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Fanfic / Twice Upon an Age

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Art by MerrillyDoodles, used with permission

"Whether we live or we die, we do it together."
— The Right Hand of Andraste, to the Left Hand

Note: Because this fic closely follows the plot of Dragon Age: Inquisition, there are spoilers here.

In an alternate Thedas where two Grey Wardens became the Heroes of Ferelden by working together to end the Blight, two Inquisitors rise side by side to fight an ancient evil. How will the friendship between a serious, soft-hearted Andrastian human and a snarky, charismatic Dalish elf save the world? Very carefully.

Such is the basic premise of Twice Upon an Age, a Dragon Age: Inquisition fanfic series by Lady Norbert. For Christmas 2016, the author's best friend requested a fic in which both of their 'canon' Inquisitors shared the blessings and burdens of being the Herald of Andraste. According to the author's notes, this was accomplished with the help of Chantry records and the editing skills of Varric Tethras.


It's been ten years since the Heroes of Ferelden worked together to vanquish the Archdemon Urthemiel. Lady Victoria Trevelyan and Mahanon Lavellan are both selected to attend the Divine's Conclave to see how the Mage-Templar War would be resolved. After boarding the same ship and being introduced by a chance encounter, they develop a mutual respect which evolves into a strong platonic affection. This sustains them when they emerge as the only survivors of the Conclave, each with a strange mark on their hands. Known as the Lord and Lady Herald, the Left and Right Hands of Andraste, and eventually the Lord and Lady Inquisitor, they must work together to save Thedas from the machinations of a mysterious being known as the Elder One.

Apart from the presence of double the Inquisitors, the story largely follows the plot of Inquisition, with some additional material and a few changes for flavor. Each Inquisitor brings their own strengths and weaknesses to the table; each develops their own friendships with the other companions, each has their own individual romance arc, and each has their own emotional response to the events as they unfold. The heart of the story, however, is the close bond between the two main characters.


    About the stories 
  • The first story, All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird, covers the events of the main game, starting from prior to the Conclave. The title is a spoof on All This Shit is Weird, the book Varric writes in-game about the activities of the Inquisition.
  • The sequel, Doubling Down, will cover the DLC material of Jaws of Hakkon, The Descent, and Trespasser. It picks up where the first story ends and takes the reader all the way beyond the Exalted Council, including some original content in Kirkwall.
  • In addition to the main two stories, there are a quartet of side volumes in the series.
    • Across the Waking Sea takes place concurrent to the first 35 chapters of the original story, showing how Varric relates the events in letters to and from Bethany Hawke.
    • The Skyhold Runner's Guide to Survival is presented as having been entirely written by Varric; at Josephine's request, he put together a sort of guidebook for the Skyhold staff members who are seen having ambient dialogue with the various Inquisition members as they carry messages back and forth.
    • Agents Acquired is a series of one-shot stories depicting the recruitment of several of the Inquisition agents, from the points of view of the agents themselves, though Varric maintains his post as editor and "Scholar" remains the author.
    • If Non Can Learn to Do It is a one-shot best described as a minor Alternate Universe Fic of the actual series; at the request of Mahanon's creator, Varric and "Scholar" rewrote the lyrics to "Learn to Do It" from Anastasia to be about teaching the Lord Inquisitor what he needs to know before going to Halamshiral. It Makes Sense in Context... mostly.

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Tropes found in All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird

