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The Canticle of Fate


a part of The Canticle of Fate, by AugustArria.

The Thedosian continent, from the jungles of Par Vollen in the north to the frigid Korcari Wilds in the south.

AugustArria holds sovereignty over Thedas, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
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Thedas is a part of The Canticle of Fate.

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cyrus Avenarius Character Portrait: Zahra Tavish
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There was a reason Zahra picked this specific place. Wholly related to the topic at hand, and obvious enough to her because she’d been present when the particular event happened. A moment that still made her cheeks burn. Of course, she’d left a little note, roughly folded in at the corners; shoved underneath Cyrus’s door for later discovery. It was better than huffing up the stairs and demanding to be let into his little laboratory. Besides, she wanted the sun’s kiss on her back and the wind ruffling her wild hair. It felt… far more comfortable than the stuffy insides of Skyhold.

At least sitting on the pier, sticking out like a knife into Skyhold’s resident lake, there was little chance of accidentally bumping into the subject at hand. How embarrassing would it be if she’d joined them? Querying what they were talking about with that innocent face of hers. She would die, she was sure of it. Perhaps, she’d even noted how she had been recently ducking away whenever she was near. Making herself scarce for reasons that made no sense to even her. It was childish, these tendencies of hers. Ones she had never thought herself capable.

It made her insides crawl. Furious at herself for not being the smooth-tongued freebooter she’d always presented herself as.

Certainly not when she was concerned.

A soft sigh pushed past her lips as she tucked her bangs behind her ears. She deflated down against the piers wooden planks; a little too harshly. It bit into her shoulder blades. Uncomfortable. Just like she felt. She hoped, if anything, that this conversation would be enlightening. Cyrus had the habit of putting things into perspective, even when he didn’t mean to. It’s why she’d been leaning on him so heavily as of late.

There were few and far in-between who she felt she ever could.

It took about another twenty minutes for Cyrus to show. As someone who rarely noticed things going on around him if he was really intent on something, that actually wasn't all that late. Perhaps he hadn't been too occupied when she delivered her note after all. His footsteps fell softly on the pier, the wood creaking only enough to alert her to his presence.

He was initially silent, coming to a stop beside her and pausing a moment, perhaps to look out at the lake. From where she was sitting, she'd have had to crane her neck to be sure. He was hardly a giant next to some of the other people in the Inquisition, but he was quite tall nonetheless. He crouched, though, coming to rest on the front half of his feet, the rest of his body folded over a few times in a way that didn't look comfortable but was not uncommon for him. He set his elbows on his knees and let his arms drape forward, the unobtrusive rustling of his deep blue tunic the only sound that came of any of it.

A breeze passed over the lake, rippling its still surface; a few waves lapped at the supports holding up the dock. “It's quiet here." His tone didn't so much to change the fact—while he had plenty of aggrandizement and bombast to spare when he wanted it, it certainly wasn't presently in evidence. “Some particular reason we're talking all the way down at the lake, instead of the tavern or something?"

Even though Zahra didn’t particularly like to be kept waiting… she didn’t mind the momentary solitude. A chance to be alone with her thoughts, listening to the soft waves rocking up against the wooden pier. It swayed with the soft breeze, rocking where she’d chosen to perch herself: right on the lip. Her legs dangled over the edge, kicked into the empty air. She heard, rather than saw, Cyrus approaching. His steps were easy to identify. She’d come to know all of their steps; their approaching gaits. She felt like that was natural, given the time she spent with them.

It was a little comforting to know someone like that. Though it didn’t make it any easier trying to wrestle her thoughts in order, make them sound less pathetic than they did in her own head. Wasn’t that what she was being? Pathetic. At least, a little. As assured as she presented herself, there were things that even she didn’t know how to handle. Things that made her feel small. Inadequate. A pirate, lost in a sea she wasn’t sure how to navigate. The irony wasn’t lost on her. Particularly because she came off so smooth—tongue untethered, able to draw out the reddest of cheeks at the most inopportune moments.

The tables had turned, it seemed.

Propping herself up on her elbows, Zahra scooted slightly backwards, in order to see him properly. The way he was crouched like that certainly didn’t look comfortable, and almost child-like; though, she’d never say that aloud or else maybe he’d leave her here, grabbing at her hair until she drove herself insane. She, too, looked out across the lake until Cyrus broke the silence. In a sense, she was relieved he had, because she wasn’t sure where to start. “I… figured there’d be no chance running into the person in question down here,” she cleared her throat and pursed her lips, “or anyone else for that matter.” How many times had she done just that to her companions? Her friends? Too many to count, to be sure. Teasing them was a hobby of hers; one that she was sorely good at.

“Contrary to popular belief, I think I’d die of embarrassment if anyone overheard.”

She swept a hand towards the lake and pointed towards an up-ended boat that had an oar missing. She’d managed to drag the thing to shore with Asala’s help but the second oar was nowhere to be found. Maybe it’d sunk to the bottom of the lake, or drifted to the opposite shore. She’d been too red-faced and mystified to look for it. She remembered walking back in stone-faced silence, body tense as a stone. It hadn’t been fair to her, at all.

“I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned before… I mean, why would I?” A pause, grating against her molars. “I’m not as suave as people think I am and I think I have feelings. For someone. And this, it hasn’t happened before.” A puff of breath seemed to deflate her. “I think I fucked it up already.”

Cyrus turned his head at the last bit, one eyebrow threatening to arch upwards with all the skepticism he had at his disposal. Which part prompted the reaction was hard to say exactly; in any case it settled, leaving him still more neutral to the problem than anything. At least visually. “You must be really desperate. If I'm the one you're confiding in about this subject, I mean." He huffed a short breath out his nose. “You know I've never had those feelings either, much less a functional long-term relationship." A pause, and then more quietly: “wasn't sure I believed any of it was real, for most of my life. Those feelings. A few years ago, I would have said you were deceiving yourself. Shrouding something biological in something delusional to make yourself feel better about it."

He pursed his lips, then turned his eyes back out to the lake. The breeze ruffled his hair, pulling a few loose bits back from his face. “So... nonspecific problem-solving advice is all I've got. What did you fuck up, and how do you... ah... un-fuck it?"

The reaction made her laugh. It bubbled out from deep within her chest, uncontrolled. Of course, she was desperate. There was a reason she’d sought out Cyrus of all people, even if their experiences, or lack thereof, were similar. He wouldn’t try to tease out a response, or make her want to squirm out of existence… much like she had the habit of doing to others. She could dish it, sure. But having the tables turned on her? She was less equipped to deal with that sort of thing. A soft grin wrested itself onto her face, “I think that’s why I chose you,” she drew herself up into a seated position and pulled her knees tight to her chest, “Besides, I knew you wouldn’t laugh about it.”

Maybe, she just needed to speak her thoughts aloud. Maybe, she just needed to puzzle things together with someone she knew would listen, and offer sound reflections. Cyrus, at least, had always been able to make things make sense, even if this was the least logical subject she could have brought up. She was in the mind to agree. She’d never truly believed in love; in romance, in any of that mushy crap. It was an impossibility to her. Something so far removed from someone in her position. In her youth, she’d nearly had a relationship forced down her throat, and afterwords, she’d only thought of intimacy as a distraction: a pleasure, as fleeting as the winds billowing through her sails.

