Gladiolus- you pierce my heart


She doesn’t mean to
love him
, says an old soldier, once part of an organization now disbanded. An empty keep sits in the cradle of the sky, a remnant of a grandeur and power the likes of which Thedas had not seen in centuries.

Cast a spell on her
someone else pipes up, a scullery maid from the Skyhold kitchens who’d once caught the trail of his rare and gentle laughter, low-tones to turn knees weak, and a kiss stolen in passing, to draw a sound from the Herald’s mouth almost too obscene to recount. And who could blame her for falling?

Fen’Harel caught her
, whispers a hahren, who
knows well the greed of the old gods, and the power it holds over mortals.

She let herself be
, scoffs a hunter, young and brash and with a thirst for rebellion stirring in a parched throat.

She means it, says
a quiet murmur, lost beneath the din of speculations. He means it, too. She was real, when nothing else was. But no one
has time for Compassion, in a world that’s yet again on the brink of

And so the rumours flourish. She can contain many things – can keep
the sky itself from falling down and empires from crumbling to pieces, but
she can’t keep idle tongues from wagging. They know her face, and her story. They speak of the elf who’d worked his way into her heart, and destroyed it. They say it’s her own fault, they say it’s his, but disagreements aside, they all call her delusional for thinking she
can fix this – for thinking she can save his heart, when she couldn’t even save her own.

Then there are those who say nothing – wolves in sheep’s clothing, hidden in the shadows wherever she walks. Whether they’re there on his orders or through some independent decision, she doesn’t know, but they catch arrows before they’ve even left their quivers, and stop knives in the dark from reaching her back. Words are
weapons too, and sometimes a rumour will only go so far – stifled with a strangled gasp that
barely has the chance to reach her ears. She is never alone, and if they really are there on his orders, a truly absurd safeguard, she doesn’t know what to make of it. She will burn with the rest, why not just let a
knife take her now?

But the most infuriating thing is the hope it sparks in her
heart, aching, patchwork mess that it is, cradled in the cage of her ribs where
she’s kept it ever since he’d handed it back.

She doesn’t mean to
love him
, they say, her companions. Her friends, who knew her heart before
him, but who wouldn’t recognize it now, if she laid it bare. But there are those who do recognize it, and who won’t
bother with excuses, not for her sake, or the world’s.

Do what you need to do,
Sera says, angry and strong-feeling. Angry for her or angry at him, it doesn’t really matter. It’s the closest to support she’s gotten after she’d made her decision known, and she’ll take it. I’ll give you lizards and snakes. Everything I find that bites.
Itches and hisses. For his bedroll, yeah? Gotta have one still, even if he’s all Big and Bad. 
Tell ‘im that’s from me.

Try, Dorian says, simply, and it might not be enough to mend what’s broken inside her, but it’s a start. If anyone can do this, it’s you.

Try, she thinks, and wants to laugh. She doesn’t have to try and love him. It was the most effortless
thing she’s ever known. Still is. Saving him is a whole other matter, but she doesn’t tell Dorian that. She’ll try, she promises. It’s what she’s doing, every day. Trying, even though it takes everything, and most days she’s so tired she wonders why, what’s the point?

Her fist connects with the stone wall, the shock of pain
shooting up her arm enough to tear a shout from her lips, but she stifles it by clenching her jaw. The pain takes her
mind off the phantom twitching of fingers she no longer has but feels, an ache as potent as the one behind her ribs. There is no distraction strong enough to forget the latter, but she’s long since learned to take what she gets.

The alley smells of piss and degradation, and she sinks
against the wall with a groan, the dirt soft and welcoming to a tired, battered body. Her hand aches where she cradles it in her lap. Everything aches, if she sits still long enough to allow herself to feel it. She doesn’t even know where she is – a nameless village in a nameless region on the edge of nowhere. She can’t outrun his wolves, and he keeps outrunning her.

“You mean it,” Cole says, the quiet voice directly above her. She
doesn’t know how he’s found her, but doesn’t have the strength to question it. She’s never alone, not even from her own, no
matter how hard she tries.

Ellana laughs. Cries, shaking, guttural gasps that sound obnoxiously loud to her ears. People will come looking to inspect the noise. They’ll
recognize her, and new rumours will spread. Yet another story about the former Inquisitor, to keep the tavern talk buzzing. She’s gone mad,
they’ll say now. Mad from a broken heart. Her
fault, his fault, doesn’t matter. Should have known better. Who falls in love with a god?

“Yeah,” she breathes. She’s never pretended otherwise, and she’s not about to start now. “Damn it,” she laughs, tears hot against her dirt-stained cheeks. No vallaslin and only one arm left. He’s taken so many things, but wouldn’t keep what she willingly gave. “Damn it.

Cole is there to help, she knows, but she doesn’t know if it does more harm than good, when he shuffles closer,
leaning his head on her shoulder, hat askew, to say,

“He means it, too. He never stopped.”


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