Fandom: Dragon Age (DA:O/DA:I)
Characters: Kasia Brosca, Zevran, Leliana, Cullen, Scout Harding (briefly)
Spoilers: Yes, through Here Lies the Abyss
Notes: Inspired by a prompt on the 21_days Dragon Age fest, but finished about a month after deadline. There's an amnesty period coming up, but I didn't want to sit on it that long, so here we are.
Also on AO3.
"Goodness." Zevran Arainai stopped at the top of the endless stone stairway and pulled out a handkerchief to mop at his brow, taking a few deep breaths. "Did they really have to build it this high up?"
Kasia Brosca shielded her eyes against the sun and peered up, up, and up some more, her gaze finally falling on Skyhold fortress where it loomed above them, flags snapping in the wind. "Would you want to lay siege to it?"
"Point." Zevran chuckled and tapped her on the nose, then dropped a kiss on her forehead. He took a long slug from the canteen before handing it to her; she drank greedily, relishing the taste of cool water, and splashed a handful on her face. "Remind me why you dragged me up this mountain again?"
"Because I wanted to get a look at this Inquisition for myself." Kasia gave Zevran back the canteen, and he hung it off his belt. "Rumor has it that a dwarf lady is in charge, and if that's true I need to meet her." She glanced at him. "Incognito, though. I really don't feel like letting anyone know about this whole Warden thing." Especially not with all the crap the Grey Wardens had reportedly just pulled. Hero or no Hero, she didn't think a Warden leader would command much respect from the troops right now. At least the constant hum of the Calling was gone -- for now.
"Very well." Zevran looked around, and she followed his eyes, presumably taking in the single approach to the fortress, the wide open spaces and sheer cliff drops surrounding it. "Infiltration may be difficult, however."
"Oh, I wasn't gonna sneak in." Kasia grinned at him. "We're knocking on the front door. We just aren't telling anyone our real names." She nodded to the large army encampment down on the plain below the fortress, then pointed at the group milling around through the open gates. "Should be easy enough to get lost in that mob."
Zevran smiled down at her and ruffled the back of her hair. "My sweet, you think of everything."
"I know," Kasia said, trying not to sound too smug. "Now let's go pretend to be ex-assassins looking for honest work."
"Former Antivan Crows?" The woman behind the table raised her eyebrows. "I didn't think there was any such thing."
Zevran bowed to her. "We are rare birds, indeed. It does the Crows no benefit for their escapees to be well known, and therefore they are not. But I assure you, mi'lady, that we do indeed number among that august company."
The recruiter still looked skeptical. "And what can you do for the Inquisition?"
Kasia shrugged. "Advance scouts? Inflitrators? There's gotta be something a couple of highly-trained assassins can do."
"Scouts, eh?" The recruiter glanced down at the sheets of parchment scattered before her. "Well, the Nightingale is particular about her scouts. But she might find use for you." She turned around and shouted out the back of the tent. "Hey, Harding!"
Kasia leaned over to peek through the half-open flap to see a dwarf approaching -- female, dressed in armor, red hair piled on top of her head. How many dwarves were involved in this operation anyway. The scout poked her head into the tent. "What's up?"
The recruiter gestured toward Kasia and Zevran. "Potential recruits to the scouts," she said. "Either the advance team or the-- others. Think you could get some use out of them?"
Harding -- looked them up and down. "Sure, if you've got the skills," she replied. "C'mon, let's go talk to Leliana. She's in charge of the scouts."
At the unexpected name, Kasia's throat went dry, and Zevran looked down at her with a mixture of amusement and alarm. "Leliana?" he said.
"Yep. That Leliana, if you know the name. Aka Sister Nightingale, aka the Left Hand of the Divine. She'll be up in the tower, most likely." Harding held up the tent flap and gestured for them to exit, but Kasia took a step back instead.
"Maybe-- maybe I'd like a little time to think about it," she said.
"Yes. Ah, we-- we are heretics, you see, unbelievers in the Maker." Zevran nodded swiftly. "I was raised to revere the Elven gods, and my dwarven friend here follows the path of her ancestors and the stone. If Leliana is the same who served at the Left Hand of the Divine... well."
Harding glanced at the recruiter, raising an eyebrow in apparent amusement. "Well, all right. If you change your mind, you can usually find me near the tavern, or another of the lead scouts if I'm out on a mission, and they can take you in. Otherwise, good luck with the foot soldiers. They can always use more capable fighters, whatever your skill set is." She saluted, then vanished out the back of the tent.