  • Aesop Amnesia: Averted by Sera, for a change. As much as she hates "learning lessons," she does take it to heart when, not long after her own fight with Mahanon over his being "elfy," she witnesses Dorian and Blackwall's interaction as they bury the hatchet. It leads to her deciding to do the same.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: After they reach Skyhold, Victoria often wears her hair in a long braid hanging down her back (as opposed to the more compact braided style she wears in battle). Mahanon frequently tugs on the end of her braid.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Several.
    • After they reach Skyhold, Mahanon dubs Victoria ma da'vhenan, which is Dalish for "my little heart;" he explains that it was the closest he could get to "my little sister," which has no exact translation. His nickname for Cassandra is ma vhenan’ara, "my heart's desire."
    • The Iron Bull calls Mahanon "Boss," as in the game; Victoria is "Lady Boss."
    • After the events at Adamant, Blackwall takes to calling Victoria "Ladyship."
  • After-Action Report:
    • One chapter is a compilation of three of these, as Scout Harding sends reports back to Leliana with details of how the Inquisitors and their friends took possession of Caer Bronach, Suledin Keep, and Griffon Wing Keep.
    • In chapter 48, when Mahanon goes to find Mythal's guardian, one of his companions drops the trope by name and promises to give such a report to Varric, so that he has all the details correct for the book (since he's not going).
  • All-Loving Hero: Victoria, contrasted with Mahanon's Magnetic Hero; she earns loyalty through her kindness and willingness to give second chances.
  • Alternate Universe Fic: The basic premise requires that it be considered this.
  • Amazon Chaser: Mahanon, once he realizes how much he's attracted to Cassandra.
  • Anger Born of Worry: The Inquisitors each tend to react this way when the other gets hurt.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: It's implied that Victoria's brother Aloysius sees her as this; he has as little to do with her as possible because he got tired of her kicking his butt in the practice yard.
  • Appeal to Flattery: Used in Varric's editor's notes at the start of chapter 42:
    Note From Ed: "...and unless I misjudge our readers (who are so clearly shrewd, discerning, and intelligent consumers of media), it'll make sense."
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Cassandra delivers a gentle one to Mahanon when discussing his quarrel with Victoria. He isn't sure how to answer it, which leads to him doing a lot of thinking.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: In chapter 44, Varric and Bethany take a turn at this in the Arbor Wilds - if Varric is to be believed, that is. His version of events is a little over the top (much like some of his tales in Dragon Age II), and he grumbles in his editor's note in that chapter that the author made him rein it in (much like Cassandra did in that game).
  • Badass Bookworm: Dorian, as in the game. Victoria is also indicated to be this, being an avid scholar of history in particular; so is Cullen.
  • Badass in Distress: Mahanon, when he gets kidnapped by the Venatori. It's even specified, when the event is confirmed through spy work, that he has been Bound and Gagged.
  • Bash Brothers: A story Varric tells at dinner one night paints Hawke and Aveline in this light, and also Mahanon and Victoria, to whom he compares the other duo.
  • Battle Ballgown: Harritt and Dagna devise something like this for Victoria after she returns from the Cradle of Sulevin. Her delighted reaction is to say, "This is a battledress." It's really a suit of dragonskin armor, but the nature of the design gives it a dresslike appearance.
  • Battle Couple: Mahanon and Cassandra have this a few times in the field, particularly when they explore the Halamshiral Palace and when he accompanies her to Caer Oswin in search of the Seekers. Victoria and Cullen get a few turns as well, such as when they defend the ballroom together while the others fight Grand Duchess Florianne.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • Mahanon thinks this exact phrase right before the sacking of Haven.
    • Sera very sarcastically asks Mahanon if he's familiar with the phrase when he asks Mythal to send a dragon and she does.
  • Bearer of Bad News:
    • Dorian reluctantly volunteers for this task at Adamant after the Inquisitors and a few others fall into the Fade rift since, as Blackwall points out, someone has to tell Cullen. Judging by the commander's face, he's pretty sure he fails at Breaking Bad News Gently.
    • Leliana gets a turn later, when Victoria returns from Val Royeaux and has to be informed that Mahanon is missing.
  • BFS: Victoria's weapon of choice - she wields two-handed swords. She explains to Mahanon that she likes putting so much strength into a single swing.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Mahanon is extremely protective of Victoria, who is several years younger than himself and is, in his own words, the closest thing he's ever had to a sibling. His nickname for her, da'vhenan, is meant to invoke this; he starts calling her this after they reach Skyhold, since having nearly lost her at Haven strengthens his attachment. Dorian develops a very similar affection for her, if a little less intense, and so does Varric in his own way.
    • Hawke still has her Big Sister Instinct toward Bethany, as seen in the letter she sends Varric late in the story.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Anyone who has read about the Elvhen language will have extra appreciation for Mahanon and Victoria's reunion scene in chapter 31. For anyone who hasn't, Varric's ensuing editor's note heavily implies the meaning of his words.
  • Birds of a Feather:
    • The relationship between Victoria and Cullen has a lot of this to it. They're both devout Andrastians with considerable skill in battle; additionally, Cullen is an ex-Templar and Victoria nearly became a Templar. They're also, arguably, the most serious members of the cast, and share a love of history and reading.
    • This is also an element in Victoria's bond with Cole. Although Cole saves Mahanon's life at Therinfal Redoubt, he grows more attached to Victoria; Cole is a spirit of compassion, and this is described by multiple characters as being the Lady Inquisitor's defining trait.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: When a Venatori makes the mistake of threatening Cassandra at the Winter Palace, he learns this the hard way as Mahanon's knife finds his throat.
  • Blue Blood: Victoria, Cassandra, and Josephine all belong to the nobility and bear the title of "Lady." Elissa Cousland was also this, in the prologue, before she became Queen of Ferelden.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: During the voyage to Ferelden, Victoria adopts Mahanon into her entourage and makes him her bodyguard so that the sailors will leave him alone, as he's technically a stowaway. He finds this kind of hilarious, because while she is a noblewoman and it makes sense for her to have a bodyguard, he doesn't think she needs one - not only because she's perfectly capable of defending herself, but also because they're going to a peace summit.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: A non-romantic example, when Poor Communication Kills divides the Inquisitors for a time.
  • Broken Bird: Cassandra, which is why Mahanon has to work to get the girl, as implied by Cole.
    Cole: He had to get past all the barriers she built around her heart to keep it from breaking.
  • Buffy Speak: Sera, especially in her point of view chapter. She comes up with phrases like "greatass greataxe" for Bull's weapon, and "lizard gizzard" for the snowy wyvern heart in Vivienne's quest.
  • Cassandra Truth: No one believes Jim when he says that he walked in on Josephine playing with dolls.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: During the final battle with the Elder One, the Inquisitors, Dorian, and Varric amuse themselves by snarking about him. Given the way their enemy keeps trying to taunt them, Varric is of the opinion that "his real power is monologuing."
  • Censored Title: For no stated reason, the author chose to censor the use of the word "shit" in the title of the story.
  • Chasing a Butterfly: Invoked in chapter 31, when Mahanon tries to scold Victoria for getting seriously injured at the Cradle of Sulevin. She retorts that it happened for a perfectly logical reason, not because she was "chasing butterflies off a ledge or something."
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In an early chapter, Varric mentally compares Victoria to Bethany Hawke, and in the following chapter he writes a letter to her. 33 chapters after she's first mentioned, Bethany finally appears in person.
  • The Chew Toy: Inquisition scout Jim, in chapter 19.
  • Common Tongue: Toward the end of the story, Victoria occasionally has to remind Mahanon to use this, as he keeps slipping into Elvhen and she doesn't understand it. It's implied to be a side effect of having drunk from the Well of Sorrows.
  • Confirmed Bachelor: Solas is this, of the 'uninterested in love' variety. Of course, he's really Fen'Harel. Gender-flipped with Leliana.
  • Cool Horse: Each of the co-Inquisitors favors a mount. Victoria rides a barded charger,note  which is a gift arranged by one of her many cousins; at Mahanon's suggestion, she names him Falon, the Dalish word for "friend." Mahanon starts out riding the red hart but switches over to the Bog Unicornnote  once it's sent to the Inquisition, and calls it Mythal'enaste, which means "Mythal's favor." (Cassandra thereafter rides the red hart, which she eventually names Scarlet.)
  • Coupled Couples: Mahanon and Victoria are friends before they meet anyone else in the Inquisition. Cullen and Cassandra are also friends and colleagues prior to meeting the Heralds of Andraste.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: After Cullen loses his armor during the game of Wicked Grace and starts to undress, Mahanon snatches up his discarded surcoat and drapes it over Victoria's head before the rest of the armor is removed. When she protests, he tells her it's for her own good. (How innocent she actually is never gets clarified, but she lets him win the argument.)
  • Creator Cameo: Lady Norbert (as "Scholar") shows up in the last chapter.
  • Crisis of Faith: Victoria suffers from one of these after the siege of Adamant.
  • Cruel Mercy: This is Mahanon's logic in deferring to Victoria when the time comes to judge Blackwall. As he explains to Dorian, "Toria will forgive him. And... that forgiveness will be harder to accept than any condemnation."
  • Dances and Balls: As in the game, the Inquisition goes to the ball/peace talks at Halamshiral Palace. Both Inquisitors get a Dance of Romance with their respective Love Interests as well.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Cullen's gets a brief allusion during the ball at Halamshiral, when Victoria is able to get him away from his "admirers" for a little bit. He notes that being trapped by the courtiers, who are overtly hitting on him and even grabbing him, reminds him of a time he would "rather not recall," referring to his torture by demons during Dragon Age: Origins; in a later chapter he confirms that this was what he meant.
  • Deadpan Snarker: At least half the cast gets in a little of this sometimes, but Varric is the undisputed king of the trope. Not only does he do plenty of snarking in the actual story, but a lot of his "editor's notes" are quite snarky.
  • Deuteragonist: The two leads alternate between this and The Protagonist. Which one is the protagonist of a given moment tends to depend on who the narrative character is at the time. Either Cassandra or Varric could be a contender for the Tritagonist, From a Certain Point of View.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: After Mahanon and Cassandra confirm their romance, Victoria amuses herself a little bit at his expense. He allows her to have her fun, because it's her, but of course he swears to get her back later. (He doesn't. He's very chagrined to learn he lost his opportunity because he wasn't in the room when she came back from her own similar event.)
  • Distress Ball: Victoria has it flung at her during the Halamshiral ball, since she's wearing a dress and has no weapons with which to defend herself when she's attacked by a Harlequin.
  • Does Not Like Magic: Sera, as in canon. It leads her to somewhat avoid Bethany when she joins the crew, although she eventually decides that she's more or less tolerable.
  • Don't Ask: Seen in Varric's letter to Hawke. "Don't ask about Cole. I don't know how to explain him to you."
  • Dual Wielding: Mahanon's preferred fighting style. When he first meets Victoria, he has a pair of Dalish daggers with handles shaped like halla. Later he smiths a pair of Elemental Rivalry daggers, one with a corrupting rune and one with a cleansing rune.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: How both Cullen and Victoria react to the way he's treated at the Winter Palace ball, including Leliana's quips in the war room after they return to Skyhold.
  • The Dutiful Daughter: Victoria signs letters to her parents with "Your loving and dutiful daughter," noting to Varric that her family is very formal at least in writing.
  • Easily Forgiven: Invoked by Varric in one of his author's notes, after the Inquisitors make amends following their large disagreement; he remarks that it might seem to the reader like they were too quick to forgive each other. But as he points out, the big problem with their argument was that they were both wrong and they were also both right, and since they're willing to acknowledge that, it's easy for them to forgive.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: While staying in Redcliffe, Dorian enjoys watching the "swarthy young fishermen" on the docks, and invokes the trope by name in the narrative.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Invoked in one of Varric's editor's notes in a late chapter, when Victoria and Dorian are joking about him behind his back. "Et tu, Eyebrows?"
  • Executive Veto: Used in-universe by Varric to stop the author from showing the reader something he doesn't want them to see. In this story, he refuses to allow her to include the contents of a bill he received from the Merchants' Guild, pointing out that he himself doesn't read the mail they send him, so nobody else should have to read it either.