This was different. It made her guts twist and turn and for once in her life, she had no answers. Only questions, and uncertainties. She didn’t want this to be a fleeting thing. She didn’t want Asala to go away afterwards, disappear like a pretty flower she’d picked from the garden. There was a sourness there, self-reflected. This was her problem, she knew that well enough. “I thought that too, you know? Maybe, that’s why I asked you, too.” But she’d been proven wrong more than once, since joining the Inquisition. She’d seen the impossible, render itself possible. She’d seen people like Khari and Rom drawn together, mending each other’s wounds; Stel and Ves, carrying each other through the storms they faced.

This… was also different. Zahra was not, in any sense of the word, a good person. At least, not compared to Asala. Her past crimes, however far away they were now, stretched further than she could see. She’d raided for most of her career, killed thoughtlessly, stole, pillaged. It’d been a choice of hers, not something she’d been born to, but something she’d been all too willing to do. As generous, as selfless, as she’d been of late, that old Zahra still remained a large part of who she was, of who she’d become here and now. What right did she have to be anything at Asala’s side? It tormented her. She bit her lip and hugged her knees tighter, “I’ve been avoiding her lately. I… brought her here, one day. On that wee boat just there.” She could already feel her ears growing hot. “Thought it’d cheer her up.”

A pause, before half-buried her face into her knees and scoffed. At herself, mostly. “She kissed me. I, I don’t know why,” it came out as a weak sputter, “I didn’t think—bloody hell, I couldn’t even look at her after!” How could she fix anything if she turned into a statue whenever she so much as bumped into her? Most likely, Asala now believed she’d done something wrong. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. She peeked up at him and shook her head, curls intruding in her vision. “I’m not an idiot. I know that I wouldn’t be any good for someone like her.”

Cyrus bore the explanation with the patience of a stone, which was itself quite unusual. Most of the time, he was a lightning bolt and problems were metal spires: he was drawn to them and struck fast, often before the explanation was entirely finished. His mind made all the intuitive leaps necessary to fill in the gaps and then bounded forward again, pausing only every now and then to drag whomever was following him forward. It had been like that with Corveus's riddle, to be sure.

But this time he just raised one of his hands, knuckling his jawline with a slow sort of methodical manner that seemed heavier than all that. Slower and more ponderous. a symptom of the problem itself, perhaps. He'd admitted to being the furthest thing from an expert in matters of the heart. When she fell silent, his shoulders rose, and then fell again as he exhaled.

“Isn't that for her to decide?" The question bore no hint of remonstrance or reproach. The tone in which he delivered it was almost tentative, as though it tasted strangely on his tongue. “Whether you're any good for her or not?" He grimaced, then shook his head. “Not that I think you shouldn't... express your reservations about that, since you have them. Your history is something I think the two of you probably ought to address, but it seems like you've already decided that it's too much for her without letting her have her say on the matter."

He glanced out at the boat for a moment before reverting his eyes. "If it's too much for you, that's one thing. But if you're just assuming it's too much for her, then..." He shrugged, the motion clipped, uncomfortable. “Stop assuming and ask."

Wasn’t it?

For her to decide, that is.

Zahra could’ve laughed at how simple it sounded. How simple it really was. Maybe, most of all, she’d chosen Cyrus to speak to over anyone else because he had the innate ability to piece things together in the most logical manner, but in moments like these, he did it with a softer hand. Sometimes, it was exactly what she needed. Besides, whether he understood it or not, she’d come to lean on him far more than she’d ever leaned on anyone before. Drew herself vulnerable, exposed her wounds. She wasn’t certain why, but they were similar enough that she felt she always could.

Her grip on her knees loosened as she scooted a little closer to him. The gentle breeze picked up, rippled across the lake and made the wooden pier sway. Not enough to question its integrity, but enough that it reminded her of being on the Riptide. It was comforting. Another reason she’d chosen this place. She breathed softly from her nose, and sniffed. “For someone who’s not seasoned in romance… you sure do have good advice for it.” She wondered, frequently. What kind of person would be suitable for someone like Cyrus? It was a hobby of hers, trying to see who’d match best in the Inquisition. She wasn’t quite sure who could match his stride, not in the way he needed.

A shame, really.

“I’m afraid of her answer,” she admitted, shuffling closer until her shoulder brushed with his elbow, “I don’t think I’ve ever wanted something this much, but I think you’re right.” A small smile tipped the side of her lips up, ponderous and wistful. “Why aren’t solutions ever easy? I swear, that conversation will be the death of me.” She was never any good at solving anything that couldn't be pinioned with an arrow. Let alone her own issues.

Oddly enough, though, he smiled at that, the sly expression natural to his face, and narrowed his eyes at her. "Hm. Might not be the worst thing. What do the Orlesians call it? La petite mort?" He snorted, shaking his head. "On second thought, don't ever tell me. I don't want to know. There are some people I just can't make myself think about in that context." He shuddered, dramatically enough that she could tell it was mostly for show.

"You'll do fine, Zahra. Bluntness is a strength of yours. Use it. Probably the only way she'll catch on anyhow."

Le petit morts Zahra repeated, in an awful rendition of what she thought Orlesians sounded like. All posh and lifted pinky fingers. Masks, and secrets, and everything else she found stuffy and uncomfortable. Her snorting laugh sounded out across the expanse of the lake. She, at least, felt unburdened from all those thoughts troubling her mind. There was only so much room there, between what was happening in Thedas and her own responsibilities here, in the Inquisition. Entertaining softer things was unusual for her.

She tsk’d and blew errant curls from her face. Asala was rather naive, though she could’ve said the same for herself seeing how surprised she’d been when she was kissed. Did Qunari do that on principle? Just to be nice? She didn’t know. Either way, she’d never find out moping around Skyhold.

“Promise me you’ll be there if things go sour?”

Cyrus looked uneasy for half a second, but then the expression disappeared, and he nodded. "Of course."


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Romulus Character Portrait: Estella Avenarius Character Portrait: Marceline Benoit Character Portrait: Asala Kaaras
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It had been quite a while since either of the Inquisitors had to sit in judgement of anybody.

To Estella, it only seemed fair that the first chair on the dais had moved to the side enough that a second could fit up there as well. She and Romulus had embraced the fact that this was a job both of them had to do, and they were now both in a place where they could cooperate on these kinds of things without worrying about what would happen if they disagreed. No doubt there would be times when they did, but she was confident that it would be the productive kind that led both of them to stretch for better solutions, instead of the kind that could grind proceedings to a standstill.

She gave him a smile where he sat on her right, then turned her attention back down to where the door leading to the dungeon was creaking open. The person they were meant to judge today was Lady Poulin, of Sahrnia. They'd worked out the jurisdictional issues already; unsurprisingly, Lucien was fine allowing them to decide her punishment. While she was an Orlesian noble who had committed crimes against Orlesian citizens, her transgressions first and foremost involved the Red Templars. An Inquisition matter if ever there was one.

