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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 8

Prompts: drink/letter


It was Blackwall’s habit to head into the Singing Maiden for a pint after spending the afternoon and early evening helping train the new recruits. He had managed the beginnings of a professional friendship with Commander Cullen, grateful that the man allowed him to help out. He admired Cullen’s training methods and was gladdened to hear the Commander say the same about his. Unfortunately, he’d never managed to talk Cullen into joining him for post-training drinks, but he’d managed to form some bonds with several other Templars who had joined their cause. It did something to him to know that he was helping contribute to the Inquisition in ways other than going out on the front lines with the Herald.

Speaking of the Herald, Blackwall spied her sitting by herself at a table wedged into the corner at the back of the tavern, her head down as she poured over several notes in front of her. Thanking Flissa for his drink, he maneuvered around the crowd until he approached her.

“Mind if I join you?” he asked.

Ravena looked up from a stack of papers and smiled. “Please. You’re a welcome distraction.” Shuffling the pages aside, she tipped her head in invitation to the empty chair next to her.

“Field reports?” he asked her, settling down.

She shook her head. “Worse. Josephine suggested that I write my family for aid. The good news is that the Trevelyans are one hundred percent behind the Inquisition.”

“And the bad news?”

“I just received a mass influx of letters from my immediate family. I’ve read through all of them, but I’m dreading penning replies.”

Blackwall noticed that Ravena had traded out her customary glass of wine for a squat, square glass and a bottle of something stronger. “Come on, how bad can it be?”

She pulled out a thick portion of the stack, which he estimated to be well over several pages long. “This alone is from my mother. Ten pages of I was in labor with you for thirty-six hours and nearly died and this is how we find out you’re alive after what happened at the Conclave? Ten pages full of tiny, delicate, single-spaced handwriting, Blackwall. If you should know anything about my mother, Adriana Trevelyan is a master of the fine art of guilt trips.” She pulled out a single sheet of paper. “In contrast, my father wrote the first two paragraphs to confirm that his bannorn would support our cause and that longer, more businesslike letters would be coming Josephine’s way as he continued to petition his arl to join our cause. The remainder of his letter was to apologize for Mother’s tirade, with a long postscript on how he sends his love and is thankful that I’m still alive, even if it meant that I was the reason Mother had random attacks of teary hysteria for an entire week straight.” She fondly ran her fingers over the strong, bold handwriting and could all but see her father rolling his eyes as he wrote the last bit in his brightly lit study. Unbidden, a rush of homesickness hit her. She took a sip of her drink, the burn of the alcohol helping to wash away the sudden tightness in her throat.

“Your parents sound like night and day,” Blackwall commented, quietly sipping on his ale.

Ravena laughed. “They most definitely are. Yet they love each other dearly: Mother despite Father’s more serious nature and Father despite Mother’s bouts of silliness.” She rifled through the rest of the pages. “The remainder of the letters are from my brothers. My eldest brother, in his usual way, spent two sentences echoing Father’s initial two paragraphs and then wrote three pages worth of Big Brother things. My second eldest brother wrote in a similar vein, only adding the by the way, whatever the Inquisition needs from us, let me know as an afterthought.” She neglected to add that her sisters-in-law had added their own notes in the margins of their husband’s letters, inquiring about her welfare and briefly filling her in on the latest gossip. Maria, the more romantic of the two, made certain to ask if Ravena had seen anyone who had caught her eye yet.

She was torn between keeping silent and writing everything she could about a certain man currently sitting beside her. Sighing, she picked up her glass and swirled the contents before downing it in one go. “My only consolation is that my cousin Henri also wrote to me.” She handed Blackwall a piece of paper that looked to have been torn out of a bound journal. “If there’s one thing I can count on with him, it’s that he is direct, to the point, and so absent-minded about the passage of time that he can’t guilt me on not writing sooner.”

