The Dawn Will Come || Sansa Stark and VanillaCola

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  1. [​IMG]

    Eyes opening wide, Darrick jolted awake, his brow dripping with sweat. Sitting up in his bed, the Inquisitor took a moment to look around his room, bringing himself back into the real world and out of the nightmare that had tormented him just a few seconds ago. It was the same nightmare that he had been having ever since the Inquisition escaped Haven: Corypheus and that gigantic Red lyrium dragon destroying Haven and killing everyone in their path. The Red Templars storming the village, and then taking over the rest of Thedas. All Darrick could compare it to was that horrific future that he had seen when Alexius had sent him and Dorian into the future. Complete and utter destruction, all caused by Corypheus and his immense power.

    The sun was beginning to come up over Skyhold, rays of light slipping into the room through the large windows and balcony doors. The light illuminated the minor wounds and small scars that had developed on Darrick's body. A lot of them were recent, having been caused by the attack on Haven. But there was only one that had been more serious. One of Corypheus's claws had left a cut on Darrick's neck, one that had bled more than it should have. At the time, he had been so stunned that Corypheus could lift him that he hadn't noticed that one of his talons had gouged into his skin. It was bandaged now, but still throbbed with dull pain every now and then. But the wound wasn't the only mark that Corypheus had left on him.

    Looking down at his hand, Darrick scowled at the mark on his left palm. Corypheus had called it the 'Anchor', a tool that was meant for him and his evil. But Darrick had ruined that plan, and had indirectly set all of this into motion. It began to glow a bright green, and a sudden surge of pain charged through the Inquisitor's hand. He seethed through gritted teeth, closing up his hand and stiffening slightly. Maybe Corypheus was responsible for how painful this mark was sometimes. Darrick wouldn't put such a thing past the former Magister.

    Once the sun was up, Darrick left his bed and got ready for the day ahead. With plans to approach Empress Celene on the table, as well as many alliances needing to be forged, he needed to be on top of his game and ready for anything. Darrick was never one who enjoyed the politics of Thedas, but being the Inquisitor, he had to use his influence in some way. Leaving his quarters, Darrick headed down to the main hall, glad to see that progress was being made in fixing up Skyhold. The main hall still had large plans of wood and scaffolding lying around, but it was in better condition than when they had first arrived. There was even a throne at the end of the hall now, Darrick sparing it a quick glance as he made his way to the war room. I shouldn't need a throne, he thought, shaking his head a little.

    As he passed through Josephine's office, the Antivan ambassador looked up from her work and smiled. “Ah, Inquisitor,” she called, gaining Darrick's attention. “I have good news about the potential alliance with King Robb. After the destruction at Haven, he seems much more receptive to a strong alliance.”

    “That's good to hear,” Darrick replied, trying his best not to flinch at the mention of Haven. “Any details?”

    “Not as of yet, though we are in the early stages of discussion. I will update you when more plans are laid out.”

    “Thank you, Josephine.” Darrick went to leave for the war room, but Josephine stopped him once more.

    “Oh, Inquisitor?” Darrick looked over once more. “Be prepared for more guests at Skyhold. With everything that has happened, more and more diplomats and guests are arriving in Skyhold. And as the Inquisition grows, so does the number of important arrivals. I trust you know how to conduct yourself, but there are some members of the Inquisition who may need a reminder.”

    Darrick knew exactly who Josephine was talking about. Sera was the main troublemaker around Skyhold, and the last thing they needed was for guests to be scared out of an alliance by her antics. Iron Bull,whilst not nearly as problematic, was still an unusual sight for some visitors, and Darrick wanted to avoid intimidating or terrifying too many people. Dorian, being from Tevinter, was also an odd and somewhat unwelcome sight, especially in the wake of the Venatori. There were others as well, but those three were the main 'problems' that visiting dignitaries may find unsettling.

    “If anyone steps out of line, I shall warn them. Don't worry, Josephine.” With that, Darrick headed into the war room, preparing himself for a couple of hours of intense discussion and plotting of the Inquisition's next moves.
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    The troubles of the Frostbacks were child's play compared to the North. Sansa clutched her cloak closer about her shoulders as bitter winds blew through Tully locks. The cold was welcome, a comforting reminder of the home she'd left behind, but it was clear that the Inquisition's people did not feel the same. She stood at the top of a peak with a hand shielding her eyes from the sun, watching shivering soldiers pace along Skyhold's walls through the eyes of a looking glass. She lowered the telescope with a chuckle. "I guess they'll appreciate the blankets and food we've brought," muttered Sansa knowingly. "Some cold resistance potions might also help."

    "Speaking of which, my lady, do you have another to spare?" The figure of Brienne of Tarth stood beside her, expression firm and strong, but only Sansa would see the weakness cold brought her. "I hate to ask, but I am not accustomed to winter as you are. I fear my armor will freeze to my skin if I don't watch it."