Lady Marceline as per usual stood at her post off to the side of the main dias, clipboard in hand. She watched the doors leading into the main chamber expectantly, and it wasn't long until those expectations were met. The doors parted and Inquisition soldiers escorted Lady Poulin toward the Inquisitors. Once she reached the edge of the dias, Lady Marceline began reading the charges.

"Lady Alban Poulin," she said, tilting her head in the woman's direction, "Accused of aiding, abetting, and collaborating with Red Templar forces in Emprise du Lion," she glanced at the Inquisitors before returning to her clipboard. "She accepted coin from the Red Templars in exchange for overseeing the town Sahrnia, and the people thereof whom were enslaved and forced to work in the nearby Quarry growing red lyrium." Lady Marceline looked up from the clipboard and glanced back at the Inquisitors.

"It should be noted too, that she procured supplies to ensure that she kept what remained of the town alive and fed." A subtle, noncommittal shrug followed. Perhaps she did not believe the gesture was altogether entirely altruistic.

Lady Poulin looked more tired than she had at Sahrnia. No doubt the last week or so had worn rather heavily on her. Estella wondered if she found it at all a relief, to have it done and her deeds exposed. She couldn't imagine that carrying the burden around had been at all easy. Surely even the most hardnosed pragmatist or or hard-hearted noble would feel some measure of guilt at her actions, even if she believed she'd had no choice. Some decisions were just like that.

"Is there anything you would say in your own defense, Lady Poulin?"

"Nothing you have not heard already, Inquisitors. My choice was to help the Red Templars, or die. I chose to live, and do what I could to keep the others in my town alive, including those prisoners that were abducted and brought there to work."

"Did you ever try to make contact with anyone?" Romulus asked. "The Red Templars operated out of Sahrnia and Suledin Fortress in secret for a very long time. We were only able to find them by tracking their army back there from Kirkwall."

"That was part of the choice, I suppose. One I had to make many times." It was easy to see that the shackles on her weighed more heavily than they had on some of their previous prisoners. No doubt a woman of her status was highly unused to them. "If the Red Templars had detected resistance, they likely would have killed me, and Maker knows how many others."

Estella recognized that the choice had been fraught. Faced with a foe she could not possibly defeat, Lady Poulin had yielded rather than died. But it still wasn't clear that the outcome had been any better for anyone but herself. Those who had been forced to work at the mines would likely never recover from the damage: red lyrium bore the Taint, after all; if they weren't ghouls already, they were well on the way, and only more pain stood between them and their eventual deaths. No few of them doubtless would have preferred a swifter version of the same fate, rather than suffering.

But at the same time... sometimes living was the only form of resistance left to a person. It was hard to know how to weigh all of it, as always seemed to happen when Estella sat this chair.

"Do you regret it?" she asked at last, genuinely interested in the answer. "Is there anything you'd do differently, faced with the choice again?"

"I do not," she answered, with some degree of certainty. "Perhaps it was a mistake to accept their terms to begin with. We can never know. I did what I thought was best at each stage. If that condemns me, then so be it."

Romulus didn't seem particularly pleased with the answer, but he was well past his days of attempting to order people to death for crimes that did not warrant it. "There needs to be some punishment for this. Work, maybe? She could wait out a setence in a cell, but it seems like a waste."

Estella pursed her lips. "I think the most important thing is doing what can be done for Sahrnia and the people left there. With the quarry unusable for the foreseeable future, most anyone left won't be able to make a living." The elimination of the town's key economic asset would desolate it eventually, more or less destroying everything left. "I think whatever else we do, we should be seizing the assets she received from the Red Templars and paying reparations to the village with it. Maybe rebuilding?"

She was less sure about the punitive angle, but something ought to be done on that front as well. So many lives had been lost, and even if Lady Poulin's share of the blame for that was small, it was not nothing.

Romulus didn't seem to have thought of that. Perhaps he'd thought the town lost beyond repair. "Do we have anyone that can lead a rebuilding?" It wasn't the Inquisition's normal work, it was true. Most of the places they moved into were already built. They had more experts in taking and occupying towns than they did in repairing and restoring them.

"If I may," Poulin offered softly, "I know the town and its people. I would be willing to oversee reconstruction on the Inquisition's behalf. With the funds given to me belonging to the Inquisition now, of course." It went without saying that she would be closely supervised by the garrison they left behind in Suledin Fortress.

Estella figured that was about the right way to do things. After a moment of quiet confirmation with Romulus, she nodded slightly. "Very well. You'll oversee and participate in the reconstruction of Sahrnia, using the Red Templar funds. If the cost runs over, though, the responsibility of financing it will be yours." As far as penalties went, it was a light one, but the important part was that it fit the crime, and she thought it did.

The penalty announced, Lady Poulin was escorted away. No doubt Leon would have her on the first caravan back to Emprise du Lion, which was probably for the best. With their only official work for the day done, Estella descended the dais. She had a visit she really needed to make, and Lia was probably already waiting outside to meet her.

Spring precluded the need for a cloak today, so it was a simple matter to meet her friend just outside the keep and make the short trek to the infirmary. Hissrad had been providing her with daily updates, but it seemed that Cor was finally well enough to receive visitors, so the both of them were intent on stopping in.

No sooner had Estella stepped inside, holding the door for Lia, than her eyes were seeking Asala. The qunari woman seemed to be in the process of bundling herbs or something similar, so hopefully she wouldn't mind the interruption. "Asala? We've come to see Cor. That's okay now, right?"

Asala turned to greet them with a warm smile and incline of her head. It gave the both of them a good sight at her now asymmetrical horns, though apparently she had been trying to file down the rough edges on the broken one. It looked... Better, at least. "He is. One moment please, and I will join you. It is nearly time for me to check on him anyway," she said, tying a length of twine around the bundle of herbs and placing them with others of its kind. Preportioned bundles apparently. With her current task done she gestured toward them to follow and led them through the infirmary and to a door, which she opened to allow them to enter first.

Cor was awake, clearly, sitting up with his back against the headboard. His arms and chest would have been bare, except for the fact that everything from his waist to his neck was swathed in a thick layer of white bandages, including his shoulders and upper arms. It was hard to tell how bad the damage was underneath them, but he wasn't holding himself with particular discomfort, legs stretched out in front of him and crossed at the ankle. He'd been reading, it seemed, though upon their entrance, he glanced up, giving his visitors a lopsided grin. "Well, look who it is. Day one of visitation and the big names are already checking on me." With one hand, he pulled some errant strands of hair out of his face, raking them back against his crown. "Lady Inquisitor. Scout-Captain." His tone was utterly flippant—they'd all known each other much too long to use those things seriously.

Estella was relieved to see him in good spirits, but she could tell the time since his injury hadn't been as easy as he was making it seem. His face looked more gaunt than usual, the hollows of his cheeks too prominent and all the angles sharpened too finely. There were shadows around his eyes, too, but at least he was the furthest thing from listless. "Bit of a big name yourself," she observed, returning the smile with a smaller one. "Your people are asking after you. I'm sure you'll have more visitors than you know what to do with eventually."

