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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 39

Prompt: Proposal


“I would like to know just how these got here so quickly,” Ravena said, settling into one of the plush armchairs in Josephine’s sitting area and eyeing a stack of letters. “Magic must have been involved.”

“Don’t discount that, Inquisitor,” Josephine said, settling down in the chair beside her. “There are instances where mages have been employed to express ship important messages.” Reaching out, she poured a large cup of coffee and handed it to Ravena.

“I would hate to be the poor mage having to use up their mana for something like this.” She hid the yawn behind her hand and gratefully inhaled the rich aroma wafting from her cup. “I love you, I hope you know that.”

Josephine laughed. “You love anyone who gives you coffee, especially at this hour. Speaking of, I hope you don’t mind meeting so early.”

Ravena bit back another yawn. “No, I was actually awake. I had planned on spending some time in the training circle, but talking with you is much more pleasant.” Actually, what she had originally planned on doing before Josephine had requested their early meeting was spending the morning lazing in bed with Blackwall. She smiled over the rim of her cup. He was the reason she had gotten precious few hours of sleep the other night, but she was definitely not complaining. She had left him sleeping in her bed with a brief note perched on her pillow that she’d find him later on in the day. “So, should we stack them all into piles, or just open them up randomly?”

Josephine stared at the large pile of letters. “Whichever you prefer.”

Ravena drank deeply from her cup before setting it aside and picking up a letter opener. Grabbing one of the letters at random, she broke the seal.

***

Blackwall had just entered the tavern after a good long day of overseeing recruits. As was his custom, he was headed towards the bar for a cold pint when Krem waved him over. The other man pointed towards the stairs. “Second floor, Sera’s nook, might want to take a gander. We’ve been hearing cackling from the three of them for a while now. Chief keeps on saying he’s gonna go check on them, but I think he’s scared of what he’d find.”

Blackwall looked at the second floor landing with some trepidation, especially when he heard Sera guffaw and something that sounded suspiciously like Varric snorting, though Varric professed to never do such a thing. “Should I go in armed, or as is?” he warily asked.

“I’d grab a drink first. A stiff one.”

He had just rounded the corner of the upper landing when he heard Varric reading. At first, he thought he was narrating a portion of his latest work, because the language was heavy-handed and overly flattering, but then Blackwall caught Ravena’s name.

“Get this,” Varric continued. “And you would be quite pleased at my well-equipped and robust armory. I would dearly love for you to come inspect my sword collection. I daresay you would be extremely satisfied with what you found there.”

Ravena scoffed. “How unoriginal. There are five other letters using variations of that same phrase. Tell me, Varric, why do men describe their penises as swords?”

“Well, it works well on a wordsmithing front. You can innocently state that you enjoy polishing them, or how what was his name, Count Ruthledge, put it; how he’d enjoy having you polish them off while he watched.”

She harrumphed dismissively. “Something tells me that Count Ruthledge is equipped with little more than a blunted dagger, not the massive battle axe he claims to sport.”

Sera’s uproarious laughter greeted Blackwall when he finally reached Sera’s little alcove. “What’s going on here?” he asked with a smile, leaning against the doorframe and eager to get in on the joke.

Sera looked upside down at him from her prone position on the floor, her legs propped up on the nearby wall. “Inky’s got love letters!” she said, holding onto her sides. “Really bad ones!”

Blackwall would have made a joke, but he saw the sudden flush on Ravena’s cheeks and the way she began to stuff letters back into envelopes. “Are they really that terrible?” he asked instead, taking a step into the room.

Varric chortled. “Even I couldn’t dream up half the bullshit we’ve been reading. Look at this one, Hero. Your eyes are like gooey pits of caramel. How I long to become stuck in your gaze. Your lips are like naked red birds that...” He paused. “Well, I’ll be damned. That guy that kept on hitting on Rivaini with bad poetry actually made it out of Kirkwall. Isabela owes me money on that bet.”

I like all the ones with the offers of stuff. Hey Inky, you realize that you’re worth three sheaves of wheat and a herd of goats?” Sera held up a letter, her nose wrinkled as she frowned. “Makes you look like an apple in a market stall, they do.”

Ravena sighed. “I have to admit, I’ve seen a great many offers of livestock in exchange for my hand. At least some of them are offering more than a goat. Maker, but many of these letters are coming from boys half my age. I could be their mother, for Andraste’s sake.”

