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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 40

Prompt: Lies

She didn’t really see her surroundings. All she knew was that Blackwall was somewhere down in the bowels of the jail and she needed answers from him. For someone who prided themselves on being able to move soundlessly, her footsteps sounded unbelievably loud in the silence of the hall. Her breath sounded even louder when she finally got to the end and saw Blackwall sitting there with his head hung low.

“I didn’t kill him,” he said, not once looking up from the floor. “Blackwall. The real Blackwall.” He continued to bore a hole into the stone in front of him as he explained to her how he had been recruited by the actual Blackwall, how they had been ambushed and how he had taken the dead man’s name in order to go into hiding. She stood there in silence, listening as the entire truth finally fell from his lips. Without being prompted, he told her everything about his past, and she stood and listened without commenting.

“Say something, Ravena.” She blinked and realized that he had finally turned his head to look up at her, his face a mess of disgust and remorse.

“What do you want me to say?” she whispered, her hands clenched into fists. “You lied to me.”

“I did.”

Why?” The single word sounded as heartbroken as she felt.

“I was going to tell you everything that day on the Storm Coast, but then you looked at me and…” he dropped his eyes somewhere near the vicinity of her boots, unable to look her in the eye. “I lost my nerve.”

“And you thought that this was the better alternative?” She glared at him, her fingernails digging into her palms. “That running away and leaving me with just a bloody, piss-poor excuse of a goodbye note was better?”

He tried not to flinch as her voice angrily rang out in the cell. “What else did you want me to do?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, sarcasm all but dripping off every word. “Telling me the truth would have been first on my list.”

He stood up and stalked over to her. “What? You’d rather have known that the man you thought you knew was a murderer, a monster? That you had loved a lie?”

She nearly flinched at the amount of self-loathing that seeped from his voice. “You must think I’m incredibly dense, Thom Rainier,” she said, using his full name for the first time. It felt strange and foreign, the syllables rolling around her mouth with unfamiliar sharp edges. “Did you not think for a second that I didn’t know that you had a past? Did you think that I wouldn’t catch on to all the little tells, the omissions? I knew there was something there, but out of respect, I didn’t pry, thinking you would tell me when you chose to tell me. I might not have known exactly what it was, but I had accepted you, warts and all.”

“You were never…”

“Never what? Never supposed to find out who you really were? Never supposed to track down the man that I love? Never supposed to still love you after I knew?” She held onto the bars and stared him in the eye. “What did you want me to do, simply sit back and accept that you had left? Spend years of my life wondering what it was that I had said, what I had done to drive you away?”

“I left to keep from hurting you!”

She let out a hollow sounding laugh that brought the hairs on the back of his neck on end. “And you broke my heart in the process. Well done, Thom.”

He stood there with his head hanging down. It was quiet for so long that he figured he had left him. He jumped when she quietly spoke again. “You are no monster.”

He clenched his teeth. “How can you say that? There were women and children! The things I did, the things I allowed to happen…” He slid down to his knees, his hands wrapped around the bars.

“They have been paid for.” She knelt with him so she could look him in the eye. “I won’t say that I don’t find the actions you took in the past abhorrent, because they are, but I will say that you are a different man now. If you were truly the monster you say you are, you wouldn’t have joined this Inquisition as readily as you did. And even then, you could have left us at any time instead of sticking your neck out, instead of shedding your blood for our cause time and time again. Monsters feel no remorse; their actions only are for their benefit, not for those around them.”

“I am a coward.”

“Even cowards have the potential to be good men.” She reached out to him, to touch his face and reassure him that despite his horrible past, she still loved him, but he jerked away.

“Why must you try to find the good in me where there is none?” he demanded, his voice raw.

“And why must you cling to nothing but the bad? Between our two opinions, I think we might be able to make a decent man full of faults and virtues.” She put her hands over his and for once, he allowed her to touch him. “I’m still incredibly pissed about the lies and the leaving, but we love each other. We can work through this.”

It was his turn to let out a humorless chuckle. “I don’t think we have time. I’m going to die.”

“Not if I have anything to say about it.”

“You aren’t going to do a damn thing. You’re going to walk out of here and let me go. I deserve it.”

I can’t do that.”

“Yes, you can.” He tried not to look away when he saw the sheen of tears that filled her eyes. “You said you wanted the truth from me.”

“And you gave it.”

“No I didn’t. Not all of it. I lied, Ravena. All of this has been a lie.”

She sat back on her heels and looked at him warily. “What do you mean?”

“Come now, Inquisitor. I might have thought you were a sheltered little Chantry girl, but I never would have guessed you were truly stupid. Did you really think that I ever loved you?” He leaned close, his mouth set in a snarl. “I stayed in the Inquisition because it was a better cover than hiding out in the wilderness could ever be. The fact that I found myself in your bed was merely a bonus.”

She shook her head. “You’re lying.”

“Am I? You thought I was telling you the truth all these months easily enough.”

“You’re lying,” she repeated. “I know you.”

He sneered. “You only knew who I allowed you to know.”

“Stop it.”

