Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: f!Brosca/Leliana, Cole
Spoilers: Yes, for the Grey Warden quests in DAI
Notes: This is an extremely overdue fic for a giveaway run by womenofthedas something like a year and a half ago. I got an idea, then got stalled, then Inquisition gave me another idea, and then I got stalled on that one, too. But I determined that I would finish it, and now here it is. The giveaway winner, ezio-dafirenze, asked for a Brosca/Leliana story, to include a theme of dwarves adjusting to life on the surface. The Warden in this story is based on her description. Thanks to justira for beta reading, especially their help with the rock climbing part.
Also on AO3
Marali Brosca stood at the base of Skyhold and looked up, shading her eyes against the mid-afternoon sun. The climb didn't seem too formidable: the stones were rough-hewn, and she saw lots of good places for footholds. And high as they were, climbing them still seemed easier than knocking on the front door.
Probably not during the day, though, not with all the people walking around on the ramparts. She found a spot in the shade and sat down with her back to the wall, settling in to wait with a skin of ale. It had already been too long since she'd seen her rose, her Leliana, so another few hours couldn't make it any worse. Leliana would forgive her for setting her off the track with that letter about finding a cure for the taint. Right?
"Right," she muttered under her breath. She still wasn't entirely sure why she'd sent that message. Well, that wasn't strictly true. She knew why -- she'd done it because she was afraid. Afraid to face the Calling, and everything it meant. But now the Calling had faded, and she had to see her love again. Even if Leliana threw her out of the castle five minutes later.
She took a long swig of ale, and then she closed her eyes, resting the back of her head against the craggy wall. Deep breath in, and out... in.... and out... relaxing her body and mind, willing herself to sleep the intervening hours away...
When Marali opened her eyes again, it was dark, and the moon was up -- a full moon, lighting up the entire mountain range. "Dammit," she muttered, squinting at the offending sky. After all this time on the surface, she really ought to remember to take the phases of the moon into account. "But noooooo," she grumbled. "It's a sodding surprise every time."
She stood up and stretched the kinks out of her back, leaning over to touch her toes and bouncing back up. There was nothing else for it: she would have to attempt the climb tonight. No way could she sit around for a week and wait for the moon to get smaller. So she pulled her crampons out of her pack and clipped them to her hands. "Nowhere to go but up," she said, and then she jumped onto the wall.
It was, as she had hoped, a reasonable climb, even in the semi-darkness. Might even have been able to do it without the equipment, although the metal spikes on her hands sure made it easier. She kept herself in the shadow of the nearby tower as best as she could, and every time she heard what sounded like a patrol, she stopped and flattened herself against the wall. For the next forty-five minutes, she crept up the outside walls of Skyhold, moving as quickly as she dared. Knowing what awaited her on the other side of the climb helped -- whenever her arms got tired, she would close her eyes and picture her love: her rose in full flower, her rich laugh, her red hair shining in the sun.
And then Marali hit the top, her hand slapping a suddenly-flat surface. She rolled herself over the side and onto the flagstone walkway, lying flat on her back, arms and legs extended. Taking a few deep breaths, she stretched outward and willed her tired muscles to relax. She couldn't rest long -- a patrol would almost certainly be here soon -- but she could be safe for a minute, to catch her breath, to stare at the wide open sky, the bright moon directly overhead. As soon as she felt ready to move again, she got to her feet and darted for the nearest shadow, an alcove tucked into one of the towers. Once there, she pulled the spikes off her hands and stuck them back in her bag, then slid her head out from behind the column to look around.
"Two guards on the ramparts," she muttered, noting their positions. "One-- no, two in the courtyard, two at the door, army tents over there, lights in that building -- must be the tavern, I can hear the music--"
"Yes, the music, it reminds him of home, but the wrong home, the one he should never have left."
Marali nearly shrieked at the soft voice in her ear, and she definitely jumped -- the wall was no longer at her back, and she was facing the other way, staring at a young man in a very large hat. A man who she would swear hadn't been standing there when she arrived. "What-- who--"
The man peered forward at her, eyes wide in his pale face. "You are the Warden," he said. "Afraid to go home, because home is the place where they have to take you in, and they've cast you out once before. You couldn't take it if that happened again."
Marali took another step backwards before she realized she was moving. "What the sodding hell are you talking about? And who are you?"
"Cole." He tapped his chest. "And you are the hero, but how can you be a hero if you're afraid?" He shook his head. "But all heroes are afraid. Don't feel shy on that account. And you have no need to worry -- the rose blooms in the rookery, and the rookery will always be your home, no matter what trail you walk."
