Digging For an Archdemon Part I [Complete]

Velanna couldn’t say what it was, exactly, that caught her off. Henri-Julien had eyes that might have been unsettling on someone else. Certainly they’d been turned upon her in ways that could only be described as unsettling at best, but that wasn’t what threw her. Something burned in him that drew her closer, proverbially, as they could not possibly be closer in so cramped a space. Had she wings, she would surely be singed by now.

"Magic exists to serve man," he stated as she returned his clothing to him. She’d heard him say as much before, and from other shemlen she’d had to endure speaking with. "Transfigurations: The Commandments, second verse," he said as if it mattered to her where to find it.

Her face sunk, an inexplicable feeling of being rebuffed hardening her temper once more, though it was more temper at herself for having some unspoken expectation. They were from very different worlds, and she had no idea why she tried to find ways to counter that.

But then, "For she who trusts in the Maker, fire is her water," he mumbled to himself. "Transfigurations--" he stopped himself from quoting the verse to her once more, "Fire is important throughout the Chant. But yes, I think your," he waved his hands at her cupped hands, "example would be considered acceptable."

Her lips twitched though it was not quite a smile as she continued to dry her hair.

Whether he noticed or not he did not say and began rummaging in his pack. He portioned some of their travel rations out and began eating. "You like teaching," he said in a way that felt more strained than casual. "Whenever you tell me something of the Dalish, you take pleasure in it."

She wished she’d summoned a dimmer light that he might not see the way her cheeks heated. Was it so obvious? She blew out a breath between her lips and nodded. There was no denying that she did enjoy sharing what she carried. “It was my life’s work to teach.” She picked apart her ration and chewed rather than risk speaking again.

"Aeonar," Henri-Julien murmured. "That is what the equivalent of your exile would be for me." Something shifted, the hardness of moments ago easing. "Are you familiar with its name? It is a prison for maleficarum and those exposed to forbidden magic." She curled her fingers inward at his frown, never quite sure where these ruminations would take him, and shook her head 'no'. "I have known a handful of trackers who were sent there. It is unsurprising given what we do. But," the lines of his face deepened as he frowned, "it denies us all the experience of that tracker. Gone in an instant."

Knowledge is a foolish thing to waste,” she whispered.

He shook his head as if freeing himself from darker thoughts. He caught her eyes once more and that same unsettled—but not unpleasant—feeling came over her. "There are always more Templars to be recruited. That's not the same for the Dalish. What excuse do they use to justify banishing one of their own who is so knowledgeable?"

Oh.” This time it was her turn to frown and she gazed down at her food. “I went against my Keeper.” There. Except that did not explain anything at all, and left too much to be misinterpreted. “Humans set fire to a part of the forest to force our camp out. There was much destruction, and I called for retribution. My Keeper said not to retaliate. I called her a coward.

Oh, how proud she’d been, so arrogant that she was right. So confident when others agreed with her. “So I was sent away. A few followed me, but we were overcome by darkspawn and they died.” She shifted, rolling the remains of her food around in her bowl and following it with her eyes. Her mouth pulled into a more familiar frown, the one she hid behind to pretend things did not bother her, that she did not need anyone else’s approval. “Ilshae died not long after.” And with her Keeper, any chance of forgiveness. “Then my sister was kidnapped and I met Aedan Cousland. The rest you know.” Or so she assumed.

Actually, it was unlikely he did. They did not often exchange words without need, and they so rarely pried into one another’s lives without reason. Not out of malice, she didn’t think any longer, but because it had never been their way, to needlessly chatter.

I failed. I failed my Keeper by ignoring her guidance. I failed those who followed me, proving I was not fit to be a Keeper. I failed our gods by not listening to everything around me that told me I was wrong. I wanted vengeance for our dead.” Certainly Ilshae had not had trouble replacing her, and her former clan was in good hands, according to Marren, the hunter they’d met when she was under Aedan’s command. She heaved a breath and tried to hide the way it weighed on her shoulders, how her life’s purpose had been for nothing. She sagged beneath it, not sure why she was telling him all of this. “That was more than you asked for,” she stated, to the obvious. She may as well share her knowledge with someone who did not care, for she deserved no one to listen to her.

Guilt was an insidious thing, one that poisoned the roots of the trees and tainted the fruit. Nothing she had to offer was worth anything with the lives of her former clanmates on her hands. That was why she stayed with the Wardens; she had nowhere else to go.

What happens to your trackers is done to them,” she murmured, trying and failing to hide the wobble in her voice. “What happened to me was my own doing. It is not the same.
"Oh." Rather than snipe at him, Velanna stared at the bowl in her lap, seemingly taken aback that he had brought the conversation back around to her exile. "I went against my Keeper." She sensed that was not sufficient detail. "Humans set fire to a part of the forest to force our camp out. There was much destruction, and I called for retribution. My Keeper said not to retaliate. I called her a coward."

Surprise widened Henri-Julien's eyes. He had his own share of disagreements with those higher-ranking than he, his natural superiority clashing against their artificial one, but he had never so forgotten himself as to accuse someone of cowardice. Of course, had a group of apostates set alight a camp filled with Templars, he might have reacted in a similar manner to Velanna.

"So I was sent away," she carried on. "A few followed me, but we were overcome by darkspawn and they died." Suddenly restless, Velanna fixated on what was left of her food, tipping and turning the bowl. Her face darkened with that frown which had once been familiar but now... he realised that it had been some time since he seen it in full. "Ilshae died not long after. Then my sister was kidnapped and I met Aedan Cousland. The rest you know.

"Actually, I don't." Why should he? He did not bother himself to become acquainted with those who resided in Vigil's Keep. There had never been any need to do so.

"I failed. I failed my Keeper by ignoring her guidance. I failed those who followed me, proving I was not fit to be a Keeper. I failed our gods by not listening to everything around me that told me I was wrong. I wanted vengeance for our dead." She snatched in a pained breath, as though each word had been a physical blow. Her shoulders, normally so perfectly straight, became bowed. Crumpling in on herself, Henri-Julien realised.

"That was more than you asked for," she concluded, somewhat needlessly. Then, as though to draw a line beneath it all, she stated: "What happens to your trackers is done to them," there was a hitch to her voice betraying the surfacing of this deep upset. "What happened to me was my own doing. It is not the same."

Henri-Julien had no idea what to do with this unexpected revelation of detail. He recognised that by telling him this, Velanna had entrusted him with something rare, but he was at a loss beyond that vague understanding. So he focused on the practical.

"Sleep," he muttered, gruff but not unkind. "I'll take the first watch."

Drawing his knees up against his chest, Henri-Julien settled in for the night, absent-mindedly watching the rain through the flap of the tent. It was only when it came to the time that he should rouse Velanna that he realised he had no intention of doing so. Tomorrow night, perhaps; but if she was woken now, she would only ruminate further on the past and her clan. His one night of missed sleep was a small price to pay for her peace of mind.

So, he waited. Towards dawn, the rain finally eased into a fine drizzle, the sky beginning to brighten. It was as good as it got around the Fallow Mire. Wincing slightly as he stretched his chilled aching limbs, Henri-Julien began to pack his few belongings, trusting that the movement would wake Velanna. He did not say anything but simply went about his chores, dismantling the camp with his usual ruthless efficiency. 

