“Has anyone seen Ravena?” Blackwall asked. He’d been busy helping Dennet rebuild the stables and settle the horses for the better part of the morning before lending a Cullen a hand at organizing recruits and refugees alike for the rest of the day. Now that night had fallen over Skyhold, he found that he wanted to see their newly named Inquisitor.
Maker’s mercy, but wanted was too tame of a word. He needed to see Ravena like he needed air to breathe. It was strange; certainly no other woman had made him feel this way before, his emotions all twisted up in knots that only she knew how to untie. It was dangerous, and ultimately unwise, for him to feel this way, especially when he knew for a fact that she deserved far better than he could ever give.
“She’s alone,” someone said to his right. Turning his head, he found Cole, the odd boy they had picked up right before Haven had been attacked. “She’s alone, and yet she’s with hundreds of old friends, all of them waiting to meet her for the first time.”
Blackwall frowned. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
He shrugged. “Not to you, but it does to her. Her happiness is so loud; I can hear her shouting from underneath our feet.”
“So,” Blackwall started, crossing his arms over his chest. “She’s somewhere underground? Below the keep?”
“Yes. It’s cool, but not damp. Can’t make out the age yet: there’s bones built on top of bones. I shouldn’t be touching these, not without gloves. Journal was lost in Haven; need to find paper and ink to record this finding.” Cole blinked, his eyes coming back into focus. “You worry that she’s in danger, but she’s safe. The only thing we should probably worry about is if she’ll come up to eat and sleep any time soon.”
“How do I get to her?”
Cole stretched out his arm and pointed towards the kitchens. “She went through there first, then started exploring. Follow the marks on the walls.” With that, Cole slipped away faster than a blink of an eye.
“I will never get used to him doing that,” Blackwall muttered. He took a step towards the door Cole had pointed out, but then paused as he thought the boy’s words over. A quick detour where merchants had begun setting up temporary stalls saw his coin purse a bit lighter. Thus outfitted, he made his way inside the kitchens. The cooks looked at him in bemusement as he wandered about, eyes scanning the walls, but they didn’t say anything.
He didn’t find anything in the main room, but a trip into the storage area proved fruitful. There, on the very bottom closest to the floor, was the tiniest of arrows pointing towards where Ravena must have gone off to. A similar arrow was found down a flight of stairs, and another was close to a door inside the cellars. A few feet later, Blackwall saw a flickering light coming from another hallway. After that, he didn’t need the arrows to point him in the right direction.
“This has to have been from the Storm Age, but it’s right next to something from…” Ravena’s back was to him, and she jumped when he cleared his throat to announce his presence, her hand flying to the dagger at her hip.
“Oh, it’s you,” she said, her voice sounding relieved while she sheathed her blade.
“Jumpy,” he commented, tilting his head. “Think I was some sort of big ugly out to get you?”
She smiled. “Big, yes. Ugly, no. If anything, I thought you might have been one of those spiders that have made their home here. Watch out, they’re hairy and as large as your fist.” She turned around in a circle, looking up at the floor to ceiling bookshelves. “Can you believe this? I was exploring some of the smaller rooms to see if we could use them as more cold storage for foodstuffs when I came across it.”
He walked over to her and picked a thick rope of cobweb out of her hair. “It’s a lot of books.”
“It’s so much more! Look!” She tugged at his hand and brought him over to a desk. Amid the layers of dust, cobwebs, and wax from a nearby candle long burnt down to a stub were several large books. “I haven’t had the nerve to clean these off yet, not without the proper archival tools…Maker, I need to write Henri and have him send my gear in from Tantervale, have him add in my restoration equipment as well…no. I need to have him come himself once he’s able and things are more settled. He’d never let me hear the end of it if I didn’t share this find with him.” She gazed at the rows of shelving, her eyes bright. “I can make out a little of the titles underneath all the dust. These books are ancient. Several of these look to be the original copies. Original copies, Blackwall. Do you have any idea what sort of treasure trove is here, how much knowledge is stored in one small space?”
Still holding her hand, he gave her a lopsided smile. “No, but apparently you do. Look at you, you’re positively glowing.” Even covered in dust with spider webs in her hair, she looked absolutely radiant. Cole’s words came back to him. Her happiness is so loud. “Anyone can see how happy you are.”
“Happy doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel.” She squeezed his fingers. “After all the death and destruction at Haven, the horrible future I saw, the Conclave and receiving the Mark…my life has been a whirlwind where nothing is normal. This, exploring places and coming across finds like these, is as if someone threw something familiar for me to cling to amid everything.”
“I’m glad. If anyone needs a bit of normalcy, it would be you.” He let go of her hand to take something out of his pocket. “Here.”
She stared at the small, pocket-sized journal he held out to her. There was a freshly sharpened pencil tied to the front with a string. “For me?” she asked, her throat tight. Outside of her family, no one had really given her gifts. Even the people who brought tributes to Haven for the Herald of Andraste only brought items they thought were somehow worthy for the title, not what she herself might find useful. Those items normally wound up being broken up and distributed among the camp or added to the Inquisition’s treasury, better suited for the common good instead of staying in the cabin she had claimed for her own. To have this man who she was quickly falling – or if she was completely honest with herself, for whom she had already fallen quite hard – for, give her something specifically tailored to her…she had no words.
He swallowed hard. The way she looked at the little leather-bound journal in his hand was as if he had offered her a platter overflowing with sovereigns and jewels instead. “It isn’t much,” he started, rubbing at the back of his neck with his free hand. “But I saw it and thought of you. I know that –” Whatever he was going to say next was cut off by the way Ravena threw her arms around his neck and pressed her mouth to his. He froze in surprise before wrapping his arms about her waist and hauling her close to him, returning her kiss in a manner he had been thinking of doing ever since Redcliffe. Where that kiss had been completely unexpected and frenzied with need, he took his time here, discovering what made Ravena sigh and what made her gasp in pleasure.
“Thank you,” she whispered, palms flat against his chest and her forehead pressed to his once he broke the kiss to come up for air. All he could think about is how the stale scent of parchment and dust from the hidden library and that elusive floral perfume Ravena favored had etched themselves into his memory. He should have been pushing her away, should have been listing all the reasons why they couldn’t be together, why he couldn’t be with her. But Void take him, he was a selfish bastard.
“You’re welcome,” he said instead, turning his face against the softness of her cheek. One of these days he would be strong enough to step away, but until then, he hoarded stolen moments such as these to keep him company.