“This makes no sense,” he told her, staring at the neat and precise handwriting. He’d seen samples of Ravena’s own writing, and had he not known that the note had come from her cousin, he’d have assumed she’d written it. “All he wrote is a string of words, see? Dearest, Blasted Tantervale, Rivain, Thankful, Salvage, and Henri.”

Ravena filled up her glass and emptied it just as quickly. “You have to understand Henri for that to make sense. His letter goes something on the lines of Dearest Ravena, thanks to my blasted, broken foot, I’m stuck in Tantervale for the foreseeable future, or until it heals up enough to get around on my own. Because of this, I had to turn down a lucrative non-Chantry sanctioned job in Rivain, which you know I hated to do because aside from missing out on the chance to go exploring, the women there are the most exotic beauties I’ve ever seen outside Antiva. I’m highly thankful that you’re alive after the Conclave, even though dealing with the Inquisition means that you yourself will also be missing out on the Rivaini job, which makes me turning it down somewhat more bearable. By the way, have you managed to go back to the Temple of Sacred Ashes? Is there anything remotely salvageable? As always, I remain your ever loving cousin Henri.

Blackwall laughed. “You got all of that out of seven words?” Seeing that her glass was empty, he chivalrously poured her another.

She nodded. “I’ve known Henri for a very long while. His mind runs at a much higher speed than his hands, so you have to learn how to read between the lines. It’s always fun to translate his blurbs in person, especially when he’s in the middle of a discovery and too excited to take enough time to speak in full sentences.”

“So what does this postscript mean? It’s only a date.”

Ravena leaned closer to Blackwall to read. “9:15 Dragon.” Her eyes widened. “That little cretin! When he mentioned being stuck in Tantervale, I figured that he meant he was holed up in the house I own. I never thought he’d stoop so low as to raid my wine cellar! I was saving that bottle for something important!”

Blackwall watched as Ravena gave a little annoyed huff before picking up her glass and taking a drink. “I didn’t know you owned your own home,” he settled on.

“You don’t know a lot of things about me,” she replied. She leaned further against his arm and smiled flirtatiously at him. “But I’m willing to let you in on several details. All you have to do is ask.”

He smiled back. “I’ll keep that in mind, my lady.”

She shivered. “Oooh, you should talk like that more often,” she said. “I like when your voice gets all low and growly.”

Blackwall couldn’t stifle the laugh that spilled from his lips. “And you, I think, are quite drunk.”

She eyed her stack of letters. “I can handle the rest of these sober, but I’m going to have to drink considerably more if I aim to reply back to my mother. Perhaps I should let Josephine look after that one, seeing that placating Lady Trevelyan should count as a diplomatic matter.” She grew quiet before drawing away from the table.

“Leaving so soon?”

“Soon is relative,” she replied, collecting her letters and tucking them away in a pocket. “You may be correct: I actually might very well be on the other side of pleasantly tipsy and leaning more towards stupid drunk. I’m making a retreat before I say something I might regret.”

He stood and offered her his arm, which she took. Not being able to resist, he dipped his head down until his mouth was level with her ear. “Such as confessing you like the sound of my voice?”

She closed her eyes and hummed appreciatively. “That, my dear ser, is cheating.” She allowed him to walk her out of the tavern, where the crisp mountain breeze helped to begin sobering her up. Ravena decided to steer him along the longer pathway to both ease her drunken state and prolong the pleasure of his company.

“I do believe that this is your stop,” he finally said once they reached her cabin’s door. “Do you need any help getting inside?”

“No, I can manage on my own. I do want to say that I’m sorry in advance; I’m going to be a grump traveling to Redcliffe. Hopefully by the time we arrive, my hangover will be gone.”

“No need to apologize. If I had a shrew for a mother, I’d drink too.”

Ravena leaned against the closed door. “She isn’t a shrew,” she told him, feeling the sudden need to defend her mother. “At least not all the time. She just has her overdramatic moments.”

“Then I apologize.”