  • Faction Motto: The Trevelyan family motto is "Modest in temper, bold in deed." Victoria keeps it firmly in her mind at the Winter Palace ball, so she doesn't give in to the temptation to go off on a noble who insults Mahanon.
  • The Fettered: Victoria falls into this more than Mahanon does. As Varric puts it in a letter, "This girl needs more hugs. She's almost desperate to do the right thing at all times."
  • Fictional Document: A few of the chapters consist of letters written by different characters, and one is comprised of reports sent by Scout Harding detailing the capturing of the three keeps. Near the end of the story, there are also several references to Varric's Orlesian thriller novel.
  • First-Name Basis: Victoria in particular wants to be on this with the members of the inner circle, at the very least. When Bethany shows up, she urges the new arrival to "Call me Victoria. Not enough people around here use my first name."
  • Floorboard Failure: In the Cradle of Sulevin, the stone floor has collapsed in several places, making it difficult to safely battle a revenant found there. Varric nearly falls. Victoria actually does, and is seriously injured. Justified in that it is a ruin.
  • Flynning: After Dagna reforges the Sulevin Blade for Victoria, she and Cullen get in a bit of sparring. Since they're definitely not trying to hit each other, the appearance is that they're doing exactly this.
  • Force and Finesse: When it comes to fighting styles, Victoria is Force (she prefers to wield two-handed swords) and Mahanon is Finesse (he's a dual-wielding rogue). However, in terms of personality, they're the opposite; it's mentioned a few times that Victoria is the serious, well-read diplomat, and that Mahanon often defers to her in political situations because he feels she's less likely to lose her temper or say the wrong thing. This deference has some repercussions later in the story.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Since the fic is an Alternate Universe retelling of Dragon Age: Inquisition, the reader almost certainly knows going in that the Inquisitors will triumph over the forces of the Elder One. What's not clear is how there came to be two Inquisitors instead of just one, and how that will impact the way they win.
  • Framing Device: The author perused the actual Chantry records concerning the Second Inquisition and adapted them into a story, which was edited and heavily notated by Varric Tethras before publication.
  • Friend in the Black Market: More accurately, Friend in the Merchants' Guild. Cullen asks Varric to use his underworld connections to get them a very necessary supply of lyrium in a shorter amount of time than it would normally have taken.
  • Friendly Address Privileges: Victoria invites those to whom she feels close to address her as "Toria," which Mahanon sometimes shortens even farther to simply "Tor." She, however, is the only one ever seen to call him "Non" or "Nonny"; in The Skyhold Runner's Guide to Survival, Varric remarks that no one else is allowed.
  • Friendship Favoritism: The Inquisitors both like all the members of their inner circle, and vice versa; however, it's gradually made clear that each of them (except possibly Vivienne and Josephine) are closer to one Inquisitor than the other. In particular, this is true of Dorian and Varric for Victoria, and Bull and Sera for Mahanon.
  • Friendship Moment: There are a number of these, but easily the biggest is Mahanon and Victoria's reconciliation.
  • The Gadfly: Mahanon has shades of this, being something of a troll at times. It's always meant purely in good fun.
  • Geeky Turn-On: When Varric goes to visit the convalescing Victoria after their trip to the Cradle of Sulevin, he finds Cullen reading to her from one of Brother Genitivi's books. After the commander leaves, Victoria gushes a little about how she's "in love with the sound of that man's voice" anyway, but especially when he's reading history.
  • Generation Xerox: A variant. The co-Inquisitors are a human warrior noblewoman and an elven male rogue. Ten years earlier, the co-Wardens who ended the Fifth Blight were also a human warrior noblewoman and an elven male rogue.
  • Genius Loci: Solas tells the Inquisition that "Skyhold is pleased with its new master and mistress," and it proves him right by rescuing Victoria from a fall that should have seriously injured her. The castle also illustrates its approval of the new residents by protecting them from the elements; although the mountains around it are frigid and snowy, within the castle walls the grass is always green and the trees are autumnal.note 
  • Go Through Me:
    • Described by Cole in dialogue with Victoria at the Winter Palace ball. He tells her that Cullen's afraid of the courtiers who are hounding him, and that he would tell them the truth about their budding romance, but he's worried that someone could use it against her. "They must go through him to get to you." Cullen himself reiterates it in their later conversation.
    • On the non-romantic side, Mahanon tends to invoke this without saying it, placing himself between Victoria and whatever's currently menacing them. In the Fade, the memories recovered reveal that this is how he ended up with the mark - he was trying to protect her from the Elder One.
    • Bull also gets in an instance of this, apart from his usual "front-line bodyguard" status from the game. When Mahanon goes to the altar of Mythal to summon the dragon, Bull is in the party, and during the battle he does his best to protect Bethany, because Varric isn't there to do it himself.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Cullen has a little of this going on for a long time, albeit very quietly. Mahanon and Dorian find it incredibly entertaining, since in both instances it's a strictly Imaginary Love Triangle, and Dorian deliberately pushes the button a few times before admitting the truth.
  • Guile Hero: Mahanon is implied to be one of these. Multiple characters remark that he is clever and cunning, and even Vivienne thinks he could be a great player of the Grand Game if the Orlesian nobles would consent to play it with a Dalish elf. He also has a more snarky, irreverent sense of humor than his counterpart.
  • Guilty Pleasure: As in the game, Dorian regards Fereldan beer as this. A later chapter lampshades it.
  • Happily Married: King Alistair and Queen Elissa are stated to be this in the prologue; Leliana makes remarks to this effect a few times in the story as well. She also receives letters from both Heroes of Ferelden which make it even more clear.
  • Headbutt of Love: Cullen does this to Victoria on occasion.
  • The Heart: It's implied that Victoria holds this role for the Inquisition, the inner circle especially; she's on the receiving end of a lot of their affection. Varric calls her "our resident sweetheart."
  • Held Gaze: Victoria and Cullen share one right before she leaves for the final battle.
  • Her Boyfriend's Jacket:
    • When Cullen gives Victoria his good luck coin, she has it attached to a ring so she can wear it on a chain around her neck.
    • The signet ring of House Tethras makes an appearance very late in the story, in a manner which suggests this is the function it serves. The editor has entirely too much fun keeping the truth vague.
  • Hero Worship: In a letter to Hawke, Varric muses that Merrill would probably have this for Mahanon if they ever met, since he's something of a paragon by Dalish standards. Whether this is embellishment on his part is up to the reader.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Averted by Mahanon, who, when clarifying his actual relationship with the auburn-haired Victoria, assures Cassandra that "I prefer brunettes." Cullen plays it straight; Bull's appreciation for redheads from the game is also present.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Victoria insists on confronting Corypheus alone during the sacking of Haven, so that Mahanon can help get the rest of the village to safety. She points out that his clan needs him to live, while the world will get along just fine with one less Trevelyan.
  • Holy Ground: Mahanon's reaction to being in the Temple of Mythal is basically to be overwhelmed by his own faith, and part of him wants to stay there.
  • Honor Before Reason: Victoria's more compassionate judgments are sometimes viewed as this by the others, especially regarding the Grey Wardens.
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: Mahanon rants (affectionately) at Victoria after she survives the sacking of Haven, telling her she must never do anything like that again. She turns it right back around at him after he drinks from the Well of Sorrows, leaving her to think she was watching him die.
  • How We Got Here: The prologue is a document written by Varric on his way to the Conclave, setting up the background of the situation starting with the Fifth Blight.
  • Hug and Comment: Varric does this to Hawke when she arrives at Skyhold; they've been apart for so long that "a lengthy hug" is necessary for both of them, and then he accuses her of skipping meals, indicating that she's clearly lost weight.
  • "I Can't Look!" Gesture: In the Temple of Mythal, Victoria's half of the party arrives at the Well of Sorrows just in time to see Mahanon drinking from it, a situation which appears to her as if he's drowning. When she tries to run and pull him out of the water, Dorian grabs her to keep her from being affected by what's happening, and after a moment she buries her face in his chest rather than (she thinks) watch her counterpart die.
  • I Kiss Your Hand:
    • Dorian does this to Victoria after they're informed that the drink he's promised to have with her and Mahanon will have to wait. Although it's mostly an affectionate gesture, it's also (unbeknownst to her) a subtle attempt at trolling Cullen.
    • Later, at the Winter Palace, Grand Duke Gaspard greets her this way on their first meeting.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All chapter titles, like the major quests in the game itself, are phrases taken from the Chant of Light.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Mahanon offers to make a remark of this nature to Cullen, and Victoria assures him it's not necessary. He's clearly teasing when he says it, but he almost makes good on the unspoken threat when Cullen accidentally dismisses Victoria's request to dance at the ball.
  • Improbable Use of a Weapon: Cullen pulls this at the Halamshiral ball, using the sword he found to subdue a Harlequin - not by stabbing or slashing, but by cracking them in the head with the hilt.
  • In-Series Nickname:
    • In addition to the nicknames he uses in-game, Varric calls Mahanon "Hunter" and Victoria "Eyebrows."
    • He also, in his editor's notes, addresses the author as "Scholar." This one has actually become more or less canon - see Defictionalization on the Trivia page.
    • Sera's point of view chapter has her assigning one in the narrative to Bethany, whom she dubs "Varric's pet mage." Varric wonders, in one of his editor's notes, how that character likes the term.
  • Incendiary Exponent: The rescue mission at the Shrine of Dumat becomes a lot more dangerous when the Red Templars set everything on fire to try to keep the Inquisitors from escaping.
  • Innocent Cohabitation: At Haven, the Heralds are housed in the same building with a divider built between their beds, so that the healer can look after both at the same time. When they make the move to Skyhold, they request that the stonemasons put a similar divider between their beds in the tower so they can continue to do this, rather than try to find equally lavish dwellings for both Inquisitors. Victoria admits she sleeps better knowing Mahanon is nearby.
  • Instant Messenger Pigeon: As in the game, Leliana's messenger crows are very useful. Also, as indicated in the game by ambient dialogue with a Skyhold runner, she gives one of the birds to Cullen as a gift; this is the one which is occasionally seen visiting the party camp.
  • Internalized Categorism: As in the game, Sera deals with this. It's finally discussed in the chapter from her point of view, in which that categorism causes her to fight with Mahanon after the Arbor Wilds.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Between Mahanon, who is a Dalish elf, and Cassandra, a human noblewoman. He even thinks to himself that his clan probably wouldn't approve, but he doesn't care.
    • There's also Morrigan (human mage) and Darrian (the city elf Hero of Ferelden), whose son Kieran is thus a Half-Human Hybrid.
  • It Was a Gift: A little past the halfway point of the story, Varric starts wearing a red scarf tied to the belt of his coat. When asked about it, this is the only explanation he offers. Across the Waking Sea reveals that it was sent by Bethany.

