Saelyn numbly went into her room and closed the door behind her. It was only a day trip to Val Royaux on horseback, which accounted for how they beat Blackwall to the city since he opted to go on foot. Or should she call him Thom Ranier now?
She walked up the stairs on shaky legs and collapsed face first on the bed, trying to block the waning rosy sunset from her eyes. It was too cheerful for a day like this. Too romantic.
She had known he was a criminal- try as he might Blackwall wasn't that good at hiding the fact that he had a past. Saelyn also knew he was ashamed of that past, but had hoped through their budding relationship that he would trust her enough to open up. He had in some ways, but this?
She would never be able to erase the sight of him behind bars. Nor the pain in his slate blue eyes as he confessed not only to the world, but to her what he had done. And how he would barely meet her face when she saw him, broken, in that cell.
And now he was going to die.
There would be no trial, not the way she held it in the Inquisition. The Orlesians had found him guilty and he would hang in two days.
She heard soft footsteps on the stairs leading up to her room, the creak of the floorboards as someone came to visit her. “Go away,” she said with as much force as she could muster.
“I came to help.”
Cole. Of course he would come. “I don't think there's anything you can do, Cole,” she couldn't keep the bitterness out of her voice.
She felt the bed sag beneath her as he sat beside her, silent for a time. The rosy light slowly began to dwindle and fade, leaving her in darkness. “Hurt, betrayal, how could he do this to me, the lies that separated are now cut, wounds too fresh to heal, strings too raw to tie together,” Cole chanted softly.
“I'm really in no mood for this,” Saelyn turned angrily towards him, sitting so she could see his face backlit by the waning light.
His eyes held nothing but compassion as he continued, “He loves you. As much as you love him.”
Tears welled up in her eyes and she raised her hand to strike him. “If it will help the hurting,” he took off his hat, offering his face to her. Instead she buried her fist into her eyes, trying to stem the onslaught of tears. She felt his arms around her, as if to say “It's Okay,” and she sobbed.
She didn't know how long she sat there in Cole's arms, sobbing. A blubbering mess that she had refused to let anyone else see on the long ride back to Skyhold. When she had exhausted herself, and her tears, he continued to hold her, like she was the child instead of the other way around, and while she didn't voice her thanks, she suspected he knew. He left around midnight after her reassurance that she would be all right; at least for a time. She wouldn't be, but he knew she wanted to be alone and respected that. Saelyn knew half the Inner Circle disliked him peering into their souls but she had never been afraid of Cole. Uncomfortable, yes, but never afraid. And on a night like this, she was glad to have him around.
There was a knock on her door and she quickly wiped away any moisture from her face, making sure there were no tear tracks on her cheeks or snot dripping from her nose. It was probably some noble with some petty request or another. She was a little annoyed that the guards allowed someone to disturb her and the anger felt better than the bleak sadness. Holding on to that, she strode down the stairs and prepared to deal with the noble in as tongue-lashing a manner as she could.
She had to pause when it was Cullen. “Inquisitor,” he made a slight, respectful bow.
“Is something wrong?” Saelyn asked, well aware of her state. She decided she didn't care.
“We have something to discuss,” he said, politely not noticing her red, puffy eyes and disheveled hair. “If you would come to the War Table.”
Saelyn ran fingers through her hair to tame it, then followed Cullen down the hallway to the War Table. As always there were a handful of gossips about the hall, partaking in either food or drink or the latest gossip which probably included how the Inquisitor's lover was a notorious criminal. Cullen glared at a couple of nobles who looked as though they wanted to approach her and she was grateful to him. He was loyal and kind; a good friend.
Saelyn was surprised that Cassandra was in the War Table room at this hour. Leliana and Josephine were all accustomed to holding meetings at inconvenient times but Cassandra was generally not present. Not that Saelyn minded her presence; just that usually Cassandra had other important things to do. “What's this about?” Saelyn asked, walking over to the table itself and mentally steeling herself for information about Corypheus.