“Apology accepted.” She gave him a sad looking smile. “My poor mother raised a houseful of boys. I never quite turned out to be the delicate lady she had hoped for.”

“For what it’s worth, I happen to like you as you are,” he said. He leaned in and wound a strand of hair that had gotten loose from her bun around his fingers.

She tilted her head towards him. “You’re cheating again,” she murmured.

“Oh? And what secrets might I ferret out of you, my lady?” Blackwall braced his free hand on the doorframe and crowded her, pleased when she rested her palms against his chest.

He wanted very much to kiss her, but held himself back. She didn’t have full control of her senses and doing so would not only be ungentlemanly of him, but would go against the firm do not get involved past friendship tether he had leashed himself to. Regretfully, he pulled back to a respectable distance.

Ravena noticed his withdrawal, but didn’t comment on it. “None this evening,” she replied. “Goodnight, Blackwall.”

He bid her a good evening and waited until she had gone inside before turning and making the lonely walk back to the blacksmith shop. He had been staying with Harritt and his apprentices, taking up only the smallest corner of the smith’s home. Harritt never minded, seeing as Blackwall kept things neat and tidy, and sometimes when Blackwall would come back from the field, exhausted from travel and whatever fighting they might have to do, he would wake to find that someone had mysteriously cleaned and repaired his gear while he slept. To show his appreciation, Blackwall always tried to go out of his way to find iron ore or other crafting agents that Harrit could use.

“You’re calling it an early night,” Harritt commented, looking up from a piece of leather he was working on near the hearth. The cut of the fabric told Blackwall that it was something for Cassandra.

“There wasn’t anything interesting going on. Besides, we’re heading out tomorrow.” He had a strange feeling about the meeting with Grand Enchanter Fiona, but he couldn’t quite place just what it was.

“Varric going along with you?”

“When doesn’t he?” Lately, it seemed as if Ravena had decided on a more permanent team of himself and Varric, with either Cassandra, Bull or Sera rotating with Solas if the mage was unable to join them due to helping out in Haven.

Harrit grunted. “Tell that stubborn dwarf that if he wants me to upgrade his crossbow, he’s going to have to leave it with me for a few days. The Herald said that he’s capable of using daggers; he can still defend himself.”

Blackwall snorted as he settled down on his cot. “I’ll mention it to him, but you’ll not likely get to work on it for some time. He treats Bianca as if she were his firstborn.” He folded his arms behind his head. “Besides, he’d probably get underfoot, staying at your elbow and telling you that you’re doing your job wrong.” He remembered the conversation Varric and Sera had gotten into a few days ago. It had ended with Sera making a rude noise, throwing her hands up in the air, and telling Varric he could stick his crossbows-are-more-advanced-than-regular-bows argument where the sun didn’t shine. Blackwall had never been so entertained, especially when Varric had sassed back at her, wanting to have the last word.

Although Blackwall didn’t think that Varric thought having the last word was worth it after waking up the next morning with honey smeared across his chest. As he remembered it, it had taken forever to get out and left the storyteller in a foul mood.

“You said that we were going out,” Harritt said. “I’m assuming that means you’re joining them?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I have the Herald’s new armor ready. You can deliver it for me.”

“I’ll be sure to do that first thing. You have my thanks.” He had seen how Ravena had put everyone else’s protection ahead of her own when ordering new armor or gear. He had confronted her about it once and she said that the money was better spent that way.

“I should be the one thanking you. Getting twice the business with half the product doesn’t happen every day.” Secretly, Blackwall had been squirreling away coins on his own and asking Harritt to give Ravena a lower price estimate on things made specifically for her. After finding out what she had ordered, Blackwall had paid the difference and then some, ensuring that Harritt used better quality material and added in extra armoring.

It wasn’t the most sweeping of gestures, but it helped keep Ravena safe, and that was all that mattered to him.

Not one to talk much, Harritt turned back to his work. In turn, Blackwall closed his eyes, and with his mind still running through the items he’d need to pack for their departure, fell asleep.

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