    "A frozen bodyguard is no bodyguard at all, is it?" Sansa smiled as she pointed to Podrick, Brienne's squire, who was fussing with a horse that wouldn't stay steady. "I think Pod has them. If not, I'm afraid I'll have to make you one when we get to Skyhold. There isn't enough time or ingredients out here."

    "Thank you, princess. I will see to it at once." Brienne left her side, rushing over to Podrick and digging through the satchel for the potion she needed. Sansa watched them for a moment. It had been a long and arduous trek across Thedas to reached Ferelden and Skyhold, but never once did her companions complain, nor any of the two-hundred warriors who marched with her. Blessed was she to be so far from home without travesty or trial. Though, Sansa was beginning to wonder if getting to Skyhold had simply been the easy part, and the path that lay before her beheld the true journey. When the company's small pause for rest was ended, Sansa walked by Lady's side down the final mountain slope, toward the cobblestone bridge leading to Skyhold's main gates. Their arrival was a surprise. Stark banners with a rearing silver direwolf clouded the horizon with intentions of peace. Sansa hoped she would not be met with hostility.

    When she arrived at the iron gates, a woman in purple robes with hair almost as red as Sansa's strode forth to meet her. Her eyes were calculating, but Sansa kept her ground and folded her hands politely in front of her. "We were not expecting a Stark arrival," said the woman. "May I ask who you are and why you are here?"

    "My name is Sansa of House Stark," she replied, "daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark, sister to King Robb, heir to the Winterfell and Princess of the North." The title was a long one, but it was said only on formality's terms. "I bring support with me, but I am here to see the Inquisitor. If I may."
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    “We need to search for the largest sources of red lyrium if we are to hinder the Red Templars,” Cullen explained, motioning at the marked spots on the map of Thedas that was laid out. “If we can restrict their source of power, then we can hinder them as a unit.”

    “And these are the locations?” Darrick asked, glancing between the different spots.

    “Yes. I sent soldiers out to scout the potential lyrium sources, and Varric assisted in telling us where major lyrium veins could be located. We have to destroy as much of it as we can, as soon as we can.”

    “Send out soldiers. The more, the better. We don't want any more to fall to the Red Templars.”

    The tension was beginning to show for Darrick. The truth was, they didn't have many soldiers to expend, and certainly not enough to send out all across Thedas. As much as he would have liked to gain control of the Red Templar locations, they just didn't have the numbers to do so. And with more and more Red Templars seeming to appear each day, the situation was becoming more dire. But Darrick would not allow them to fall at the hands of crazed Templars. The Inquisition had just found its footing, and he wouldn't let it slip.

    A knock on the door of the war room pulled Darrick's attention away from the map, and he called for whoever it was to enter. An Inquisition soldier entered the room, bumbling a little as he stepped closer. “Leliana sent me, Inquisitor. The Princess of the North has arrived, and she has brought soldiers with her.”

    “Stark soldiers?” Cullen muttered to himself. Darrick looked over at him – maybe they would have enough soldiers to deal with the red lyrium threat after all.

    “The Princess says she is here to see you, Inquisitor,” the soldier added. “Leliana has taken the Princess and her escorts to the main hall, they will meet you there.” With that, the soldier left, and Darrick looked over at Cullen with a slight hint of disbelief on his face. Had Stark soldiers and the Princess of the North really just trekked to Skyhold? Part of him didn't want to believe it, but this was no time for practical jokes of any kind.

    “We'll discuss more later,” Darrick said before leaving the war room. He noticed that Josephine was no longer seated at her desk, no doubt having rushed out to greet the unexpected arrival. He couldn't fault her – she was the ambassador of the Inquisition, after all. When he entered the main hall, he was unsurprised to see Josephine standing close by to the Princess of the North, as well as some of the occupants of Skyhold lingering around the royal guests. Whilst many important faces had been in and out of Skyhold, it was the unexpected and more well-known guests that often drew crowds.

    Darrick's gaze was soon drawn to the Princess though. She was somewhat...unexpected, he supposed. With many Orlesian dignitaries often being over-the-top, and other lords and ladies looking old or intimidating, the Princess of the North stood out due to her youth and 'normality'. It was nice to see someone who looked more like the people of the Free Marches than someone straight from Val Royeaux. In some way, she was a breath of fresh air from what Darrick had to and would continue to deal with.

    “Princess,” Josephine began once she saw Darrick approach. “This is Ser Darrick Trevelyan, leader of the Inquisition. And Inquisitor,” Josephine turned her attention to Darrick. “I present Lady Sansa of House Stark, daughter of Ned and Catelyn Stark, sister to King Robb, heir to the Winterfell throne and Princess of the North.”

    “It is an honour to meet you,” Darrick greeted. “Ser Darrick is fine.” Looking around the main hall, Darrick took note of how everyone had seemingly continued to go about their duties, though he knew all too well about the curious and sometimes nosey nature of some of the inhabitants of Skyhold.

