“We’ve got to be careful,” Theron warned. “This shouldn’t be happening, so I have no idea what we’re walking into.”
“Kinda always been that way, hasn’t it?” Blackwall muttered before taking another bite of the apple Theron had practically forced into his hands. “That’s why there’s scouts, and bards, and spies. To go find that stuff out. Your daggers make you look like you’re that sneaky type.”
“Only if by sneaky you mean he announces he’s coming and then blushes after.” Bull drawled and held his hand out for second.
Theron sent a glare at Bull, indignant but pulled another apple from Mojo and passed it over. The way he figured it, it couldn’t hurt. “I didn’t announce a damn thing and you know it.”
“Do you usually blush when you’re sneaking? That’s kinda weird, to be honest.”
“I’m what, Killer?” Bull teased, waiting for the elf to out himself and what they’d started the morning with.
“Nothing. Fuck, this is only going to get worse.” When Sera joins. Theron took the fact that he didn’t say it out loud as a small victory. They were cutting through the forest toward the waterfall. He could hear it, so they must be close.
Once the encampment was in sight, he paused and turned to the two warriors. “Look, you were right. I should scout it out first.”
“Nope.” Bull drew out the word as if it were a whole conversation and not just a shutdown.
Theron sighed. “I’m not that bad at sneaking, actually.”
“Yes, you are. I’m a spy, Theron. I may be big, but I’m the most qualified for reconnaissance.”
“But…fuck. You’re right. Just… come back. If you don’t come back before the sun shifts again, I’m going to do something stupid and Blackwall is going to let me.” Theron looked at the man for support.
Blackwall looked up as if he could feel that he’d been put on the spot. “Nine times out of ten, I’m going to let you do something stupid if only to see what happens.”
“See? So come back.” Theron gave Bull what he hoped were puppy dog eyes and they must have worked because the qunari’s lips quirked.
“I’ll be back, Theron. Trust me. If I get caught, you’ll hear it.”
Time seemed to crawl by and Theron hated it. Hated that he couldn’t see what was happening. Maybe instead of a bag, he should have asked for a beholder as a familiar or something. That would probably be harder to explain.
“You always like this?”
Blackwall’s voice startled him and he cut a glance at the warrior. “Like what?”
He gave an amused grunt before continuing. “Odd. Smart-mouthed. Protective. Nurturing.”
Theron gave him a look. “You’ve barely known me a few hours.”
“Yeah, and you’ve already gifted me warding jewelry, fed me, sassed me, and now you’re sitting here like Bull is your long lost lover gone to war. You’re a fucking softie. Killer.”
Sigh. I am.
“Are you criticizing me or complimenting me, because I can’t tell.”
“Both. Fucking both.”
“Good,” Theron quirked a smile. “Don’t change, okay? I know I’m odd. Probably way more than you know or can comprehend—”
“Are you saying I’m stupid?” The warrior raised an eyebrow, but his eyes twinkled enough that even if his beard hid it, Theron knew he was trying not to smile.
“Just listen…I’m going to be serious with you just this once and then we won’t talk about it again unless you bring it up first.”
Blackwall’s eyes dimmed and he looked away and Theron hated that he’d put that uncomfortable look on his face.
“You are… a fucking snack from head to toe, but I need you to be the one guy I don’t try to fuck.”
Silence reigned again.
It had been on the tip of his tongue to get the man’s secret out of the way, maybe encourage him to use another identity other than Blackwall’s but in the end… he couldn’t do it. Maybe after a few weeks or a month, but not on the fucking first day—first hours—of knowing him.
Blackwall was still silent so Theron glanced over to see what a disaster he’d made and swallowed. Hard.
It was a look that the game could never capture. Hadn’t even tried because Theron suspected whatever this was, might just be a first for the warrior. It was almost a frown, so he could identify that it wasn’t a positive emotion, but his eyes were so intense.
“Are…you going to say anything?”
It was another moment still before a reply came. “Didn’t know that was something I should respond to.”