“Well, Dusty, there’s that whole appeal of a woman of the world teaching them new tricks. And besides, some men like the idea of having a motherly figure warming their - ” Varric laughed as a pillow sailed through the air and bounced off his shoulder.

She picked up another letter, noticing the heady perfume that had been liberally sprayed on the parchment. Breaking the seal, she rolled her eyes. “This one states that there’s a sizeable dowry full of jewels and coin, blah, blah, blah.” Still reading, her eyes widened. “Oh. Never mind. This one was addressed to Cullen, with an invitation for him to privately tour a secret garden.”

Varric wiped tears of mirth from the corners of his eyes. “And I bet that garden’s well manicured, too. I’ll put it in his pile.”

Blackwall sat down next to Ravena. “He has a pile?”

She nodded. “There were so many letters to address that it was inevitable some got in. Apparently we made quite a splash at Halamshiral. The Commander’s golden good looks attracted his share of admirers.” She picked up the last letter in her stack and broke the seal without even looking, her breath stuttering out in a surprised gasp as she read the first few lines. “Oh, Papa. Not you too.”

That got everyone’s attention. “What, your dad’s pawning you off?” Sera asked, sitting upright.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Read it out loud!” Varric demanded, pulling off his spectacles and reaching into his coat for his well-used notebook when he saw her already reading the letter to herself.

Ravena blinked and shook her head as she tried to hide a smile at whatever her father had written. “Nope, sorry. I’m using my keep one letter private privileges for this one.” Scooping up the rest of her letters, she stood. “Blackwall, could you carry Cullen’s letters for me? Now that we’re done looking at these, I’d like to get them back to her as soon as possible.” With that, they left two disappointed friends in the tavern and made their way to Josephine’s office.

“Well?” Raoul asked as soon as they entered. He leaned against his desk and looked at her expectantly. “Josephine told me about the influx of proposals you received.”

Josephine stood up from her own desk. “Did you go through them all?”

“Yes, I did. I also found several addressed to Cullen, so you might want to hand those to him.”

“We both know that he’ll burn them all without even looking.” She smirked. “I’ll share them with Leliana first.”

“As well you should.”

Raoul grinned. “The three of you are going to tease him mercilessly about this, aren’t you? Whatever happened to solidarity?”

Ravena smiled as she placed the letters on Josephine’s desk. “That’s where you come in, my dear brother. You boys have to stick together.”

“You do know that I’m going to bring up some horribly embarrassing tidbit of trivia about you to deflect from him, yes?”

“I know. I’m counting on it.” She waved to them both. “I know I’m asking a lot from you, but please, turn down all the proposals, especially the one about the goats. Make whatever contacts you can for the Inquisition, but leave marriage off the table.” Twining her arm through Blackwall’s, she led him out the door and back up to her chambers.

“Long day?” he asked, noticing that she placed the letter from her father on top of her desk.

She sighed, rubbing her neck. “The usual. Josie and I met early this morning to tackle the pile of letters, but more important things sprang up. I came back later this evening and took them up to Sera’s rooms to read because I knew she’d get a kick out of them. How did your day go?”

He came up behind her, his thumbs digging into knots that had plagued her all day. “The usual,” he echoed, pressing a kiss to the back of her neck. “The greener recruits are giving Cullen migraines, so I’ve taken them on before he personally shoves their shields down their throats. Hopefully my help will ease some of the burden he places upon himself.” He continued to rub at her shoulders, noting how she relaxed against his chest and that a sigh had quietly escaped her lips.

“My mother must be incredibly pleased with herself right about now,” Ravena commented, rolling her head to the side. “And my father incredibly vexed.”

“How’s that?”

“If I’m receiving all these letters, I’m certain my parents are under a deluge of them, all promising the best if they would consent to marrying me off to the highest bidder.” She sighed again and turned in his arms. “In hindsight, perhaps being sent to the Chantry may have been the best thing that had happened to me. I avoided all marriage proposals and the circus that comes with them.”

“Are you all right? With all this, I mean.”

“This, meaning the letters from pompous nobles who think they can win me over with vague allusions to swordplay and riches, or this, meaning…” she wrapped her arms around his waist. “This. Us, and how it might affect our relationship.”

He held her close, his face pressed against her hair. “Both.”

She breathed deep, taking in the faint scent of the soaps used in the barracks. “I can handle mountains of letters,” she started, hugging him tighter. “Yet what I can’t handle is the thought that any of this would place doubt in your mind of my feelings for you.”