    “I was told you wished to meet with me.” Darrick held his arm out, waiting – and a part of him hoping – that the Princess would take a hold of it. “May I take you somewhere more private?” His gaze flickered to the tall knight and who he assumed was her squire. He didn't mind if they followed, considering the somewhat tense climate that had overtaken Thedas in recent days. Though he hoped that nothing that he and Sansa would speak of would be leaked to anyone. He knew all too well from what Leliana often said that information could be used in a way much deadlier way than a sword or magic could.
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    The Inquisitor offered his arm--was that not strange to the customs of Ferelden? She'd never heard of such formalities that Westeros was more accustomed to. Perhaps he was being accommodating on her behalf. The idea made her smile. It had been a long time since a stranger had been so thoughtful toward her, aside from the typical royal customs. Sansa missed being treated with kindness. She took his arm without hesitation. He was strong and warm; she could feel it through the fabric of his Inquisitor's clothing. Needless to say, it refreshed her.

    Sansa turned to her guards to speak. "Please, stay and mingle with the Inquisition. I'm sure their captains will show you around Skyhold. I will speak with the Inquisitor on arrangements for housing us. Podrick can take care of Lady while I'm away." Nearby Inquisition soldiers moved with unease as the massive direwolf sniffed at a turkey leg on a table, but like the well-behaved beast she was, the wolf sat still. Sansa turned back to the Inquisitor and followed where he led, toward a great hallway with engraved doors, as Brienne of Tarth kept pace behind them. She was led into the war room, a circular space with beautiful stained glass windows and torches. Sansa removed herself from Darrick to approach the table.

    "I hope you don't mind if Brienne accompanies us," she said. "Forgive me. I have suffered much, and while I doubt the Herald of Andraste would harm me, I can never take any chances." She grazed her fingertips along the edge of the large map of Ferelden and Orlais. Brienne stood by a nearby window and kept watch over the pair, always on guard, though eased in the Herald's presence. Both women could sense no hostility or ill-intent from this man. Then again, Joffrey and Ramsay had acted the same. Sansa would not be fooled again.

    "Inquisitor--Ser Darrick, was it? Thank you for meeting me on such sudden notice. I wanted to arrive early and see the integrity of the Inquisition without any pomp and circumstance. I noticed a lot on my way here. You've done well with what you have, especially considering the horrible events at Haven." Sansa's frown was genuine, and Tully eyes shown with sympathy as she looked up to the Inquisitor. "I know more of grief than most. If you ever need counsel--...well, I know I only just arrived, but..." She curled her hair behind her ear and folded her hands in front of her. "I will help in any way I can."
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    Darrick was pleased when Sansa took his arm without hesitation, and he noticed the smile on her face. Whilst doing such a thing was not the typical Ferelden custom, Darrick had learnt about Westeros's customs from his family. With the Trevelyans being a noble house, they prided themselves on being more 'cultured' than the other 'barbaric' residents of the Free Marches. At least those teachings were of use now. He was more than happy to accommodate for Sansa and what she was used to. The Inquisitor knew what it was like to be thrown into an unfamiliar situation – he only wished he could have experienced some reminders of Ostwick during his time in Ferelden.

    As he led the Princess to the war room, he had noticed the female knight's presence behind them. However, he said nothing, and barely acknowledged her. It was fine for someone of such high status to have a knight following them, especially in a foreign place when being led around by a stranger. Arriving in the war room, Darrick allowed Sansa to leave his side, only now just looking over at Brienne of Tarth as she went to stand by a nearby window. “Of course I don't mind,” Darrick replied, looking back over at Sansa. “Anything to make you feel safe.”

    He joined Sansa at the war table, his gaze skimming over the map laid out in front of them. So many markers were scattered across it, representing the ever-growing stress that the Inquisition was under. Alliances in Ferelden that needed strengthening, re-emergences of darkspawn all over Thedas, spywork in was all so much to take in. Much more than Darrick had asked for – not that he had ever asked for anything, over than for the meeting at the Conclave to go well. And look how that turned out, he thought, frowning slightly. When Sansa addressed him, Darrick moved his gaze to her, listening to every word she said. A slight smile formed on his lips as she noted how well the Inquisition had done at Skyhold, though it was soon dashed away as Haven was mentioned. The sore wound of Haven had been opened once again, barely even given time to heal as of late.

    But then he noticed the frown on Sansa's lips, and saw the genuine sympathy in her eyes. It wasn't like some of the 'sympathy' he had seen from other royals and dignitaries. They often faked sadness, having had no connection with Haven or the progress that the Inquisition had made there. The 'sympathy' they offered just added salt to the wounds, but what Darrick saw in Sansa's eyes was more real than anything he had seen from the other lords and ladies. It was understanding. And as Sansa continued on, Darrick realised that she would of course understand what he was going through. Grief was a dark shadow that he imagined had enveloped the Stark house more than a few times in recent years. The unintentionally endearing actions and words from the Princess only cemented the genuine nature of her offer, and Darrick felt his frown fading a little.