Once they were ready to resume their travels, Henri-Julien led the way across the Mire, deliberately skirting away from Fisher's End. He had heard too many strange stories about that remote village. But although he walked with purpose, Henri-Julien was barely aware of his surroundings, instead trusting that his feet would follow the route he had already decided upon hours earlier. It was not uncommon for trackers to enter into a wakeful stupor when travelling large distances. Though no Templar would admit it, tracking involved far more boring hours than it did explosive minutes. But it was not boredom, or even tiredness, which clouded his senses, rather the unfamiliar sense of wanting to offer some form of... Well, he didn't really know.

What Velanna had done was deserving of censure. Yet there was no wanton maliciousness in her demands for revenge. Who, when faced with similar circumstances, would not wish the same against their aggressors? Besides, it was hardly as though Velanna had not been severely punished, both by her Keeper and false gods. How else to explain the many deaths linked through association with her? But Henri-Julien also recognised that nothing he thought or said would matter to Velanna. Just as she could only accompany him on the search for his archdemon, he could only accompany her on the search for hers.

Yet while he was resolved to say nothing, he could not so easily dismiss the urge to... to... make this... better? Even lost in his thoughts, Henri-Julien let loose a disgruntled snort. Had he not been listening to himself? He could not make this better. And yet he still wished to try. Truly, he had lost his mind. It must have been that irritatingly blinding wisp last night.

"Your Keeper was wrong." Interesting start. Now what?, he silently taunted his traitorous tongue. "So were you." Oh, this was going swimmingly. Just like he would be doing once they passed a deep enough murky pool. "But the burden of responsibility should have fallen on your Keeper. Just because you reacted with anger doesn't mean she should have done the same."

Henri-Julien sucked in a deep breath, squaring his shoulders. "Your actions were your doing and you deserved punishment. But this perpetual condemnation is a path which your Keeper set you on and you, out of deference to her, have followed it unquestioningly ever since. The failure is hers as much as it is yours."
Velanna quietly cursed herself for sharing so much, more so because it was not asked for. Henri-Julien remained quiet, and she tried to discern from his face what he was thinking. Alas, she was no mind reader. She waited for him to call her dangerous, to take back all he’d said before. Instead he said, "Sleep," in his usual direct way, though it was void any unkindness. "I'll take the first watch."

She did, sleeping fitfully at first and finally settling into a deep sleep, the best she’d had in some time. When movement around her and the striking of their camp woke her up, she was surprised to find it morning, and not midway through the night. She hurried out of her bedroll to help finish taking down their things in order to get moving again.

The morning brought a fair drizzle rather than the downpour of the day before which made travel less terrible if not pleasant. They walked in quiet, but not the easy kind that had grown between them. Velanna was stiff with anticipation, though she could not say exactly what she was waiting for. Chastisement, perhaps. Some little needle of judgment or admonishment about attacking humans. None came, and the day wore on. As time went by and no harsh words came, she began to feel lighter.

In the manner of their conversations carrying over hours or days, Henri-Julien picked up the thread once again. "Your Keeper was wrong." Velanna nearly stumbled over the blunt observation, but more because of the breaking of silence than the words themselves. "So were you." Her mouth pulled into a pucker. By the Dread Wolf, she’d said as much, hadn’t she? "But the burden of responsibility should have fallen on your Keeper. Just because you reacted with anger doesn't mean she should have done the same."

Halting in her steps she waited until he noticed she no longer followed. Oh, nothing he was saying was particularly novel. They were things Velanna ruminated on at length. It was hearing it from someone else’s lips, in someone else’s voice that troubled her.

No, it wasn’t troubled. It was something else. Something less like a blow to the head and more like a grip on the shoulder. She wanted to accept whatever it was that he was offering, but the pit of her very being wondered if she deserved to.

He continued on. "Your actions were your doing and you deserved punishment. But this perpetual condemnation is a path which your Keeper set you on and you, out of deference to her, have followed it unquestioningly ever since. The failure is hers as much as it is yours."

I know,” she said, the words almost a snap but minus any heat. “I know,” she said again, this time softer, less sure. Did she really know? Velanna knew she should not have acted so brashly. What could Ilshae have possibly done to sway her in the heat of her temper? Even had Seranni convinced her to go back, would Ilshae have accepted her into the fold again? Kept her as First? Likely not, but she would never know, would she?

Keeper Ilshae is dead. The path to absolution, or any sort of restoration died with her.” For what kind of justice was there for what Velanna had done? For the lives lost to her stubbornness? “Lathbora viran. I can seek forgiveness, but I’ll never know it.

Unable to remain still, feeling some sort of agitation, Velanna began walking again, the mud sucking at her feet with every step. She stopped again, though she found herself in a puddle. She hardly noticed. “What does it matter to you?” she asked, watching him warily as if he were a wild thing that might attack her. She did not wish to incur his temper. What’s more, why did it matter to her why it mattered to him?
Halfway through his observations, Velanna had ground to a halt, forcing Henri-Julien to slow and turn to deliver the remainder of it. Yet while he braced himself to withstand the full force of her temper in her reply, her actual response was remarkedly restrained.

"I know." She bit the words off yet there was no animosity. "I know," she repeated, a little more shakily this time. 

Folding his arms across his chest, Henri-Julien shifted his weight onto his backfoot, eyeing her with frank incredulity. "Do you?" he risked making the challenge.

Velanna, however, had more to say. "Keeper Ilshae is dead. The path to absolution, or any sort of restoration died with her." Resignation tinged her voice, emphasising her belief that there was no means through which she might achieve peace, either within herself or from her people. "Lathbora viran. I can seek forgiveness, but I’ll never know it."

Agitation spurred her into walking again. She started forward, squelching through the mud, before drawing to a halt again. A puddle gathered around her feet, drawn out by her weight pressing down on the one spot, but she paid no heed. "What does it matter to you?" Circumspection crept across her face as she regarded him, almost as though she expected him to lash out at her.

A drawn-out exhale pushed between his pursed lips. "It doesn't," he said shortly. But was that really true? Certainly, that Velanna chose to exist in this relentless purgatory of her own making should not have any impact on how Henri-Julien lived his life. Yet here she was, accompanying him on a journey of self-discovery without any reward to herself. Could he truly claim that he had no care for how Velanna endured the pain of her past?

Irritation forced Henri-Julien to blow his cheeks out. "That is," he amended gruffly, "your past doesn't impact on me. But given that we are here," he gestured to the wet and bleak surroundings, "together, it matters that you feel burdened by it." He shook his head. "I am seeking my own answers; it would be callous to deny you the chance to find yours."

Without further remark, Henri-Julien resumed walking, retaking his bearings so they remained on the correct route which would lead them out of the Mire from the north-easterly corner. Only when the drizzling damp weather began to ease, confirming that they were leaving more and more of the Mire behind, did Henri-Julien find his voice once more. 

"You know of the Tranquil, yes?" He doubted that even the Dalish were ignorant of that particular custom of the Chantry. "What you did when with your clan would have led to Tranquility if in a Circle." He shook his head, heading off any critical remarks before Velanna could speak them. "I do not wish to debate the morality of it--" Neither of them were sufficiently distanced from their respective up-bringing's to ever hope to come to a consensus on a topic such as this. "--but I see little difference between how a Tranquil lives and how you live: having had a future erased."