“Oh. Okay.” Theron swallowed again and glanced back at the encampment to see if he could spot Bull.
“But now I’ve got questions. Does your statement mean you’ve already tried to fuck all the other guys, or that you plan on it? Cause if it’s an active plan, that suggests my position is still up for debate.”
Theron’s head snapped back toward him. “What?”
Theron startled, feeling like he had whiplash when he turned to see Bull suddenly behind him. “What the fuck, did you fly? You were not there a second ago.”
“I said I’m stealthy.”
“What did you find?” Blackwall’s voice held no clue that he’d just thrown Theron a curve ball.
“Scouts are dead, but the Templars have the Herald’s team locked down.”
“How?!” Theron demanded. “Could you see if everyone was wearing their bracelets?”
“Mmhmm,” Bull confirmed and then his voice dropped an octave. “All except Solas, who it looks like they’ve done a number on. As far as I could tell, he’s still breathing, but they’re using him to keep them in line.”
Excuse me…Theron has left the building.
Suddenly, he couldn’t breathe. Could barely think for the raw fury that rolled through him. He sat back on his heels and just…existed while he watched Bull’s mouth move. He’d given Solas the bracelet right after Elana. To examine. To test. To fucking wear.
The stubborn fucking egg. Theron didn’t know if he was more angry that Solas was so prideful that he felt he didn’t need or want the extra protection or if he was angry at himself because this hadn’t happened in the game and no one had magical bracelets then. So the only unknown variable was Theron. But was Solas that weak that he couldn’t keep a barrier on himself? He was the only one without protection unless he just didn’t believe they worked.
He startled again, his angry pity party interrupted by Bull. “Sorry.” He relaxed when he felt the qunari’s warm hand on the back of his neck again.
“As I said, there’s about thirty or so—”
“What?” Theron interrupted. “There should only be about a dozen.”
Bull gave him an exasperated look. “Doesn’t change that there are at least thirty waiting for us now. You got a plan?”
Theron pressed his lips together and looked away, taking a moment. “Yeah.”
The debate over what he was more angry about swung toward himself when he realized that it was possible that his proactive work in the Hinderlands had actually allowed for more Templars to survive. Granted… hopefully that meant mages too, but there wasn’t any way to compare just yet.
“And are you going to share it?” Blackwall drawled slowly.
“Ah yeah. Same thing I was going to do if Bull didn’t come back, actually.”
“Come on, Bull. I told you before that I don’t plan shit. We’re going right in the front door.”
“You’re not going to let them gut the elf, are you.” Bull didn’t bother phrasing it like a question because it wasn’t.
“No. They’re going to let him go willingly, or they’ll going to figure out why I’m fucking terrifying when I’m angry….then I’m going to gut the elf.”
“You do know you’re an elf too, right?” Fuck, this Blackwall is made of sass. The warrior held out a hand.
“Am I really?” He smirked and accepted the help to stand.
Bull shifted his weapon onto his shoulder and gestured him forward. “Let’s give’m hell, Killer.”
They’d been relieved of their weapons as soon as they approached, with Theron demanding to know the status of his people. He kept his head high and made eye contact with every soldier that didn’t have the temerity to look away. Maybe he had few things that he had absolute faith in, but his fuck-me eyes were one of them. Mojo and Niall were tied close for second place.
When they were ultimately guided to the center of the stone encampment, Theron was shocked by what he saw. Most of the soldiers were parked around multiple campfires, but it was wild and he could tell most of the men were drunk. He saw Varric on the ground to his right, his hands tied behind his back and Bianca…where the fuck was Bianca? Varric was probably outside himself right now because Theron didn’t see the crossbow anywhere.
A glance to the left as he was pushed forward by a guard behind him, showed Elana and Cassandra. Both tied up, but appearing uninjured. Good. He didn’t have to worry about them. It wasn’t likely the soldiers would even realize where the barriers originated from anyway. They couldn’t feel them since they weren’t of the fade.
