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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 24

Prompt: Goodbye


“He isn’t going to like this.”

Ravena sighed. “I know.”

“I don’t like this much either.” Cullen watched as Ravena pinched the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger, very much like he did whenever he had a blistering headache. “Yet your reasoning is sound and I support your decision.”

She let out a breath. “Thank you.” The two of them stood over a map of Adamant fortress and tried to see if there was anything that they had missed. Cullen fiddled with one of the blocks representing the trebuchets Josephine’s contacts had procured for them. “You haven’t told him yet, have you?”

“No.”

“Inquisitor…”

“How many times have I asked you to call me by my given name, Cullen?”

He sighed. “Fine. Ravena, we start the initial assault in less than five minutes. Shouldn’t you tell Blackwall…”

“Tell me what?” Blackwall stepped inside the main operations tent and looked at both of them warily. “Ravena? Is there something the matter?”

She swallowed hard and bit at her lip. “I was solidifying my ground team for the main assault with Cullen.”

“Ah. And who will be going with us?”

She looked away. “Solas, Varric, Cassandra and myself.”

He nodded. “Those are good choices. With a possible demon army being led by Corypheus’ lackeys, it makes sense to bring Solas. And Varric would have gone even if you hadn’t picked him since Hawke is joining us. Lady Cassandra…” He paused, seeming to put two and two together, his brow furrowing. “You’re not taking me.”

“No, Blackwall, I’m not.”

He shook his head. “Commander,” he said, addressing Cullen. “Could you give us a moment of privacy? There’s a matter I need to discuss with the Inquisitor.”

Cullen gave her a sympathetic look before nodding. “Of course. Remember, we begin the assault in less than five minutes.”

“This will just take two.” Blackwall waited until Cullen had closed the tent flap. “What do you think you’re doing, Ravena?” he asked, his eyes narrowing.

“Stroud believes that there are other Wardens who are doubtful that this plan to raise an army will work. If we divide our own Wardens up – meaning you and Stroud – we can talk sense into the ones willing to listen and get them to fight on our side.”

“Then send him aside, keep me with you.”

She shook her head. “I can’t do that. There’s too much at stake and out of you both, Stroud is the senior Warden. If he’s seen with the Inquisitor, then we stand a bigger chance of getting them to stand down. Once we breach the main gates, our party will split from yours and move further into the fortress.”

His nostrils flared in anger. “So that’s to be it? You’d go out there without even telling me of your plans?”

Ravena crossed her arms in front of her chest defensively. “Because I knew you’d act this way.”

“Ah, so now you profess to know me? Then you should know that I’ll be damned if I don’t let you go in there without me!”

“Blackwall…”

He shook his head and pointed a finger at her. “Don’t. Not here.”

She didn’t know what to make of his outburst. “Thom,” she said instead, her voice calm. Reaching out, she put her palms against his chestplate, the metal cool to the touch. “Please. Those are your brothers and sisters out there; this plan is the only way we can spare as many of them as we can and concentrate on slaying the demons.”

“I know who they are,” he replied, his hands going to her waist, her leather armor creaking underneath his gauntlets. “But right now, you are more important to me. How am I supposed to keep you safe if I’m not with you?” He pressed his forehead against hers and took a shaky breath.

“Out of all the people here, I trust you the most,” she said, tilting her head to brush her lips against his. “That’s why I need you to follow up behind me, to make certain that I won’t have anyone following that could take me unaware. You’re keeping me safe that way.”

He held her close. “I don’t like this.”

“I know, and I’m sorry.” She jumped at the sound of a war horn. “But we’re out of time to argue. Dorian and Sera will be with you and Cullen.”

His face hardened. “As you say, Inquisitor.”

“Thom, please. Don’t be this way. I don’t want to say goodbye with this between us.”

He clenched his teeth and stepped away from her. “Then don’t say goodbye.” Turning on his heel, he strode out of the tent.

Ravena swallowed the lump that had gathered in her throat and followed. She found Sera anxiously fidgeting, bow in hand. “Watch after him,” she said, staring at Blackwall as he stood beside Cullen.