Henri-Julien stood still, taking in their surroundings. Once he was certain of his position, he made to carry on, pointing to a spot in the far distance. "We'll camp there," he stated as an aside.

Then he returned to his previous topic. "I could, you know." He shrugged. "Not personally, of course. But I could see to it that you were made Tranquil." He cast a sidelong glance towards her, making clear that he understood the severity of what he suggested. It was not done lightly, but it was done deliberately. "If you can't ever know forgiveness, why know anything emotion at all?"
"It doesn't," Henri-Julien said. The exact answer she predicted, and it didn’t even irritate her to hear it out loud. That was how it should be.

But Henri-Julien puffed his cheeks in irritation, and added, "That is, your past doesn't impact on me. But given that we are here," he gestured to the mire around them, the rain that soaked everything, "together, it matters that you feel burdened by it." He shook his head in protest of her thoughts. "I am seeking my own answers; it would be callous to deny you the chance to find yours."

He left it at that as they continued to walk, eventually finding their way to the edge of the mire so that the rain was easing for them. It’s how it should be, though. She knew that some of the edges between them were no longer razor edged, but she did not outright expect such kindnesses from him. Such as it was.

As the weather began to improve, he picked up the conversation, as was their habit during long travel. "You know of the Tranquil, yes?" She was hardly ignorant of the world, so she nodded yes, though with caution to see where he was going with this. "What you did when with your clan would have led to Tranquility if in a Circle." He shook his head to stave off any protestations that might have formed at her lips. "I do not wish to debate the morality of it--" Nor was she in a hurry to do the same. "--but I see little difference between how a Tranquil lives and how you live: having had a future erased."

She lifted her brow, though he likely knew how extreme what he was saying sounded.

"We'll camp there," he pointed out after a few moments to gain bearings. A much drier place than the previous night had provided. She would take it. They continued toward their newly appointed destination.

"I could, you know." Velanna stopped walking and stared at his back, sure he was not suggesting what he sounded like he was suggesting. "Not personally, of course. But I could see to it that you were made Tranquil." A cold chill overtook her spine, one she couldn’t dismiss or shake. She was reasonably sure he was making a point, and her face made a show of letting him know he had precious seconds to make it. "If you can't ever know forgiveness, why know anything emotion at all?"

It took her several breaths to cleanse the threat from the fore of her mind. She trusted him enough to believe he’d not do such a thing without provocation. “I don’t need reminding of how you hold my life in your hand, should you choose to do so.” The same could be said in reverse, though not to the same effect. There were things worse than death, after all. She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. Not because of what he could do, but what he’d said as his reasoning.

You cannot possibly conflate all emotions with one.” He was far too smart for that, though perhaps she’d given him more credit than was due. She doubted as much. “The stone I bear on my shoulders has little to do with my capability to feel other emotions. I feel many things.” Some of them in huge ways, like her loss and anger, but others were still small, precious things she guarded closely. Things she didn’t know how to say or explain yet. “Would you deprive me of them because you disagree with my own sense of guilt?” That the suggestion came from him, specifically, hurt more than she was willing to say, but not more than she was willing to express on her face. Her mouth pulled into a deep frown, her eyes narrowing with an unnamed grief. Had anyone else suggested such a monstrous thing, it would have angered her, but coming from him? The wound cut deep and quick, and she flinched from it.

Why, though? It seemed absurd until she thought about that precious thing she was guarding in her chest, that small kernel of something she felt the need to shelter.

Perhaps a year ago, or even a few months ago it would not have been so cruel a thing to say. I did not have as much to lose.” She looked away from him, past his shoulder and off into the infinite distance. There was no need to argue how gutted she would be without her magic, or how she would no longer mourn for her sister or clan. Those things were obvious. This was still new and fragile, and not so easily known. “But that is the key, is it not? Knowing that I have something I fear to lose is what makes the threat hold so much sway?” She clenched her teeth together to stop any more emotions manifesting on her face. “Your point has been made.
His point, extreme as it was, did not receive a warm welcome. Indeed, given the tightness across Velanna's expression and the wariness with which she regarded him, it was clear that she regarded his observation as having crossed a line. Good, he thought, matter of factly. Then it has served its purpose.

Velanna took a number of controlled deep breaths. "I don’t need reminding of how you hold my life in your hand, should you choose to do so." She folded her arms over her chest, glaring at him with an intensity which was startling even for her.

Somewhere in the depths of his mind, Henri-Julien's instincts whispered that he should ready his own abilities, to be ready to neutralise the obvious threat which was brewing in front of him. Only a few weeks ago, he would have listened to that voice. Now, though, he gave a slight shake of his head, as though the action would somehow topple the voice from within this thoughts. How were either of them to ever fully understand the other if they could never be frank about these irreconcilable viewpoints?

"You cannot possibly conflate all emotions with one." She declared. He lifted a brow, curious as to why his theoretical conflation was any different to her lived experience of perpetual anger. "The stone I bear on my shoulders has little to do with my capability to feel other emotions. I feel many things."

"Do you?" He did not seek to antagonise. He very much doubted that anyone in Thedas could attest that Velanna felt anything but the heat of her temper.

Needless to say, she ignored his interjection. "Would you deprive me of them because you disagree with my own sense of guilt?" An unfamiliar twist of her expression caught his attention. Oh, she was frowning, but somehow it fell differently across her face. It startled him to realise that it was hurt which was mixed in with her displeasure. That made no sense. His suggested solution had been intended to shock, not hurt. Not for the first time did Henri-Julien realised that there was a significant mismatch in the way that they viewed certain things.

Maybe his confusion was visible on his face because Velanna chose to clarify. "Perhaps a year ago, or even a few months ago it would not have been so cruel a thing to say. I did not have as much to lose." Her gaze shifted over his shoulder, staring into the distance. "But that is the key, is it not? Knowing that I have something I fear to lose is what makes the threat hold so much sway?" Her jaw clenched so hard that tendons stood out on her neck. "Your point has been made."

"It was not a threat." There was much more contained within her words but Henri-Julien was struggling to comprehend it. Instead, he focused on what he did understand. "It was an observation. If you were to request Tranquility, I could arrange it. I did not intend to suggest that I would do so without your permission." He stopped, considering how else to make himself understood. "You cannot be made Tranquil against your will; you're not a mage. I..." Knowing how this might sound, Henri-Julien hesitated, but he was committed to his point. "... can only kill you outright." A strange comfort, maybe.

Still bewildered by the confusion of what Velanna did not say, Henri-Julien retreated into perplexed silence. He had an urge to say more but did not know what words would suffice. Instead, he resumed walking towards the distant campsite, brow furrowed as he tried to sift through what Velanna had said to what she really meant. There was something that he was missing, he could sense as much.

Henri-Julien retreated into contemplation, absorbed by the puzzle. Given their habit of journeying in silence, it was straightforward to let the hours slip by, aware enough to respond to basic enquiries and remarks, but never inviting further conversation. It was only when they arrived at Crestwood that Henri-Julien was sufficiently startled startled to speak anew.

"What happened to the dam here?" He stared at the large lake which now occupied what he recalled as Crestwood village. Not that he expected an answer, but he was surprised nonetheless. His eye scanned the surroundings until he picked up on lights which revealed the new location of the village. "We may as well replenish our supplies," he added, jerking his head towards the signs of civilisation.