    “Thank you, Lady Sansa. Grief is a burden that is best shared with those who understand, as dark as that may be. You are too kind.” Darrick took a moment to look down at the Princess, offering her some semblance of a smile, a sign that he appreciated her words.

    “Forgive me for asking, but why else are you here? It seems unusual for a princess to bring hundreds of soldiers with her – I imagine that job would be better suited for a commander or captain, unless you wished to do more than just see how the Inquisition is doing. Are you planning to stay here? I can have housing arranged for the soldiers, and if you and your escorts will be staying for a while, living quarters can also be arranged.” Darrick hoped he wasn't being rude. He just had a feeling that Sansa was here to do more than check up on the Inquisition, or perhaps that was wishful thinking on his part.​

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    "Oh. Yes, I had planned on staying if that's alright. These soldiers are a gift from my brother, King Robb. He would have sent more, but with the North still so fresh out of war and building bridges with the south to true peace, this was all that could be spared. And me." Sansa chuckled. "I believe he thought I could advise you. I'm not sure if you need another advisor, but I know much about diplomacy and playing the game of thrones. My insight could be helpful. I could also assist magically." She waved her hand, and the fire from a nearby candle froze into a once-flickering statue of ice. "Mages are not a cause for concern in the North. Our magic is different. And Lady, too, my direwolf. She'd probably as good, if not better than any mabari. But where she goes, I go. That's the only condition."

    Sansa re-folded her hands in front of her. He was a hard man to read, this Darrick Trevelyan from a strange land. She did not know if he would accept her offers. His face was kind and his aura, relaxing. But Sansa had fallen for such graces before. She would not be made a fool of again.

    "If I may offer council as well," said Brienne from beside the window, "Princess Sansa is as invaluable as she says. I served her lady mother, who always spoke highly of her, and in serving Sansa I have seen great development beyond any that Westeros has to offer. Even moreso than her kingly brother, if I dare say it. You would be wrong to turn her away."
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    When Sansa confirmed that she would be staying, Darrick smiled and nodded. The gift of soldiers from King Robb was appreciated, and with Sansa explaining that she had been sent as an advisor, Darrick was more than certain about allowing her to join the Inquisition. Yes, he had many advisors already, but he imagined that Sansa could provide input that he wouldn't be able to get from the others. With her knowledge about the game of thrones, her background, and the experiences he assumed she had had, Darrick could tell that Sansa would be vital, especially when dealing with Empress Celene and Orlais' political games. Surely the nobles and royals in Orlais had heard of the Starks, as well as the war in Westeros and now the negotiation of peace between the North and south.

    However, the demonstration of her magic left him just a tad nervous. Magic may not have been an issue in the North, and whilst Darrick wanted to believe Sansa when she said it was different, he couldn't help but think about the trouble that magic had caused in the rest of Thedas. The apostates, the mage rebellion, the Venatori, Tevinters... magic and Thedas didn't have a good history as of late. Still, he had accepted other more questionable mages into the Inquisition, and Darrick couldn't possibly turn away Sansa just because she used magic herself. He could accept Sansa's direwolf though. There was no issue with having Lady around, especially with Sansa's note of her being just as good as any mabari.

    Staying calm and putting his unease about magic behind him, Darrick smiled down at Sansa and was about to accept her offer. But his attention was drawn to Brienne as she spoke, and he allowed her to continue. The praise that Brienne had for Sansa was more than what Darrick had expected. Considering he assumed the Princess was rather young, hearing about how invaluable she was, and learning about the development she had incited was pleasantly surprising. If you were to ask anyone in the Free Marches about Darrick, he imagined they wouldn't have near as much praise for him, even with his status as the Inquisitor.

    “That's quite the testament,” Darrick said, looking from Brienne to Sansa. “It would be an honour for you to join the Inquisition. I trust that you will be invaluable to our cause.” Already Darrick could tell that Sansa would fit in well and would be more than helpful as an advisor. He could tell in the way she carried herself, in the praise of those who knew her. “I will find someone to set up accommodation for you and your party. Feel free to look around Skyhold in the meantime. Some areas may be under construction, but we have people who are fixing the place up. And if you need anything, please come and find me.” Darrick paused, still smiling slightly. “The Inquisition thanks you for the soldiers, as well as your help. Now, if you'll excuse me.”

    With that, Darrick left the war room in search of someone who could set up housing for Sansa, her escorts, and the soldiers. Some may have believed that leaving guests alone in the war room was a mistake, but the Inquisitor trusted that Sansa wouldn't sabotage the plans that had been laid out on the war room table. If anything, he saw it as him being rude for leaving her, but accommodation needed to be arranged as soon as possible. He hoped that the Princess could forgive him for his absence – perhaps some nicer quarters would help with that.​

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    Sansa watched him leave, and was not offended by his abruptness. She understood what it meant to lead. Being Inquisitor was surely not a simple job. Time was always pressuring and there was never enough, the list of things to do growing larger and larger with each second that passed. A part of her pitied him. Maybe someday soon, she could help ease the burden for him. Sansa turned to Brienne and raised her brow. "Well? What do you think?"