What really shocked him, was Solas. On the ground in a circle that parted as they approached, the wolf was bleeding from his mouth and nose. Theron had… never seen him look like that. Even in the game, the elf was always a fucking immaculate hobo. His lips pressed harder as he thought about the injuries he probably couldn’t see. How did this happen?
“Hit him again. Leland, you’re up,” A sneering voice cut through Theron’s thoughts.
“Sir, I don’t think he can take much more.” The rather large Templar reached down to grab Solas by the chin long enough to hook an arm under him and turn him over slightly. The elf’s head rolled loosely. Even though his eyes were open, they were glazed and unfocused.
Rage swelled under Theron’s skin. No one…No one…hurt Solas but him.
“You don’t think, soldier. You do as I tell you or we save the blue for someone who wants to do their jo—”
“If you don’t put him down and step away, I’m going to break every bone in your body starting with your hands until you fucking repent and see the error of your ways.”
The leader smirked. “Do it, Leland.”
The large templar let go of Solas’s face, but hovered there…something welling in the air that Theron was unfamiliar with.
“Killer, they’re going to purge him again. It’ll kill him.” Bull said quickly. “What’s the plan?”
Theron didn’t respond. He didn’t have to. Because within one breath and the next, he felt something align inside him. That gentle tingle that he’d felt last night when Solas had probed him. Only this wasn’t a tingle. This was a promise. A promise that was fulfilled with a series of loud cracks and an even louder scream as the large Templar’s hands were destroyed and Solas dropped from his grip.
“HE’S A MAGE.”
The first to try came from his right. A ginger with a scar cutting the length of his chin extended a hand and did… something. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t feel it. It just felt like…sudden dry heat. Like stepping from a humid rainforest into a desert.
And Theron smiled. “Purge me all you want, but I’m not leaving here without that elf and I will break every hand that touches him but mine.”
Bull cursed from his left. “Theron…”
“Bull…” The deep sense of calm that fell over him as he felt another heat wave pass over his skin was… unusually cathartic. “This is my world, and these are my people… and I exist to shake this world to its bones and remind them of what is good.” Theron shivered as he could almost feel Niall’s approval as he repeated his words.
“My hands…my hands—”
The Templars were moving and Theron was briefly aware of Bull and Blackwall engaging behind him. His eyes dismissed the ginger and the other now trembling buckets of armor that kept at least five foot from him on either side and focused on Solas. As he walked toward the group, all but the sobbing giant on his knees, stepped back.
Theron felt the purges come and for a moment, it reminded him of stepping in and out of the eye of a storm. But he stopped in front of the broken Templar, finally taking a look at his hands and steeling himself at the sight. “Do you repent?”
“Leland, don’t you make a deal with that demon.” The voice came from the leader, who was notably standing amongst his men as if their numbers alone would save him.
It was fairly quiet behind him, but through his fog, Theron could hear Bull’s low murmur as he freed Varric.
“Leland…” Theron murmured, crouching slowly. A movement that made several of the armored fools shuffle back, but the broken giant just fought to catch his breath, almost choking on his tears as he stared down at his hands. Possibly just lost in pain, but Theron imagined losing a man’s hands in this world was worse than a death sentence. “Do you repent?”
“I…I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hurt anybody. I d..didn’t want any of this.” He flinched as Theron reached out and gripped his wrist, his touch gentling when the giant didn’t jerk away. The tension just seemed to bleed out of the Templar along with the slow, relieved sigh that escaped his lips. His hands were still mangled, but you wouldn’t know it by the look on his face as his tear-filled eyes met Theron’s.
“Most of us didn’t. We took advantage of the chaos of the mage war to get away from the chantry, free of the blue. I’ve seen so many good men lost… dead long before their bodies followed. But it’s hard. It’s so hard to stop…”
Theron listened, and as he did, he stroked his thumb across the wrist in his hand and wondered…if he was really feeling the subtle vibration of the lyrium in the man’s blood. The pulse thudded like you’d expect, but it reverberated on impact each time it thrummed past Theron’s skin.