He sobered a little at that, shaking his head slightly. "I'm flattered, but I have to admit this is a little embarrassing. Bad enough for you two to see me looking like this. Not exactly the picture of inspiring leadership at the moment, am I?" He shifted a little, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed with what seemed to be relative ease and moving to sit at the end with a wink for Asala. "Anytime you want to poke me, doc. I can take it."

"I promise I will be gentle," Asala answered with a kindly smile. She took a seat bedside and began to inspect the bandages wrapping around most of his frame, most likely judging if they needed changing yet or not.

Lia pulled a chair around to the end of his bed and sat down in it, propping one foot on the edge of the seat and the other up on the end railing of Cor's bed. "You're not serious, right? About being inspiring?" She shook her head, a little disbelieving. "You're the guy who threw himself on a bomb to save everyone else and somehow lived through it. The fact that you're even breathing still is inspirational." She spared a glance for Asala. "Thanks for that, by the way."

Asala brushed her off with a wave of her hand, "No thanks necessary." After her inspection of his bandages, she rose from his bedside and made her way toward a nearby counter, where she proceeded to place a pair of scissors and bandages ontop a tray and returned with it to his side. She set it onto the nightstand beside them, and took the scissors first, intending to cut off the old bandages and replace them with the new ones. Estella had seen her work enough to know the process by now.

"How are you feeling?" she asked as she worked. "Any sharp pains? Unexplained soreness?"

"Erm." Cor's face scrunched; he shot a look at Lia, then Estella in turn. "Actually, would you two mind, uh..." He motioned one index finger in a circle, probably because Asala was cutting away his bandages. He didn't explain, but the discomfort on his face meant that she wasn't going to ask. She'd never known him to be particularly modest, but then after injuries like that... Estella's scars were comparatively minor and she still didn't like the idea of anyone seeing them.

So she turned around without protest. When Cor spoke next, it was with a bit of relief in his tone. "This is going to sound weird, but I feel great. Like I could get up and run all the way to Val Royeaux. It's... kind of disturbing, honestly. I should be in a lot more pain than this, right?"

There was a quiet thoughtfulness from Asala after that. Estella could just imagine her pursed lips. "Some pain would be expected, or even slight discomfort. An excess of energy would not be however," she stated. She was quiet again as she thought about it more, and then continued. "It should be noted that we were not able to extract all of the lyrium from your body. In fact, most still remains from the blast you suffered. We could not take it out without risking you bleeding even more, though your tissue has managed to heal and scar around it." She was quiet for another moment.

"It is something that I had planned on watching carefully," she noted gently.

There was a moment of silence, but when Cor spoke again, he didn't sound particularly alarmed. "Huh. Can't say I figured I'd ever end up a lyrium pincushion, but I guess that's just how life goes around here." There was a rustling, probably of his bandages; it sounded like a shrug. "At least I'm not dead."


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Somehow, Lucien almost felt that he should be more nervous than he was. Weren't people supposed to be nervous at their weddings?

But though activity fluttered around him—the musicians settling into their places and beginning to play gentle ambient music, the officiants assembling themselves at the front, the guests milling about and beginning the slow, social process of making it to their seats—he felt himself rather... centered.

The Grand Cathedral was certainly fitting for an event of this magnitude, he supposed, but he'd never been especially intimidated by the grandiose or the large scale. He'd been raised to that. If anything, it was the more intimate and personal things that tended to throw him. Where he'd historically been less certain of himself. But he felt no unease about the much smaller gathering to follow, either. Perhaps it was just that he'd done the difficult part of all of this already. He had no doubts about whom he'd chosen to marry, and though some still-existing self-deprecatory instinct wondered a little more at Sophia's selection, well. In the main he knew it wasn't a bad one. And the happiness he felt that she'd chosen him was more than enough to silence what traces of anxiety might have otherwise remained.

He turned his eyes up to the vaulted ceiling for a moment, then angled it to the grand, massive circular stained glass window making up most of the west wall, to catch the light of the setting sun. The edges of the panels seemed almost kissed by fire, no doubt the architect's intention, given Andraste's association with the same. Though he was not an especially religious man, some combination of the majesty of it and the occasion this building was to host inspired a sort of solemn reverence in his heart, if only for a still moment.

But life proceeded apace, and he didn't linger long, straightening his cuffs a bit unnecessarily. The tradition was for members of his house to be married in formal uniform, so he was wearing the crisp charcoal-grey of the chevaliers' parade regalia, the bars and medals of his rank and accomplishments pinned to his chest and sleeves accordingly. His crown, a band of glittering silverite, sat relatively comfortably on his brow today, fortunately keeping his hair tidy, as it only rarely stayed that way of its own accord. He'd elected to shave entirely—or rather, have a professional do it for him, which was something he'd probably have to get used to.

Taking a deep breath, he let his eyes sweep the front rows of the seating. What little family remained was there, of course, but mostly the very closest rows were occupied by friends, his and Sophia's, old and new. By some instinct, they found Ashton first; Lucien half-smiled, unable for a moment not to think of the very conspicuous absence here. Someone he would have wanted beside them all, if he'd had any say in the matter at all.

The same thought must have passed through Ashton's mind, because his smile wasn't initially as bright as it normally was. However, it lasted only a moment before he forced it into his usual wide, lopsided grin. Ash approached Lucien with an exaggerated saunter, making a big show of looking around and taking in the grandiosity of the cathedral. He whistled and appeared impressed by it all at least. "You know..." Ashton started with a shrug, "I don't know what I expected," he said with another wry grin. "I guess Emperors don't get to really do simple, huh?"

"It seems not," Lucien agreed, expelling the rest of the breath in a sigh. "Not that I could risk asking. I already had to persuade a few people that it wouldn't be horrifically gauche to seat all my 'common' friends in the front. It's not done, you see." But there had been exactly no chance that he was going to allow them to be relegated to the back so that a lot of dignitaries Lucien hardly knew and Sophia definitely didn't could occupy what was usually their place at the forefront of the public festivities. None of this was about politics, regardless of what anyone thought.

Not that he needed to elaborate for Ashton's sake. No doubt that was all obvious enough. "How long do we have you for? I know some of our other guests will have to depart as early as two days hence." He nodded slightly in the direction of the Inquisition. They'd be remaining to see Séverine anointed and then no doubt making haste back to Skyhold. Joyous as the occasions were, it was hard to forget that there was still a very pressing war to deal with.

"A while still, I'd say. Kirkwall's in good hands, even with Sophia and I out," he noted, cradling his hands behind his back as he rocked on his feet. Even a royal wedding couldn't intimidate him it appeared.

Ashton undoubtedly spoke of Bran and his Lieutenant taking their respective places while they were out of the city. "Figured after all of the celebrations and appointments are done, I thought I'd take a little time for myself. A vacation of sorts. I haven't taken any time off at all since... Well, you know," he said with a deep melancholic frown. Nostariel. It made sense that he'd throw himself into his work so that he wouldn't have time to think about it. That was exactly the type of thing Ashton would do.

"She'd be so happy for you two, you know," he said with a smile, bringing his arms around to rest atop each other, one of his hands rising to absently rub at the groomed stubble at his chin. A glint off of one his fingers revealed the wedding ring that he still wore. "I mean, I am too, of course," he added quickly, with a wave of his hand, "But Nos was your biggest fan," he said with a chuckle.