Yet before they entered into a village, it was necessary to address the tension between them. Otherwise, their already strange association would only invite further attention.

"You expect that I should know that you feel many things," Henri-Julien began. "Why should I? You share none of that with me." He folded his arms over his chest, his leathers creaking with the movement. "I see only your anger and your sense of loss. The only time I've seen you content was our time in the rooftop garden."

He regarded her for a long moment, irritated but committed. "Just as I don't wish to frighten you, I don't want to hurt you either. I thought my point was appropriately made. I understand now that it wasn't. I'm sorry." He gave a small shrug. "I'm still recalling what it means to travel with another person for more than a few days."
"It was not a threat." Funny that it sounded the same as one. "It was an observation. If you were to request Tranquility, I could arrange it. I did not intend to suggest that I would do so without your permission." What sort of mage requested such a thing? The idea was rather absurd, even if she knew it happened. "You cannot be made Tranquil against your will; you're not a mage. I..." She lifted a brow at his assertion. Did she not wield magic? Was this simply a matter of his splitting hairs according to his Chantry’s definitions? "... can only kill you outright."

Oddly enough, she found that comforting, and it carried her on as the conversation fell into a lull as it so often did. They remained such as they set up their camp, going through the routine that came so easily to them now that they hardly needed words. Nary a grunt was required as they set up, took their meal, and took their turns sleeping.

This continued into the next day as they made their way toward their destination. Being in an area Velanna did not know well she depended on Henri-Julien to know the way, which he did. His knowledge of the places they traveled impressed her, though she kept this to herself. What Dalish would admit a human knew the wilderness better than they?

But when they arrived at their destination, Henri-Julien seemed perplexed. "What happened to the dam here?" Velanna looked over the lake before them, unsure what was puzzling him. Perhaps he’d simply misremembered the location. She watched his eyes survey the area around them until he picked something out above them. She turned to follow his line of sight and spotted the village. "We may as well replenish our supplies."

Velanna nodded, ready to venture into the village, bracing herself for the inevitable stares that would come her way. She took several deep breaths, but was thrown off of her preparations by Henri-Julien’s next words.

"You expect that I should know that you feel many things," he started. "Why should I? You share none of that with me." She mirrored his posture, crossing her own arms over her chest as she faced him, utterly baffled. "I see only your anger and your sense of loss. The only time I've seen you content was our time in the rooftop garden."

She opened her mouth to argue, as was her nature, especially with him. Surely she’d been content other times! But she was hard pressed to think of a rebuttal. “The garden brings me peace,” she muttered below her breath, but she suspected it was not entirely the garden.

He continued. "Just as I don't wish to frighten you, I don't want to hurt you either. I thought my point was appropriately made. I understand now that it wasn't. I'm sorry." His shrug would have sufficed, but his words struck a chord and she found herself grateful for them. "I'm still recalling what it means to travel with another person for more than a few days."

Velanna held his gaze for a time, wanting very much to settle this tension between them, but unable to adequately express what was peturbing her. “I know. All of that I know.” Preparing to enter the village she adjusted her hair to cover the tips of her ears, her hands needing something to do while her words seemed inadequate. “As I am learning to travel with anyone at all.” She’d spent so much time alone after losing Seranni. Even when they bickered, there was an ease to fall back into. He did not needlessly fill silence with worthless prattle or inane humming. They worked well together to handle the mundane parts of travel, from hunting to camp striking. “Certainly my time traveling with Aedan Cousland did not pass so easily.

Before they could go into Crestwood, they needed to resolve this, however. It was agitating her to a degree that she could not ignore it, even for the short time they spent resupplying. “What have you shared with me?” she asked in as even a voice as she was able to manage. “I know only how important duty and purpose is to you. When have you been content outside of the rooftop garden? Have you ever been happy in your life? Surely not any time you have expressed to me.

She huffed and turned her head away. Why could he not see what she was saying? Was she truly being so oblique? Or was it because she was yet to admit it to herself? “You don’t mean to scare or hurt me. I understand that. I dislike the idea of hurting you as well. I’ve earned your trust.” Evident by the box carefully tucked into her pack. “It’s something that means more to me than I can say, because on some level I know I scare you, too.

The reason Tranquility scares me is that I would lose you. I would lose this feeling that is confusing and strange. It frightens me more than any of your outbursts or tempers because I have never had it before. I do not even understand it, except that you are at the center of it.
That Velanna stood and listened was proof in itself of how far they had come since that disastrous first meeting in the Deep below Amaranthine. She regarded him for a few moments after he finished speaking, seemingly weighing up her response. Yet it did not strike Henri-Julien as though she was about to snap a scathing retort. No, she was searching for an actual answer.

"I know. All of that I know." At least a snap was hardly the worst she could summon. Fiddling with her hair, she loosened the bindings so some would fall over her ears, obscuring the tips. Henri-Julien wondered whether it was worth pointing out that her facial markings drew just as much attention as her ears. Then, realising there was no way that she could obscure the ink as easily and to draw her attention to it would be a cruelty, he decided to remain silent. "As I am learning to travel with anyone at all. Certainly my time traveling with Aedan Cousland did not pass so easily." From what was often spoken about the Hero of Ferelden, it seemed that many other people shared that particular opinion of Velanna's. 

Considering that the matter was resolved, Henri-Julien gave a short nod and made to resume their route into the village.

"What have you shared with me?" Her voice was even but the suddenness of the remark betrayed her disquiet. "I know only how important duty and purpose is to you. When have you been content outside of the rooftop garden? Have you ever been happy in your life? Surely not any time you have expressed to me."

Perplexed, Henri-Julien turned around once more. "I don't expect you to know how I feel," he pointed out, matter of fact. This whole conversation was due to the offence Velanna had taken over his failing to know her every mood and thought. "You were angry with me because you did expect that I should know. I only wanted to point out the folly of that assumption." Although was that entirely true? After all, it was hardly as though Henri-Julien did not have some notion of her temperament, recognising the signs of impatience just as well as the signs of amusement.

Exhaling sharply through her nose, Velanna turned her head, clearly unable to tolerate even the sight of him in that moment. "You don’t mean to scare or hurt me. I understand that. I dislike the idea of hurting you as well. I’ve earned your trust." That certainly was true. "It’s something that means more to me than I can say, because on some level I know I scare you, too."

His immediate reaction was to scoff and ridicule her. For all that the Chantry preached the dangers of those with magic, never did they acknowledge a fear. Templars did not fear mages. Except... Now it was Henri-Julien's turn to look away from Velanna, gritting his teeth against the urge to scald her with the heat of his words. He did fear mages. How could he not? After all that was taught in the Chantry, after all that he had personally witnessed, how could someone with magic not generate some instinctive dread within him? Yet he did not fear Velanna. Her magic, yes. But her? No. At least not while she maintained control over said magic, anyway.

"The reason Tranquility scares me is that I would lose you." It took Henri-Julien a moment to realise that she did not mean physically. After all, if she were Tranquil, his role of escort would become necessary, rather than a ruse to placate the Chantry. "I would lose this feeling that is confusing and strange. It frightens me more than any of your outbursts or tempers because I have never had it before. I do not even understand it, except that you are at the center of it."