  • The Kirk: Mahanon, who is the more pragmatic of the two Inquisitors.
  • Lady and Knight: There are elements of this to both of the romances.
  • Lady of War: Victoria and Cassandra; in the backstory presented in the prologue, Queen Elissa also fits the bill.
  • A Lady on Each Arm: Gender flipped. Following their success in the Fallow Mire, Victoria marches up to the Haven Chantry on the arms of both Mahanon and Dorian. It's meant as an indication of the good mood they're all enjoying.
  • The Lady's Favour:
    • Victoria wears a blue ribbon in her hair at the Halamshiral ball. Dorian later spots it tied around Cullen's wrist.
    • The red scarf tied to Varric's belt is suspected by Dorian to be this, but he's not sure and the dwarf is neither confirming nor denying anything.
  • Leave the Two Lovebirds Alone: Invoked in the narrative of chapter 15; Dorian observes that Victoria has entered the courtyard with Mahanon and Cassandra, but is trying to distract herself so she can do exactly this.
  • Left-Handed Mirror: Victoria has the Anchor on her left hand, Mahanon on his right; this leads people to call them the Left and Right Hands of Andraste, respectively. She in fact is right-handed while he is left-handed, making them both left-handed mirrors in one way or another.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: Invoked by Varric, when Mahanon asks him to finish his romance serial as a gift for Cassandra.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Mahanon and Victoria both tend to react this way when the people around them are in trouble, such as when the Avvar capture a group of Inquisition soldiers.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!:
    • In the game, the Inquisitor can only appeal to either the mages or the Templars for help in closing the Breach - not both. Here, since there are two Inquisitors, they do this in order to try both sides. Mahanon leads Cassandra, Solas, and Sera to Therinfal Redoubt, while Victoria, Varric, and Blackwall meet up with Dorian in Redcliffe.
    • One chapter from Dorian's point of view indicates that this happened a couple of times during the Wardens' epic quest to stop the Fifth Blight.
    • The Inquisitors do this again once inside the Temple of Mythal. Mahanon's party goes one way, so he can walk the petitioner's paths and enter the heart of the temple, while Victoria's party jumps into the hole and chases after the enemy forces. As a result, Mahanon ends up fighting Samson, and Victoria confronts Calpernia. A third party, consisting of Cullen, Varric, Vivienne, and Cole, separates from them in the previous chapter in order to run back and thwart the Red Templars' assault on the base camp.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: After the move to Skyhold, Victoria starts wearing her hair in a long braid around the castle instead of a compact braided style like in battle. But she actually lets her hair down completely twice. First, at Vivienne's insistence, she wears it in long curls tied with a ribbon for the ball at the Winter Palace; later, after returning from the final battle, Dorian persuades her to let the hair loose for their triumphant arrival at Skyhold, because "someone likes it that way."
  • Like Brother and Sister:
    • The relationship between Mahanon and Victoria is explicitly described as being this; she later develops a similar connection with Dorian. Varric seems to think that, to at least some extent, this is the nature of her relationship with everybody in the inner circle (except Cullen, of course).
    • The prologue indicates that this is also the relationship between the co-Wardens who stopped the Fifth Blight. The last chapter makes it clear that this is indeed the case, with Kieran addressing his father's compatriot as "Aunt Elissa."
    • This is also a good way to describe the friendship between Cullen and Cassandra, Josephine, and Leliana; the three ladies, Cassandra in particular, treat him as a sort of communal little brother. Varric says as much in The Skyhold Runner's Guide to Survival.
  • Little "No": Varric and Cullen's reactions to learning that the Inquisitors and some of their allies have fallen into the Fade at Adamant. Varric is so addled by his grief, he almost can't stand. Cullen, meanwhile, is absolutely devastated, but he can't afford to show it because he's still got to lead his troops against the demons.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: There's an element of this to the bond between Mahanon and Victoria. Neither one does particularly well if they have reason to think the other might be endangered or dead; it's actually something of a relief to the rest of the cast that they both fall into the Fade at Adamant because at least neither is left behind to mourn the other.
  • Locked Out of the Fight: Happens to Varric, Vivienne, and Cole during the push in the Arbor Wilds. They end up not going along to the Temple of Mythal because Cole senses that some of the Red Templar forces are attacking the base camp, and they're selected to go with Cullen to defend it. Overlaps with Roaring Rampage of Rescue, especially as far as Varric's concerned.
  • Longing Look: At Haven, Victoria has a habit of directing these at Cullen's back. It's only mentioned in the narrative because a few of their friends find it incredibly amusing. The last one mentioned, which she directs to his face, happens right before she goes out to make her Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Love at First Sight: Infatuation, at least, takes a very strong hold when the Heralds are introduced to their advisory council members for the first time.
  • Loving a Shadow: This is what the Nightmare in the Fade tries to trick Victoria into believing - that the Inquisition as a whole, and Cullen in particular, only care about her because they think she's a Herald of Andraste. She doesn't completely buy it, but at the same time, her Crisis of Faith makes her more vulnerable to doubt.
  • Magnetic Hero: Mahanon, compared with Victoria's All-Loving Hero. He draws loyalty through people's admiration for his upright character and heroic deeds.
  • The Matchmaker: Varric decides to become this early in the story, with Dorian joining him later. He knows that stories like the one they're living aren't good for heroes - but he also knows that the Twice Shy duo could be good for each other.
  • The McCoy: Victoria, whose affections and sympathies will frequently outweigh her practicality.
  • Meaningful Appearance: After Victoria receives her new form-fitting armor, which is made of dragon leather and is dyed white and gray, Mahanon notes that she's going to stand out in battle. She's amused by the prospect, and says she wants the enemy to develop the mindset that "the woman in white is a holy terror."
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Arguably, the Lady Inquisitor has one of these. "Victoria Hope" essentially translates as "hope of victory."
    • The Lord Inquisitor may also have one, which is oozing with irony if so. Although "Mahanon" has no direct translation, it's possibly derived from the Irish name Mahon, which means "bear." In the Fade, it's revealed that Mahanon's greatest fear is... bears. ("Mahanon" is the default name for male Lavellan, so if the etymology of the name is accurate, it's just a funny coincidence.)
  • Memento MacGuffin: Keeper Deshanna's letter to Mahanon includes an ironbark token as a remembrance of his clan.
  • The Men First: The co-Inquisitors really do not like endangering the people who follow them.
  • Mercy Kill: Victoria delivers one to Erasthenes, in the Shrine of Dumat.
  • Meta Guy: Varric has a few moments like this, which makes his role as the editor even more apt.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: While dealing with Cullen's personal quest, Victoria tries to lighten his mood when he mentions that she gives him hope. She reminds him that "Hope is my middle name," which it actually is.
  • Misery Poker: Mahanon and Victoria indulge in a playful version just before the Halamshiral ball. Mahanon points out that he's the one who has to hunt down and fight the would-be assassin targeting Empress Celene, while Victoria stays in the ballroom to endear the Inquisition to the nobles. Victoria counters by pointing out that while he's off having an adventure, she has to make conversation with Orlesians. He concedes the point.
  • Mistaken for Romance: Cassandra explains to Mahanon, early in the story, that it's generally assumed he and Victoria are romantically involved. He clarifies the matter quickly, as she is actually the object of his attraction. She doesn't think to tell Cullen, though, so he's left under the the mistaken impression until quite a bit later.
  • Multiple Narrative Modes: The story itself is told in the third person; but when Varric interrupts with one of his editor's notes, those are done in first-person.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: In-story, Cullen has a tendency to do this. His horse is named Ferdinand (after Brother Genitivi, his favorite author) and his messenger bird is named Brona (after Andraste's mother).
  • Named Weapon: Mahanon eventually constructs a pair of twin daggers for himself which he names "Andruil's Blessing" and "Gift of Sylaise." It's also mentioned that Bull carries the "Gift of the Mountain-Father" after they defeat the Hand of Korth; this is the actual weapon looted from that character after he's killed in-game. The Sulevin Blade appears later as well, and of course, Bianca is along for the ride the entire time.
  • Nice Guy: Both Inquisitors are this at the core, but Mahanon is much more pragmatic and much less serious than Victoria, who fits the trope so well that it's a matter of concern to their friends. In Across the Waking Sea, Varric remarks in one letter that "She’s a sweet kid; this world isn’t kind to sweet kids. I worry about her."
  • Nice to the Waiter: As in canon, Sera particularly approves of people being cordial to the Skyhold servants. Her point of view in chapter 47 includes the observation that one character has grown acceptable in her eyes because "anybody who was friendly to the girls who did the laundry was all right in Sera's book".
  • Noodle Incident: The "Parker incident," which is only mentioned in passing as the reason the Inquisition scouts and soldiers are not allowed to bet clothing when playing cards. Said rule apparently does not apply to the Inquisitors' own companions, however, so there's nothing to stop Cullen.
  • Not So Different: Cassandra thinks this about herself and Varric, on the night before they enter the Arbor Wilds, noting that they're both sort of studying their friends as though trying to memorize faces in case some of them don't survive.
  • Note From Ed: There are many of these scattered throughout the story, whenever Varric feels the need to either clarify something, add his own spin to a description, or - occasionally - complain about the author's turn of phrase. He even argues with her once or twice.
  • Oblivious to Love: Mahanon invokes the trope by name, saying that Cullen's setting a new standard for it.
    Mahanon: In the future, people will ask themselves, "On a scale of one to Cullen Rutherford, how oblivious to love is this person?"
  • Odd Friendship: In addition to the ones found in-game, Mahanon and Victoria really don't have much in common. Their backgrounds and religious beliefs couldn't be more different, and they have few shared interests beyond the battlefield. They're still the best of friends and would die for each other without hesitation.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: It sends a shockwave of surprise through the entire court at Skyhold when Victoria not only sentences Erimond to death, but wants to carry out the execution herself. Mahanon has to intervene because he realizes just how much this will damage her if she goes through with it. It's all related to her Crisis of Faith.
  • Opposites Attract: Much like his friendship with Victoria is odd, Mahanon's romance with Cassandra could be viewed this way as well. He even notes that she has more in common with Victoria than she does with him. They're chiefly brought together by mutual attraction and a passion for justice, as well as their battle skills.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: At the altar of Mythal, Bethany playfully calls Bull "the nicest Qunari I've ever known." He points out that, given her track record with Qunari, that's not exactly an accomplishment. It's all quite good-natured, however.