    "He seems a gentle leader, my lady. Not bad on the eyes, either."

    "Oh, hush." Sansa's cheeks flushed pink, but she ignored it briskly and brushed her hair from her face. "I wasn't paying attention to that."

    "I'm not blind. What is the harm?" Brienne strode to Sansa's side, smiling down at her, and it occured to Sansa once again that Brienne was as close a sister-figure as any she'd had. Arya was still lost to the wind, dead by most regard. Brienne chuckled at Sansa's silence. "Too star-struck for words?"

    "It's been a long time, Brienne. So much has happened..." Sansa sighed. "Please. I'd rather not discuss it."

    "As you wish, princess."

    The two women left the war room shortly after. Sansa was led to her chambers, a small, comfortable room with a view of the mountains, but when she sat down to unpack her things, Sansa couldn't help but miss home.​

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    Darrick's time had been spent dealing with accommodation for the new soldiers and guests. Josephine had been eager to discuss the impact of Sansa's arrival, the ambassador certain that this meant the Inquisition would be taken much more seriously, especially in the eyes of the Orlesians. Apparently, many Orlesian nobles were taken by the story of the Starks and the peace negotiations between the North and south of Westeros. Whilst Darrick imagined that Westeros's ordeal was just the flavour of the month for many Orlesians, Josephine seemed much more adamant that the Starks – and definitely Sansa – would capture any noble's attention. Empress Celene would hopefully be much more approachable with the arrival of Sansa, and the Orlesian nobles would perhaps think twice before turning their noses up at the Inquisition.

    With living arrangements set up, and once Darrick had finally escaped Josephine's political talk, the Inquisitor decided to seek out Sansa. Darrick assumed that she was either just finishing or had already finished unpacking, and was getting settled. He knew the room that had been given to her – one of the more comfortable ones, a room that had been reserved for guests who would stay for a couple or more days. He could only hope that Sansa found it suitable. Whilst walking through the hallway down to Sansa's quarters, Darrick overheard a conversation between two workers. They were taking a break from cleaning away some rubble and repairing a set of wooden stairs nearby, and when the Inquisitor heard that their topic of conversation was Sansa, he couldn't help but listen in. Their voices echoed through the empty space, helping him to hear what they were talking about.

    “Do you think she can be trusted?” One worker asked, voice hushed.

    “Of course – she's the Princess of the North,” the other replied.

    “That doesn't mean anything. Look at Empress Celene, she's not exactly someone you'd trust.”

    “Well, why shouldn't we trust the Princess? She brought soldiers here, and was sent by the King of the North...or something like that.”

    “There was that whole...” The worker trailed off, paused. Darrick could sense the apprehension in the air, and he waited for the man to continue speaking. “Bolton situation. I have a friend who lives in Westeros, and he told me all about it. The Boltons were ruthless and manipulative. I don't like to say it, but--”

    “Aren't the Boltons long gone? They don't have any kind of power, last I heard.”

    “No, but the Princess could have been...manipulated to do things. She got involved with one of them, she could be one of them.” Darrick furrowed his brow at this idea. He trusted Sansa. She definitely didn't seem like anything he had heard the Boltons to be like, and as far as he knew, she was forced into House Bolton. It could have all been lies and rumours, since the Free Marches didn't often get involved in the politics of Westeros, but he was sure that Sansa wouldn't be 'ruthless' or 'manipulative'. Shaking his head, Darrick continued on his way, wanting to forget the idle gossip that he had just heard.

    Arriving at Sansa's room, Darrick knocked on the door before going to open it. “Lady Sansa? How are you?” He called, entering the room and hoping she was there. He assumed she would be, though there was no telling if she had decided to explore Skyhold or not. “I thought I would drop by to see if you were getting settled in. I hope I'm not intruding.”
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    Sansa perked up from the letter she'd been writing, an update to her brother and an expression of her love. She sat at the northside desk with a feather pen in her hand. Sansa was warmed to see the Inquisitor at her door, asking about her well-being as if he were genuinely interested. He was kind, Brienne had told her as much, but Sansa was always hesitant to trust anyone. Especially men. She placed the feather in the inkwell and stood to greet the Herald of Andraste with all the grace he deserved. Andraste was revered in these parts, and it would be better not to forget the main religion of this strange land. Regardless of how uncomfortable she may have felt.

    "Inquisitor," she said sweetly. Her gray dress contrasted the auburn of her hair, tied up in a messy bun to expose her pale neck. The fireplace was full with flame that matched the color of her curls. "I'm surprised to see you here. Isn't it after dinner? Not that you're unwelcome, but I assumed you had other things to attend to. I've settled in nicely. This room is pleasant, you needn't worry."

