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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 36

Prompt: Chocolate
Note: This was inspired in part by a trip I took with a few friends to New Orleans. Everyone was still asleep and we had a hotel in the Garden District with a balcony overlooking one of the smaller side streets. I got to sit out there with a cup of coffee and watch the sun rise and our portion of the city wake up. Hearing the church bells ring out all by myself was probably one of the most peaceful experiences I've had on a vacation.


Walking hand in hand in the early morning hours was one of the most peaceful things that had happened on their recent trip to Val Royeaux. With the ball at the Empress’ Winter Palace coming up that evening, Ravena figured that this little portion of time she and Blackwall carved out for themselves would be the only peaceful thing on their trip.

Both of them had seemed to have the same idea, waking up well before daylight and silently dressing to avoid alerting anyone sharing the same floor of the inn Josephine had booked for their party. Now that dawn had broken and the light had sleepily crept over the marketplace closer to the residential area of the sprawling city, the two of them were able to witness the shops slowly coming to life. They’d taken care to dress in plain clothing, so to the still half-asleep eye, she and Blackwall were just another couple taking a leisurely stroll and enjoying the cool morning breeze.

“Coffee smells good,” Blackwall commented, tilting his chin towards a vendor setting up outdoor seating.

“Why don’t you get us a cup?” Ravena suggested. “I saw a bake shop right next door. I’ll get us something to eat.”

“Good idea. What would you like?”

“Surprise me.” She stretched up on her tiptoes to brush a kiss on his cheek. “What would you like?”

He turned his head and softly kissed her lips. “Surprise me.”

Ravena nudged his nose affectionately with hers before letting go of his hand and heading to the shop where the scent of freshly baked bread greeted her. She traded pleasantries with the owner in fluent Orlesian, her eyes scanning the glass display case.

“Little treats for little girls. Papa knew how much you hated dress shopping with Mama, so he’d take you away while she was busy at the hat shop to spend some time together, just the two of you. Papa would buy you something from a shop like this and you would share your snack over cups of hot chocolate before spending the rest of the trip in a bookstore.”

Ravena smiled. “Good morning, Cole.”

Cole pressed his palms against the glass and pointed at the pink and lavender macarons. “Those were your favorite. You’d insist on the purple ones, even though both of them taste the same. They were small enough that you could buy one to eat now and one to keep in your pocket for the trip home.” He pointed at a cake topped with warm, gooey apples and caramel. “Henri bought a tarte tatin and a carafe of coffee one cold morning for two reasons: one was to reward the both of you for spending all night linking dates and coins together. The second was because the sugar and caffeine would keep both of you awake long enough to report your findings to your superior so they could give you a time extension for your project.”

“That was a very long night. Henri and I had been arguing the origins of the cache of coins we had found. I said they were a tribute to the statues we had found them under; he said they were a smuggler’s stash. Around one in the morning we made a bet and the loser had to buy breakfast.” She looked up at the bakery’s owner, who seemed oblivious to them, which was odd since Cole now had his nose pressed up against the display’s surface. “He can’t see you, can he?” she asked, thinking how odd she must look to the owner, especially since it seemed as if she were talking to herself.

“I made him forget us both for a little while. I wanted to spend time with you in the quiet, just like Blackwall wants to spend time with you before freshly brushed boots , hair and beard trimmed down to military standards, and the blood red uniform all take him further away from the Blackwall you know and closer to the man he was before.”

Ravena frowned in worry. “Is he all right?” Blackwall had been tenser and quieter than usual since they arrived. Whenever he noticed her looking at him in concern, he seemed to shake himself out of whatever anxiety that gripped him, flashing a warm smile and offering his hand to her. She didn’t press him, but she did notice that their lovemaking had taken a more desperate turn recently, his hands holding her to him tighter than usual and his mouth pressing against hers with more urgency.

“Drowning in a sea of memories.” Cole explained. “Flailing about, reaching for something before my head goes under. She takes my hand, pulls me up. Being with her drives away the dark and quiets the mockingbird’s song.”

She bit at her lip in distress. “I shouldn’t have brought him.”

“No, it’s good. He would have followed otherwise. He’d rather help you in a pit of vipers he despises than have you go in alone.” He pointed to a stack of fresh pain au chocolat. “They’re not like his mother’s, but those are his favorites.”

She nodded, a fond smile on her lips. “Yes. He told me.”

“It’s good that he tells you about himself. All the little things he shares with you might add up and give him courage to share the bigger, scarier things he wraps in Warden armor and hides away.” He withdrew from the case and smiled at her. “Thank you for spending time with me.”

“I always like spending time with you. Could I buy you something?”

He shook his head. “I don’t need to eat. Talking with you was enough.” He held onto her hand and gave her fingers a squeeze. “Leliana and Raoul will talk Josephine into letting you sleep in for another hour or so. Raoul wants you to rest because he can see how little sleep you’ve been getting and it worries him, especially since he knows you’ll need to be at your best for tonight. Leliana wants to distract Josephine because she knows that you and Blackwall snuck out and thinks you two deserve a break, if only for a little while.”

