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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 48

Prompt: Hope

“Have you finished it?”

Blackwall turned towards the stable door. “Just about.” He had finished much of the griffon, all that was left was to put a few final coats of paint and then seal it. If he was honest with himself, he purposely left it unfinished; it gave him one more thing to tie himself back to Skyhold, one more thing to make sure he came back from the Arbor Wilds to complete. “I think there’s a few little ones in the camp who’ll like this.”

She came up to his side. “More than a few. Even in the midst of war, children deserve to be children.”

He smiled. “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

Ravena’s fingers touched one of the sealed jars of paint on his worktable. “It’s almost time. Are you ready?”

Blackwall took his time cleaning off his paintbrush and closing up the glass jar of paint he had been using. “No, not really.”

“Are you scared?”

He nodded. “Shitless. I lost you once already, and I’ve only just found you again.” He stepped away from the table and stood in front of her. “Yet here we go, into a place where I may lose you for good. There’s not much that frightens me in this world, but…”

She put her hand against his chest. “Thom…”

“No, don’t tell me that it won’t happen. I couldn’t tell you the same if you asked. But what of you? Are you ready for this?”

Ravena closed her eyes and sagged against him. “The only thing I’m ready for is for this to be over. I keep telling myself that we’ve crippled his armies, stopped his plots, but I won’t get a decent night’s rest until I know for sure that we’ve beaten Corypheus for good.” She wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder when he held her tightly against him. “We’ve faced so much, but standing here at the edge of it all…it frightens me to look over the cliff and worry that I’ll fall to the bottom instead of flying over the top.” She thought of all the people who had rallied behind the Inquisition; that little rag-tag group of people who dared to stand up to the Breach was now a force to be reckoned with. She might not have Bull’s ability to learn every man under her command, but she had learned the names of many. She’d made a point to take an interest in her soldiers and scouts, wanting to know more about the men and women who put themselves on the line for their cause. Like Blackwall, she’d seen most of them grow from green recruits more used to wielding farming tools instead of swords, and she was terrified of failing them and having them die in vain.

She thought of her companions, those strangers who had joined because they saw something wrong in the world and wanted to make it right. She might not see eye to eye with several of their ways of thinking, but she’d befriended them all in one way or another. The Iron Bull had become one of her close confidants, his no-nonsense way of cutting through bullshit to get to the heart of the problem and knowing just what to say – and what not to say – gave her the boost of confidence she oftentimes needed. Varric and Dorian had become her truest of friends, so much that she thought of them more like family.

She had to smile at Josephine. After the hair-raising theatrical spectacle Raoul had put on in Val Royeaux with challenging her parents’ choice of betrothed for her to a duel over her hand, she really would be family soon. Raoul had proposed to her then and there, and she had accepted. Reports from Orlais had noted that opinions on the Inquisition had turned favorably towards idyllic romanticism after the display. Ravena was certain that Raoul hadn’t spared one thought to what the general public would think of his profession of love, but trust her brother to come out of a situation looking even better than he had going in.

Everyone she had come in contact with was held dear to her, but none were held more so than the man she was currently embracing. Throughout all of this, from being given a power that she did not want or ask for, a title she couldn’t shirk, responsibilities that weighed heavily on her shoulders every day and kept her up most nights, never in her wildest dreams did she dare to think that she could find a man who kept her sane through the trying times. He tried his best to create a barrier between Ravena as a person and the Inquisitor, Andraste’s Herald. They might have had rough times and patches where she wished that things had gone smoother, but even then, they had come through their trials even stronger than before. She loved this man more fiercely than she had ever loved a person in her entire life and she would gladly lay down her life for him, should the need arise. She knew without a doubt that he would do the same for her.

“You’ll make it through this,” he assured her, his hands warm against her back. “As will I. I’ve been hearing the talk around the barracks. The lads might be scared of the unknown, but they have a good feeling about the Arbor Wilds. These aren’t the same people we rescued from Haven, you’ve inspired them to be better than what they were. There’s a lot of talk about the things that they have that are worth dying for.”

She frowned. “That’s the thing, Thom. I don’t want to be a banner or a symbol of what is worthy of dying for. No one should die for me.”

“We rarely get the choice to decide what people cling to, people in positions of power even more so. But if you listen to everyone else, you’ll find that they have things here in Skyhold that are worth living for. Just this morning, Varric told me that he had to come back, because Cassandra would kill him if he left his book on such a cliffhanger. Dorian said that he’d never get to win back his honor and challenge Cullen to another chess match, so he was determined to be a smug bastard when he finally got back and beat the Commander thoroughly. And while I can’t say that I spoke to her, but Lady Morrigan has her son to think of, as well as the boy’s father.”

She held him tighter. “And what of you?” she asked, looking up at him. “What have you got to live for?”

He looked down at her, his eyes reflecting all the love he had for her. “As if you didn’t know already.”

“It doesn’t hurt to hear it.”

He cupped her cheek in his hand. “One thing’s certain about this fight. I’ll fight harder than any man out there. I’ll fight harder than I ever had in my entire life. Want to know why?”

Ravena leaned into his hand. “Tell me.”

“Because after this fight, after we bring Corypheus down for good, there’s so much to hope for and there’s so much of the world that I want to see with you. I want to see your house in Tantervale and meet your cousin you keep going on about. I want to go on one of your digs and see for myself if they’re as exciting as Varric thinks they are or if they’re as boring as you claim them to be. Hell, I want to learn how to swim so we can go deep sea diving for lost sunken treasure in Rivain.”

She laughed. “That’s a lot of things to do.”

“There’s so much more,” he breathed. “I want to fall asleep next to you and wake up at your side. I want to laugh when we both start telling those awful jokes that make everyone else groan and cringe. I want to see the way that your eyes light up when you find something interesting and hear how you start to mumble to yourself when you’re thinking out an idea.”

“I don’t do that,” she scoffed.

“Yes, you do. And it’s one of the most endearing things I’ve ever seen. I even want to meet your parents and introduce myself to them as the man who fell in love with their daughter, but I can’t do any of those if I don’t make it back from this fight. There’s always something worth dying for, but something worth living for? That doesn’t come every day. You, Ravena, are my reason to live and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Thom.” She grabbed the front of his shirt and stood on the tips of her toes to kiss him. She tried to pour all of the words that were flitting about in her head that she didn’t know how to say into her kiss. The I love you was there as it had always been, but after everything that he had said, those three words seemed too small to convey how very much she wanted the same things he did.

“I can’t ask you to promise me that you’ll be careful,” he started, leaning his forehead against hers when she let them up for air, “but I can ask you that you think about what I said and promise me that you’ll do your best to make it back with me. Maker knows I’ll be doing my damndest to do the same.”

“I promise. And I also promise that after everything is all said and done, the two of us are going to sit down and finally talk about our after. That’s what’s driving me forward, what I have to live for.”

He gave her a tiny grin. “After. I like the sound of that.”

“As do I.” She looked at the griffon. “We should get some rest before we head out in the morning.”

Blackwall took her hand in his and pressed his lips against the backs of her fingers. “You’re right; we should rest.”

“I should leave you to your work then.”

He shook his head. Letting go of her hand, he slung an arm around her waist and tugged her close to his side as he steered her towards the exit. “It’ll be there, when we get back.”

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