Note: I didn't want to re-write the battlement cutscene where Blackwall first pushes away, so pretend that already happened. I also wanted to explore a note I saw on the Human origin that said Trevelyan entered the Chantry either willingly or unwillingly (paraphrasing, since it's been a while since I've started up a Human game.) I have a headcanon for another Trevelyan where she enjoyed belonging to the Chantry and the different bells/chants/traditions/etc. bring her great comfort, but I wanted to play around with how a Trevelyan who didn't want to go to the Chantry would act. Ravena hits me as being an Andrastian who might be devout and go through the motions out of sheer habit, but personally doesn't sing the Chant as often or wholeheartedly as she should. She believes in the Maker and has faith, but she's also seen much in her travels to make her realize that faith alone isn't enough to help her out in different situations.
I have no idea where I'm going with this, but yeah. She had plans or at least the dream of plans, before her parents decided to send her off to the Chantry.
“You’ve been quiet.”
She looked up from the fire. “Have I? I’m sorry, just deep in thought.”
Blackwall sat close to her. “I noticed. Want to talk about it?”
Ravena opened her hand, revealing a metal cylinder Blackwall had often seen strapped to the legs of Leliana’s birds. “Cullen sent me a message. A final count of those we lost at Haven is ready for my review once we get back to Skyhold. He also added a note that the names of those who died at the Conclave have been released.”
“Are you all right?”
“No.” They were silent for a long while, which was something that Ravena was grateful for. She was also grateful that Varric was with them; he was keeping Cole occupied by teaching him the finer points of Diamondback.
The silence didn’t last long.
“There’s a bird throwing itself against the bars of its cage,” Cole softly said, his eyebrows furrowing in concern. “It’ll break its wing if it keeps hitting itself so hard.”
“Not the time, Kid,” Varric muttered. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop the spirit.
“A hand opens the door. Gentle fingers give the raven a taste of freedom, they walk together at noon. Sweet kisses amid the rosemary, even sweeter, more forbidden ones at midnight.” Cole blinked and looked up from the cards in his hand. “What was his name?”
“Don’t look at me, that wasn’t one of my memories.”
“Nor was it mine.”
Ravena closed her eyes and sighed as she rolled the metal message cylinder in her palms. “His name was Simon,” she said softly. “I met him three months after I had been sent to the Chantry.” No one spoke so she continued.
“We Trevelyans are extremely devout Andrastians. We have a long history of having many of our family members in the Chantry in one form or another; traditionally if no one else volunteers, the youngest unwed child is selected to serve the Maker. As the youngest at eighteen, the only sibling without a spouse and seeing as I was neither the heir nor spare of the family to keep me from the Chantry, the honor fell to me.
“Before then, I had been raised to believe that the world was my oyster, that I could do anything I wanted, become whoever I wanted to become in my life. My mother often talked of how much she couldn’t wait to hear every detail about my suitors, to fawn over embroidery for my wedding gown or how she dearly wished to hold grandchildren. That all changed the moment my brother Raoul announced he was getting married. After that, it was if someone had yanked the wide, open space that my life could have been away from me and set me on a narrow path not of my making.” She shook her head. “The Chantry in Ostwick didn’t have any places open for newcomers, but the one in Tantervale did, so I was sent there. Instead of finding peace and tranquility within the Chantry as so many of my relatives have done, I only found loneliness at being isolated from everyone I knew and bitter resentment for being shoved into a vocation I never wanted.”
“It was unfair of your parents to force that life upon you,” Blackwall quietly commented.
She shrugged. “It could have been worse; I could have been made a sister, like Mother wanted me to become. Father at the very least saw how ill that mantle would suit me, so he made certain that I was assigned to the archivists and scribes. He knew how much I loved books.”
Varric gave up on pretending to shuffle his cards. “Eighteen and angry,” he mused. “That’s a pretty potent combination.”
