Title: Sweet Responsibility
Summary: Leliana breaks Solona out of the Circle Tower.
Notes: It’s getting longer. Two parts to go I think. 3293 words. It’s taken over my life – but I do have half the next part written and another two fics to come.
Leliana had a week to prepare for her next trip to the circle tower. A week to find maps of Ferelden that showed the very south of the country and the Korachi Wilds. At least as much as had been documented. She found there was little known about the Wilds outside of those who lived there, the Chasind. In looking for the maps she heard stories about the people who lived there – witches and shamans, savage barbarians who attacked anyone who strayed too close to their homes.
She couldn’t imagine Solona doing anything like that. The young mage didn’t sound anything like the stories she heard.
Perhaps she would ask about it when she saw her next, or on their long trip south.
Which would need supplies, food and tents and money to pay for it.
Getting the money was the easy bit though. A coin purse here, a valuable item there, money was easy to come by. And a week in Redcliffe was more than enough time to gather it enough of it, and make the initial plans before discussing them with Solona.
Except they weren’t staying in Redcliffe for another week. Nor were they staying in Ferelden.
Marjolaine was packing before Leliana had decided what to tell the woman.
Things had slowly been changing between them, and once Leliana would’ve said she loved the other woman without hesitation. Now though there was a strain, slight and subtle between them that Leliana couldn’t quite pin down. Even as they kissed she could sense the way Marjolaine treated her differently, thought of her differently.
Though she supposed she was no longer a student, a child, but an adult and a bard in her own right.
“Are you ready?” Marjolaine asked, even the smile she wore different now.
“Non,” Leliana replied, looking down at the stone floor and the rough weave of the rug. “I am not just leaving just yet.”
“But we have business in Val Royeaux ma fifille. We cannot be wasting time enjoying the Ferelden culture,” she said with a frown.
“I have business here, a job, someone hired me.”
“And how, pray tell, did they do this?”
She stood hands on hips, glaring at Leliana, who’s eye remained fixed to the rug.
“They approached me. I am so escort someone. To Lothering.”
“Lothering?” Marjolaine asked, one eyebrow arched and Leliana finally glanced up at her to nod, before looking away once more. “An escort mission – not quite the work of a bard non…” she continued with a hum. “But respectable work. I assume they pay well for such a long trip.”
Marjolaine smiled then, cradling Leliana’s head in hands for a moment before kissing each cheek in turn. The young bard couldn’t help wonder if the older women knew if she were lying. She couldn’t help wonder if she should be worried about how easy it was to lie to her.
“I will miss you petit fifille, oh my you will be careful won’t you.”
The saccharine tone made Leliana cringe but she smiled and nodded and promised to write if she could.
Then Marjolaine was gone, back to Orlais and Leliana was alone in Ferelden.
A week passed and Leliana had moved her things from castle in Redcliffe and into the inn by the Circle tower. A little place called The Spoiled Princess that would be in the middle of no where if it weren’t for the lake and the Circle. She wasn’t even sure who they were catering too – The Templars perhaps – either was she kept to herself, only leaving her cramped room to eat.
Sleeping in the little bed stuffed with hay she dreamt of wild shamans and witched, Solona on their midst, Leliana at her side.
On her arm.
When she woke she wondered if her desire to help was that simple. She was attracted to the young mage. Either way she had made a promise, left Marjolaine’s side for the first time and struck out on her own. She liked the power she had over her own destiny, the independence.
She had gone from her mother, to Lady Cecille to Marjolaine, and had never been alone for more than a few days at a time. A whole week seemed like a wonder even if she were to spend the next few weeks in the company of Solona. Perhaps they were always destined to be friends, she thought, two people meeting in a place they were not meant to be.
Either way, she wanted to do this, and as she climbed up the tower for a third time – tumbling through the library window and into the secret tunnel she decided she didn’t care why.
She only cared about getting Solona out of the Circle and back home.
