The wolf’s deep growl shook the ground, the sludge pools around them vibrating around him, but that didn’t stop the high-pitched barking that came from the fox-like being in front of him. His mount, a white and gray shaggy dog quivered and seemed to waver.
“Never fear, Ambrosius. Your unwavering bravery will be rewarded handsomely.”
The answering whine made it clear the dog had more sense than its rider. The wolf snarled again before reasserting his demand. “You shall release me from this place, or I will consume you all. I will escape one way or another.”
“HA! Will you now? Did you hear that, Ambrosius? He thinks he can escape.”
“You mock me?” The air thickened with his rage, the sky darkening unnaturally and the wolf felt a small measure of satisfaction that he was not without any control… though perhaps control was not the right word for the urge that clawed over him.
“I not only MOCK you, you cowardly pup. I CONDEMN you to this hell with the-”
Feeling that control snap, the wolf lunged forward with his maw wide—and yelped. He snapped his head back and shook it, the wicked grip on his chest gone without a trace in favor of bafflement. It took a moment to take inventory and realize what had thrown him and that was when he realized his nose smarted. A glance at the ridiculous fox revealed why.
“There we are. See, Ambrosius? The pup just needed a bit of sense knocked into him.” In one hand, the fox held a thin mace so perfectly his size that it must have been custom-made. Unless this world often made weapons for small… canine beings.
The wolf shifted a bit, looking more than a little cautious as he rubbed his nose along his front leg while still trying to keep a keen eye on the ankle biter. Being called a pup twice still rankled, but when he waited for the rage to spark… it just didn’t.
Done reassuring himself that his nose was still in one piece and feeling ridiculous that it was ever in question when he’d been about to eat the fox and his mount in one bite, he raised his head back up and attempted to look unfazed. Meanwhile, his mind wandered. When had he lost control of himself? He’d always been known for his strategic restraint and quiet machinations. He’d chafed at injustice and had built a rebellion underneath the notice of his corrupt peers. Was he corrupted?
“Perhaps I knocked him too hard. PUP. Blink twice if you’re still in there.”
The wolf blinked and then chuffed as he noticed he’d done it twice. The ankle-biter would think he was following directions if he wasn’t careful. “Your lack of self-preservation will get you eaten. Enough of this. Tell me how to escape.”
The fox peered at him a moment before dismounting. “Excuse me while I confer with my royal steed.”
The wolf held in his sigh, but shifted to rest his hindquarters on the ground. Apparently there was no rushing this. As he watched the strange duo walk a bit away and start talking, he considered listening in, but discarded it in favor of closing his eyes and nudging the part of himself near wakefulness. He was moderately unsettled to see that his reigns were latched to the Iron Bull’s horse but no one was looking at him. Unsettled both because he hadn’t noticed and because his meditative…nap… had gone uninterrupted on purpose.
To be aided by the Iron Bull felt…
As he sank back under and the wolf opened his eyes, there was a moment he wished this form had hands because that discomfort had returned in his chest. Not the rage. Nothing of that sort. It was the strange flutter that had assaulted him in the woods as the qunari had licked his fingers as if…
His blond locks falling over his face as he buried it into the qunari’s chest as he panted and writhed into the man’s fist. The way he’d turned toward him and those strands had parted just in time for Solas to see his eyes as he-
The wolf opened his eyes again. He hadn’t even realized he’d closed them. He shook off his thoughts about T…the idiot, and regarded the strange duo.
“There IS no escape. However, you have been amendable to my criticism. So, I… Sir Didymus and my companion, Ambrosius…shall let you pass.”
The wolf was silent a little longer, for the first time looking past the duo at the bridge behind them. It…didn’t behoove him to move if he had no idea where he was going. If this was anything like the fade, he was never going to be able to just outwalk it.
He peered down at the strange beings again as his mind worked the puzzle. “Fen.”
“No,” the wolf corrected. His voice still held the vibrating decibel, but this was a gentle hum. “Fen means wolf.”
“Pup. Wolf pup.”
There was a twitch in his chest and the wolf waited for the rage to crawl back out, but once again, it didn’t. Annoyance, then. Tolerable.
Much like you have been Sarah for me more times than I can count.
“What about Sarah? She escaped, did she not?” It was a reach, but this entire experience had felt like a story that only the wolf didn’t know.
“You know Sarah?” For the first time since the wolf had appeared, Sir Didymus sounded unsure.