“It was. I thought about leaving several times, but where would I go? Being raised as a noblewoman, I had no real skills that would help me survive in the real world and running away would only bring shame to my family. That was when Simon showed up.” Her voice lightened and the ghost of a smile quirked the corner of her mouth. “He was twenty-five to my eighteen and the handsomest Templar recruit I had ever seen. He was brave and bold and so much worldlier than I could ever hope to be. To add to his lists of virtues, Simon was also quite perceptive. He saw through my mask, which no one had been able to do. He confronted me in the gardens one day and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I burst into tears and confessed everything.”
“Did anyone know about the two of you?”
She let out an unladylike snort. “More than likely the entire Chantry. We never bothered hiding our affections and preferred to spend the noon hour when we were both free of our duties walking together in the gardens. There weren’t any vows forbidding the two of us from being together. The Revered Mother didn’t forbid our relationship out of worry from what my parents might think because while Simon might have been the third son and ineligible to gain anything from his father’s lands, he was from a good, reputable family. Simon often spoke of what our life would be like once he became a Templar; how I would follow him wherever he might be stationed once we were married. It was the happiest I’d ever been since arriving.” She played with a bit of grass near her feet. “We were the model example of a devoted, chaste couple.”
“At least during the daytime?” Varric asked, his eyebrow rising as he remembered Cole’s words.
She smirked. “At least during the daytime,” she agreed. “My father would have killed him, had anyone in the Chantry caught on and alerted him about our secret midnight meetings. That is, if my brothers hadn’t already done the deed themselves. I never wrote to them about Simon, figuring that I would surprise them all when my Templar beloved and I came to visit instead. Not even my mother knew about my burgeoning romance.”
“The cage might be open, but the weather is stormy,” Cole said, sounding oddly sage-like in his observation.
“It wasn’t long after Simon became a full-fledged Templar that he was reassigned to Kirkwall. We swore we’d write letters every chance we could and that he would soon speak to my parents to ask for my hand.” She shook her head. “At first, we conversed so often that I felt sorry for the poor postman having to run such a volume of letters. Then our correspondence slowed to a trickle when his duties took him away from the Circle for weeks on end. Eventually as the months wore on, the letters I wrote to him were never answered and messages from him stopped altogether. You can probably guess what happened.”
“The bastard.” This was spat out with more venom than Blackwall had meant to. Listening to her talk about her past, he couldn’t help but feel jealous of this Templar and angry at what a gift he had thrown away.
“It was chance that I was able to see him again. Some high ranking nobleman had requested a copy of an obscure manuscript. Our archives so happened to have it and I begged to be in the party that would deliver the copy. Once I was there, it took some effort, but I managed to track down my Templar. I found him involved with one of the girls from Lowtown and it was very clear by the noises they made and how her skirts were stacked almost over her head at what they were doing.”
Varric leaned forward. “So what did you do? Did you make a scene, beat him senseless? Were there at least some choice curse words shouted at him?”
She laughed. “To what end? Neither of them had noticed me and doing anything would only serve to embarrass myself further than I already was. I simply turned around and walked the other way. When a fellow researcher had asked if I had seen Simon, I lied and told him that I had not, that he must have been out on patrol. It was the last time I saw him, until the Conclave.”
“Did he know who you were?” Cole questioned.
“No. Our eyes met across the room that first day, and I wanted to go over and speak to him, but there was no recognition on his end, no memory of what we once had. He was my first suitor. My first kiss, my first…everything.” She stood up and stared out into the darkness beyond their camp. “And now he is dead.”
“You never got the chance to say goodbye.”
“No, Cole. I didn’t.” With that, she began to walk towards the path that would lead her to the lake. She wasn’t expecting anyone to follow her, and she tensed when she heard the familiar sound of Blackwall’s footsteps.
With her back still to him, she let out a faint huff of humorless laughter. “I’ve never really talked about him before,” she said quietly, her eyes trained on the reflection of stars across the water’s surface.