  • Percussive Therapy: A few characters are observed to be engaged in this at one point or another; Varric invokes the trope by name more than once.
  • Pet the Dog: Morrigan and Leliana have a bit of this in the latter's point of view chapter after the Arbor Wilds, in which they trade largely friendly quips.
  • Platonic Declaration of Love: The Inquisitors exchange one when they make up following their major quarrel; Varric witnesses it, so he knows it's described accurately in the story.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: At the Winter Palace, following the death of Grand Duchess Florianne, Empress Celene sentences Grand Duke Gaspard to be executed. Victoria intervenes, pleading with Celene to exile him instead because there has been enough blood spilled for one night. The Empress relents.
  • The Power of Friendship: The emotional heart of the story is the bond between Mahanon and Victoria.
  • Precision F-Strike: Bull drops one in response to seeing Victoria wearing the Ardent Blossom for the first time. Something of a case of Real Life Writes the Plot - the scene was specifically requested by the person for whom the story was written.
  • Pretty Boy: Scout Harding describes Michel de Chevin this way in one of her reports to Leliana. She crosses out the observation, but it's still there.
  • Prolonged Prologue: Similar to the game itself. Not only is there a lengthy prologue explaining the world state, but the Inquisition doesn't even get to Skyhold until chapter 15.
  • Properly Paranoid: When Mahanon follows Morrigan through the eluvian into the Fade, he tells Leliana to send for Victoria and to be ready for anything. Sure enough, when they return, she's standing at attention, fully armed and armored.
  • Puny Earthlings:
    • In the Fade, the Nightmare is trying to press everybody's assorted insecurity buttons, and rather pointedly refers to Victoria as "the little one." It's less of a reference to her size (though she is shorter than Mahanon) and more of a reminder that, despite being the co-leader, she's actually one of the youngest members of the entire Inquisition.
    • Later, during the final battle against the Elder One, he also calls her "the little soporati"note  and she lampshades the trope, sarcastically wondering why everyone calls her little when "I'm not that short."
  • Put on a Bus: The end of the story does this to Vivienne, who decides to return to Orlais and resume her place in Empress Celene's court.
  • Real Is Brown: Dragon Age: Origins was notorious for this, and Dragon Age II lampshaded it. This story does too - when the future co-Inquisitors first arrive in Ferelden, Mahanon is dismayed to find that "I've never seen so many shades of brown in one place."
  • Recap Episode: Chapter 40 is a variant, with the inner circle reminiscing around the campfire the night before the battle in the Arbor Wilds. It's a variant because a lot of what they discuss was never shown in the story until this point, but players of the game will recognize most of it.
  • Reluctant Warrior: Mahanon falls under this. Before the Conclave, he was a hunter - meaning his major concern was providing the rest of Clan Lavellan with food, not fighting other humanoids. He only embraces this aspect of being the Herald/Inquisitor because it comes with the territory. Victoria, by comparison, was formally trained for battle even though she never expected to actually find herself in it.
  • Rescue Hug: The reunion hug between the Heralds, after Victoria goes to try to ally with the mages while Mahanon goes to recruit the Templars, has shades of this. Although they didn't rescue each other, they have been rescued. Victoria is half-faint with exhaustion and stumbles to where Mahanon can catch her; she promptly flings her arms around his neck and starts shaking. She's just returned from a Bad Future where, among other things, he was dead. He's not complaining, since he's just returned from being shown a Bad Future of his own in which, among other things, she was dead.
  • Rescue Introduction: The future co-Inquisitors meet on the ship traveling from the Free Marches to the Conclave, when Victoria happens upon some sailors threatening to toss the "knife-ear" overboard. She immediately tells them off, claiming that the stowaway elf is really part of her own retinue. He spends the rest of the trip pretending to be her bodyguard, to their mutual amusement.
  • Rescue Romance: There's a bit of this - on both sides - for Cullen and Victoria at the Winter Palace. She gets him away from the courtiers who have him cornered; he later saves her from one of Florianne's Harlequins. Mahanon also saves Cassandra from a Venatori.
  • Respected by the Respected: Seen when Mahanon, the Lord Inquisitor himself, finally meets Mythal. For the first time in the entire story, he drops to one knee in reverence.
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: As in the game, except this time there are two of them. When the truth about how the Anchors were acquired is revealed, Mahanon thinks it makes more sense that he would be this than that he would be The Chosen One of a deity he was never raised to worship. Victoria, on the other hand, doesn't take it well.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: One of these is launched in response to Mahanon's capture. They know it's probably a trap, but they're going anyway.
  • Running Both Sides: While exploring the lost Temple of Dumat, the heroes find evidence that the Elder One is doing this with Samson and Calpernia - he's playing them against each other in order to determine which of them is the stronger choice for the Vessel.
  • Running Gag:
    • A small one in Scout Harding's reports is that she mentions Cole, then proceeds to wonder who Cole is.
    • The "editor's notes" which pop up every so often in the narrative are intended as this. Whether the gag is that of the author or the "editor" is open to interpretation.
  • Second Love: Mahanon is this for Cassandra, as seen in the game. In the story, however, she tells him about it much sooner.
  • Secret Keeper: Victoria ultimately becomes this for Cullen regarding what he endured as a young Templar in the Fereldan circle, and how it made the ball in Halamshiral so difficult for him. The other Inquisition leaders know he was uncomfortable with the Orlesian attention, but she's the only one who knows why. (It's implied that Cole also knows, but he doesn't speak of it to anyone but her.)
  • Secret Relationship: Despite their first kiss being rather public, Cullen and Victoria seem to be in one of these for a long time. They do feel a need to keep it hidden from the outside world, because she has a lot of enemies who could use it against her, but she's a little surprised that almost no one in the Inquisition ever comments on it within her hearing - especially since their friends have a lot of fun teasing Mahanon and Cassandra.note  In Across the Waking Sea, one of Varric's letters explains that they just find Mahanon a lot easier to tease than Victoria.
  • Security Cling: A mild example. Mahanon has a tendency to grip Victoria's shoulder when he's particularly tired or stressed. Dorian describes the gesture as looking as though he's trying to siphon her aura for comfort.
  • Shapeshifting: Morrigan's ability to turn into a crow is showcased in the fic a few more times than in the game.
  • A Shared Suffering: Although they had already become good friends before the Conclave, a contributing factor to the closeness between Mahanon and Victoria is the fact that they must both endure the difficulties of being the Herald/Inquisitor, and thus share the burden.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Implied. Mahanon is very amused to watch Victoria being fitted for her dress for the Halamshiral ball - while at the same time discussing tactics for the Adamant Fortress assault with a rather distracted Cullen. Varric also refers to her as being "adorable" in the outfit, both to her face and in one of his letters to Bethany.
  • She Will Come for Me: When Mahanon is rescued at the Shrine of Dumat, he tells Cassandra that "I knew you'd find me."
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Varric and Dorian both actively try to push Cullen and Victoria together. Victoria herself, meanwhile, does a little to help Mahanon win Cassandra, though she shoots him down when he offers to return the favor.
    • Chapter 19 makes it clear that a lot of the Inquisition support staff ships both pairings too.
    • Chapter 38 heavily implies that Dorian has almost instantly become one of these for Varric and Bethany, and it's indicated in a later chapter that Victoria (and quite possibly most of the rest of the Inquisition) has joined him. Unlike the other examples, however, this does not get resolved anytime soon.
  • Shock and Awe: The refurbished Sulevin Blade is outfitted with a powerful lightning rune.
  • Side Bet: According to Sutherland, Varric successfully made a number of these with various patrons at the Heralds' Rest tavern about Cullen and Victoria's "Shut Up" Kiss.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Sera more or less invokes this in the narrative in chapter 46, observing the Inquisitors and Cullen having a serious conversation which ends with affection and chuckling.
    And then they all laughed, because of course they did, because the leaders of the Inquisition were a bunch of soppy saps - but frig if they didn't love each other.
  • Silent Conversation: As shown through other characters' perspectives, the co-Inquisitors do a lot of nonverbal communication, including Hand Signals, Meaningful Looks, and nods. It's most frequently seen when they're pronouncing judgments on someone/something in the Skyhold court; occasionally they will whisper to one another, but even when that happens the observers usually don't know what they're saying. It's all a technique to give the impression that they are consistently united in their decisions. It comes back to bite them a little at Adamant Fortress, when they are definitely not in agreement about what the Grey Wardens should do, and Mahanon is not best pleased that he has to pretend they are so no one will see him contradicting Victoria.
  • Smells Sexy: When Mahanon covers Victoria with Cullen's surcoat near the end of the Wicked Grace game, she's a little grumpy but concedes to herself that "at least it smells nice."
  • Something Completely Different:
    • Chapter 19, in which Inquisition scout Jim has a variety of mishaps, is presented as being this. Most of the document claims to be "Adapted from the historical record" by the author, but the "editor's note" at the beginning of this chapter states that it was told to Varric directly by one of the scouts who was present at the time, and he felt it was "too good not to include."
    • Later, chapter 27 is handled in a similar manner; Varric explains in another "editor's note" that the Chantry record contained very few details about what happened in the Fade, so he wheedled a few bits from both Victoria and Cole and pieced the chapter together from that.
  • Squee!:
    • This is the reaction of at least one Inquisition scout to the idea that the Inquisitors are making progress in their respective romance arcs.
    • Also, in the story notes, one of the beta readers is listed as the author's friend Rachel, "who knew nothing of Dragon Age going in but still managed to squee in all the right places."
    • This was the author's own response to her nickname from Varric becoming canon.
  • The Stations of the Canon: Since it takes place during the course of Inquisition, the story at least touches on all of the major plot points.
  • The Storyteller: Varric, of course. Here he's allegedly only serving as the story's editor, but the numerous editor's notes imply that he's got his fingers in the manuscript a lot more than that.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Mentioned in passing when Varric views a painting of the Hawke sisters' mother Leandra, and observes that Bethany looks much more like her than Hawke does. Bethany replies that her sister "is Father through and through."
  • Suicide Mission: Cullen tries to forbid the Lady Herald from going to Redcliffe to appeal for the mages' help because he's convinced it's this, and that the Lord Herald's effort to recruit the Templars is the smarter move. As it turns out, he's half right - they both nearly die.
  • Survivor Guilt:
    • Victoria suffers from this following the Conclave explosion; as she explains to Cullen, even apart from the simple fact that so many good people died that day, she's the only member of her own family who attended and survived. When they first visit the ruins of the temple in order to close the big rift, Mahanon observes her studying the scorched bodies as though trying to figure out which ones are her relatives.
    • Later, Mahanon has a lot of this going on after the evacuation of Haven. He only forgives himself when Victoria turns up alive.
  • Switching P.O.V.: Almost every chapter is from a different perspective than the ones before and after it. The exceptions are a few chapters which divide the point of view between the co-Inquisitors, and a few others which consist of character letters.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: When confronting Calpernia inside the Temple of Mythal, Victoria realizes that the woman really does have good intentions, and feels sorry for how devastated she is by the revelation of her master's betrayal.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • As Victoria explains to Mahanon and later Cullen, Trevelyan women usually do one of three things - marry well, become Chantry priests, or join the Templars - and she wasn't on board with any of them. Part of the reason she goes to the Conclave is in the hopes of meeting Cassandra and learning what she would have to do to join the Seekers of Truth. Circumstances being what they are, she ends up taking a fifth option as co-leader of the new Inquisition.
    • Also seen on a smaller scale when the war council is deadlocked as to how to boost morale at Griffon Wing Keep. Send a chef? A cobbler? Some books to create a library?note  Mahanon wants to know why they can't do all three - so they do.
  • Take Care of the Kids: A variant. Hawke's final letter to Varric, before she reaches Grey Warden HQ, pleads with him to retrieve Bethany from Starkhaven, take her home to Kirkwall, and take care of her. Hawke knows there's a chance she might not come back from Weisshaupt, and although Bethany's not a kid, she is all the family Hawke has left. It's implied, though not stated, that Hawke also recognizes that she and Bethany are all that Varric has left too, so the request is as much for his own benefit as her sister's.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Mahanon, who is a bit too nice for Tall, Dark, and Snarky.
  • A Tankard of Moose Urine: Fereldan beer, according to Dorian, looks and tastes like it's made from the dirt of Redcliffe Village. He's horrified to realize he's starting to like it.
  • They Fight Crime!: Invoked by Felix when giving Dorian information about the Heralds of Andraste. "She's a human noble from Ostwick; he’s a Dalish elf from the Free Marches forests. They fight crime."
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: On account of his being a dwarf, Varric and Bethany fall into this whenever they're together. It's subverted, however, in that she's less than a full head taller than he is.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Cassandra and Victoria fall into this, since Cassandra eschews dresses and other feminine things (but still loves romantic gestures and flowers, making her a Tomboy with a Girly Streak), while Victoria has no problem dressing up and letting her hair down. Mahanon invokes the trope halfway by teasing Victoria about being a "girly-girl" when she expresses delight over her battledress.
  • Tranquil Fury: Briala briefly finds herself on the receiving end of this when she first meets Mahanon at the ball and makes a comment implying that Victoria is a Lady Drunk.note  Needless to say, he is not pleased, particularly since it's not true.
    Mahanon: Take care, Briala. An alliance with you may be worthwhile, but don't ever make the mistake of insulting the Lady Inquisitor in front of me again. Ma da'vhenan is above reproach.
  • Transplant: More than thirty chapters after the first Early-Bird Cameo for the character, Bethany joins the Inquisition despite not actually appearing in the game.
  • Twice Shy: Just about everybody in Haven knows that Cullen and Victoria's attraction is mutual - except, of course, Cullen and Victoria. They get better about it once they make the transition to Skyhold.