Lucien had to smile at that, even if it was a bit melancholy. "She was—the best of friends." He took in a deep breath, reaching over to clap Ashton on the shoulder lightly. "But I think she'd hate it if we spent today dwelling too much. I apologize for putting you through the formality of this part, but it should be a little more fun afterwards. Or so Rilien tells me." He turned halfway aside to include his heretofore quiet shadow in the conversation. Sometimes, Lucien wondered if he'd ever stop doing that: assuming the automatic positioning of a bodyguard. It wasn't that he minded, exactly; only that it didn't do Ril enough credit as his friend.

“I do not recall making any judgements as to relative amounts of entertainment." The tranquil, arms folded characteristically into his sleeves, was dressed in very dark green. Where exactly he'd procured a House Drakon steward's uniform was unclear, since Lucien hadn't given it to him. But it wasn't inappropriate, and did allow him to pass places an elf might otherwise have been barred, so perhaps it was only logical. “I only said that I have arranged for the informal dining room to be closed to intrusion for the duration of the evening, and that the food and drinks were being prepared now."

"Exactly what I said," Lucien replied, a touch more facetiously. But the activity around them had begun to shift, guests moving to their seats with a tad more urgency, and the music changed to something slightly more stately, a sign that little time remained before the ceremony began in earnest. With a smile for both his friends, Lucien excused himself to his place at the altar, noting that the occasion's jewelry—the rings and the diadem the officiant would place on Sophia's head as she was given the title Empress—were already in the right spot.

The officiant herself was the present Revered Mother of Val Royeaux. Though this was normally the sort of thing a Divine did, the fact that Séverine's ascension would take place after the wedding meant there was technically still no such person. While a delay might not have been uncalled for, he'd elected not to put her at the forefront of a very formal, ritual sort of ceremony she didn't yet know how to conduct. She was coming to the position from a post with the Templars, not the clergy, after all. It seemed better to give her the time to settle in, and from the little he'd spoken to her, Mother Heloise was accustomed enough to this sort of thing. The elderly woman offered Lucien a warm smile as he came to stand in front of her and to the right.

"Almost time, Your Radiance." She smoothed her hands down the embroidered golden drape over her formal whites.

For once, he didn't insist on informality. He was getting better about that, and really his titles would be used so many times before the day was over that there wasn't any point. Instead, Lucien nodded, folding his hands neatly behind his back as the last of the guests finally took their places. Of course he'd start to feel a little off-kilter now, but he chalked up the sudden urge to fidget in place to thinning patience rather than nervousness per se.

He'd been waiting for this for a very long time, after all.

A shift in the music signaled the arrival of the bride, and every head in the Grand Cathedral turned to the double doors behind them. They swung open to reveal Sophia, smiling at the sight of them all. If she was at all nervous, she certainly wasn't showing it. She was perhaps the more naturally regal of the pair of them after all.

She still looked the part of the Queen, as well, her slim golden crown resting atop slightly lighter colored hair that was braided back, evenly framing her face. Free Marcher brides went without the veils, so Sophia's face was already plain for all to see. To hide such things would've made it more difficult to be proud, after all. The dress was nothing overly complicated, clean white with a square-cut neckline and full sleeves, the most extravagant part about it being the train, appropriately lengthy for one holding the rank of Queen, and about to become Empress.

It was a long walk to reach Lucien, but Sophia took it steadily, not hurrying or dallying. It went without saying that if her father were still alive he would be walking beside. Instead Sophia led the way on her own, the very image of her city's pride. She wasn't entirely alone; ten of her Companions flanked the aisle on either side behind the train, dressed in their own crisp uniforms, with coats of crimson trimmed in silver after the style of Sophia's house. They bore no weapons, not even ceremonial ones, in a gesture of peace and celebration of the union about to be made.

As she reached the alter the Companions departed from the aisle, taking up positions on the sides of the hall. Sophia took her position across from Lucien, meeting his eyes. Up close he could identify the subtle signs of her excitement, hidden in regality from a distance. Neither of them would have chosen a setting such as this if it were up to them, but clearly Sophia was enjoying it all the same. A chance to celebrate the great many things they'd earned, for all the world to see.

He was sure his expression reflected the very same feelings back to her, making them alike in this as they were alike in so many things. Unclasping his hands, Lucien took Sophia's, only just barely aware of the Revered Mother beginning the formal words of benediction that started the proceedings.

Being the traditional event that it was, it lacked some of the personal touches of the last wedding Lucien had attended. The biggest difference was the addition of relatively frequent prayers, blessings, and benedictions, in which those in the pews were asked to beseech the Maker not only for the union itself, but for the prosperity of Orlais, something that anyone present could recognize was tied tightly to the match. Though it had been the furthest thing from political, it would have ramifications of a political nature—theirs was for better or worse the kind of union that would decide a great deal of history to come.

Oaths and rings were exchanged; it wasn't until Lucien actually had to pick up the small band of silverite meant for Sophia's finger that he realized his own bore a fine tremor—he managed not to drop it, but only just, mouth twitching into an involuntary smile. He didn't think anyone had seen that but her, but he wasn't paying much attention to anyone else to know for sure, really.

The pronouncement of the pair of them as husband and wife was followed by a crowning rather than a kiss; it wasn't every day Emperors were actually in love with the people they married, after all.

Lucien reluctantly released Sophia's hands when the Revered Mother asked for her to kneel and relinquish for the moment the crown of Kirkwall. It was placed carefully next to the Orlesian one: a light diadem made intricate by the fact that its strands were worked into the likeness of lush flowering vines, leaf-tips serving as the uppermost points. Mostly set with emeralds and serpentstone, diamonds glinted along some of the thinner tendrils. The revered mother set it carefully on Sophia's head, then motioned for her to stand.

"It is my honor to present to those assembled the Emperor and Empress of Orlais, Their Radiances Lucien and Sophia Drakon."

The crowd cheered their approval as they turned to face them, none more enthusiastically than those with seating at the front. Some of them looked strange indeed in their best finery, when they were so commonly dressed only for practical concerns, but unlike at the Winter Palace, here the eyes were only on the pair at the altar. Sophia's hand found Lucien's again. She glanced at him, almost breathless, eyes slightly brimming. She was beaming.

"Shall we take a walk?" she asked, now that the hall wasn't silent and only those immediately around her would hear. "Dear husband?"

It was that of all things that brought a lump to his throat. Lucien swallowed past it as well as he could, though his voice was hoarse when he answered. "It would be a pleasure." The processional was meant to take them through much of the city's central districts, which had been all but cleared out for the occasion. But it was easy to forget that, really—to think of it only as a pleasant stroll, buoyed by the heady euphoria of the moment.

"My beloved wife."


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Sophia didn't remember the last time she'd felt elated and overwhelmed all at once.

That was the only way she could describe it. The sheer thrill of finally securing what she'd wanted for so long. She had family again, really and officially for all the world to know. Sophia Drakon was her name now. It was not just any family she'd married into. It was not just any man she'd married. It was one of the oldest names in Thedas. When it came down it, of course that had little to do with why she'd wanted to marry Lucien, but there was no running from the fact that these things came with him, just as her own world, smaller in relative size though it was, came with her.