That jolted his head back around. He fixed Velanna with a perturbed stare, uncertain how to make sense of something which she herself admitted was unfamiliar. "You're speaking of dependency," he finally forced out, but the words rang hollow. "It's known to happen when--" He broke off abruptly, unable to sustain the ignorance required to commit to such a fallacy. That a reliance between a Templar and a mage could develop was, in fact, common. It was why there was a constant rotation of shifts and a regular series of transfers within any Circle. But that was not this.

"This is ridiculous," he threw up his hands, frustrated to be caught-off guard. "I told you that you won't be made Tranquil. It doesn't matter what you feel about it; it won't happen." Yet still he could not soothe the agitation which raced through his body, making him fidget where he stood. "You... you're a Grey Warden! You can leave my company at any time. You don't need..." He whirled around, clenching his fists and striking them off the cold wet stone of the dam. The same dam which he did not remember being shut the last time he was here. Things changed, it would seem.

"You turn my world upside down." He spoke to the lake, allowing the gentle motion of the water to draw his focus. "You constantly challenge what I know, think and believe." He fell silent for a heartbeat. "You make me question. Everything." Just a fraction of a turn granted Henri-Julien a glimpse of Velanna out the corner of his eye. When he next spoke, it was with a raw wonder, as new and fragile to himself as it might be for Velanna. "I've never questioned anything before."

His posture... collapsed. But in the way of someone who has just shrugged free a heavy load from their shoulders - even if it might only be a temporary reprieve. Still, it emboldened him for just one moment more. "Spending my days with you makes me happy," Henri-Julien rushed out. "It makes no sense. I don't understand it. I can't explain it. But you asked if I'd ever been happy in my life. Well, I am." His lips tugged into a smirk, definitely smug but not intended to be condescending. More of a sense of landing the last devastating blow in an argument, though he spoke with complete sincerity. "Now, with you."
Henri-Julien often had an answer for everything, and this was no exception. Velanna had hardly uttered the words that were difficult to sort out when he fixed her with an incredulous look and said, "You're speaking of dependency. It's known to happen when--"

He left off, but his thoughts seemed to follow on in his head. She held her arms out and waited for him to finish his explanation. She did not feel dependent, and she waited for an explanation that never came.

Instead he threw his hands up. "This is ridiculous," he cried out. "I told you that you won't be made Tranquil. It doesn't matter what you feel about it; it won't happen." He fidgeted, his weight shifting as if the ground beneath him were trembling. "You... you're a Grey Warden! You can leave my company at any time. You don't need..." He spun about, beating his fists ineffectually against the offending dam, as if it were at fault for everything that was currently agitating him.

No, I don’t need.” She didn’t need to be with him. There was no force—not her being a mage or his beliefs or even his search for purpose—that was forcing them together. Nothing external that could be blamed. Velanna could have left him back in the foothills of Orzammar. He could have left her at any point. That was her point. “I want to.

"You turn my world upside down." His eyes focused on the water, the gentle waves gentling his tone. "You constantly challenge what I know, think and believe." There was a single moment of silence where she could hear the beat of her heart in her ears. "You make me question. Everything." He turned, barely at all, just enough to see her and grant her a glimpse of his pale eyes. There was an awe in his voice that echoed what she felt in her chest. In her belly, warm and mysterious. "I've never questioned anything before."

Something tugged at her lips, and they pursed out in a crooked partial smile. Velanna might not have understood it, but the words he spoke turned the confusion she felt into something lighter.

His shoulders lowered from his usual upright posture. More like he relaxed for a moment, just the span of a breath allowing him to shuck all the responsibility he carried in the rigid column of his spine. "Spending my days with you makes me happy," he said in a hurry. Her brows shot up high. "It makes no sense. I don't understand it. I can't explain it. But you asked if I'd ever been happy in my life. Well, I am." He smirked, not in a cruel or derisive way, but as if he were winning some good-natured argument between them. It lacked the usual condescension she knew in the expression, though it did not fail to hold any of the smug nature of his tone. A tone which seemed at odds with the words he spoke. "Now, with you."

Despite the tone, Velanna flushed. Her mouth went dry when she tried to swallow. “You are?” She didn’t know why that made him practically crow with pride, but it tugged at something in her chest all the same. She fiddled with her hair again, not knowing what to do with her fingers until she realized how very foolish she looked. Like she was some foolish, besotted da’len. The types that used to annoy her to no end when she was deep in her studies. She forced her hands back down to her sides, smoothing the front of her tunic to remove wrinkles that did not exist, not even in the rain. “Well, it’s settled then.” Whatever was agitating them both was now resolved. “We are both happy.

That should have been that. Her questions asked, then answered. Her fears acknowledged and resolved. She was happy for the first time since leaving her clan, possibly much before that. They could continue wandering this Creators-forsaken planet with no clear destination, and all that mattered was that she was in his company.

You are like fire to me, lethallen.” There was a rawness to her voice, and the words felt heavy. She shifted her weight and faced the village where they were headed, part of her wondering why they didn’t just walk there now that they’d settled the matter, but she needed to say what was on her mind before she did. She needed him to know. “Dangerous, beautiful, and what I favor above all others. Even when you make me furious.” She laughed, though it came out more a self-conscious sound than one of joy. “I would rather be furious with you than not at anyone else.

She stepped closer to him, feeling compelled by this odd sensation that was filling her with warmth that had nothing to do with fire. Or, possibly everything, given her analogy. “I don’t know what it means, only that it is. I feel more at home with you than I ever did in my own clan.

Her voice dropped to a whisper that was barely audible above the rain. “Now I am being foolish when we should be finding a place to resupply.” She hugged herself. “I just needed you to know that I feel things. That I feel them for you.
Colour rushed over Velanna's cheeks. "You are?" she managed around a swallow, the words raspier than he might have expected. Her hands crept to her hair, arranging and rearranging the way that it lay. Despite looking perfectly acceptable before she started fiddling with it. Maybe sensing as much, Velanna dropped her hands to in front of her, idly smoothing out her clothes which, by virtue of being damp, did not hold any wrinkles. "Well, it’s settled then. We are both happy."

Offering a firm nod, Henri-Julien made to turn, content that this puzzling matter had found its resolution. That he was somewhat relieved that the tension between them had dissipated, he was not about to dwell on the how and why. It was enough that they were themselves again, content and peaceable. Even if the latter was only for the moment.

"You are like fire to me, lethallen." That prompted Henri-Julien to halt once more. He had no Dalish - had no real desire to learn, even with the company of a Dalish - but he recognised the hint of vulnerability in her voice, amplified by the use of the word. He watched as Velanna turned her gaze towards the village, shifting her weight between her feet but not actually moving. "Dangerous, beautiful, and what I favor above all others. Even when you make me furious." A burst of laughter ripped from her, tinged with embarrassment. "I would rather be furious with you than not at anyone else."

Before Henri-Julien could respond, though Maker only knew what he might say, Velanna moved closer to him. "I don't know what it means," she went on, seemingly guided by a need to empty her head of these thoughts. "Only that it is. I feel more at home with you than I ever did in my own clan."

Fortunate that they were standing so close to one another or Henri-Julien may have missed what she said next. So quietly did she speak, barely above the pitter patter of the rain. "Now I am being foolish when we should be finding a place to resupply." Her arms wrapped around her body, trying to conserve any lingering warmth from their trek. They had stood still too long. "I just needed you to know that I feel things. That I feel them for you."