  • Unbroken Vigil: After the sacking of Haven, when a half-dead Victoria catches up to the rest of the evacuees, Mahanon insists on remaining at her side while she rests and receives medical treatment in the camp.
  • The Unchosen One: As it turns out, Victoria. The memories recovered in the Fade reveal that Mahanon is arguably The Chosen One, since he was the one to suggest they investigate the Divine's cries for help (instead of summoning Templars); when they found the Elder One in the midst of his ritual, Mahanon tried to protect Victoria from him, the result being that he was the one to actually pick up the orb. Victoria touched it only because he did, trying to take it from him because he appeared to be in pain.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Invoked in a story Varric tells the inner circle about the time he and Bethany were trapped by a gang in Kirkwall. The gang members made the mistake of thinking the dwarf with the crossbow was the more dangerous of the pair, apparently failing to realize that the girl with the staff on her back was a mage.
  • Undying Loyalty: As a result of being Fire-Forged Friends, Mahanon and Victoria ultimately have this for one another. The prologue indicates that the same is true of the Heroes of Ferelden, and it also remains true for Varric and Hawke.
  • The Unreveal: Anyone who has played the Trespasser DLC or read the Knight Errant comics knows that Varric is the Viscount of Kirkwall. Anyone who didn't know that going in had it revealed in the very beginning, so the ending chapter - where he's actually sitting on the throne of Kirkwall - comes as no particular surprise. However, while it's confirmed that a party is being planned (by someone he "trusts completely") and "Comtesse Rutherford" has promised to attend, it's not made clear exactly what the party is. The only clue given is "Scholar" remarking that it's kind of a big deal.
  • Vague Age: According to the letter Varric sends to Hawke, Mahanon himself isn't quite sure how old he is, because the Dalish don't pay attention to things like birthdays. He knows it's been at least fifteen winters since he received his vallaslin, which happened in his mid to late teens, and that's all he can offer in the way of an answer. Averted by Victoria, who is explicitly stated to be 21 (later 22).
  • Wait Here: A compromise in the Arbor Wilds has certain characters agreeing to remain at the base camp and out of harm's way.
  • Web Serial Novel: More than 176,000 words at the end.
  • Wham Line: Cassandra delivers one after the adventure at Caer Oswin, informing the party that they need to return to Skyhold because Victoria has been grievously injured. Varric name-drops the trope in his editor's note in the next chapter.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Mahanon, of all people, delivers something like this to Victoria after she conscripts the Grey Wardens instead of exiling them. It leads to the OOC Is Serious Business moment, which makes him wonder if he went too far.
  • When She Smiles: Victoria, normally described as being relatively plain, occasionally has this going on; Varric notes that it's going to "take him the rest of the afternoon to describe" the change in her face in one particular instance.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The very final chapter serves as something like this, with Varric explaining to "Scholar" what everybody did after the victory party. He then adds that it will all be detailed in the sequel.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: After being menaced by the creature during the sacking of Haven, Victoria is absolutely terrified of the Elder One's dragon. When it appears during the siege of Adamant, she's left shaking like a leaf just at the sight of it.
  • You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: If Mahanon ever refers to Victoria by her full first name, he's either very afraid or very angry.
  • You Must Be Cold: A variant. When Victoria manages to find the evacuees following the sacking of Haven, she collapses in a snowbank. Cullen pulls off his fluffy-collared surcoat and wraps her in it before carrying her into camp; this then segues into Comforting Comforter, as she continues to wear it for the next several hours.
  • You Remind Me of X: Varric admits to himself that a big part of the reason he's fond of Victoria is because she reminds him a lot of Bethany Hawke, whom he misses terribly. He even remarks in a letter to Bethany that "you two would probably get on like a house on fire." As he learns later, when Bethany herself comes to Skyhold, he's entirely correct in this assessment; one of his editor's notes remarks that even now as he edits the story, "I sometimes think they get along a little too well."
  • Youngest Child Wins: In a way. Victoria is the youngest of her father's four children, by a considerable margin; she describes herself early in the story as "the youngest and least interesting" of the brood.