Val Royeaux would be as much her home now as Kirkwall was. Perhaps Lydes, too. She didn't know how much time she'd be spending here, and how much in Kirkwall. She was still Queen there, after all, and while her marriage would help tie the city more closely to Orlais, she knew her Free Marcher people would not go so far as to name Lucien King. Friendship, Kirkwall was willing to have. They were not looking to be absorbed. Perhaps things would change over time, but for now that was the case.

She had to remind herself not to think about it while they were walking through the streets of Val Royeaux, almost perpetually barraged with cheers from the assembled crowds that came out to see them. The commoners were more welcoming to Sophia than the nobility of Orlais were. Her roots and sympathies were about as well known as Lucien's were. Elves too made a decent showing, she noted. Perhaps they'd heard of the way Kirkwall relationship with its elves was evolving. In any case, it was encouraging.

It was also tiring, but her energy today was unnaturally bouyed. By the time their tour concluded Sophia found herself longing for a more casual setting, alone with her closer friends and allies. It had already been arranged, of course, and those invited filed into the royal palace, and were guided into the informal dining room. Sophia wondered just how many dining rooms there were. It was going to take some time to learn her way around this place.

They still had a large group gathered for the dinner. All of their closest friends from Kirkwall were welcome, along with Lucien's Argent Lions and her friends in the Inquisition. From the head of the table she could see all of their faces, an incredible variety of nationalities and backgrounds. So many different goals and dreams, and all of them with the strength and the connections to achieve them. She was honored to have them celebrate with her.

They set to work filling hungry bellies. The food had been perfectly timed, the first dish finished and served as they were settled. Sophia observed with some muted amusement the differences in manners, between those well aware of the location they were eating in, those unaware of how they were supposed to conduct themselves, and those who simply didn't care. The last group was perhaps the largest; they were among friends, after all.

"Will you be staying here long?" The first question of the meal directed to Sophia came from Ithilian of all people. The elf was dressed in a fine forest green tunic, looking as presentable as she'd ever seen him. The half-empty sleeve was hard to miss, though.

"For the time being, at least," she answered. "I didn't intend on becoming Empress just to flee back home the next day. Bran and Varric can take care of things while I'm gone, I'm sure. I know they get along quite well." She was certainly sarcastic about their relationship. Bran couldn't stand Varric's manner, but then again, he wasn't fond of many people. They would, however, do just fine at running the city in her absence.

"And I know we're very much looking forward to some time together, apart from all this." Perhaps a trip to Lydes was in order, if Val Royeaux could stand their absence.

"That, I understand," Ithilian said, almost wistfully. "I'm happy for you. Len'alas." The corner of his scarred mouth turned up in the hint of a smile.

Sophia returned it more broadly. She was surprised to hear him say it, and not offended in the slightest by the rudeness it would normally carry. In the moment, she knew it only as a symbol of how far the both of them had come. She hoped he found the peace he still sought, she really did. And she hoped seeking it took nothing else from him. He had his own title waiting for him in Kirkwall, when it was done.

"Thank you, Ithilian."

"Congratulations to you both," Amalia added from her spot next to Ithilian. She was garbed in wine-burgundy, mostly, her very long hair left loose. It was certainly more effeminate than she usually appeared, even if she was still wearing trousers. There was a pensive look on her face, broken only momentarily by the small smile she proffered them both. Lucien added his thanks to Sophia's, and she nodded, returning her attention to the task of delicately peeling a boiled egg.

Beneath the table, Lucien rested his hand lightly on Sophia's knee, turning to engage Aurora in the conversation as well. She was seated right next to Donnelly, close enough in fact that their arms occasionally brushed. "Correct me if I'm wrong, Aurora, but I believe this is your first visit to Val Royeaux? I do hope it won't be the last."

Aurora smiled and nodded, "It is, even in spite of Inquisition business. It feels like we've been everywhere else in Orlais but Val Royeaux," she said with a glance at Donnelly. "Maybe one day, when we don't have Corypheus to worry about, we can return and your lieutenant can show me around a little," she said with a chuckle.

The dinner kept conversation from getting too involved; it had been a long day thus far and just about all of them were famished. The courses weren't overwhelming, and at the end of it they moved into a more open area. Not quite a ballroom, as they didn't have quite so many people to fill one, but clearly a room intended for larger gatherings. Natural light from the setting sun still filtered in through stained glass and skylights, leaving it just bright enough that they didn't need to light any fires or cast any magelights.

Music had been arranged, courtesy of Rilien of course, and spaces were cleared for dancing, with ample seating on the edges of the room for those that preferred to relax. It went without saying that no one would be dancing until the newlyweds had their turn.

"This is more like it," she said, settling her hand on Lucien's shoulder. "Shall we?"

"But of course." With the easy familiarity of practice, he let one hand rest on her waist, sweeping them both out onto the empty spot in the middle of the floor before turning them together and lacing the fingers of their free hands just above shoulder height. They'd of course both learned to dance growing up, but Lucien took the liberty of peppering in a few more twirls and lifts than the traditional version of the dance required. After all—they were among friends, none of whom would care a whit if they improvised for the sake of fun.

He grinned the entire time, the grey of his eyes bright with the same elation that hadn't left her, and when the song came to an end, he shifted his hand up to brace between her shoulderblades and dipped her low towards the ground, hold steady and comfortable. Lifting her back up to the free applause of their audience, he nudged her chin up slightly and kissed her. Just briefly, but certainly enough to earn them more cheering and a few whistles.

"All right, all right," he said, waving a hand to quiet them. "Now the rest of you come make fools of yourselves, too."

Permission granted, many of those present took him up on it, grabbing partners or friends or new acquaintances and joining the two of them on the floor as the music picked up tempo into something less elegant and more cheerful.

Sophia was content to observe on the edge for a moment, now that everyone else had observed her own performance. The Lord and Lady Inquisitors were among the first out, dancing with their respective elven partners. Sophia was more acquainted with Khari than she was with Vesryn, given the former elf's visit to Kirkwall before the siege, and her acquaintance with Lucien. Vesryn looked... different, than she remembered him, after the battle. Out of all the people present he'd struck her as one of the ones who would enjoy a wedding celebration the most, but he seemed distracted. Nevertheless trying to enjoy himself.

Many of the Argent Lions were mixed in among the dancers. Two of the elves, Lia and Cor, whirled their way along the edge of the dance, coming to a stop by Lia's doing in front of her and Lucien when they saw an opening to say hello.

"Your Radiances," the young woman greeted, flowing into a bow. It was hardly genuine, but of course she didn't really need to be. "Congratulations." She straightened, sticking a finger into Cor's hip. "I know it's hard to believe, looking at him, but every word they say about this mad idiot's heroics are true."

Cor raised a hand to his chest in mock affront, but there was a certain tentativeness in the way he regarded them in that moment, Lucien in particular. Like he was wary of something, or at the very least uncertain. "Mostly the 'mad idiot' part," he conceded.