The three advisors shared a look between them while Cassandra glared at them, arms crossed over her chest. Finally, Cullen spoke. “There is a way to bring Blackwall, um, Ranier, back to Skyhold.”
Cassandra snorted, her opinion clear on this. Saelyn just looked at her advisors numbly. Elgar’nan was it that obvious? Perhaps it was. “What do you mean?”
“He is part of the Inquisition,” Josephine continued. “The laws allow you to pass judgement on him as part of our organization instead of Orlais. It will be... tricky to get him back though.”
“Well, we have connections in the Orlesian courts and Empress Celene is grateful to us for securing her throne. We could use that influence to order her to hand Blackwall back to us.”
“That would take too long,” Cullen said. “It's better to take troops in to liberate him from jail.”
“Or we could put another in his place,” Leliana said. “We have a number of traitors to the Inquisition in our jail cells. It would be easy to switch them.”
“We could just leave him,” Cassandra said through clenched teeth. She refused to look at Saelyn when she said it.
“The choice is yours,” Josephine said. “We know how much he meant to you.”
Saelyn looked at all of them, one by one, undying loyalty in each of their eyes, even Cassandra's. They would do as she said because she was their Inquisitor.
No, that was wrong. They would do as she said because they cared about her.
She should leave him. Even she knew that liberating him would send the Inquisition into political turmoil and create contention with Orlais; a country that she could scarcely afford to slight. Blackwall wanted to die, wanted to atone for his sins. Creators, she believed him, in spite of all his lies. She knew deep down he was a good man. Flawed, but good.
“He loves you,” Cole had said. He had done this for her as much as himself- to prove that he could be the man he wanted to be.
“We'll do this Josephine's way,” Saelyn said. Cassandra radiated disapproval but kept silent. The others nodded and Josephine began outlining her plan to the rest of them. Saelyn barely paid much attention; she had to decide what to do with Blackwall when he arrived back at Skyhold. And right now, she didn't know.
She spent most of the day in the library, staring at an open book as if she were reading it. Most people knew not to disturb her while studying and the Tranquil kept to themselves. “I see you're confused about Terelon's theory on the Fade,” Dorian dropped into a chair across from her.
She ignored him until a crumpled piece of paper rapped her on the head. “I'm studying,” she hissed at him, glaring.
“You're brooding,” Dorian smugly sat back.
Saelyn glowered at him but he stubbornly refused to stop smirking. “I have things on my mind.”
“Yes. Big things. Involving a certain bearded man coming back here.”
Saelyn turned back to the book, hoping he got the hint. Instead, he closed it and took it from her. “What do you want?” she snarled.
“Oo, anger, I like it,” he grinned at her. “You wish to talk.”
“If I wanted to talk, I would.”
“Most of us don't care much about what he did,” Dorian continued, as though she hadn't said anything. “Well, that's not entirely true; dear Cassandra and Vivienne think it's a bad idea but I'm certain you know that already. The rest of us are willing to work with him, just in case you were thinking of giving him his job back.”
Saelyn only stared at him. She was used to everyone knowing her business but she had thought that this at least was secret.
“Don't gape. Flies will buzz into your mouth and Maker knows you don't want that.”
“When did you talk about this?”
Dorian shrugged nonchalantly. “You two weren't keeping your relationship a secret. Most of us suspected something like this would happen.”
“I could have left him there.”
“You could have. I'd have been surprised if you did, considering how you judged Alexius.” Dorian's face grew serious for a moment. “Mercy isn't a bad thing, Saelyn. Justice is fine and dandy in the abstract but when it comes to people you care about, sometimes you just need to bend the rules.”
“You must think me a fool,” Saelyn buried her face in her hands, not wanting to cry yet again.
“I always have. Naïve too.”
“You're so helpful.”
“I do my best,” the smirk had returned for a brief moment, then he got serious again. “Do what's best for you. You're leading a revolutionary force against an unknown enemy who wants to destroy you. No one begrudges you any happiness. Or love.” He pushed the book back in front of her then stood. “Now then, you must have some other book on the Tevinter Imperium in this old place besides the Festivus Aditshan. I mean to find it.”