    Sansa held her arms, slightly uncomfortable. Lady picked up on this and moved between her master and the newcomer, laying down before the warmth of the fireplace.
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    Darrick noticed the letter in front of Sansa, and he immediately wanted to apologise for disturbing her. However, upon seeing how warmed she seemed to become upon seeing him and how she readily greeted him, the Inquisitor imagined that she didn't mind being interrupted all that much. He took in her appearance for a moment, an action he somewhat regretted when he realised how closely he was admiring her neck and face. She was beautiful, something he had realised already, yet still kept noting in his head. His stomach turned into a pit of guilt when he saw the way she held her arms, most likely uncomfortable. He had heard rumours and stories about what had happened to the Starks, and Sansa's story was just as spoken about in Thedas as the rest of them. Whilst Darrick took everything he had heard in the Free Marches with a pinch of salt, he couldn't help but believe some of the things he had heard. And some of those stories were just awful, if what he heard was true.

    “I'm glad this room is good enough for you,” Darrick replied, offering a warm smile. “I would have hated for you to have been put in one of the more 'incomplete' rooms.” His mind went to the rubble and decay that filled some parts of Skyhold, and then he thought back to the workers just a moment ago, to the accusations that had been made. It's nothing, he thought. Just rumours. “Anyway, I apologise for dropping by at this hour. I was just curious to see how you were doing. And to be quite honest, after hearing everything that Ambassador Montilyet has to say about the Empress and Orlesian politics, I feel as if I've done enough 'Inquisitor duties' for the day.”

    As Lady moved toward the fireplace and settled herself down in front of its warmth, Darrick watched from where he was stood, sensing that the direwolf was perhaps making a protective statement. “Your direwolf is quite something. Lady, wasn't it? She's far more majestic than any mabari I've ever seen, and apparently as well-trained as any war hound. I'm sure she must impress a lot of people.” Moving a little closer – but not too close – Darrick observed the direwolf and wondered how one came to possess such a creature. Direwolves were extremely rare to find in the Free Marches, though he could have sworn he had seen one when he was younger. Or was it just an incredibly big wolf?

    Glancing over at the letter on Sansa's desk, Darrick was reminded of some of the tasks he would have to complete. “I should send thanks to King Robb for the soldiers, and I suppose I should try to strengthen any alliances with Westeros as well. Not that I don't appreciate your brother's generosity, I just hope you can understand how...tiring all of this diplomacy can be.” Darrick let out a quiet sigh. “If you want, I can take my leave. It is after dinner after all, and I should probably try to rest before this day runs me down any more.” He didn't leave, not just yet. A part of him wondered if there was anything Sansa wanted to talk about or do, if there were any complaints or requests she had. Darrick certainly didn't mind her company, and he hoped she didn't mind his, despite how inappropriate he felt he was being.​

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    Sansa chuckled at his mention of thanking Robb. The young Stark family, herself and her brother, had been through far too much to expect gestures of gratitude. Though never turned down, they were odd to hear. She could only imagine her brother's face when he opened a letter from the foreign Inquisitor, thanking him for assistance. It had been too long since they'd been treated with courtesy. Sansa wondered if Darrick was aware of that, or if kindness was merely his nature. She found that neither answer would warrant much surprise. It seemed that there was something on the Inquisitor's mind, however, something beyond inquiry and formal occasion. Sansa forced herself to relax; Darrick Trevelyan had done nothing to earn her contempt or suspicion, and she should not treat him otherwise. It was a hard barrier to push past, but she did so for the sake of their delicately fresh alliance. Sansa took a few steps forward to meet with him.

    "Is there something on your mind?" she asked, dropping the mask of her royal title and offering her concern as Sansa Stark, nothing more. "Surely you did not come here to compliment my direwolf. While I'm sure she appreciates the attention, I know how to read people better than she does, and it is clear that something troubles you. I..." She paused. "I don't know much about your burden as I've only just arrived, but I offered myself as your adviser and would happily take on the task of advising immediately. Over a cup of wine, perhaps?" She gestured to a box by the door. "I brought Arbor gold, Dornish sour and white moscato from my homeland. Or if you don't like wine, I'm a phenomenal chess player..."

    Sansa chuckled nervously. She felt awkward, and not for the reasons most common to her, but because handsome men in her room was not something she was accustomed to.​
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    Sansa's chuckle made Darrick smile, and he wondered what he had said that was so humorous. Maybe it was the notion of sending thanks to someone – was that not common in Westeros? Or perhaps it was not common during the recent years with both physical and political wars taking place. He would still send thanks, even if it was out of place. Showing his gratitude was the best thing to do, and it wasn't just about political alliances. Darrick genuinely wanted to say thanks out of the kindness of his own heart. He looked away from Sansa, staring off into the dancing flames of the fireplace. They hypnotised him, though it wasn't long before they reminded him of Haven burning down, the villagers burning in the fires. Fires Darrick was responsible for.