Ravena cringed. Nothing got past her spymaster. “Thank…” Ravena blinked, realizing that Cole had faded away. She pressed her hand to her cheek, where a cool impression of the spirit’s lips still lingered.

The owner of the bakery shook his head and looked at Ravena as if he hadn’t realized she had been standing there. “Oh, good morning! I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there. How may I help you?”

oOo

Ravena found Blackwall sitting with his back to the coffee vendor and two cups of café au lait sitting on the table. “There you are,” he said, standing up and pulling the second chair out for her.

“I had a nice chat with Cole in the bakery,” she replied, unrolling the waxed paper package to display the two chocolate-filled croissants she had purchased.

His chair scraped against the stone as he moved it closer to hers, their knees companionably bumping. “I didn’t know he was here.” He looked at the pastries and smiled. “Those are my favorites.”

She returned his smile. “I know. I didn’t know Cole was here either. Maybe he’ll show up to offer us some help tonight.” She took a sip of her coffee. “This is good.”

“One of the best shops in the market, if you believe the advertising.” He broke off a piece of croissant and dunked it into his coffee. He reached out and covered Ravena’s hand with his. “Thank you for coming out with me this morning.”

She leaned against him. “Well, it was certainly a hardship,” she teased. “A handsome man asking me out for breakfast? I hardly know how to respond.”

Blackwall laughed. “Ah, Ravena. How I love you.” He brought her hand to his lips and laid a gentle kiss along the back of her palm. They were silent, enjoying the early morning bustle together as the Chantry bells tolled the hour. Birds flocked to the marketplace square, only to be chased away by workers with brooms busily sweeping away the previous day’s trash.

“How long do you think we have before they realize we left?” he asked, finishing his coffee.

“Leliana knew we were gone before we had even left the inn,” she replied, smirking as she brushed crumbs off her hands. “We had an hour before Josephine came to wake me up, but I think that was almost an hour ago.”

He stood and collected their used cups to give back to the coffee vendor. “Then we ought to get back before they force Cullen to organize a search party.”

She laughed. “I think he’d probably welcome the excuse to get some fresh air. Josephine’s driving him batty.” She loved her ambassador, but this ball had her even more stressed than Ravena, which in turn was making Raoul work double-time to help his fellow ambassador relax. Not for the first time, Ravena was looking forward to the end of the night so they could concentrate on moving onward. Throwing their empty package away in one of the carts workmen had set out for trash, she tugged on Blackwall’s hand. “Wait a minute.”

“What is it?”

“I wanted to thank you for coming here with me. I know how uncomfortable this city makes you, and I wanted you to know how much I appreciate you being here.”

He reached out and cupped her cheek in his palm. “Well, it was certainly a hardship,” he said, playfully throwing her words back at her. “Accompanying a beautiful woman to a ball or staying at home playing cards and drinking with Varric and Bull? How could I say no?”

“You say the sweetest things.” She grabbed hold of his shirt collar and pulled him close, melting against him as they kissed. “I love you; remember that when tonight gets hectic.”

He leaned back to kiss her forehead. He looked at her questioningly when she began to rummage in her pockets.

“Here,” she said, offering him a violet colored macaron. “Something to look forward to after the ball.” She slipped the treat into his pocket before wrapping her arm around his waist. Blackwall draped his arm over her shoulders and tugged her close. Around them, more people began to come out. Hawkers from the portable shops began to shout out their wares, food stalls started to set up at every corner, the smell of cooking food beginning to waft through the air. Blackwall pressed his cheek against the side of Ravena’s hair, imprinting this stolen moment in his memory as apprehension for the evening began to bubble in his chest. He took a deep breath, the floral scent of her hair grounding him.

They’d make it through tonight. He’d make it thought tonight.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
reconnoiterer
Sep. 17th, 2015 02:02 pm (UTC)
Ahhhh this hurts my heart. In a good way! But... aughhh

On the flip-side - military trim Blackwall does not hurt me in any way whatsoever... I know the beard was supposed to be part of the disguise or whatever but I like to think he would have trimmed it up a LITTLE before going to an elite ball at a palace. And maybe put his hair in a nice manbun (but maybe that's just me ;). Mostly I think I'm totally enamoured with the idea of Blackwall hiding in plain sight... but obviously such a changed man (more in attitude than appearance) that no one recognizes him.
iceprincessd
Sep. 17th, 2015 04:02 pm (UTC)
There is an artist on tumblr who draws my favorite version of Blackwall. They give him a nicely trimmed beard and I'm pretty much staring at their work for a good long while. Hopefully this link works, I'm on mobile: http://mauvaise-reputation.tumblr.com/post/126364055258

I just keep looking at their stuff and going "yep. That's the guy I'm picturing when I write."
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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