Lucien shook his head immediately. The way the story had been conveyed to him, and to her in turn, it had been a situation where quick action was necessary, and Cor's actions were obviously not the kind of thing just anyone would be able to do. He had to have known he was staring death in the face to even make the attempt. "What you did was incredibly brave." Though one of his arms remained entwined with hers, he reached forward to lay the other on the young man's shoulder. "When I heard of it, I wasn't surprised. But I was proud. As everyone who knows you ought to be."

"I..." Cor cleared his throat, visibly choked up, then nodded a little jerkily. "Thanks, Commander." With a deep breath and a short exhale, he shook the emotion off and found a grin instead. "And congratulations to you both. If I know any two people who can balance all this, it's you." He sketched an intentionally-shoddy salute, then nudged Lia with his elbow. "Wanna go see if you can get your dad to dance? Donny lost a bet with Hissrad the other day, so he has to ask Amalia. Don't think he'll have the guts if they're both standing there."

Lia's eyes narrowed in thought. "Hmm. I think I can do this." She flashed the two of them a smile. "Seeya around, you two! Important work to do."

Eventually, the Lord Inquisitor made a stop to see them as well, though it was up for debate how much of that plan was his and how much Khari's, because she was definitely the more obviously-enthusiastic of the two, stopping perhaps a little bit inside Imperial personal space. Then again, few of the people here would observe quite that norm anyway. “This is probably about your three hundredth congratulations or something, so I'm just gonna go ahead and tell you that this is a great party instead." She grinned widely enough to crinkle her eyes at the corners. “Those clothes look a bit too nice for hugging, so you can both just imagine that I hugged you, and we'll call it good."

"I imagine it was an excellent one," Lucien replied with obvious humor. "And thank you. I hope you've found that your post-history-making life is to your liking?" That story, Sophia had heard in full already; Lucien seemed to be quite fond of it, and for obvious reasons.

Khari shrugged, the gesture obviously affected to look more casual than it really was. “It's all right, I guess. Might be I'm a little interested in doing it again, you know? Seems like a good attitude to have, around these people." She waved her free arm to indicate the room. “Probably none of them more than you two, though."

“Something tells me we’ll be hearing more about your exploits sooner rather than later.” Sophia quite enjoyed it, the way she seemed to live. Very viscerally inspirational. Nothing held back. It was an attitude that couldn’t quite transfer into the world she occupied, as a Queen and now an Empress, but that didn’t mean she didn’t find it inspirational, all the same.

"To make it three hundred and one,” Romulus added, "congratulations. And thank you, for all the help.”

It wasn’t long before they’d moved on, back into the dancers, and Sophia watched them for a few moments as Khari said something to Romulus, and he responded, their words only for each other. “They’re quite taken with each other, aren’t they?” she said aloud, leaning her head to rest against Lucien’s shoulder. “I hope they get to have this someday, too. I hope all of them do.”

Lucien's arm slid comfortably around her waist, and for a moment he rested his cheek atop the crown of her head. Fortunately, she wasn't wearing the literal crown at the moment. "I can't help hoping it comes a little easier for them," he replied; and from the slight angle to his body she could tell he was glancing at Estella and Vesryn, who'd made themselves comfortable with Rilien and a few other members of the Inquisition and the Lions at one side of the room. "But then I'm not counting on it." He shifted, and she could feel his lips press briefly to her hair.

"Shall we go make the rounds? I can't in good conscience leave before we do, but much as I'm enjoying the celebration..." He let the sentence trail off to its obvious end, the meaning clear enough in the intent way he met her eyes. Only momentarily, though; he did clearly intend to make good on his duties as a host.

"Yes, let's." The hint of a smile touched her lips. "I'm sure they'll be understanding." She was enjoying herself, too, but today was a day she'd been awaiting for a very long time, and not all of the things she'd been waiting for had yet come to pass.

The present seemed like the ideal time to rectify that.


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Amalia tucked the envelope under her elbow, nodding slightly to the Chantry Mother who'd given it to her and exiting the cathedral offices.

The whole complex of buildings surrounding the main place of worship had been humming since before the Inquisition had arrived, no doubt, and the volume had not decreased any in the wake of Séverine's appointment to the office of Divine. There was the chaos to be expected of any particularly large group making such a systemic change, and the formality of the Divine's official letters of introduction had been a bit lost amongst more important affairs. The ones to the other nations in Thedas would be posted soon enough, delivered by courier, since birds were apparently not stately enough. But the one to the Emperor and Empress was naturally a bit more relaxed, considering the history of the three people involved. Amalia had wanted to see them anyway, and so she volunteered to convey the letter to the palace.

The streets, too, buzzed, packed nearly to the brim with wagons, carriages, carts and horses, the pedestrians ranging from ambling tourists to briskly-walking businesspeople to the occasional runner or loping messenger. Given the lack of urgency to her own task, she took the route slowly, trying without much success to savor the warm spring sunshine that the day had offered up. But as always, moments of even the slightest idleness led her thoughts down only one trajectory, and almost against her own volition, her stride became clipped with agitation she refused to express in any other way.

For someone who so seldom lost her center, the disquiet felt like a twofold offense.

Though on another day she might have spent time studying the architecture or admiring the rather sensible planning of the city's original inner districts, Amalia instead picked up her feet in haste, barely taking note of the bright colors or appealing scents of open-air spice stalls as she skimmed the edge of the marketplace, orienting herself towards the grand structure that rose over all of the others in the city, save perhaps the cathedral. It was at once strange and not especially difficult to consider that it was now the residence of two people she had met in considerably humbler circumstances. In a way, it made obvious sense to her often still-Qunari sensibilities. Both of them had been born and raised to rule—and what was more, they both had skill in it. The correctness of the choice was clear, even if some of the trappings were odd to her.

The benefit of carrying an official message from the Divine herself was that despite the clear foreignness of her appearance, and the common, durable weave of her clothes, she was allowed inside without any fuss. Up close, the palace had a certain grace to its design, light stone in vaulted arches, even if it was a little too gilded for her aesthetic preferences. No doubt the Emperor and Empress felt similarly on the last.

Amalia was shown first to an office suite, the entry room being something of a receiving and waiting space, from what she could tell of it. A rather imposing desk sat in front of the large, arched window, many panels braced in an ornate wrought-iron framing. Behind it stood Rilien, which failed to surprise her, either. She was glad of it, though—if she was to seek counsel, there were few others from whom she'd expect better. Perhaps he would see clearly where she could not. "I bear the official introduction from Divine Galatea. I believe I must deliver it personally."

Rilien had looked up from his work as soon as she entered, and blinked at her now, conceding the point without argument. “That will not be an issue. I believe they are presently arranging Her Radiance's office. Follow me." Stepping out from behind the desk, he opened a door to the left, which led down a short hallway, where another door stood open at the end. Sure enough, there were familiar voices drifting out from the room. He paused at the frame, rapping his knuckles smartly upon it to get their attention. “Ser Lucien. Lady Sophia. Amalia is here to see you."

The immediate reply came from the new Empress. "Come in!" The room she'd chosen wasn't all that much bigger than the office she used in Kirkwall. Any added area seemed to have been filled up by the furniture which, like most things here, was simply grander and less concerned with efficient use of space.