Perhaps that was it. Perhaps Leliana missed having a real home enough to want to pursue it for another person.
With a sigh, she made her way down to the little room hidden a the bottom of the tower. The fire was empty, just the week old ashes and she wished she’d thought so bring something to burn, the longer she sat in the little room the colder she got.
For while there was no sign of Solona.
Panic gripped her and she wondered if it was too late, perhaps Solona had been caught last week, put into another tower or guarded more carefully.
while she couldn’t quite reconcile the young mage with wild stories she’d heard about the Chasind she couldn’t imagine Solona as an emotionless tranquil either.
Especially when Solona came bursting through the door of the little room, a huge grin spreading over her face when she saw Leliana waiting for her.
“You came!” she cried, rushing over and wrapping her arms around her and squeezing tightly.
“Of course,” Leliana gasped, laughing when Solona pulled away. “I promised.”
The mage didn’t reply right away, only kissing Leliana on the cheek and sitting down.
“I’ve been lied to a lot since I came here – I had ho idea people could be deceitful.”
Leliana frowned, not sure what to say to that and deciding to avoid the topic altogether.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked instead.
“I hate it here, I don’t belong here,” she replied, “I’m not a regular mage. I’m not even a regular Ferelden, I am Chasind, I belong in the Wilds.”
“I don’t think anyone belongs here,” Leliana said.
“Please don’t leave me here Leliana.”
The bard nodded, reaching out for her.
“Tomorrow,” she promised, squeezing her hand in hers and holding it for a moment. “I’ll be back tomorrow. Be ready to go. And you best not wear robes. I don’t think you’ll be able to climb down the tower in them.”
Solona nodded, grinning, eyes shining a little before she threw herself at Leliana again, hugging her.
“Go, go to bed before someone notices you’re gone. I will meet you in the library tomorrow. Be ready,” Leliana said, pulling out of the mage’s embrace and chuckling.
“I will be, I will,” she said excitedly.
Leliana didn’t doubt that at all, and as they parted for the last time she had never been more certain that she’d made the right choice.
The next night, Leliana packed up her things and slung them over her back in an old bag she’d stolen from a merchant on the short trip from Redcliffe, her bow over her other shoulder. She climbed up the tower for the last time, glad, the brick and stone falling away more easily than before, the climb had been becoming more dangerous each time. This last time might’ve been the last time anyway, though she was getting better at pulling herself up and over the windowsill. She dropped to her feet and saw Solona waiting for her.
As Leliana had suggested, Solona wasn’t wearing her mage robes but an outfit that Leliana could definitely match up with the stories of the wild Chasind. She wore boots of a light brown leather, strips of darker material wrapped around in places as they reached up to her knees. Her breaches were green, patched up. Over it she wore leather armour, a large strip of it over her front and hanging down over her thighs, the same at the back. Underneath she wore a brown tunic and, gloves, more leather strips up to the elbow. Her dark hair was pulled back and she was smiling again.
“I still have the clothes they caught me in,” she said, blushing under Leliana’s scrutiny.
“They are perfect,” the bard told her. “Are you ready?”
She nodded, still smiling. She too had a bag slung over her shoulder, a staff of knotted wood in her hand.
“I cast a spell to mask my blood for a little while. I don’t know how long it will hold but it should be enough to get us far from this wretched place.”
Leliana nodded, and lead her over to the window, climbing back over and smiling.
“Can you climb?” she asked suddenly, “I never asked if you could climb.”
“I’m Chasind, I live in a tree,” she said, raising an eyebrow.
“Sorry,” Leliana said, “let’s go.”
Solona did indeed climb well, she followed Leliana down the ancient tower with ease, landing with more grace than the bard did but tripping and falling as she climbed into the boat. Leliana didn’t laugh though, she was pretty sure the other girl had only been in a boat once before – on the way into the tower. She held on to the edges of the little vessel as Leliana rowed them across the lake, her knuckles turning white as they sailed away from the Circle. She clambered out quickly when they hit the shore, breathing hard and holding her staff close to her chest.