“I’m making sure I go to my death with a clear conscience.” Blackwall reached out and roughly grabbed Ravena’s chin, forcing her to look at him. “I never loved you. You were a fool to believe otherwise. If this hadn’t have happened, I would have eventually grown tired of you and left.”

Ravena jerked her head out of his grasp. “Void take you, Thom Rainier,” she hissed, standing up quickly.

Thom listened to the sound of her boots as she stormed out of the jail. He let his head rest against the bars when he heard the heavy door slam shut. “It already has,” he whispered.

***

Ravena leaned against the closed door leading to the upper jail cells and tried to gather some form of composure. Her chin still stung where Blackwall’s fingers had dug in. Drawing a shaky breath, she commanded herself not to cry. “You’re a Trevelyan,” she muttered, hastily wiping at her eyes. “Trevelyans don’t show their weaknesses.”

Her advisors were standing upstairs waiting for her. She looked from one to the other, taking in Josephine’s disbelieving look of shock, Raoul and Cullen’s scowls, and Leliana’s soft, sympathetic eyes.

“How long?” she asked, hating how broken her voice sounded. She glared at Leliana. “How long have you known?”

“Just this morning.”

“And you let me go in there without any warning at what I might have found, what I would have heard?”

“Would you have believed me if I had told you?”

Ravena closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose to stem the headache that pounded there. “No, I wouldn’t have. I apologize.” She gestured towards the report that Leliana held in her hands. “So, will you give me a summary or should I read it in private?”

Leliana handed her the report. “I think you already know what it contains.”

Cullen cleared his throat. “What do we do now, Inquisitor?”

“I don’t know. What would you do?”

Cullen seemed to stop and think his response through. “He is a liar who left men under his command to a horrible fate. I hate him for it, but he has proven himself with our cause. I say we find a way to put him into our custody for further judgment.”

“He lied about being a Warden,” Leliana added. “I would turn him over to them.”

Raoul stepped close and made a move to comfort his sister, but she shrugged his arm away. “I say we leave him to rot,” he growled, glaring at the door leading down to the lower cells.

Ravena looked towards her ambassador. “Josephine, I’m going to need your help.”

“And you shall have it, Inquisitor. What is your plan?”

“We need to get the Empress to release him into our custody. Can you write something up for me, please?”

Josephine nodded. “I already have a document drafted. All it needs is your final approval and we can present it to the Empress.”

“Thank you. Remind me to raise your pay.” The last was said with a ghost of a smile that didn’t quite reach Ravena’s eyes. One by one, they walked out of the jail. Cullen made sure he was the last of her advisors out of the room.

“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” he said, catching her hand. It was a risky move since she had batted away an offer of comfort already, but she allowed his fingers to curl over hers. “I know that the two of you were close.” His free hand went to her face, his thumb smoothing over the reddened skin of her chin. The gesture was brotherly in nature and she appreciated his concern, even as it threatened to crumble the stoic mask she had put on.

She leaned towards him, her shoulder pressed against his chestplate. “No, Cullen.” Ravena could all but feel her heart bleeding out as she remembered the way Thom had looked at her, his eyes like chips of ice. “We never were.”

***

Josephine was true to her word, having an eloquently worded document requesting Thom Rainier’s extradition into the Inquisition’s custody ready for Ravena’s signature. “Have I told you lately how brilliant you are?” Ravena asked, the quill poised over the document. The two of them were alone, Raoul leaving them in order to prepare everything for their meeting with the Empress.

“Yes, but it never gets old hearing it.” Josephine watched as Ravena signed, then handed her a bottle of blotting powder. “I would have left him to die,” she said solemnly.

“The thought crossed my mind,” Ravena confessed.

“Why didn’t you?”

“Why would you?”

Josephine placed her hand on Ravena’s shoulder. “Because he hurt you.”

Ravena weakly smiled. “I should warn my brother. Our diplomat is bloodthirsty.”

“Oh, Raoul already knows Antivan women are not to be trifled with. If he ever did anything like this, I’d kill him with kindness. And perhaps poison. Mostly poison.” Expression sobering, she leaned in. “Are you all right?”

Ravena tiredly ran a hand over her face. “No, not really. Yet I don’t have the luxury to indulge in prolonged bouts self-pity now, do I?” She sighed. “I’m forty years old. I should be beyond feeling this way.”

“Grief knows no age limit. You were dealt a serious blow and you have every right to feel the way you do. If I could ask, what did he say to you down there?”

“He told me the truth. He had lied to me this entire time. He never loved me.” She hung her head down, her throat tight and eyes burning with unshed tears.

“Do you believe him? He could be lying even now, to spare your feelings.”

“You weren’t there. You didn’t see him or hear the way he said it.”

Josephine shook her head. “No. I don’t believe it. I refuse to believe that such devotion he showed you could be false.”

“Oh, Josie. I wish I had your faith in romantic ideals. I used to, but I’m so tired of being walked away from.” She picked the document up and took a bolstering breath. “Let’s just get this over with.”

She watched as Ravena seemed to lock her feelings on what had just happened away, her face smoothing out into an expressionless mask. Silently, Josephine prayed to whoever might be listening that things would turn out for the best.

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