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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 9

Prompt: Quarrel

The slam of the door at the end of the cathedral brought Blackwall out of his musings. “Keep your gear on, we’re heading back out.” Ravena marched out of the meeting room, her head barely turning to address Blackwall as he pushed off the pillar he had been leaning on. He wasn’t the most devout of Andrastians, but he had taken up the habit of walking Ravena to the Chantry and lingering as she debriefed her advisors, if only to have the opportunity to walk back outside with her once she was finished. At first, he merely stood there and waited, but gradually he began to listen to the prayers of the sisters around him and offer up his own hesitant thoughts to the Maker in a sort of one-sided conversation. Those thoughts rarely turned into actual prayers, save for the occasions he visited the Chantry when Ravena was out in the field without him. Only then did he pray that she returned safe and whole.

“Where to?”

Ravena slowed down once they were outside the Chantry. “Back to Redcliffe. Alexius wants to personally meet with me.”

He frowned. “It’s a trap.”

“I know it is,” she said, sighing and pinching the bridge of her nose to stem a headache. “Believe me; I just spent the last thirty minutes arguing with Cullen about the same thing. I’m well aware of all the dangers.”

“And I certainly hope that Cullen talked you into meeting Alexius with at least some protection?”

She looked at him sharply. “Do you think I’m stupid?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You implied it. No, Blackwall. I intend to waltz up to Redcliffe Castle unarmed and unaccompanied, because I am a foolish woman who refuses to listen to a man’s warnings.” She crossed her arms over her chest and glared. “Of course, I’m far too stubborn to listen to reason and…”

Blackwall held out his hands. “Hold on. Don’t spew venom on me for something Cullen may or may not have said correctly. I know how capable you are. I only worry about your safety because we have no idea what Alexius is capable of doing. I’d worry if you went alone and I’d still worry if you were accompanied by a hundred Inquisition forces.”

She took a breath, her shoulders sagging. “Forgive me. I didn’t mean to take this out on you; it’s just been a very tiring day.”

He reached out and put an arm around her shoulders. “And it’s already almost evening. Are you certain you want to head back out tonight?”

“I’m certain.”

He caught the way she wobbled on her feet, how she leaned against him. “Alexius has been in Redcliffe for quite some time now. Surely a few hours more won’t hurt.”

She slid out of his embrace. “It might not hurt us, but what of the mages in Redcliffe? Blackwall, you saw them yourself. Something was definitely not right.”

Now it was his turn to cross his arms over his chest. “I know. And that’s why I think going to him so soon is a bad idea. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to seek out the Templars’ help? Once we gain their alliance, we can be better prepared for whatever any mage throws at us.”

She shook her head. “We don’t have the time,” she countered. “It’s either one or the other, especially now that mages had been sold into slavery. And don’t argue semantics with me that it’s indentured servitude either; it’s the same thing, no matter what sort of pretty dressing you place upon it.”

“I’m not arguing it. It’s just…” His frown deepened. “I’d rather have a backup plan if things go poorly. I don’t know these mages; I don’t trust them.”

She turned to face him. “Mages are the same as ordinary people. There are good ones and then there are bad ones. The majority of the mages in Redcliffe are scared, but I feel as if they’re good people. I’ve never personally been to Tevinter, nor have I seen what magisters are supposedly capable of doing, but something tells me that Alexius is capable of doing extremely bad things, given enough prodding. Going to appeal to the Templars, who may or may not give us their support, especially after the scene in Val Royeaux, might be a waste of time that we simply do not have.”

“So you would risk the lives of so many by acting rashly?”

“And you would risk the lives of so many by waiting?” Both of them had raised their voices: Ravena out of frustration, Blackwall out of…well, he didn’t rightly know. He guessed it was a culmination of things: how he hated the thought of Ravena willingly putting herself in danger, fear of the unknown, or perhaps it was that nagging feeling in his gut that told him this was a bad idea. He wanted to reach out and shake her, to make her stop and think about things.

She beat him to it. “If you’re so against my plans, then you can stay here.” With that, she stormed off and headed over to the home Adan had taken over as his apothecary workshop. Blackwall watched as she briefly stopped in front of Dorian before heading down the hill to gather Varric.

“She’s leaving.” Blackwall turned his head as Cullen came up to him.

“Did you have to piss her off?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.

Cullen spread out his hands in a defensive posture. “I didn’t say anything! All I asked her was to consider going to the Templars for help. Then she started saying how I thought she was…”

“Stupid, foolish?” He eyed the other man and sighed. “Did you happen to mention anything about her being stubborn?”

Cullen winced. “I never said the first two, nor did I imply them. I may have said something about stubbornness in passing, which Leliana, Cassandra and Josephine have already taken me to task for, even if my argument had been well-intentioned. You don’t think that she’ll do anything rash, do you?”

Blackwall shrugged before stomping down the hill after her. “I have no idea.”

Ravena was in the middle of making sure her mount’s saddle was properly secured when he came down to the stables. “I thought I said that you were staying here,” she told him.

“Damned if I am,” he spat back, grabbing tack and readying a horse. “Look, I don’t care how angry you are at me, or Cullen, or the situation in general, but if you’re so dead-set on traveling straight to Redcliffe, then I’m with you.”

“Fine.”

“Fine.”

She hauled herself into the saddle and started off for the main gate. “Fine.”

Blackwall was at a loss to figure her out. He jumped when Varric’s horse rose up close to his. “Don’t worry,” he said. “She’ll get over it before we’re a mile away from Haven.”

“How do you know?” He gave his mount a pat on the neck before swinging up into the saddle.

