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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 13

Prompt: hold


There were things that needed to be done. Wood had to be collected for fires, the wounded and dying needed tending to. Blackwall was more comfortable dealing with the former, so he grabbed an axe someone had brought along and went out into the surrounding woods. The cold seeped into his bones as he worked and the snow made seeing further than a few feet ahead of him nearly impossible. Every other swing of his axe had him looking up and around, fear that their enemy had tracked them down warring with hope that the Herald had somehow done the same.

The Herald. Ravena. Blackwall refused to let his mind wander to her as he shouldered logs to split later back at the makeshift campsite they had created. Yet try as he might, images of her kept creeping in: the way her eyes shone in the heat of battle, how the corner of her mouth would curl up in amusement, the warm and pliant way her body had molded to his when she had kissed him in Redcliffe…

“Stop,” he admonished himself, setting the logs down. “There is work to be done; no time to think…” To think about all the what ifs: what if Ravena was injured out there, what if she was lost, what if she hadn’t ever made it out of Haven…

Blackwall’s axe swung down harder than necessary, the wood easily splitting. He spent the next few hours desperately trying and failing to think of anything other than Ravena.

He was in the middle of setting up another temporary shelter when a lookout shouted that they had spied someone coming closer. A brief second later, the same lookout confirmed that the Herald had found them. Heart in his throat, he all but sprinted through the snow to reach her.

He caught her just as she fell to her knees, exhaustion finally taking over. “Maker be praised,” he murmured hoarsely, his arms going around her. It worried him that she was so still and he could see that her normally fair skin held a slight bluish tinge about her lips. Snow caked her hair and clung to her eyelashes, making her appear to be something out of a children’s story he used to read to his sister.

“Blackwall?”

“I have you, my lady.” He gathered her in his arms and stood, amazed that a woman whose shoulders so many people placed their hopes upon could weigh so little.

Ravena burrowed closer to him, her face pressed against his collar. “So cold.”

“I know.” He held her tighter, trying to transfer as much body heat as he could to her. “We’ll get you warm.” He carried her towards one of the makeshift tents they had set up, her advisors trailing after them, full of worries and concerns. Ravena weakly attempted to shift around to address them, but Blackwall could see just how tired she was.

“She’s fine,” he told them gruffly, fighting to keep any unintentional bark out of his voice. “She just needs to rest and thaw out.” One of the Chantry sisters had gone ahead of him and set out a blanket atop some storage crates they hadn’t broken down to use as kindling yet in the shelter he had just finished making. He gave the sister a nod of thanks as he knelt to gently set Ravena down and began to strip her out of her wet coat and gloves, but stopped when she wrapped her hand around his wrist, her grip surprisingly strong.

“Don’t leave me,” she whispered, her voice sounding raspy and sore.

“I won’t,” he swore, free hand unbuttoning the first clasp of his gambeson. She seemed to understand that he was taking his coat off to offer to her, because she stopped him.

“No sense in both of us being cold,” she said. “I’ll be fine.”

Still kneeling, he reached out and brushed her cheek with the backs of his knuckles. Thus distracted, she didn’t put up a fight when he shrugged out of his coat and wrapped it around her as a makeshift quilt. “Are you injured?”

“Nothing major, just some scrapes. My ribs might be bruised, but I don’t think they’re broken. I’ll be sore later, but I’ll live.” She looked away, oddly compliant as he took off her boots and soaked socks, not commenting as he thankfully muttered under his breath that none of her toes had any signs of frostbite. “That’s more than can be said for some.”

“Stop. You did the best you could. Everyone here owes their life to you.” He could still see her in his mind’s eye dragging Adan and Minaeve to safety, anxiety clawing at his gut when the three of them dove to the side as the nearby pots caught fire and exploded.

“It wasn’t just me,” she said. “I seem to remember seeing someone jump through a hole in the roof of a burning building.”