Tropes found in Doubling Down

  • Beneath the Earth: Part of the story covers the events of the DLC The Descent, which takes place in the Deep Roads.
  • Big Damn Reunion: As grumpy as they are about the Exalted Council, the Inquisitors are overjoyed to see everyone again; this is particularly the case for Victoria reuniting with Dorian.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Varric's opening Note From Ed does this more than usual, as he welcomes the readers back from the break between stories. He remarks that part of the reason for the timing of the story is because "something pretty awful is going on in your world" - a reference to the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 - and he and "Scholar" wanted to do something for the readers, since "we can't fix the mess you're facing, but we can give you a story."
  • Common Tongue: As in the first story, Mahanon - as a lingering side effect of his encounter with the Well of Sorrows - frequently speaks in Elvhen, and Victoria has to remind him to translate whatever he just said into this. (With Solas gone, he's the only one in the inner circle who understands the language, so everyone else is just left sort of blinking at him.)
  • Creator Cameo: Lady Norbert (as "Scholar") appears in the prologue, since it picks up where the first story's epilogue ended.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: In the Hissing Wastes, "Scholar" and Varric employ this for fun.
    They continued in this vein until nightfall, when they resumed their press across the desert. The map guided them east past sand, sand, rocks, sand, a randomly placed lantern, rocks, and sand.
    [Editor’s note: You forgot the sand.]
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • Doubling Down is a card game term in which one doubles their bet after seeing their initial cards and is, on one hand, just another joke about doubles. But to 'double down' also means to become even stronger in one's convictions, which the Inquisitors have to do following Solas's revelations.
    • The series overall also has one of these. Twice Upon An Age is set in an Alternate Universe where there are two Inquisitors - a female human and a male elf. The series title refers to the fact that there are two Inquisitors, of course; but it also refers to the fact that, in the series backstory, there are two Heroes of Ferelden, who are also a female human and a male elf. In other words, the same thing happened twice in one age.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: As in the first story, all of the chapter titles are lines from the Chant of Light.
  • Magic 8-Ball: In the Frostback Basin, Dorian and Bull tease Mahanon that the voices from the Well are basically acting like one of these. They don't invoke it by name, but Dorian references a "fortune-telling toy" he had as a child.
    Dorian: If they ever say something like ‘Reply hazy, ask again later,’ do let me know.
  • Meta Guy: In addition to this being Varric's usual role, Dorian gets a turn when he suggests the creation of an entirely new school of magic - Storyspeller - able to cast spells which can speed up the plot. According to Varric's Note From Ed, the project is actually happening "from time to time."
  • Older Than They Look: Implied when the companions meet Professor Kenric in the Frostback Basin. Cassandra thinks that he looks much too young to be a full-fledged university professor.
  • Precision F-Strike: Bull drops one in the Hissing Wastes when (as in the game) they encounter the random Chantry sister.
  • Something That Begins with "Boring": Bull gets the companions to play "I Spy" in the Hissing Wastes, picking something that starts with S. Mahanon warns him that if the answer is "sand," it will not end well for him.
  • They Fight Crime!: Varric jokingly invokes it in his opening Note From Ed.
    My esteemed human colleague here is a woman I call Scholar. Together, we fight crime.
    No, wait, together we write history. Fighting crime is Aveline's job.