Varric winked. “Because Dusty acts a whole lot like Hawke. The similarities are eerily uncanny, which is strange since I thought the Maker broke the mold when he made either one of them. Both of them are too damn nice for their own good, take on every sad story like it’s their own, and have a slow-simmering temper. It takes a lot to make Hawke upset, and the few times that her temper snapped, it was spectacular to watch.” He shook his head at some memory, smile still in place. “I remember this one time; she got so mad at Broody for still having dead bodies in his house that…”

“I hope you’re getting to a point, Varric.”

“Yeah, the thing is, no matter how bad the argument was or how big the blast radius got, Hawke always got over it pretty quickly. Something tells me that Ravena’s the same way.”

“I hope so.”

“So, what about you? Are you over that little tiff?”

Blackwall frowned. “I don’t think I was really mad to begin with. I was more…” he drifted off, at a loss for words.

“Frustrated? Scared? Worried about her?”

“Yes.”

Varric rolled his eyes. “Maker’s breath. I really am stuck with another Choir Boy. I can’t count the amount of times Sebastian stomped off to brood when Hawke went out without him. At least you don’t have that whole Chantry righteousness thing going on for you. Makes you more likeable.”

“Thanks. I think.” He kicked his horse onward into a faster canter until he rode up next to Ravena and Dorian, both of them deep in a conversation.

“Speaking of,” Dorian drawled, eyebrow cocked and chin pointing towards Blackwall. “I do believe I need to become better acquainted with our resident bard.”

“Storyteller,” she corrected absently, her hand going up to push a lock of hair behind her ear. “Calling him anything other offends him.”

She stared straight ahead as Dorian slowed his horse in order for Varric to catch up. Ravena all but winced when she heard the mage ask Varric what he was writing.

“Don’t look now, but I think we’re giving Varric plot ideas,” Blackwall said, breaking the silence.

“I need to apologize,” she said in a rush. “I was angry and I took it out on you. That was unworthy of me.”

He reached out and placed a hand on her arm. “And I need to apologize as well. I was frightened and lashed out.”

She blinked. “Frightened? You?”

“You say that as if it’s an impossible thing,” he told her, his lips quirking into a rueful smile.

“Well, it sort of is. You have this air about you, Blackwall, as if nothing ever fazes you.”

“I’m probably the furthest away from that description, my lady.” His hand slid up her arm until he could cradle her cheek in his palm. “Especially when it comes to you.”

She stared into his eyes, the sincerity reflected within them making her heart flutter. Unfortunately, she was too tired and the timing was off to discuss any deepening feelings between them, so she decided to deflect his seriousness with humor. “Oh? Am I a distraction?”

He caught her change in tone and dropped his hand. “A pleasant one, I assure you.” His smile widened. “And before I begin digging myself into a hole I may never find my way out of, I want to add that I know you certainly don’t need me or anyone else worrying about your safety. You are more than capable of rescuing yourself from danger.”

She blushed. “I shouldn’t have gotten on my soapbox about that,” she confessed. “My chosen profession is a male-dominated one; I’m used to dealing with men questioning if I’m able to do the things I need to do, then have them second-guess me the entire process.”

Blackwall opened his mouth to speak, but she interrupted him. “No one is doing that here, but I was tired and cranky and took things more personally than I should. I owe Cullen an apology once we return.”

“Something tells me that all will be forgiven.”

“I hope so.” She looked up at him, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. “And what about you? Am I forgiven?”

He couldn’t have stopped his thumb from ghosting over her lip even if he had wanted to. “Always.”

She laughed before slightly pulling away. “I would suggest the classic kiss and make up move, but I fear that Varric’s journal doesn’t have enough paper to record the occasion.”

Blackwall grinned. “Knowing him, he’d simply start narrating instead.”

“And then our newest companion would absolutely get the wrong impression about us.”

“Which wouldn’t do at all.”

Ravena broke away first, urging her horse further on down the trail. Blackwall made a point to stay a slight distance away from her, yet still close enough to stay within talking range. He caught her eye and shared a secret smile when they both heard the commotion behind them.

“You swindler, I want my money back!” Dorian cried. “You said there’d be fireworks! That was a fizzle, at best!”

“Hey, all bets are final,” Varric countered. There was the distinct clink of money being tossed in the air. “Try winning it back when we get back to Haven. I’m in the middle of organizing a Diamondback tournament; I’ll put you on the lists.”

“Barbarous trickster.”

“On the contrary; I prefer cultured warrior, if we’re going to be throwing tropes around all willy-nilly. Stay on my good side and I just might be able to wrangle up a few things to make Haven feel like an exotic resort.”

Dorian harrumphed. “I seriously doubt that.”

“Obviously you have no idea of my extensive network of connections. Five sovereigns says that I can rustle up a bottle of Tevinter red without breaking a sweat.”

“Please. The South is full of nothing but swill. Ten sovereigns says that…” There was a pause. “You know what, Varric? I just might begin to like you. You’ve managed to perfect the art of bullshitting down to the point where I can’t tell if you seriously do have a fine vintage stored away somewhere or not.”

“It’s part of my charm.”

Ravena twisted around in her saddle so she could look at them. “If the two of you would hurry up, we can get this meeting out of the way and be back quicker.”

“You really think he has wine stored somewhere?” Blackwall asked.

“Oh, I know he does. I won a bottle of Valpolicella from Antiva off him during our latest card game.” She moved around until she was facing forward again and turned to him. “I’d be willing to share a glass or two, once we get back.”

Blackwall stared at her. “Then there’s our motivation for getting this done quickly,” he replied.

He still had an ill feeling in his gut about the whole endeavor, and Ravena’s smirk did nothing to dispel the feeling of wrongness, especially when he saw the same worries peeking through her bravado. Taking a breath, he returned her smile.

If she could get through this, so could he.

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