The recruiter shook her head and pointed out the front entrance of the tent. "Commander's out that way," she said. "He'll assess you and put you on the duty roster. Have a good day." Her role in this brief drama finished, she went back to her paperwork, and Kasia edged out of the tent, Zevran a step behind. Once free, she dropped into a squat and let out a sigh.
"That was close," she said.
Zevran knelt down next to her and rested a hand on her hair. "Still convinced of this plan for secrecy? If Leliana is the Inquisition's spymaster -- and no matter what title they may style for her, I have no doubt that is her true role -- she will ferret out our presence here sooner rather than later."
Kasia shrugged. "Leliana is good at digging stuff up, but I'm just as good at staying hidden. Especially if we can get ourselves assigned to the field." She stood up and noted a tall blond man with a clipboard, wrapped in Ferelden-style furs. "Looks like he's in charge." She marched over to him, and as she approached, he looked up from the clipboard and saw her.
And he stared, the clipboard dropping in slow motion as his arm fell limply down by his side, his eyes widening, his free hand rising to form a fist over his heart.
Kasia stopped dead, but it was too late. He'd recognized her. How in the hell--? She started to turn, but Zevran stopped her with a hand to a shoulder. "We tried," he said, cheerful. "But we failed."
"Some spies we are," Kasia muttered. But Zevran was right -- they had failed; even as she continued her approach, the commander bowed his head, and the troops around him started to take notice, shuffling around to get a better look.
"By the Maker," the man said. "It really is you. The Hero of Ferelden. Welcome to the Inquisition. It's good to see you again."
"Again?" Kasia shook her head and tried to block out the murmurs around her that were swiftly rising into a roar. "I don't believe we've met."
"Ah, but we have." The man tapped his chest again. "I am Commander Cullen, formerly a Templar of Kinloch Hold. You saved my life, and the life of everyone else in that tower, during Uldred's uprising."
Kasia peered more closely at him. "Sorry, but I met a lot of people in that tower. And it was over ten years... Wait." She took a step back and squinted, tried to subtract the scar from his mouth and a decade of lines from his face. "You're the poor sod who was trapped in that binding spell. The one who wanted me to kill--"
"Yes, yes, that was me." Cullen glanced around, as if hoping no one had heard of his past willingness to commit mass murder. "I... prefer not to speak of it."
"I can't say I blame you." Kasia sighed. "Well, I'd really hoped not to make a fuss. So if you could just direct me to the nearest company that needs a couple of advance fighters--"
"Kasia!" The eager cry came from across the parade grounds, and Kasia tipped her head back with a groan. She should have known Harding would sell her out. But there was nothing for it but to turn and face her old friend, and the smile that spread across Kasia's face was not entirely fake.
"Hey, Leli- oof!" The rest of her greeting was cut off as Leliana leaned down to sweep her up in a hug.
"Kasia." Leliana set herself back, grinning hugely. "And Zevran!"
Zevran bowed to her. "I see you are as lovely as always."
Leliana sighed with fond exasperation. "Oh, you." She leaned in, and they greeted one another with kisses across the cheek before she turned back to Kasia. "I should be very cross with you, you know. Writing that letter, making me think that you were halfway across Thedas. And trying to sneak into Skyhold, right under my nose!" She clicked her tongue and shook her head. "I should think you would know better than that."
"What I said in the letter--" Kasia felt the press of eyes on her, and she leaned in closer, lowering her voice. "Was true, at the time." She shrugged. "But once the Calling went away, it seemed less urgent than getting a closer look at this Inquisition you have going." She stepped back. "Rumor has it that a dwarf is in charge. This I had to see for myself."
"Naturally." Leliana rested a hand on her shoulder, and motioned for Zevran to follow. "Still, you could have written. I'd have been happy to arrange a less public audience."
"I'd rather it not be an audience at all," Kasia grumbled, as she let Leliana lead her out of the curious crowd and toward the stone place at the center of the square. "But at least I'll get to meet her." She glanced up at Leliana with a suspicious squint. "What have you told her, anyway?"
Leliana's smile grew wider. "Only the good stories, my friend."
"Sure you did," Kasia said, returning the smile. "Just like I'm sure I'll only tell the good stories when she asks."
"I have no doubt." Leliana squeezed Kasia's shoulder again, and she had to laugh. This wasn't how she'd intended things to go, but it was good to be here regardless.
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