“Pfft. Watch your own arse, I’ve got his,” Sera said, nudging Ravena with her shoulder. “Better not go and do something stupid like die, yeah?”

“I’ll try my best to stay alive. You do the same.” She turned to Dorian, who had taken his customary spot beside Sera.

“I know, I know,” he said, waving his hands. “Insert overly emotional moment here and all that. Now go and stop this blighted army so we can get ourselves out of this Maker-forsaken desert and back into civilization, such as the South is.”

She rolled her eyes. “That’s what I love best about you, Dorian. You say the nicest things.”

“Yes, well I try. Do try not to die; I’d notice if you were gone.”

***

The gate fell quickly, as did the courtyard directly behind the front gate. Ravena scanned the area, trying to see the best route to get further inside.

“We should go this way,” Stroud suggested, gesturing with his blade to the upper ramparts. “We need to clear the area for the siege ladders to be more effective.”

She nodded. “Then we’ll head there.”

Cullen came up to her. “We’ll secure the outer bailey and the opposite ramparts. Just make sure to clear out as many of those demons as you can to give our forces a fighting chance. After, we’ll find you.”

“Good luck.” Ravena turned to follow Stroud, but stopped short when a hand clamped over her shoulder. Blackwall spun her around, his hands framing her face as he swooped in for a quick, fierce kiss.

“Come back to me,” he pleaded.

“I will, I promise.”
Blackwall caught Stroud’s eye. “Keep her safe,” he said, stepping away.

“I will,” Stroud echoed. “I promise.”

***

Blood ran in Blackwall’s eye and he shook his head to clear his vision. “These bastards never quit coming,” he growled, bashing a rage demon with his shield. Ice encased the demon, its skin sizzling where the frost turned into steam.

“Just how many Wardens does it take to raise a demon army anyway?” Dorian asked, switching from ice to lightning, the tip of his staff crackling with magical energy.

“Too damned many! I’m gonna run out of arrows if this keeps up!”

Cullen slashed at a despair demon. All of a sudden, a terrible roar shook the ground. “Great, what now?”

Several Inquisition soldiers blanched. “Dragon!”

Blackwall looked up, his blood running cold as he spied the archdemon that had attacked Haven. “It’s going after the tower,” he said. “Ravena’s up there!”

Cullen shouted for the other forces. “Rally to the tower!” he shouted. “To the Inquisitor!” The four of them made a break for it, dodging past demon claws and trails of fire. They had gotten halfway up the tower when they heard another roar.

“No,” Blackwall breathed, catching sight of Ravena’s party on a bridge several flights above them. The archdemon had them cornered. All of a sudden, there was a flash of light and it seemed as if time had decided to go into slow motion, the bridge crumbling as the dragon plummeted to the ground below. “Ravena!” He watched, helpless to do anything, as Ravena and the others tried to scramble to solid ground, but none was to be found.

There was a bright flash of green that left lights dancing in Blackwall’s vision. He flung himself against the balustrade, trying to catch sight of Ravena, but there was nothing. His legs gave out on him and he fell to his knees, hands clutching the stone.

“Where are they?” Sera shrieked, eyes wild. “There ain’t no blood, no bodies. Where are they?”

“That rift,” Dorian said, hand sliding over his mouth. “She didn’t close it, she opened it to stop their fall. Fasta vass, they’re in the Fade.” The mage took a step back, horrified at the thought of their friends in the one place that was supposed to be impossible to enter.

“Shut your face! Just…just shut it! What do we do?”

Cullen was the first to shake himself out of shock. ”We continue fighting.” He looked up to where he saw the Wardens fighting against the demons. “The Wardens are on our side now; we help them take the fortress. It’s what she would have wanted.”

She isn’t dead,” Blackwall snarled, standing.

Cullen gave him a sad look. “I know you don’t want to think this. Maker knows I don’t either, but until she comes back, we have to assume the worst and act accordingly.”

Blackwall numbly followed, sword and shield automatically raising to defend an attack by a Fade demon. He plunged his sword into its chest, barely flinching as it shrieked in his face. She’ll come back. The thought became his mantra as he fought. She’ll come back.

She promised.

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