His head swam with all she had revealed. Give him an entire verse from the Chant of Light and he could memorise, analyse and discuss it within a matter of hours. But this type of information... he struggled to make sense of it, unsure how to absorb it into his rigid frame of working. Instead, he lightly brushed his hand against her elbow, indicating with a jerk of his head that they should continue on to the village.

In their habitual silence, Henri-Julien led the way, discovering that his entire memory of this village was no longer relevant. Too many of the inhabitants had changed since he last passed through here. Thankfully, there was still willing merchants who eagerly exchanged necessary goods for coin, regardless who was handing it over. 

Once their business was completed, Henri-Julien glanced up at the grey sky, wondering if he could bear to continue travelling in such dire conditions. The thought of trudging along in the wet weather was not a welcome one. Instead, he asked the merchant where the village tavern was, and signalled to Velanna that they should take advantage of having a hot meal at the very least. They could decide whether to stay or continue after they had eaten.

It was only once they had ordered their meals and were sat waiting that Henri-Julien found his voice. "What does leth--"

"Grey Wardens?" A loud demand sounded from the doorway, booming across the room. "There are Grey Wardens here?"

Irritation flooded through Henri-Julien. It was difficult enough to address something without being rudely interrupted in the process! Yet, as his gaze slid back to Velanna, he realised that she still wore her Dalish clothing. He, as always, was in his Templar leathers. Hastily, he racked his head to recall the clipped conversation with the merchant, trying to work out if anything they had said might have revealed them as Grey Wardens. No, there had been nothing. Neither he nor Velanna indulged in idle chatter, after all.

"Don't... look... up," Henri-Julien breathed, averting his eyes. He did not want to be caught up in whatever nonsense this man had to offer.

"No? No Grey Wardens?" The man entered into the tavern, staring down what Henri-Julien assumed were the unfamiliar faces. Fortunately for them, there were quite a few, and all of them shook their heads. "You!" The man honed in on them. "Isn't that the Warden... oh, my apologies, ser Templar. I thought you bore the Warden insignia on your chest."

"It is not," Henri-Julien replied flatly, derision sharpening his tone.

It had the desired effect. "No, no, quite," the man hastily backtracked, holding up his hands. "Please, ser Templar, enjoy the hospitality of our village. At... at our expense!" He turned away from them, accosting another few travellers, before seeming to give up on what appeared to be a fool's errand. Exchanging a few hushed words with the tavern keeper, he disappeared out into the wet and the cold, leaving an entirely bemused taproom behind him.

"Sorry about that," the tavern owner approached, setting down their filled plates. Belatedly, Henri-Julien wondered how they might explain the double portions, but it seemed to have passed by anyone's attention. "Major Dedrick is always a little intense about Grey Wardens. What with what happened during the Blight."

"I see." Henri-Julien purposefully did not invite any further remark. Chastened, the tavern owner left them alone. Only then did Henri-Julien continue with the question he had started earlier, preferring to focus on what did matter to him as opposed to what did not. And the strange behaviour of Crestwood's major - which, he might add, was decidedly paranoid - did not interest him. "What does lethallen mean?"
Thank the Creators that Henri-Julien did not ask questions. Velanna could see that everything she’d said had been heard, and as far as she was concerned, that was that. That he fell into silence was hardly out of the ordinary. It was part of what she valued about his company.

Apparently the town had changed since Henri-Julien had last traveled through it. He seemed just as unfamiliar as Velanna herself as they did their business. Still, coin was a dominant language spoken anywhere in the shemlen world, and they were able to resupply as needed.

Without exchanging words he let Velanna know he was open to taking their night in the tavern. A hot meal at the very least was welcomed, and she saw no reason to dissent. She was in no hurry to continue travel under the perpetual rain, and it seemed he shared her opinion. Staying out of the rain for a time was certainly inviting, even if they only dried off temporarily.

Meals ordered, Henri-Julien picked up from their earlier conversation with a question. "What does leth--"

He never finished the question. Someone burst into the room, their voice loud and carrying over the din of the crowd. "Grey Wardens? There are Grey Wardens here?"

Velanna’s eyes flicked to Henri-Julien’s, a flash of irritation in having their conversation interrupted. They’d not announced themselves, nor done anything that might have revealed their identities. In fact most of the trip they’d been careful not to flaunt their Grey Warden status unless it was strictly necessary to avoid incident.

Someone loudly demanding their attention was not avoiding incident.

"Don't... look... up," Henri-Julien said under his breath. She kept her eyes on him, not reacting. She was in her robes, he in templar leathers. Neither of them could be fingered as a warden if they did not volunteer the information.

"No? No Grey Wardens?" The man walked further into the room, though Velanna did not look up to see his purpose. She kept her eyes trained on her hands as if the condition of her cuticles was of utmost importance. The man still came to them. "You! Isn't that the Warden... oh, my apologies, ser Templar. I thought you bore the Warden insignia on your chest."

"It is not," Henri-Julien said with an almost sneer. Velanna had gotten in the habit of letting him speak for both of them when trying to keep a low profile with others, and she did so now, not offering anything additional.

"No, no, quite," the man agreed, clearly wishing he’d not spoken to them at all. "Please, ser Templar, enjoy the hospitality of our village. At... at our expense!"

Velanna raised an eyebrow to her companion as the man who had interrupted them went on his business, ultimately stopping to speak to the tavern owner before leaving.

"Sorry about that," the tavern owner set down their loaded plates, which might have given them away another time. As it stood, the distraction in the room seemed to shelter them from that detail’s notice. "Major Dedrick is always a little intense about Grey Wardens. What with what happened during the Blight."

"I see." The clipped answer did not prompt anything further from the tavern owner, who excused himself, leaving them to their meal, and Henri-Julien to his earlier question. "What does lethallen mean?"

Velanna was grateful she’d just taken a bite of her meal when she looked up, and chewed thoughtfully as she thought over her answer. While it was form of address, she did not frequently address others as such, especially not shemlen. Slightly embarrassed, she swallowed her food.

It’s a term of familiarity,” she said honestly. “A casual way to refer to someone you know well.” Her mouth pinched as she thought this over. “Not quite an endearment.” She looked at her plate and moved her food around, pursing her lips. “I can refrain from using it again if you find it objectionable.

The subject dropped as they finished their meal in relative silence. The tavern owner returned to refresh their drinks and deliver a key to a room with two beds—thank the Creators for small favors—as well as pie that was also on the house. On one hand, Velanna felt slightly guilty for taking advantage of the hospitality when the shemlen Dedrick was not in fact mistaken, but only slightly. She wanted to be left alone to their travels, and felt no compulsion to involve herself in something that was not an obvious Grey Warden emergency. If there was a threat only they could handle, they both would have sensed it.

Safely out of earshot of other patrons she could not help but bring it up, however. “Such strange behavior, to so aggressively question you.” Wardens were not favored everywhere, though it was odd to find the reception as such in Ferelden since the blight. “Perhaps we should not stay overlong here unless we intend to enquire.” She did not wish to be swept up in whatever might have the mayor having fits.