Leliana pushed the boat back out onto the water so it would drift away and put an arm around Solona.
“Are you well?”
“Yes, fine,” she said, shaking the bard off with a frown.
“We need to get as far away as we can before we set up camp,” she said.
“Then let’s go,” Solona said, with a quick smile, and Leliana set off briskly into the bannorn, the young mage close behind her.
They walked quietly for through the night in the moonlight, Solona matching the bard’s quick pace easily, looking around at every tree and every plant as they made their way south west through the bannorn. A vast area of grassland full of minor lords and their petty squabbles Marjolaine had told her. Leliana was more interested in the pockets of empty land and little forested areas as they travelled through it, keeping away from any manor houses or farms. The mage seemed content to follow her lead for that first night, until they came to some overgrown forestry and the dawn was pushing through the trees. She planned to travel at night, they were harder to spot moving in the darkness and she hoped to find a good place to hide. She knew the Circle would be rising soon.
“They’ll be looking for me soon,” Solona said, and Leliana smiled, the mage was more perceptive than she thought she would be.
“We should find a place to camp,” she said told her.
“There are plenty of great trees here,” she said, looking up at the tall trees and their thick branches. “This one, this one is good.”
“You want to camp up a tree?” Leliana said.
“Yeah, it’s the best place to hide,” Solona said, slotting her staff into a strap on her back before jumping up and grabbing the lowest branch of the tree. Without hesitation or effort she pulled herself up onto it and looked down at Leliana smiling. “Need some help?” she asked with a smirk.
“Non,” she said, doing the same, following the mage up into the tree.
“I like it when you speak Orlesian,” Solona said, blushing red. “It’s a very pretty language.”
Leliana felt the flush rise on her own cheeks and ducked her head away, looking around her and down at the ground.
“How do we set up camp here ma cherie?” she asked, unable to stop the little endearment slipping out, looking to see Solona’s dark cheeks flushing deeper.
“Easy,” she said, “do you have rope?”
Leliana nodded, pulling her pack off her back and taking out a coil of rope for the mage. Solona took it, slung it over her shoulder and started to climb higher into the tree, into the leaves hidden from Leliana’s view until she started after her, following the same route until she found her.
“And do you have a tent or something for us to sleep on?”
Another flush on the mage’s cheeks and Leliana grinned as she pulled the small tent from the bag. She stood back, leaning against the thick trunk of the tree and watching as the young woman quickly attached the tent to the branches. It hung like a hammock between two thicker branches, the roof tied to an upper branch. She considered asking if it were safe, but then Solona climbed in, the tent floor sagging but the entire structure holding under her weight. Below Leliana could only see foliage, and satisfied they were hidden, she followed the mage into the tent.
“This is amazing Solona,” she said quietly, the two of them crowded slightly in the small space. The mage shifted back a little, lying down and pulling a blanket from her pack. She spread it over herself, the held the edge up for Leliana.
“It’s okay,” she said with a shrug when Leliana settled next to her under the blanket.
“Do you want something to eat? I have a little food but I hope we can do some hunting tonight.”
“Absolutely,” the young mage smiled. “I’m a very good hunter.”
“We shall see,” Leliana chuckled, handing out some of the bread she had in her pack. They ate quietly and quickly on the dry bread, sipping water to help it down when they were done.
“Tonight we will eat something better. Now, come, let’s sleep yes?” Solona nodded.
“Do you want me to darken the tent?” she asked.
“Darken the tent?”
Solona smiled and muttered something, flicking her fingers in the air. Slowly, the light started to fade inside the tent, the pretty face of the mage disappearing into the shadow until she couldn’t see her at all. She reached out for her, to make sure she was still there, panicked suddenly. Solona took her hand and squeezed it.
“You are amazing,” she said quietly, wishing she could see the mage’s reaction to her words.
“Leliana,” Solona whispered, hesitating. “Thank you.”