Saelyn fingered the outlines on the book. “Thank you, Dorian,” she said before he got out of earshot. He shot her a self-satisfied smirk before sauntering off. She was still unsure of what she would do about Blackwall/Ranier right now, but knowing that her Inner Circle was behind her; that was something.
It was over. What had been some of the hardest moments in her life were over now; she could concentrate on Corypheus, and later, the Inquisition itself. And her relationship. Saelyn knew that there would be those in the Inquisition that didn't understand, that thought her weak because she allowed love to make her decision for her, but she didn't care. A lifetime of doing what others expected of her, of being a leader, of following the rules had only lead to loneliness and the comfort of books. Even the hunters of the Lavellan clan, with the exceptions of Keeper Istimaethorial, Aranul and Elari, regarded her as something else, something to be protected or guarded, not as a friend. Here in Skyhold, she had friends, most of them not even elves.
And the mark continued to grow. She felt it's power oozing up her arm like a slow poison taking over her body. If she was going to die, she was going to claim some happiness.
So Blackwall/Ranier was free. She half feared he would turn himself back in to the Orlesians; this time she told herself if he freely chose that, she wouldn't chase him. But he chose to stay and help her and the Inquisition, which only confirmed her belief that he was a good man. And then he asked her to take him back.
Part of her didn't want to. He did lie to her; that was something deliberate on his part. She wanted to punish him for it, as if her berating him in his jail cell hadn't been enough. But Cole was right- she still loved him. Deeply, fiercely. And she took him back.
She spent the rest of the day with Leliana, sussing out intelligence reports and trying to determine where Corypheus was headed. It kept her mind off things, kept the stupid nobles off her back, and Leliana never pried. It was good to work on something that wasn't personal for once.
As she had requested, Blackwall met her later that night in her room. “Inquisitor,” he said, standing by the stairs getting her attention from her book.
“Must you be so formal?” she gave him a smile and gestured towards the couch, closing her book. Blackwall/Ranier sat down, still looking uncomfortable as she joined him. She sat next to him, close enough so he could put his arm around her if he chose.
“Sorry my lady. It's... habit.” He glanced at her, then back down at his hands, still gripping his knees, as if still ashamed to meet her eyes.
Saelyn decided it was best to get it over with. “So, you never really knew much about the Wardens then?”
“I- I knew what Warden Blackwall told me. And I was telling the truth most times- they are a secretive bunch. But I thought you'd see through the lies immediately.”
“You're lucky I know even less about the Wardens than you do.”
“So- what now?” He looked at her, hands gripping his knees. She had taken him back and he had been bold enough to kiss her after her judgement, but now he was unsure. That part hadn't changed.
Saelyn leaned over and put her head on his shoulder. “I told you. We start over. If you want introductions again, I'm Saelyn Lavellan. Force mage, Inquisitor, and doomed to spend a lifetime with this green mark on my hand.” She paused and looked up at him. “What should I call you? Blackwall? Thom?”
He winced at his original name. “Maybe we should just keep it as Blackwall. Think of it more like a title, rather like Inquisitor.”
“But you don't call me Inquisitor. You call me Saelyn.”
“Thom Ranier isn't who I want to be.”
“I don't want to be Inquisitior, but we don't always get the choice.” She sighed and nestled further into his chest. He hesitatingly placed his arm around her shoulders. “I'll call you Blackwall in public, but here, you're Thom Ranier. Ma vhenan,” she smiled warmly at him.
“You loved Blackwall.”
“I love you, whoever you are. A name is just that.”
He swallowed, a smile on his face. His eyes still held a touch of sadness, but it was going away. “I don't deserve you.”
“You're right,” she grinned cheekily at him. “But you're stuck with me.” She curled her fingers around his own. “Now, you could kiss me, or spend hours worshipping the ground I walk on. Either works.”
He chuckled and she raised her head to kiss him. “I swear I'll be good enough for you,” he breathed in between kisses, holding her close to him.
“Just no more lies,” she whispered back, then for a while, forgot she was Inquisitor and enjoyed the moment.