Tropes found in the side volumes

  • All There in the Manual: Subverted. The Skyhold Runner's Guide to Survival is, in fact, a manual and explicitly described as supplemental material. However, very little extra information can be gleaned from it; it's more of a repository of Varric's humor than anything. Across the Waking Sea and Agents Acquired actually come a bit closer to fitting the trope, since they do reveal details that the main story doesn't show the reader.
  • Alternate Universe Fic: If Non Can Learn to Do It is Varric and "Scholar" writing one of these about their own series.
  • Always Identical Twins: Ivor and Ivan, in the Blades of Hessarian, in Agents Acquired. ("Ivor of the Blades" is the name of the Blade who communicates with the Inquisitor in war table missions in the game.) This is a nod to the fact that there are two Inexplicably Identical Individuals in the Blades' camp.
  • Benevolent Boss:
    • The Skyhold Runner's Guide to Survival describes the Inquisitors as this.
    • In the Blades of Hessarian chapter of Agents Acquired, Edric is indicated to be this.
  • Buffy Speak: How Varric describes the letter he got from Sera which kicked off Agents Acquired. He says she writes in "Sera-ese."
  • Confirmed Bachelor: In Across the Waking Sea, Bethany shuts down Varric's suppositions about her and Sebastian by saying that he's this, owing to the prince's determination to uphold his vows of chastity.
  • Conversational Troping: Varric does it a lot - especially in The Skyhold Runner's Guide to Survival, where he's credited as the author instead of the editor. He deliberately invokes many tropes by name, including Distaff Counterpart, Percussive Therapy, Plausible Deniability, and The Heart.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Varric continues to be this in The Skyhold Runner's Guide to Survival, which is practically nothing but snark. Averted in Across the Waking Sea, however, since - as is the case in the second game - "Sunshine" is the one person to whom he is virtually never snarky.
  • Distracted by the Luxury: Seen in Across the Waking Sea. Reading that Bethany really wishes she could go to the ball at the Winter Palace, and knowing that she feels somewhat isolated in her Gilded Cage in Starkhaven, Varric indulgently sends her an Orlesian silk dress.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Solas, according to Varric in The Skyhold Runner's Guide to Survival.
  • Easily Forgiven: Varric invokes this in his opening notes on Agents Acquired, observing that "Scholar" is quite irritated with him for giving her more work to do; but the reader shouldn't worry, because she always forgives him. The author's own notes more or less confirm this, much to her bemusement.
  • Elsewhere Fic: Agents Acquired is the second type of Elsewhere Fic; it features canon characters, like Master Dennet and the Blades of Hessarian, and takes place during the events of the first story, but has a completely different focus.
  • Epistolary Novel: Across the Waking Sea is a short one of these.
  • Everyone's Baby Sister: In Across the Waking Sea, Varric describes Victoria this way in one of his letters to Bethany, when explaining why the inner circle members don't tease her about her romance with Cullen. The fact that she actually is younger than most of them factors into it. It also adds to the similarity in his mind between the two women, since this was Bethany's own role in Dragon Age II.
  • Fictional Document: The Skyhold Runner's Guide to Survival is a full one of these.
  • Filk Song: Most of If Non Can Learn to Do It is comprised of one of these.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: According to its first chapter, Agents Acquired was written at Varric's insistence and somewhat against the author's inclination.note 
  • Gilded Cage: One of Bethany's letters in Across the Waking Sea indicates that the royal palace in Starkhaven is becoming this for her. Sebastian is very kind to her but extremely busy, the mage refugees she was helping have moved on, and there's not much for her to do except hole up in the library, reading books and waiting to hear from Varric.
  • Her Boyfriend's Jacket: Implied in Across the Waking Sea, when Varric tells Bethany to keep something for him. The 'something' is the signet ring of House Tethras, and when she later shows up at Skyhold, she has it on a chain around her neck. However, it's unclear exactly how the gift is intended; the pair themselves don't seem entirely sure.
  • Hey, You!: In her letter which inspired Agents Acquired, Sera tells Varric to "Say hello to wossername." She means Bethany, who - like Varric - has returned to Kirkwall.
  • Home Sweet Home: Varric, as in the game, is homesick for Kirkwall. This is downplayed in the first story, partly due to the revolving point of view, but is made explicitly clear in Across the Waking Sea. In one letter, he tells Bethany that sometimes he'd consider committing murder in exchange for five minutes at home.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: The basic premise behind Agents Acquired, except that Varric isn't writing it himself; rather, he thinks the author should do it.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: In The Skyhold Runner's Guide to Survival, Varric lampshades the trope in his section on Victoria, noting that "if you make her cry, it could be the last thing you ever do" on account of her role as The Heart.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Across the Waking Sea implies that Bethany is more or less serving this role for Varric, in a sense. He admits in one of his letters that writing to her is very nearly the only thing that feels at all normal in his life.
  • Musical Episode: If Non Can Learn to Do It is this for the entire series.
  • Opening Narration: Agents Acquired opens with Varric's longest Note From Ed in the whole series, explaining how the story was inspired by a letter from Sera (and also how annoyed the author apparently is with him for insisting that they write it).
  • Orphan's Ordeal: In Agents Acquired, twin brothers Ivor and Ivan were taken into the Blades of Hessarian after their parents were killed during the Fifth Blight.
  • Perspective Flip: Each chapter of Agents Acquired tells the story of an agent's recruitment into the Inquisition, from the point of view of the agent themselves.
  • Pie in the Face: In Agents Acquired, Varric receives a letter from Sera which inspires the installment. This letter includes a drawing of what appears to be Seneschal Bran having received one of these, possibly thrown by Varric himself.
  • The Pig-Pen: In The Skyhold Runner's Guide to Survival, Varric warns prospective staff to avoid standing downwind of Blackwall, since he sleeps in the stable and "that smell gets in your clothes."
  • Product Placement: An in-universe example. While writing The Skyhold Runner's Guide to Survival, Varric takes the opportunity to plug Hard in Hightown.
  • Relationship Upgrade: In Across the Waking Sea, Varric invokes the trope by name in some of his letters to Bethany, when telling her about the Inquisitors' romances.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: A variant appears in Across the Waking Sea, when Varric writes to a very anxious Bethany to assure her that he survived the fall of Haven.
  • Shipper on Deck: Across the Waking Sea makes it very clear just how much Varric is shipping both Inquisitors with their respective love interests, and it's not hard for him to persuade Bethany to join him.
  • Small Steps Hero: Corporal Vale's involvement in the Inquisition, as shown in Agents Acquired. Back home in the Bannorn, he and his neighbors got into the habit of thinking that someone ought to do something about the state of the world. Then one day, it dawned on him that he was someone, and maybe he could make things at least a little better.
  • Something Completely Different: The side volumes could be described this way. The 'musical' one-shot is even explicitly tagged as such on AO3.
  • Stunned Silence: This is Horsemaster Dennet's initial reaction to the Deth Nug in Agents Acquired, followed by the baffled assertion that " has hands."

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