Sophia's head popped up from behind the desk, which stood before a window spanning almost the entire height of the wall, looking out on the city outside. She'd been sorting or storing something, apparently, and rose from her crouched position to come around to the front of the desk beside Lucien. She was not the type of Empress to adorn extravagant Orlesian finery on a daily basis, it seemed. Perhaps because there was work to be done. Her hair, too, was pulled back into a ponytail rather than anything more complex.

She was plainly in an excellent mood. "Amalia." She smiled. "How are you?"

Lucien, too, diverted his attention from the task at hand, which seemed to be sorting books by subject area, presumably to fill the still half-empty shelves bracketing the sides of the room.

Amalia was unsure how to answer the question. Usually it was a commonplace, one whose answer was properly rote, rather than honest. But she knew the people in this room well enough to know that they were interested in the real answer more than the formulaic one, and the tension in that left her a little off-kilter. So for a moment, she didn't reply, instead holding the letter out to them. "The Divine sends her regards," she said levelly, withdrawing her hand when Lucien accepted the envelope.

"Thank you," he said with a slight smile, setting the letter down on the desk behind him. "I don't envy the amount of work she has to do right now."

Amalia inclined her head. Her segue was a bit abrupt, but this was relatively common for her. "If you are busy, I could return at another time, but... there is something I would ask, if you've a moment."

Lucien didn't seem overly surprised by this fact; instead he gestured easily at one of the office chairs. "If we've ever reached the point where we can't spare a while for a friend, we're doing something the wrong way, I think."

Once everyone had settled, Amalia folded her hands in her lap, pursing her lips until they paled under the pressure. "I am unused to asking others for advice," she said, releasing a slow breath. "Usually in such scenarios I've found that I'm the one whose advice is being sought. This never seemed strange to me, as I think in general I have the ability to give it soundly." She knew her personality was steadier than most, her eyes clearer. Traits that had only improved over the course of her life.

Until now, anyway. "The person I would usually put this question to is... too close to it. I do not wish to make it his problem." Kadan had enough problems as it was. She refused to be the source of any more of them.

Closing her eyes momentarily, Amalia took another fortifying breath. She was about to admit to something that shamed her, and she was unsure how well it would be received. "In all the time that Marcus has tormented me—in all the time that we have hunted each other. I've always known that it will end in one of our deaths. So seeking his was simply what I had to do to secure my own life, and the lives of the people I—care about." She blinked her eyes open, but fixed them on her hands, wrapped to the second knuckles. Her fingers were rough with years of work and training, nicked and cut dozens of times over.

"I have always thought of killing him as an unpleasant but necessary task. One I was willing to do, and would do, if I were able. The world would be better off without him, and I've never doubted that. But—I have never felt for him the kind of thing I would call hatred. My pursuit of him has never been about rage or vengeance in the sense that most people mean it. Not... until recently."

Vengeance had once been the state of kadan's existence, many years ago when they first met. It was the only thing that kept him going at the time, and in that way perhaps Ithilian was thankful for it, that rage could be there to shore him up when nothing else would. It was marked into his very skin, a constant reminder of what he'd devoted himself to. But as much as it had saved his life, Amalia had seen the way it ate at him from the inside, made him lose sight of other things he could use for support instead.

How much of that Sophia and Lucien knew, she could not say. Lia's position in the Argent Lions made her the likeliest source, but while she could be talktative, she respected her father's privacy far too much to share it like that. And it was never a pleasant subject, besides.

"I know only a little of that sort of thing," Sophia admitted. She'd come to rest against the front of the desk, her expression grown somber. "My only quest for vengeance began and ended in the span of a few minutes. It still cost me a great deal. For a time, I thought it might've cost me everything." She was referring of course to her struggle against the Arishok, slaying him after he took the life of her father. A fight that she'd forced, even when the peaceful alternative presented itself.

Her fingers curled around the edge of the desk, gripping. "I don't know if my experience can be applied to yours. What I did wasn't necessary, what you have to do is. There's a difficult line to see between justice and revenge, when the crimes are inflicted against you or people you care about. But I still think you're on the right side of that line."

Amalia was not so sure of this, herself.

"I fear that I am not," she replied honestly, this time meeting Lucien's eyes. "If I think about it now, I know that the thing to do is end it as quickly as possible. But the feeling—I want to make him suffer. I want him to know the pain he has inflicted as intimately as we know it. Part of me cannot think of it as justice, if his death is swift where our lives have been painful because of him." And that. That she worried put her on the wrong side of the line.

Lucien's brows furrowed; she did not doubt that such thoughts were antithetical to his character. But she had once thought them antithetical to her character as well, just in a different way. She had never cared to inflict pain because it was inefficient and unnecessary. But she suspected he did not from a kind of fundamental mercy, a basic, irreducible kindness that she simply didn't possess. "Then... perhaps don't think of it as ending his suffering. Think of it as ending yours. He seems an elusive man—better that he is given no opportunity to escape your grip again and inflict yet more suffering on anyone."

She could see the sense in that, perhaps, and nodded slowly. But there was yet one difficulty, deeper perhaps than the new one. One that had always lingered. "I would not be surprised if this sounded..." Amalia searched for the right word. "Depraved. But—I've known him so long. He's shaped so much of me, both on purpose and by accident. In one way or another, he's—defined me. Or I've defined myself in opposition to him, for most of my life. I'm not sure I know who I will be, without him." She could not help but feel that her identity was in some ways much more Marcus's creation than her own. She even thought, some days, that without him her defection from the Qunari would not have been possible, for it was he who seeded in her the very first of her doubts, the ones that bloomed during her time in Kirkwall. Her life had always been something that he had a grip on, from those times when it was entirely in his hands to those when his hold was only felt as a weight at the end of a tether, something she could not move forward without severing.

To imagine herself free of that grip entirely... she wasn't even sure what that would be. What she'd be.

“I do not see the necessity of a definition in the first place." Rilien unfolded his hands from his sleeves long enough to tuck a strand of snowy hair behind one pointed ear. “What one is rarely matters, in my experience. Only what one does."

She supposed that would be how he thought of it. The terms were elegant, simple, and if she could make herself believe them, they might even be helpful. But as it was, Amalia could not say whether what she did and what she was were so separate. Someone like Rilien, who'd lived a life restricted by his race, could put that kind of mentality to impressive use. He'd made himself a spymaster, an enchanter, and in some ways the shadow of an Emperor, no doubt in part because he'd learned to defy whatever forces had shaped him. But if Amalia tried to separate herself from all of those things, she wasn't sure there'd be enough of her left to work with.

"I... need to think on it, in any case." She forced her tone level, though even at her most reserved, she'd never quite be able to match a tranquil for it. "You all have my thanks. But I've taken enough of your time. I should bring confirmation of delivery back to the Chantry." Placing her hands on the arms of the chair, she pushed herself easily into a standing position. Of all the infirmities she felt these days, her body remained responsive and strong. How many more weeks or years she'd be able to say that for was not clear, but she meant to make the most of whatever she had.

If all she achieved with it was this one thing...

She could only hope it would be enough.