“He was a cad who abused your affections,” Blackwall replied, coming up to stand beside her.
“Did he? I know that I liked him. I suppose I might have loved him in a girlish way: he was a strong, brave Templar who would rescue me from a life I didn’t want, just like the heroes in all the storybooks I used to read as a child. I know that I was fond of him and that it genuinely hurt to know he betrayed me, yet looking back; I have my doubts as if I ever truly loved him as a woman who was prepared to live the rest of her life with her husband should have. ”
“You were young and unhappy.”
“That I was, but that’s no excuse. Perhaps I’m not meant to become some man’s wife, if he ever meant to keep that promise to me. After returning to Tantervale, I threw myself into my work. I found solace from heartache in my books, in the knowledge they contained. Refocused, or should I say, focused for the first time since I had never really had my heart in it to begin with, it took a few months to persuade the senior clerics to allow me to move from merely re-shelving and retrieving works to a more scholarly approach with an emphasis on restoration and recovery. In time, I honestly began to like my life, all because I chose what to specialize in instead of it being something foisted upon me by some outdated tradition.” She turned to him. “It was my knowledge of history that brought me to Henri’s attention a year later. As you could probably guess from my earlier descriptions of him, he’s a field researcher dedicated to ruins and artifacts and an older cousin on my father’s side. It took some persuasion, but my parents finally agreed to allow me to accompany him as his assistant on one of his local digs.”
“And the rest is history, so to speak.”
She smiled. “Yes. It took that initial viewing of the work he was uncovering to fall in love with the lifestyle. Once I gained a foothold in the profession, my gear and items began to outgrow the small dormitory I shared with other clerics, so I was given permission to live outside the Chantry walls. Several of my first privately funded expeditions allowed me to purchase and furnish the home I now own. Henri is too much of a nomad to own anything permanent, so he lives with me when he needs a longer term living arrangement to write up his findings and polish up papers for publication.” She rocked back on her heels. “He was the one supposed to go to the Conclave to record the proceedings, but he broke his foot in a freak accident and insisted to our superiors that I go in his stead. I guess the Maker works in mysterious ways: had he not been injured, he would have died along with everyone else and I would not have been there to receive the Anchor.”
Blackwall picked up a stone and let it skip across the water, the ripples it caused obscuring the night sky. “And the Inquisition would have never been formed, and we wouldn’t have ever met.”
“I think you underestimate Cassandra’s tenacity. The Inquisition surely would have been formed, just that someone else would be the Herald.” She shrugged. “I might even be underestimating Henri. Had things played out differently, he just might be leading things about now, which would have more than likely driven everyone insane, seeing how absentminded my cousin can be.”
“Cassandra does have a stubborn streak,” he agreed. “For what it’s worth, I am glad that I was able to meet you.”
“And I, you.” She reached out and placed her hand against his cheek. “Blackwall, I…”
He closed his eyes and leaned against her hand before turning his head. “Ravena, don’t. I told you before, this, us, it can never be.”
She narrowed her eyes. “And as I told you before, why should we have to deny ourselves? With the world the way it is, shouldn’t we take what comfort we can?”
“And with the way the world is, we shouldn’t let our emotions distract us from our purpose.”
Ravena took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “I can see that continuing this is like beating my head against a stone. Have it your way; I’ll not discuss this with you again.” Defeated, she turned away from him and made a move to return to their camp.
“Ravena, wait.” He could tell that she wasn’t happy and he didn’t want their conversation to end poorly.
“No. We’re both adults and I refuse to pine over you like some lovesick girl. I know my heart; once you get your own feelings for me sorted out, you know where to find me.”
Blackwall watched her walk back to camp, regret forming a bitter knot in his stomach. He briefly wondered which one of them was more stubborn: he for knowing that he didn’t deserve someone like her or Ravena for refusing to give up on him.
He threw another stone into the lake. The quiet that followed refused to reveal any answers to him.