Chapter 8

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[...turn this world around in appreciation...]

Crossing the great gulf between Kirkwall and Fereldan is never fun. Depending on the ship and the crew, the journey is often long and difficult. The seas are rough in these parts, and the weather changeable. Varric's ship, however, manned by well-trained dwarves and Fereldans (some are Kirkwall refugee seamen), cuts through the waters smoothly. A welcome surprise.

And it shouldn't be, I remind myself. Bianca, after all, is well-formed, beautiful, and deadly. Why wouldn't his ships be?

Even so, the crossing is rough, taking its toll on my stomach. I spend most of the trip miserably hung over the side of the ship, spewing up the contents of my stomach occasionally. Varric does not hover, but a seaman is usually somewhere within call to help me stagger below deck to rest.

When we finally come to shore at the Storm Coast, I am glad. Despite the heavy rain and lowering grey clouds, with gratitude I wade through the rough waters onto Storm Coast's rocky beaches. I shut my eyes and wait for the world to stop sliding from side to side, to stop heaving up and down. The ground beneath my feet takes a little while to settle. I inhale the cold, crisp air deeply.

Ahhh...

I had never visited this area of Ferelden often. It is a slightly depressing atmosphere, but in this moment, I love it. Standing on the edge of the eternally raging dark ocean daters, I look up at the towering grey-white cliffs and the tall hardy pine trees.

Behind me, Varric is overseeing the change of cargo, and I know it'll be a while before we can move on, so I turn to help set up the small camp.

It is easy to fall asleep this time.

-0-0-0-

We wait. A day and a half later, one morning when the fog lowered among the scrubs and trees, dark figures emerge from the south.

One massive hulk of a shadow moves quickly but surely. The horns are unmistakable. It is Qunari. The horns, the rugged visage, the scars, the large capable hands, and the sharp gaze are familiar as are the leathers and heavy furs and the great sword strapped to his back. What is a surprise is that he does not travel alone.

Ranged about him, a motley band of warriors slip through the wilderness. An elf or two, several sturdy warriors from Fereldan and Navarre – and behind them paces the familiar slight figure of the Inquisitor. Inquisitor Lavellan wears his trademark light armor and mage's lightning staff.

The elf, a welcome sight, brings a small smile to my face. Varric also smiles and shouts with warm familiarity.

"Iron Bull! Lavellan! You came not a moment too soon."
"A little late," Iron Bull grunts. "We'd be here sooner if it hadn't been raining so heavily. Horse slipped and broke its leg. Then there was that thing at the inn with Kr-"
"That was not my fault," a stocky brown-haired warrior snorts. "I warned you about-"
"There was quite a few obstacles," the Elven Inquisitor steps forward to clasp Varric and then myself briefly. "Some footpads harassing a farm, a few rogue Templars... and a coven of possessed mages... and then there was that one cave we had to explored. Turned out to be home to a great nest of darkspawn."
"Fucking darkspawn," Iron Bull shakes his head. "But... that's Fereldan for you: rocks, wasteland, Blight, and Darkspawn."
"I'm sure King Alistair would find that description amusing," Lavellan chuckled.
"King Alistair can-"
"Well, King Alistair and the Hero of Fereldan have their work cut out for them," Varric agrees equably, cutting into Iron Bull's tirade. "Spiders and darkspawn and people just being... people – that'll always be with us."
"We may have defeated Corypheus, but there are still many out there under the shadow of corruption and deceit," Inquisitor Lavellan turns to me. "Oppression everywhere... and even the Champion of Kirkwall is visited by troubles."
"And you aren't at Skyhold to stem the tide," I raise my eyebrows at the pale, dark-haired elf. "Can they survive without you?"
Lavellan laughs then. "I deserve that, I guess."
"If Skyhold can't keep its shit together with the loss of one merc company and one of its leaders, I fear for the future," Iron Bull smirks. "Although our sharp-eared friend here is a great asset wherever he goes."
"Cullen, Leliana, and Josephine will be fine," Lavellan says. "I needed to get out of the castle anyhow. There's something about roaming the countryside that suits me just fine."

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