The wolf shifted, battling with the impulse to lie to coerce more information and the desperate look on Theron’s face as he explained what a bad liar he was and how he hated lying to people he cared about.
These creatures meant virtually nothing to the wolf, but they meant something to the idiot… and the idiot didn’t have to lie to gain assistance.
“I know of one who is not Sarah, but has been Sarah before.” As he muttered the strange phrase, he still felt the tight discomfort at not knowing more. Of trusting an idea without the context or surety of concept.
“Ah. You know the Traveler.” The fox nodded solemnly.
“You knew?” He asked cautiously. “I don’t…understand it, but you knew about him when he visited? How does it work? Is this some kind of time loop?”
“Oh pup…you don’t know.”
“Know what?” The sympathy in the ankle-biter’s tone made him weary. Suddenly he wondered if he wanted to know what would make such a small being pity one who almost ate him. “Don’t play games with me.”
“Oh Ambrosius… he doesn’t know. It’s so hard to hear the first time.” The fox seemed to be searching the scenery around him as if someone else more qualified would show up.
When no one appeared, Sir Didymus seemed to draw himself up before he turned to meet the wolf’s eyes. “Pup…we are all characters in a story.”
“So, are you going to tell me the plan yet?” Theron’s eyes were wide as Blackwall continued to ruffle his clothes. He’d thought he was being undressed at first because those large hands had gripped his collar and started tugging at laces as soon as he’d been damn near jerked off the horse. But then Blackwall had gripped his chin, tilted his head back and started ruffling those fingers through his hair and he caught sight of the determined look on the bearded man’s face.
It was the face of a man with a plan.
That Theron was still not privy to at all.
“Nope. You’re going to—” He swatted away Theron’s questing fingers as he’d tried to straighten his own hair. It felt weird and there were no mirrors. Being handsome now did naturally come with some vanity. Maybe more than some. “Stop it. Just touch nothing and follow me.”
Theron followed the warrior as he led both him and their horse up to Redcliffe’s gates. The guard there eyed them with disinterest until Blackwall tugged Theron forward by the waist. “I hear you might need some entertainment.”
“Redcliffe is closed. No one goes in or out.” The guard had a helmet that covered his face, which made it hard to gauge his reaction and Theron hated it. He felt more than a little exposed and more than a little conflicted about it. What the fuck kind of entertainment is he suggesting? It seemed rather obvious considering how he’d been rumpled on purpose, but this was Blackwall. He was starting to wonder if he even really knew the man.
After all the out-of-character behavior, it felt a little awkward that he was only wondering now.
“Yeah…that’s what I heard.” Blackwall’s voice was wry and a touch too deep to be casual.
Theron swallowed as he felt the warrior’s fingers trace along his lower abdomen from behind and then shivered as he felt the subtle brush of his beard on his neck. The burn in his cheeks was involuntary, but the sun had risen and there was no darkness or forest to shadow what was happening.
“Damn shame… this one feels good both in and out.”
I’m dead. I’ve died. There’s no other explanation.
Theron started to reach a hand to push Blackwall’s hand away. There was only so much embarrassment he could take, but as he did, he saw the helmet move and a slight grunt escaped from the guard.
Older. Not a young recruit… and he’s not protesting.
Like a flicked switch, it all became clear and Theron gripped the warrior’s wrist and tilted his head back, exposing his neck as he leaned into the man behind him. “Daddy….”
A loud clank followed and a quick glance under his lowered lashes showed the guard had thumped against the wall and was regarding them through the narrow slit of his helm. “I let you in, you cover him up and blend in until dark and stay away from the foreign mages.”
As they were escorted through, Blackwall tossed him his cloak and muttered, “I can’t believe you…”
“Worked, didn’t it?” Theron whispered, pulling the hood over his head.
Redcliffe was subdued, but people still moved about their business enough for the two of them to pass relatively unhindered to the stable where they left Dennet’s horse.
“Come on… let’s stop at the tavern to eat. It might be the last decent meal we have until we reach Jader.”
Theron followed but kept his eyes moving.
What if I see Dorian? Or Felix!
No sooner had the thought occurred to him, did he see a flash of white fur beneath a black cloak. It was familiar, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. But even his walk was familiar. Enough that Theron broke away and was gripping the man’s arm before he heard Blackwall’s noise of frustration behind him.
The man paused, tiling his hooded head to the side without turning. “May I help you?”
“Clemence, damnit. What the hell are you doing here?!”