!” Leliana seemed delighted. “Cullen had mentioned you discovered your powers by accident?”
Eleanor nodded. “I… don’t know how much he told you. We went out… drinking,” she winced. It sounded so bad, telling this dignified and yet playful woman that she’d gotten shitfaced with the Commander of the Inquisition and fallen in love with him.
Well, she’d been in love with him before that. Maybe.
Leliana was unphased. She smiled more broadly, if anything, and encouraged Eleanor to continue.
“Yeah, there was a bit of a, a dispute. I was cornered and alone, and I guess something in me knew it needed to save me - save itself - save myself -” Eleanor sputtered.
“I understand. That must have been very frightening for you,” Leliana empathized.
“It… it was.” No one had said that to her before. Not even Dorian. Cullen seemed to understand it, but also to want to talk about it as little as possible.
“So much in your world has changed, has it not?” Leliana asked her.
“Well, for me at least. I don’t know that anyone else has even been affected. I - I got the letters from your agents. But, you know, I’m not sure the general population has even noticed. I might be wrong. Especially with the Archdemon.” Eleanor took a deep breath through her nose, and rephrased, as much as she could. “Yeah. A lot has changed.”
Leliana laughed a laugh like windchimes. “You seem overwhelmed. I suppose that’s understandable. You’re holding up very well, even still.” Leliana stopped, reaching out to take Eleanor’s hand. “I know you’re probably eager to get home. But you’re welcome here in Skyhold for as long as you need or want to stay. Isn’t that right, Inquisitor?” Leliana turned and gave a smile to Trevelyan who was following slowly behind.
“And of course you know our Inquisitor is also a mage?” offered Leliana. “Though you seem to be quite capable.”
Eleanor bowed her head a little bit, not yet willing to take credit for her burgeoning magic. She’d almost killed herself with it, after all.
“Thank you, Leliana,” Eleanor said. It was all getting to be a bit much, and Evelyn seemed to noticed.
“Say,” said the Inquisitor. “why don’t we grab a drink? Just us girls? I’d invite you, of course, Leliana, but I’m not sure it’s proper for Divine Victoria to be giggling into her cups at the Herald’s Rest.”
“Inquisitor! I’ll have a glass of wine when and where I very well please!” She said it with gentle humor, and added, “But with this new information I’ve got so many messages to send…” she sighed.
“When are you needed back in Orlais?” Trevelyan asked.
“Oh, immediately, I expect. But for the moment, I believe it’s fair to assume that this takes precedence. I should get to work. If you need me, Inquisitor, you know where to find me.” She excused herself.
“I’ve wanted to ask - Divine what now?” Eleanor asked Evelyn when Leliana was out of earshot.
“She’s the head of the Chantry,” the Inquisitor said with a shrug.
Oh, thought Eleanor. Is that all.
“You understand that this means that the Blight is now our problem as well?” Eleanor followed Evelyn from the War Room into Skyhold’s main hall, and overheard Cassandra’s thickly accented voice as they rounded the corner.
“We can’t be sure of that Cassandra,” Cullen answered, as the two came into view. Evelyn held out her hand to stop Eleanor, to keep from interrupting the argument. “We haven’t seen anymore darkspawn than normal, and from what we saw in the Deep Roads, everything seemed to be headed away from here.”
“You don’t know what you saw in the Deep Roads, Commander!”
“Cassandra, I -”
“And how would you know if there had been more darkspawn! You haven’t been here in months!”
“I have been doing my job!” he shot back. “And I would have a much better report for you if I had been able to send more than four people down there, Seeker!” he pointed his finger accusingly at her.
“Am I supposed to be moved? The Empire is falling apart and threatening to take the Inquisition down with it. Excuse me for trying to save us!”
“And I am doing everything I can to stop this Blight, but I can only do so much with the resources I’ve been given!”
“Oh,” said Cassandra, leaning back, and putting one hand on her hip, the other pointing back at him now in retaliation. “I can think of one resource I hear you’ve been using rather well. And a mage, Cullen? Of course it would be a mage!”
“You’re crossing a line, Cassandra,” Cullen said, lowering his voice as he narrowed his eyes.
Evelyn took a step forward, keeping her arm out to shepherd Eleanor behind her still, behind the open door and out of sight. She wouldn’t have needed to, Eleanor was frozen with a combination of shock and rage at this woman, this Cassandra. Just who the hell did she think she was, Eleanor wondered. “Have you got a problem with mages, Cassandra?”
“Inquisitor!” The woman’s dark grey eyes grew wide with shock. “Of course - I mean - I didn’t mean you, Inquisitor.”
“I don’t think you should mean anyone,” she said boldly, and scratched the tip of her nose thoughtfully. “Cullen, I apologize. I’ll get you your troops. I didn’t realize the ravine would be so vast, and I certainly didn’t expect you to be able to take a walking tour of Thedas on your way out. That was my mistake. Orlais will not burn for the loss of a score of troops. And Cassandra, Cullen’s personal business is entirely his own, but I would be remiss if I didn’t add that Eleanor so far seems to be a quite clever and immensely helpful woman who is behind that door and has heard every word you’ve just said.”
Eleanor bashfully stepped out from around the door, and Cassandra’s olive cheeks flared into a shocking shade of red. “It’s… you’re frustrated, I understand,” said Eleanor, diplomatically, “and I guess mages don’t have the best reputation around here…” she let her voice trail off but Cullen picked it back up.
“You absolutely don’t need to defend yourself to her,” he spat. “And neither do I,” he added, almost as an afterthought.
“Inquisitor… I…” Cassandra sputtered.
“If you’re going to apologize, don’t do it to me. Do it to her,” and Evelyn pointed at Eleanor, who still stood some feet behind.
“It’s really not necessary,” Eleanor offered.
“Oh, I should think it is,” said Cullen, still fuming.
“Cullen,” Eleanor cautioned. “It’s alright. It really is. You don’t know me. I don’t know you,” she told Cassandra.
“And I’m going to take this chance to get to know our honored guest,” Trevelyan stretched out these last words, “better. You’re welcome to join us, Cassandra. Commander, I don’t have to tell you. Come on, Eleanor. There’s ale with your name on it.”