“Are you the maker?” Another voice asked.
“Kirkland, I will run you through myself—” the leader warned.
“No, you won’t.” Theron promised carefully, raising his gaze to the leader. “You will do nothing but stand and bear witness until I tell you otherwise.” Then he flitted his gaze over the other templars, staring at him with a mix of awe and terror.
“Not everything that you can’t explain belongs to the maker, ladies and gentleman. Most certainly not everything good. Let that be enough.” He looked back to Leland and softened his voice because the Templar still looked half blissed out of his mind. This was not a look that he expected to see on a man’s face outside of sex and most defintely not with his hands mangled.
“Leland, do you swear to dedicate your life to doing good deeds and finding happiness where you can find it?”
The man nodded quickly, almost raising his hands to wipe the tears from his eyes but stopping when he remembered his hands and wiped them on the arm Theron wasn’t holding. “I swear, Sir. I’ll do right by you.”
“Do right by you, Leland,” he whispered, and now that he didn’t feel the constant lash of dry heat from being purged, he felt the curl of sweet rain in his chest. It curled out of him and wrapped around the Templar’s hands, curled around his wrists… and it sang. It sang and though Theron watched and saw nothing, he felt the giant’s hands tremble as the bones reassembled. He felt the song pull the lyrium from the pulse that beat beneath his thumb. He felt Leland’s first breath without a metalic taste on the back of his tongue.
“You…took it,” Leland said slowly, falling back onto his ass and then casting desperate looks at his armored companions. He held his hands up to show them. “He healed my hands, but he took the lyrium too.”
While not pandemonium like before, a commotion did break out as he pushed to his feet and walked to show them. The soldier named Kirkland grabbed Leland’s face and pulled the skin under his eyes down, checking for god knows what.
The templars busy with this new revelation, Theron glanced down at Solas and found the wolf watching him. He reached for the wolf’s wrist, thinking to heal him as well, but the he flinched, so Theron paused. After a moment passed between them where Theron tried to read his gaze but found nothing but apprehension, he reached around for Mojo and started to pull out health, lyrium and regeneration potions.
“I got this, Killer.” A familiar hand settled on his shoulder.
Varric. Thank god.
Theron was never so glad to hand the potions over because his heart would have broken if the wolf flinched from him one more time.
“Um…Sir.” Leland’s voice caught Theron’s attention again and he looked over to see what had been decided.
“Theron.” He offered his name. It wouldn’t do to have them calling him Killer since they wouldn’t get the joke, and while a little Sir tossed around the bedroom was fun, he wasn’t really interested in titles. Thank god he wasn’t the herald this time.
Theron gave him a stern look, but he followed it with a quirky smile.
“…okay. Theron. Sir.”
“Yes?” He held in his sigh. It would have to be a work in progress.
“Can you do that…for all of us?”
“I don’t know. I…” This is MY dream. “I don’t see why not, but I’m not sure I could do it all at once.” Not yet anyway. Knowing he could do anything he willed hard enough wasn’t the same thing as believing it and how would he even imagine doing it? Everyone sings kumbaya around a campfire and poof, the lyrium is gone?
It’s not, by the way. That lyrium was somewhere singing along inside Theron’s body. Was that by design or had he willed it? Was that fade magic that he’d felt or his own? Did fade magic sing? He wanted to ask Solas, but a quick glance at the wolf and Varric showed Solas was sitting up and looking considerably better but his gaze still had that foggy, vacant look to it.
This is not how I wanted to shake his world.
“Then we’d like to join the Inquisition. With you.”
“Leland,” Theron said gently. “You promised to do good deeds and find your own happiness. I’d demand that of all of you.”
“The Inquisition does good deeds… don’t they?” Kirkland spoke up this time. “And finding happiness probably depends heavily on fixing that big tear in the sky.”
They weren’t wrong.
Fuck. This was going to be impossible to explain or contain.