    Darrick looked over to Sansa when he heard her speak. He hadn't noticed that she had taken a few steps toward him, and so he was slightly taken aback at the reduced distance between them. Sensing that she had somewhat relaxed, Darrick began to feel more at ease as well, his body visibly releasing the tension that had built up within his muscles. The fact that Sansa was offering to advise him, to listen to him, made the Inquisitor feel much more at ease, and he gave the Princess a genuine smile as she continued. Looking over at the box beside the door, it was Darrick's turn to chuckle at the mention of wine and the list of different kinds that Sansa had brought along. The mention of chess was also appealing to him – he could remember playing chess with his siblings back home in the Free Marches. They had one of the most ornate chessboards that Darrick had ever seen, and the pieces had been as fragile as delicate flowers. But he had still played the game to death with the rest of his family. He didn't win much, but he had picked the game up swiftly.

    Turning to look back at Sansa, Darrick took note of the nervous chuckle, but he tried not to draw attention to it. His eyes softened as he looked at the Princess, and he wondered what she would have to be nervous about. The last thing Darrick wanted was to make Sansa nervous. “I have to admit, I didn't expect you to bring wine with you,” the Inquisitor began. “But it would be rude to turn you down. I wouldn't mind something from your homeland.” Grabbing the box containing the wines, Darrick placed it down on the desk – being mindful of Sansa's letter and other belongings – and retrieved a bottle of white moscato. “Chess also sounds very appealing. Though I may not be much of a challenge for you, if you're as phenomenal as you say.”

    Darrick smiled as he found two cups and filled them with the wine, making sure not to go overboard. He was worried that the slightest misstep could be seen as inappropriate, and he didn't want to make Sansa nervous any more. With the wine poured, the Inquisitor handed a cup to Sansa before taking a cautious seat down on her bed, his own drink in his hand. His mind went back to how she had offered to listen to whatever was on his mind, and Darrick knew that taking up that offer would be best for his own well-being. But as much as he hated it, his thoughts continued to return to the rumours that the two workers had been discussing. Could you ever trust anyone involved in dangerous political games? Looking at Sansa, Darrick didn't see a master manipulator who wanted to uncover his biggest weaknesses. He just saw a kind, beautiful young woman who had offered to listen to him because she cared.

    With a sigh, Darrick decided to let his walls down for now. “This whole Inquisitor role is draining, and I can't help but feel that I'm not meant to be doing this. Why would Andraste choose me – if she even did?” Darrick's gaze went to the mark on his hand, though he couldn't bear to look at it for too long. “I suppose you understand all about grief, Princess. Now I do too, after Haven. They were all killed because of me. I was responsible. If I wasn't there, if I had never taken up this position, then maybe those people would still be alive.” He paused, realising how miserable he was being. It took all of the strength he could muster up, but Darrick managed to smile once again. “I apologise for pushing my burdens onto you. Perhaps a game of chess could lighten the mood.” With the bed looking like the only logical place to play chess, Darrick moved over to make some room for the board, imagining that Sansa knew where it was and how to set it up. His mind had forgotten even some of the most basic chess rules, but he assumed he would pick it up again in due time.​

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    Sansa accepted the wine and sipped as the Inquisitor spoke. He seemed too stressed, burdened by the weights of a role he certainly didn't ask for, and moreso worried about the losses at Haven. Sansa had heard of that tragedy. The coming of Corypheus, the presumed death of the Inquisition and the Inquisitor himself...she could not imagine those horrors. Though minuscule compared to the things she had seen in her young life, she felt sympathy for the dead and all that had been cut away. She listened to his concerns as any adviser would, and when he was done, she offered her own opinion. "It sounds as though you are taking too many things upon yourself," she said knowingly. "I do this often, actually. I can't speak for Andraste--we don't worship her in the North, but I think you were suited to this cause. All that remains is for you to learn how to be efficient. Trust those around you to take some of your burdens. You'll find that they're eager to help, and the free time you'll have from unburdening yourself will give you time to recuperate from the stress." She smiled sweetly. "Don't worry, Inquisitor. You have friends and a whole army willing to assist you. Even me."

    However, Sansa was not thrilled with the idea of being on a bed. With a man. Not yet, at least. Sansa looked around the room until her eyes found a box, and she set her glass aside to drag the makeshift table in front of the fireplace. Lady lifted her head curiously. Sansa took two pillows and placed them on either side of the box, and gestured to it with a raised brow. "Shall we play over here? I think a hard surface might be better suited for the board," she said, an excuse if nothing else. "And the fire will be nice."
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    Darrick listened to Sansa's advice, able to notice that she was speaking from experience. It was surprising to think that someone as young as she was could understand grief on such a huge scale, and could know the intricacies of leadership. But her experiences weren't like a lot of people's her age. The Inquisitor still valued her advice – she had more knowledge on this kind of situation than some of his advisers, and he knew that what she was telling him could help. Catching her sweet smile, Darrick returned it with a small one of his own, nodding as she finished. “Thank you, Princess,” he said. “Your help is greatly appreciated.”