“Nearly singed my beard on that move.” He moved back to her side and held her hands in his, if only to stop them from trembling. “We lost good people today, but it could have been far worse.” Impulsively, he pressed his lips against the backs of her icy hands, grateful beyond words that Ravena wasn’t among the day’s casualties.

She took a deep breath and slowly relaxed against the makeshift bed. “You’re right. Now we need to focus on moving on from here. Can anything at Haven be salvaged?”

“I doubt it. We might be able to save some things, but it looks as if it was completely destroyed.”

Ravena closed her eyes in defeat, thinking about not only the people that had recently called that place home, but of all the priceless architecture that was now buried under who knew how many tons of ice and snow. “I don’t know what to do,” she confessed. It seemed that now that she had found the rest of the survivors, she allowed herself to rest, her body trembling almost violently.

Blackwall tucked his gambeson tighter around her body. “You sleep, that’s what you do. When you feel better, we’ll tackle what comes next.”

She smiled weakly at him. “There’s that we again.”

He returned her smile. “What can I say? You’ve grown on me.” He gave her unmarked palm one last kiss before standing. Brushing snow off his knees, he searched around the area for something he could use as a blanket for her.

“I thought you said you weren’t leaving.” Her voice was slightly slurred and it looked to Blackwall like she was fighting sleep.

“Only for a moment. I need to find something more to keep you warm.”

She rolled to her side and gave the wood a pat. “There’s plenty of room.”

He eyed the crates and seemed to contemplate how they would take their combined weight. It didn’t take him much time before he slipped in next to her, sighing when she huddled close to him, her hands tucked under her chin and fingers gripping the fabric of his shirt. She was asleep within moments, leaving Blackwall to his thoughts. He buried his face against her wind-tangled hair, ignoring the stench of blood and smoke, grateful that she was alive and in his arms and that the chattering of her teeth had nearly stopped. His hands were restless, palms sliding over her back to try and work some heat back into her body. While her skin had lost the tinge of blue, she was still ghostly pale and too cold for his liking.

Outside the tent, people were starting to slowly make sense out of chaos. He could hear Cullen and Leliana begin to make up plans with Josephine adding in her input here and there. Someone had taken over chopping wood, Cassandra, more like, judging by the frequency and volume of the strikes. There was a low murmur of voices in the tent next to theirs: one of the Chargers – Stitches? – was busily tending to the injured.

He didn’t know how long he stayed there with Ravena in his arms, but he was pleased to see that her coloring had finally returned to normal. Fatigue taking its toll, Blackwall found it would be incredibly easy to slip into slumber right alongside Ravena. Practicality won out though; reluctantly, he slipped his arm out from underneath her neck and slowly rose to his feet. There was still work to be done and he had no right to laze about when there were other people worse off than he working.

“She is a strong woman,” Mother Gisele commented from just inside the tent’s opening. She held up a rough woolen blanket she had found somewhere.

Ravena didn’t stir as he carefully covered her with the blanket. “That she is.” Her hair had long since fallen out of the bun she normally wore it in and Blackwall had to keep himself from running his fingers through the dark strands now that he had an audience.

“The Herald is a rock to many people. She will need an equally strong partner to lean against when things become too much.”

He took his eyes away from Ravena to eye the other woman critically. “What are you saying?”

“I am saying that I have seen the way that you look at her, how the two of you interact. She will need you in the coming days, more than even she knows.”

He gave Ravena one last look before turning to leave. “She has better people to help her. Me? I’m no one.” I’m not worthy of her affections, he silently added, walking away to help wherever he could.

Mother Gisele shook her head and busied herself by mixing potions from whatever meager store of ingredients she had managed to grab on the way out of the Chantry. “He is a stubborn man,” she said, watching the Herald for any sign of her waking. All Ravena did was shift in her sleep, one of her hands going to the spot Blackwall had recently vacated. “But I sense that there is good in him, more good than he realizes.” Getting up, she gently smoothed hair out of Ravena’s face and tucked the blanket closer.

“I pray that he recognizes that he needs you just as much as you need him.”

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