He kissed the top of her head. “Well, I don’t know what I can offer you that could top a herd of goats,” he said teasingly. “And I haven’t even mentioned my prowess when it comes to wielding my broadsword. Yet I do believe you favor it, even if you need a firm, two-handed grip to manage it all.”

That broke the tension he had felt ever since entering Sera’s alcove. Ravena burst out laughing, her shoulders shaking. “Oh, I do love you,” she said, leaning back to look him in the eye.

“And I love you. No amount of perfumed stationary is going to change that.” His eyes wandered to the open letter on her desk. “But what of your father? Did you want some time alone to read his letter?”

She shook her head. “What lines I read were enough for me. I’d rather spend the rest of the evening with you.”

***

After dinner, a few games of Diamondback in the tavern with the Chargers, and a leisurely late night stroll through the gardens, the two of them settled in for the night. He’d talked about how impressed he was that the older recruits were beginning to mentor the younger ones, and how he’d managed to talk Sera down from pulling off a prank on the Chantry sisters. It had somehow involved honey and feathers, but he hadn’t quite managed to ask what the end result would have been. Ravena had explained how dull a meeting with several nobles who were currently visiting had been, especially when the Marquis du Something or Other – Ravena’s words, not his – had waxed poetic on the value of specialized fertilizers for different crops and how he had spent several growing seasons comparing the differences made on each. Ravena ultimately ended up falling asleep on Blackwall’s shoulder, the reports from the field scouts in the Emerald Graves falling from her slack fingers.

As gingerly as he could, Blackwall got out of bed and collected her reports. He placed them on top of her desk, the chunk of quartz she had picked up from the Hinterlands acting as a paperweight to keep them from falling. He was about to douse the candles and leave when his eyes fell on her father’s letter. Unable to help himself, he picked it up and with one last look to double check if Ravena was still asleep, began to read.

My daughter, it began.

I know better than to ask about your health, knowing that you would downplay any and all injuries for the sake of my sanity (your mother still mentions the Conclave at times. Any mention of further injuries would send her into fits of tears, so I thank you for being vague.) Fortunately, that is where your brother comes in. Be well in knowing that I keep his missives in strict confidence and your mother does not look upon them, so if ever you are in need of a bit of fatherly advice, or if you would honestly like to talk about your health without fear of unbalancing delicate sensibilities (while I am made of sterner stuff, I do still worry for you, my darling,) I am always here for you.

I send my utmost apologies for the following paragraphs. I am positive that you are well aware that being the Herald of Andraste has made you a valuable commodity. I am reasonable enough to know that you are a grown woman who is fascinating and beautiful; a man would be a great idiot to resist your charms should you cast your eye his way. I know what you’re thinking: that I say this because I’m your father and as such I am biased. Well, I am, yet I also speak the truth. I’m also not fool enough to believe that you have not had your share of dalliances and affairs over the years (Maker, please don’t bring up any said affairs with me. In my mind, you are forever five years old, in braided pigtails, and always willing to snuggle with your Papa and a good storybook on a rainy day.) That being said, thoughts of ever brokering a marriage contract on your behalf have never even crossed my mind, and yet here we are, hosting teas with at least seven families a week.

I have a confession: I am growing rather sick of tea. If your mother wouldn’t notice, I would begin slipping in the whiskey you gave me several Wintersends ago as a way to cope with the jacknapes who think to gain lands, titles, and my dearest treasure (that would be you, my love) by parading in and offering up empty compliments. Your mother is eating up all the attention. Should this be her decision, you would be married off to at least five young men barely old enough for me to call Son with a straight face. We should both count ourselves lucky that Adriana is having difficulty choosing which potential suitor is her favorite.

Unfortunately, it is my duty to present to you at least three of my “top” choices, if only to placate your mother, who is threatening to write a long letter listing each and every one of her favorites’ “charms.” I give you leave to completely ignore the following list, but if asked, please humor me and agree that I had sent one to you.

Bachelor #1: Phillip (note: I didn’t bother remembering any of their last names, so don’t think to find them here)
Pros: Has decent posture, knows his hunting terminology. Has very little political ambition.
Cons: He looks as if he is twelve. I do believe he said he had nearly reached nineteen summers.

Bachelor #2: Phillipe (note: I had a difficult time differentiating between the two, but one spells and pronounces his name with an accent and the other does not.)
Pros: Good teeth.
Cons: Everything else. (For the Maker’s sake, I beg you not to ask. He nearly bored me to death in a single afternoon and your brother would have inherited the bannorn all too soon.)