She peeled her boots off and began arranging things near the fire to dry, finding comfort in the routine even if it wasn’t a camp. Her hunger slaked for the time being, she had hardly any other needs beyond sleep, though she was not as tired as she might have expected for the day’s travel. “Do you find it objectionable?” she asked him. No, she did not feel the need to fill the silence, but it was a curiosity. Realizing that he might have mistaken her meaning, she added, “To being spoken to so familiarly? It’s appropriate to,” she gestured between them, lacking sufficient words, “this.” It wasn’t entirely correct to her feeling, but it was the best she could do at the moment. It wasn't like she'd called him vhenan.
Rather than answer overly hastily, Velanna finished the mouthful of her meal, choosing her explanation with care. Neither of them spoke for the sake of it, after all. "It’s a term of familiarity," she revealed at last. Despite himself, Henri-Julien lifted a brow, unable to conceal his surprise. While there was no doubt that they were familiar with one another - and the concoluted circumstances which had led to their being here proved as much - it was quite another thing to acknowledge it outloud between themselves. "A casual way to refer to someone you know well." Her mouth pursed a fraction while she considered the precision of her words. "Not quite an endearment." Glancing down at her plate, Velanna pushed her food around her plate. "I can refrain from using it again if you find it objectionable."

Rather than rush his answer, Henri-Julien fell into his contemplative silence once more. Objectionable? No. Strange? Yes. The real question, at least for him, was whether it was the type of strange he could tolerate and, perhaps, even come to appreciate.

Thankfully, Velanna did not seek to hurry his thoughts. Instead, they finished their meal without further exchange. No one in the tavern spared a second glance for what appeared to be a Templar and his assigned charge. Only once their hunger was sated did they retire to one of the rooms, courtesy of the mayor. Some resigned sense of duty did prompt Henri-Julien to momentarily turn his focus inwards, listening for the telltale whispers of the taint, but there was nothing at all. Whatever issue the mayor had regarding Grey Wardens, it was not related to any current presence of taint. Ergo, Henri-Julien did not consider it to be his responsibility to address.

The behaviour of the mayor was clearly on Velanna's mind, too. "Such strange behavior, to so aggressively question you," she observed, stepping into their room and claiming one of the beds for herself. "Perhaps we should not stay overlong here unless we intend to enquire."

"We will leave tomorrow," he confirmed. "If he has an issue, he need only send to Vigil's Keep or the compound in Denerim." It was hardly as though locating a Grey Warden was as difficult as it had been prior to the Fifth Blight. Yes, they were few in number across Ferelden, but they could be found.

Fussing with her belongings around the fire, Velanna occupied her hands, though clearly not her focus. "Do you find it objectionable?" He blinked, inviting some clarification. "To being spoken to so familiarly?" she expanded. "It’s appropriate to," she waved her hand between them, "this."

"Not now," Henri-Julien replied, moving to the side of his bed. He began to unbuckle his outer layers, knowing that they would need to dry before he could begin to oil them. The underlayers, however, were sufficiently dry that he could see to their care. "Any time before this, I would not have permitted it." He paused for a moment, considering the matter further. "Or from anyone else."

Now dressed in the thick under shirt and trousers which he wore for warmth, Henri-Julien rifled through his pack, searching for the small jar of oil that he used to maintain the condition of his leathers. He sat down on the wooden chair, dapping a small cloth in the oil then beginning to work it into the leather in small circular movements. 

"Sometimes, the other initiates would refer to me as," he winced slightly, his voice altering into the flat and harsh Fereldan pronunciation of his name, "Henri." He sniffed his disgust, shaking his head slightly. It did not seem to occur to him that the only time that his own accent shifted into the lyrical flow of Orlesian was when he spoke his name. "If it must be shortened, though I see no reason why it should, the correct pronunciation should still be kept." Glancing up, he met Velanna's eye. "But no, I do not object to you using that word now I know its meaning."

A frown flickered across his expression. "Though I cannot reciprocate." It was an unexpected source of vexation to discover that he had no equivalent with which to signal his own familiarity with Velanna. Theirs was not an association that tolerated one-sidedness. "I have no term of my own and I will not appropriate one from your language."

Indeed, the problem prompted a streak of wry humour from Henri-Julien, his lips curving into a smile. "I'm not sure this tavern can withstand your temper if I should address you in all seriousness as either Vee or Lana." He turned his attention back to his leathers, deliberately deadpan as he added,"'Accursed apostate' is quite the mouthful, though."
Henri-Julien tended his belongings in much the manner she tended to her own, laying some out to dry and preparing to oil the rest. He moved to the side of his bed as he did so, and her eyes followed him, curious as to his answer.

"Not now," he assured her. "Any time before this, I would not have permitted it." She rolled her eyes, knowing the truth of his statement but also the absurdity that she would have called him such before then. "Or from anyone else."

The pungent smell of his leather oil filled the small room as he dabbed his rag for treating his leathers. Velanna sat on her bed, her cheeks dusting with pink and feeling so foolish that something so small would make her smile as it did just then. She liked the idea that she was the only one allowed to do so, which seemed equally as ridiculous as blushing. She let her hair down, ostensibly to dry, but more to curtain her face from the flush of color.

"Sometimes, the other initiates would refer to me as," his voice flattened into a harsh and exaggerated Fereldan accent, "Henri." His sniff was mirrored in her wrinkled nose. That was decidedly not his name. "If it must be shortened, though I see no reason why it should, the correct pronunciation should still be kept." She agreed, wholeheartedly as he looked up to meet her eyes. She nodded one time, firmly, to let him know, and vowed to always try her best to say it properly. "But no, I do not object to you using that word now I know its meaning."

Velanna smiled, her expression uncharacteristically soft as she withdrew sewing supplies from her pack. When her eyes landed on him again he was frowning. "Though I cannot reciprocate." She lifted a brow at his words. There was no need for such a thing. "I have no term of my own and I will not appropriate one from your language."

That prompted a frown on her face, one of confusion. “I do not believe you must—

"I'm not sure this tavern can withstand your temper if I should address you in all seriousness as either Vee or Lana." Her face went flat, her eyes flashing and letting him know he’d guessed correctly.,"'Accursed apostate' is quite the mouthful, though."

However appropriate it may be,” she replied drily. The flick of the corner of her mouth betrayed the amusement she tried to hide as she thread her needle. The small wear in her leggings needed only a quick mend and she focused her eyes on the fabric as she stabbed the needle through the fabric. “Though it might raise a brow or two in mixed company if you do not then kill me.

She looped the thread around to make the stitch neat, using her fingers to guide the needle through the blind side of the fabric. “It’s not the sort of thing you need to reciprocate,” she said matter-of-factly. “I am hardly an expert in matters of the heart but I believe it is sufficient that you are pleased by the sentiment.” ‘Friend’ was the closest she could think of, but it seemed woefully inaccurate to her needs. Henri-Julien was more than a friend, or so she thought, given that she’d not had many, if any, to speak of.

She frowned at her stitch, as if the perfection of it somehow offended her. “I have never called anyone but my sister lethallen.” She tied off the knot, making sure it was invisible in the seam, then bit the thread to snip it. She’d certainly never considered her contemporaries in the clan as friends or anything more than nuisances who made her feel bad about herself. “At any rate, it is no use being vexed over it. Now hand me your cloak, that I might repair the frayed part of the hem.” She held her hand out expectantly. Everything seemed easier to talk about when her hands had something to do.

You do not speak of the others like you. The other templars, the other initiates. Were they all as horrid as those who would intentionally mispronounce your name?” She shook her head, feeling a stab of protectiveness. “Your name suits you and should be spoken well.” She shrugged, seeing this as no matter of disagreement, and simply a statement of universal truth.
"However appropriate it may be."