"What rookery? I don't understand. And how do you know--" She blinked as she realized that the moonlight was bright in her eyes, and she had left herself exposed. "Shit," she muttered, and she lunged for the shadows again -- and the door from the tower slammed open, a guard bursting through and grabbing her by the collar before she could run.
"Hey!" she barked. "What are you doing up here?"
Marali relaxed, spreading her hands wide to show them empty of weapons. "Just taking an ordinary night stroll on the battlements, right? It's not like I'm... the only..." She looked up at the place where Cole had been standing, but he was gone, the shadows empty now. Where did he go? She could swear-- he'd talked to her about-- home, and heroes, and-- what had he said again?
The guard took a sharp glance over her shoulder, then returned her glare to Marali. "There's no one here but you and me," she said. "And don't try to pull any fast ones on me -- I spotted you climbing up the wall half an hour ago." She pulled back with a sneer. "Good thing the spymaster saw you first. She gave orders to let you finish, then bring you to her. So I guess this is your lucky day."
"But he was right here." Marali frowned. Had he been? Or was it just her imagination, some residue from the Calling nightmares maybe? Anyway, whatever it was, it didn't seem important in the face of being marched across the battlement and down the stairs, the guard's hand hard on her neck, presumably right into Leliana's lap. "I won't fight you," she grumbled, and tried to twist out of her captor's iron grip. "You've got me, and I'm not here to make trouble."
"We'll let the spymaster determine that," the guard replied, but at least she let go. The guard led her across the grounds and to another set of stairs leading into the keep proper, whisked her through a grand hall and into another tower. After two more flights of stairs, the guard pushed her into a darkened room, with only a pair of candles glowing on the desk -- and a cloaked figure standing at the window. "Mistress Leliana? The climber, as you requested."
"Thank you, Eloise," came the soft reply. "Please wait in the hall."
"Ma'am." The guard bowed, and then after scowling at Marali, she left the room.
Marali stood quietly at the desk, shifting from foot to foot, waiting for Leliana to turn around. When she couldn't stand it any more, she cleared her throat. "Hi," she said.
"Marali." Leliana spoke her name in the same soft but firm way she'd spoken to the guard, without turning around. "Did you complete your errand? Was a cure to be found?"
"I, uh..." Marali took a step, let her hands rest on the desk. "It's not, exactly-- look, can we do this face to face? I came a long way to see you." She cursed the beseeching tone that crept into her voice, curling her fingers against the rough wood.
Leliana lowered her head, then turned slowly. Her red hair peeked out from beneath the dark grey hood, and Marali caught a glimpse of her beautiful blue eyes. "So I was right," she said, the calm in her voice more awful than yelling would have been. "Something about that letter seemed off, but I could not put my finger on what. Perhaps because I couldn't conceive of the possibility that you might outright lie to me."
Marali ducked her head and looked away. "I'm sorry. I got no excuse. But I was scared. Everyone was scared, when the Calling came on like that, so sudden, and all I could think about was getting away. Maybe, I thought maybe if I came up with an errand so important that no one would stop me, then I could go somewhere safe, or at least not put anyone else in danger. But it was wrong. Especially the part where I lied to you. So I came here, to make it right." She shook her head. "If it's not too late, anyway."
Leliana came to the side of her desk, and reached out to Marali, cupping her face in long, delicate fingers. "You know that I will always forgive you," she said, more gently now. Marali looked up, met her eyes, and saw truth shining there. "You don't need to hide from me, or sneak into my fortress."
"You're right." Marali covered Leliana's hand with her own. "I should know that by now. Forgive me, my rose?"
Her mouth curved into a smile. "I have missed you calling me that."
"I've missed a lot of things," Marali said, just as Leliana leaned down to cover her mouth with kisses. She pushed back Leliana's hood to wind a hand around her neck, brushing through the soft tendrils of her hair, and kissed her back with abandon -- until a sudden squawking noise pulled Marali out of the moment. She glanced over at the offending bird, stabbing at the bars of its cage. "Ravens?" she asked.
Leliana nodded. "Being here, where all the messages arrive, seems the best way to keep on top of things. My bedchamber is over there, and you are welcome to stay there with me. But if you find them distracting..."
"Nah." Marali grinned at her, and Leliana's answering smile made her toes tingle. "The rookery your life now, right? Your home? I want to share your life, whatever that means." She touched Leliana's chin. "Home. The rookery is your home. I feel like I already knew that. Who told me that?" She tried to remember, then shrugged. "I guess it doesn't matter."
"Come to bed," Leliana said. "You can tell me the whole story in the morning, and I will catch you up on the Inquisition."
"I can't wait," Marali replied, and she reached up for Leliana and another kiss. She was here, and she was home. Nothing else mattered but that.
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