Bachelor #3: Andrew (for the sake of this list, my personal favorite. Take that as you will.)
Pros: Aged 45, widower. Probably the oldest of our visitors interested in your hand. Intelligent, well-spoken, business savvy. Owns his own bit of property on Starkhaven’s outskirts. Your mother found him to be quite handsome, if you happen to like tall, ginger men with beards, heavy accents and “startling” blue eyes (your mother’s quote, not mine.)
Cons: Honestly, I couldn’t find any. I tried. He seems like a good man genuinely interested in your cause. If you are not interested in him romantically, as a politician, I urge you to write to him and see if he can better benefit your Inquisition as an agent. I’ve asked him to accompany me on a hunting trip next week.

Yet all of the suitors and the three that I listed mean absolutely nothing if they do not have your approval. My dear, I know that you are more than likely being inundated with similar requests, and I shall finally be able to give you the same advice that I once gave all your brothers when it came time to pick a spouse: marry for love, not for gold. Find a partner whom you can imagine growing old with, one that inspires you to become a better version of yourself, one you can respect and laugh with. For all my lighthearted complaints against your mother’s silliness, I adore Adriana as much, nay, even more than I did when I first met her. I am blessed to have found such a woman to love and to have raised four fine individuals with.

I needn’t worry about you, I think. Your brother writes to me of a man named Blackwall. He doesn’t tell me much of your private dealings, save that you do go for the tall, bearded type, but he sings praises of the man’s deeds, in Skyhold and away in the field. The fact that this man goes with you and acts as your shield against potentially fatal blows is enough for me to love him.

I do hope that he treats you well and that you are happy with your choice of partner. In my previous correspondences with Ambassador Montilyet (and when may I begin calling her Josephine and inquire about your brother’s interest? Raoul has never been so complimentary about a woman since Eliza, which I am hoping means he has finally found someone that may heal his heart) she echoes Raoul’s opinion of this Blackwall and seeing as she has been with you since the beginning, has been able to elaborate upon your brother’s words with very little prodding. My opinion of him has risen higher.

As I said before, you are a woman grown and fully capable of making decisions on your own, be it with everyday matters or matters of the heart. Yet I entreat you to humor a father who only has your best interests in mind: ignore all your letters. Turn down any and all proposals or see if you can gain help for your cause in ways that don’t include marriage. Follow your heart and do what it tells you to do. If that includes marrying a man who is a stranger to the rest of the Trevelyan family, then bring him to us and we shall welcome him into our hearts and learn to love him as you do.

If matrimony is not on your mind, bring him to us anyway. I should dearly like to get to know the man who won my daughter’s heart. He seems to be decent and kind, with an honorable streak a mile wide. Above all else, he seems to be a man whom you respect and by all accounts, loves you beyond measure. I know you do not need my approval in your private affairs, yet if you seek it, you shall have it. Out of all the men in Thedas, I could not have chosen anyone finer for you, my dearest ‘Vena.

Now, I must close before this missive takes an even more sentimental turn and you cause an old man to shed tears. For a bit of levity, I beg that you give me your unfiltered opinion on your massive list of suitors to see if there are any that may top our dear Phillipe. Write to me as soon as you are able, and above all else, may the Maker and Andraste Herself keep you safe on your journey.

Be well, my beloved girl.

Father

Blackwall carefully placed the letter in the exact same spot Ravena had left it in. Guilt clawed at his chest; at any other time, in any other life, Blackwall would have been proud and honored to know that he had gained the high esteem of his beloved’s father. Yet now, with a page from Leliana’s reports he had managed to intercept weighing heavy in his pocket, all he could feel was shame.

It took very little digging in Ravena’s desk to find a blank sheet of paper and pen. Haltingly, he wrote a letter to her, the words he longed to write stuck in his throat and lies flowing freely across the page. Taking one last look at Ravena, who still slept peacefully, he shook his head. He ached to go to her side, to wake her and confess everything he had meant to say ever since she accompanied him to the Storm Coast. He wanted to kiss her, to hold her, to tell her how much he loved her, even if it might be for the last time once she found out the truth about him and grew disgusted with the monster he truly was.

Yet he didn’t. Instead, he left her sleeping and went down the stairs and out towards the stables. Taking a single horse, he saddled up and began to ride towards Val Royeaux. Damn you, Mornay, he thought, riding off into the night. “No,” he corrected. “Damn me.”

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