    The smile on Darrick's lips fell somewhat as he watched Sansa create a makeshift table for them using the box, and then grabbing pillows to sit down on. He knew that he must have made her uncomfortable at the idea on a bed with her, and guilt swamped the Inquisitor. Trying not to let it show, he stood up from Sansa's bed and approached the box and pillows. He couldn't help but smile at the excuse she came up with, though he knew better than to draw attention to it. It was best to not dig at any wounds she may have had, and Darrick was fine with sitting down beside the fireplace.

    “Of course,” the Inquisitor replied. “A hard surface is best, and the warmth of the fire is always welcome.” He took a seat down on one of the pillows, his eyes going to Lady for a moment. The direwolf didn't seem to be making any moves to attack him, something Darrick was very appreciative of. “Do you have a chessboard?” Darrick asked, looking down at the empty space on the box. “Or are we going to play with our imaginations?” He chuckled, showing that he wasn't too serious for once. Perhaps the wine was loosening him up a bit – he always was a 'lightweight'. “You may have to remind me how to play, I haven't competed against anyone in a game of chess for ages. You will most likely win in a matter of seconds, knowing my luck nowadays.” His mind wandered back to the fact that he had somehow become Inquisitor, to the unlikely situation he had found himself in. But he forced those thoughts out of his head for now, instead focussing on Sansa and his efforts to try and remember how exactly to play chess.​

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    Sansa chuckled. "Playing with our imaginations might not be too bad," she replied. "My brother and I do that sometimes. When he's on his throne, I'll whisper 'knight to F4' in his ear, and he'll reply later with another move. It's quite entertaining for long days at court." She opened the box and pulled out another small case, blowing off the dust from the top. She closed the lid and set the case on top, opening it swiftly, removing the Westerosi chess board and pieces from inside. "We don't have chess in the North, really. We play chevasse. But my mother was from the south, so she taught us all how to play from the moment we were old enough to understand the rules. But don't worry. I'll go easy on you."

    Sansa set up the board and the pieces, allowing Darrick to go first. She sipped at her wine and wondered what piece he would move.

    "You still seem troubled, though." She looked up to him with eyes of curiosity. "I understand wanting to keep certain things secret, but I am trustworthy. Though I suppose that's something an untrustworthy person would say..."
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    Darrick smiled at Sansa's response, listening as she explained how she played imaginary chess with her brother. He wouldn't have expected that from Sansa or King Robb, and gaining that knowledge somehow made the royals seem more human. It was easy to forget that they were people, not just impenetrable figures that sat in court like statues. “I can imagine,” he said in response to her claim that it was entertaining, the visual of Sansa leaning toward her brother to whisper a chess move causing Darrick to chuckle. “My mother was the same, she taught my siblings and I, and then encouraged us to have chess tournaments in the family. She had this beautiful board, it was ridiculously ornate, and we had to be so careful with it. Sometimes I wonder if she was even born in the Free Marches – she certainly acted like some noble from Orlais or Antiva, always attached to fine things.”

    Once Sansa had set the board up and allowed Darrick to go first, the Inquisitor considered his first move. Despite having not played for a while, he still remembered his favourite opening – the Queen's Gambit. Moving his pawn to D4, Darrick allowed Sansa to have her first move. Knowing his luck, she would probably defeat him in as few moves as possible, but the Inquisitor didn't mind. He was just enjoying spending time with his new adviser.

    Though when she noted that something still troubled him, Darrick wished that she would maybe stop being so curious. He didn't like to throw all of his worries onto someone at once, whether they were trustworthy or not. Talking too much just didn't work for him. He had always been a quieter person, and though that often led to issues festering inside of him and eating him alive, he hated to burden others with his problems. When Sansa noted how saying that she was trustworthy was something an untrustworthy person would do, Darrick was once again reminded of those rumours he had heard. Was it right to ask Sansa about her past with the Boltons? Considering what he had heard, it must have scarred her to some degree, and he didn't want to reopen old wounds.

    Looking over at Sansa, Darrick sighed. “It's just...” Pausing, he realised that he couldn't ask her about it. The words wouldn't rise up from his throat, staying lodged where they were and not moving at all. “It's nothing. Just some rumours I heard that are obviously untrue. Some people were questioning whether you were trustworthy or not, and I kept thinking about it. But I can see that you are more than reliable and worthy of trust, Princess. It's unfortunate that some people have to question everyone that enters Skyhold, but that is how it is nowadays with the politics of Thedas. The chantry was the same when I was named the Herald of Andraste. Constant questions, rumours, lies. I just worry that you don't feel comfortable here.” Then he thought back to the guilt he felt, the very idea that he had made Sansa feel uncomfortable made him rather sick. “In fact, I worry that you don't feel comfortable around me. Apologies, I know we've just met, but if I ever make you feel uncomfortable, do tell me.” It felt good to get that out, though Darrick didn't want to make a habit of spilling his problems around. He wanted Sansa to know that he meant no harm, and with that out, he could relax much more.​

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