She heard the quiet rustle of fabric as Solona moved, felt the breath against her lips, smelt the smell of magic she had come to associated with the young woman but the kiss never came. Instead everything went backwards and she waited until the mage was still again before lying down next to her. She could feel her breath once more, smell the magic, feel the heat but see nothing. It was both disconcerting and liberating and she was tempted to lean forward and kiss Solona on the lips. Wanted to lean forward and kiss her on the lips.
She too hesitated though, wondering if it were the right thing to do since Solona had obviously changed her mind from doing the same.
She fell asleep thinking about it. Thinking about kissing her.
They woke late in the afternoon Solona’s spell having worn off, the sunshine filtering into the tent through the slightly open flaps and through the thin material. Leliana woke to find the mage watching her, eyes lidded, creases in her cheek from where the material had bunched up beneath her. She smiled, sleepy and sweet and Leliana smiled back.
“Sleep well?” she asked.
“Oui, bein,” she replied, “yes, very, thank you.”
There was a flash of red across the mage’s cheeks for a moment,
“Do you think they are looking for me?” she asked.
“I believe so. They would’ve started looking as soon as they noticed you weren’t in bed.”
“They wake us for breakfast, well, those of us who sleep in past the sunrise.”
“Like you?” Leliana asked.
“Sometimes, the Circle has made me lazy,” she grumbled. “It is nice to be free of there, thank you.”
“You are welcome,” she said, “but we are not free yet and they can still track you.”
“I have faith in you,” she replied, blushing again and Leliana felt a responding heat in her own cheeks.
“I hope I live up to that faith.”
Solona simply nodded, shifting to sit up in the tent before moving to look out the flap, opening it up. The sun had started to set, but it would be a little while before they could start moving again. The mage sat back down, crossing her legs and looking over at Leliana. She went to speak, but hesitated again. The bard waited for her to continue but the question or thought never came.
“Tell me about your family,” she asked, deciding she needed to know more about this young woman, wanted to know more. “I’ve heard stories about the Chasind.”
“I bet you have,” she said with a grin, “I too have heard many of the stories told about the Chasind, few are true however.”
“What about the Witch of the Wilds?” Leliana asked. “And the Shamans?”
“We are led by Shamans, my father is ours and I will follow in his footsteps,” she said, “I hope to lead our village as well as he does,” she said, with a warm smile that lit up her face. “My mother is a witch. Though not a daughter of Flemeth like other Witches in the Wilds.”
“She taught our people magic, she is the Mother of Vengeance.”
She was still smiling as she spoke, which Leliana didn’t quite understand. The Mother of Vengeance didn’t sound like something to admire or to like. They talked a little more about the Chasind, and how they lived, but the mage changed the subject, asking Leliana questions about Orlais, and the language and Val Royeaux. Leliana was happy to tell her all she knew, all she could, until the sun went down at least. Solona was a rapturous audience as she spoke, leaning forward more and more as the bard spoke until it was too dark to see the young woman’s pretty face.
“We should make a move,” Leliana said, “But we should be careful, move slowly at first,” stick to the tree line.”
“I will follow your lead Leliana.”
The bard smiled in the darkness, realising Solona couldn’t see her face any more than she could see the mages.
“Perhaps a little light, to work in while we pack up?” she asked.
“Oh, of course.”
“And tomorrow you will have to show me the knots you used to hold the tent up,” she said, “It will be most useful to sleep in trees when travelling.”
A soft blue light appeared in between them, Solona waving her hand to move it to one side, smiling at Leliana.
“Thank you,” she said. “Again.”
“You are welcome again.”
The mage laughed, blushing slightly.
“Will you teach me some Orlesian?” she asked, as she climbed out of the tent.
“Perhaps a little,” Leliana replied, trying not to stare at Solona’s backside, and the curve of her spine of the swell of her hips. She needed to concentrate on getting them both safely south and not on Solona’s body, or her mind, or her soul.