The wry rejoinder was delivered without missing a beat. Despite himself, Henri-Julien snatched a chuckle beneath his breath, no longer quite so begrudging over his appreciation for her sense of humour. He admired the darkness that lurked at the heart of it.

Gathering a pair of leggings on her lap, Velanna set to her mending, the needle pushing and pulling through the fabric at speed. "Though it might raise a brow or two in mixed company if you do not then kill me," she added.

He offered a grunt in acknowledgement, the humour not quite so prominent this time. Indeed, his brows pulled together briefly, considering the truth in her statement. Such jesting between them could, in fact, lead to any number of unforeseen consequences. Grey Wardens or no, any crowd could be whipped into a frenzy, demanding immediate retribution for whatever ill they perceived Velanna to have summoned. His defence of her character would not suffice in such circumstances. In which case, he realised with some unease, could he justify taking lethal force against her? 

With an abrupt shake of his head, Henri-Julien scattered the thoughts from his mind. He was a Templar; there were stringent rules to when he could wield such force. A baying crowd, no matter how dangerous, did not dictate whether an apostate should live or die. Though a different question did linger in his mind. If, for whatever reason, her use of magic did justify taking lethal force against her, could he do it? A whispered taunt from somewhere deep inside suggested he already knew the answer. Tranquility could be rationalised, hence his remarks a few days prior, but to slay her outright... This paralysing dilemma was the price of fraternisation, he belatedly realised.

Yet while Henri-Julien wrestled with his dogma, Velanna remained blissfully unaware, focusing on her mending. "It’s not the sort of thing you need to reciprocate," she stated. So at odds with his own thoughts, Henri-Julien gave a start, blinking dazedly in her direction. "I am hardly an expert in matters of the heart but I believe it is sufficient that you are pleased by the sentiment." The name; she was referring to the use of a familiar term.

"Very well," he muttered distractedly. Since he could provide no suitable suggestion, it seemed futile to waste time bandying about suggestions. What mattered was that she did not feel slighted by the lack of reciprocation. 

Examining her stitches, a faint frown clouded Velanna's expression. "I have never called anyone but my sister lethallen," she revealed. Briskly, she completed her repair, leaving the thread almost invisible. Henri-Julien felt his mouth purse slightly. If it was a term she had used with her sister, did that mean she regarded him akin to a brother? That rankled in a way he did not wish to examine so near to his previous thoughts. "At any rate, it is no use being vexed over it. Now hand me your cloak, that I might repair the frayed part of the hem."

Even Henri-Julien could find no reason to argue with that. She was better at sewing than he. Wordlessly, he bundle up the cloak and threw it across the room, having it land on the bed beside her.

"You do not speak of the others like you. The other templars, the other initiates," she went on. "Were they all as horrid as those who would intentionally mispronounce your name?" That she shook her head, displeasure clear in the gesture, lightened his spirits. "Your name suits you and should be spoken well." And that, he could tell, was her final word on the matter.

"They did not do it to taunt me." That had been the end result, yes, but it had not been their initial motivation. Not at first. "Ferelden had only been freed from the Orlesian occupation for a small number of years when I was recruited into the Templar. It was intended as a kindness, I believe." His grip tightened a fraction on his cloth as he added, a sharp edge to his tone. "I did not ask for it.

"I had little reason to interact with the other initiates," he added with a shrug. "They could do as they pleased; their successes and failures had no impact on my own progression. Why would I waste time with those who were beneath me?" Something which was not entirely true, as proven by the struggles Henri-Julien encountered with the physical aspects of his training, but he did not acknowledge that even now.

"You may be amused to learn that I dreaded the thought of becoming a Circle Templar." He scoffed at the very notion. "The idea of being in close quarters with so many Templars who would undoubtedly be mediocre in their duties..." Disgust was plain on his face. "Only the very best--" - and indoctrinated - "--are permitted to become Trackers. Clearly, that was the only role which would suffice for me. I am nothing if not the best." Although that sentiment rang a little more hollow given he was currently on familiar terms with a Dalish apostate. Somewhere, it had all gone very wrong. And he couldn't even blame it on Theirin.

A fuzziness crept through his head, alerting him to the need for his daily lyrium. Standing up, he looked about the room expectantly. "Where's your pack? I need to take my dose."
A boy in their clan had once insisted on calling her Lanna when she was younger. Seranni said it was because he had a crush on her, but Velanna believed it was to make fun of her. None of the children enjoyed her company, after all. From that day she refused to let anyone, even Seranni, shorten her name. That other initiates did so to Henri-Julien likely angered her for this reason, though she was impotent to change the past.

"They did not do it to taunt me." That did not assuage her irritation at these initiates she had never met and likely never would. "Ferelden had only been freed from the Orlesian occupation for a small number of years when I was recruited into the Templar. It was intended as a kindness, I believe. I did not ask for it."

He continued: "I had little reason to interact with the other initiates." He shrugged as if indifferent to it. This was something Velanna could understand. She did not need the children of the clan once she had begun her First’s training. "They could do as they pleased; their successes and failures had no impact on my own progression. Why would I waste time with those who were beneath me?"

You would not.” She had not, and saw no reason to. Once her purpose had been laid out before her, it seemed frivolous to worry about what games the children played and excluded her from. She worked on the hem of his cloak, folding the frayed part in and stitching the top.

"You may be amused to learn that I dreaded the thought of becoming a Circle Templar." He scoffed, the thought clearly absurd to him. "The idea of being in close quarters with so many Templars who would undoubtedly be mediocre in their duties..." He made a face of disgust that showed exactly what he thought of that. "Only the very best are permitted to become Trackers. Clearly, that was the only role which would suffice for me. I am nothing if not the best."

Velanna wanted to roll her eyes, but what could she say except that she had held herself and others to the same exacting standards. Standards which only she met, naturally. That she was lonely as a result was really just proof that she was meant for greatness. A sentiment that fell a little flat considering that the only friend she could rightfully claim was a templar.

Henri-Julien stood, getting a look in his eyes she was getting used to identifying. She reached for her pack before he could even ask, "Where's your pack? I need to take my dose."

Having finished her sewing she put her supplies aside and opened the pack. When she unfolded the clothes she kept it tucked between, it was not there. She dug to the bottom of the pack to see if perhaps she had upset the order of things in her search for sewing materials.

It is not here,” she said first into the bag in her hands, and then echoed it to Henri-Julien. “It was here when we resupplied.” She remembered having to organize around it, such a precious thing it was to her. “And now it is not.

She jumped from the bed to her feet, her loose hair swinging as she leaned over the bag once more. Just in case she missed it, she began searching the room, even knowing that she never took it out of the bag except to hand it over to him. “It was here, and now it is not.” She swallowed, knowing how important his lyrium was to not only him, but his well-being. Not to mention what it meant to her, that trust he’d placed in her to keep it safe. Dread melted over her features as she also realized what it would mean.

This could break the fragile thing that grew between them, this delicate happiness they’d only just confessed to that they’d worked so hard to establish. Her jaw trembled, before she gritted her teeth. “One of those fools from the tavern room must have taken it. That is the only time it was out of my direct sight.” She marched for the door, determination on her face. “I will find whoever took it.