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31 Days of Fic

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A breeze brings a hint of flowers too sweet to be blooming in the cold seasons. There's honey and rose, neither of which are possible atop the Frostbacks mountains where the soil is too thin and rocky for deep and thirsty roots. Insects are abound, as they are where a crowd of people gather to leave crumbs and wastes and forgotten food for roaches, flies, and fleas. Grasshoppers jump through the weeds and crickets chirp at the waning sun but never is there a hum of bees, wild or tamed. Honey is too rare to be used for frivolous self care, anyway, and the training grounds are too far from the kitchens to catch a whiff of sweet cakes.

Fahleon smells it, too, and he tugs at his hair with frustrated jerks, deep lines of determination etching out the sharp corners of his jaw, as if each tug could tear the scent from him. It clings to him, much in the same way the servants Josephine sent to his chambers had even as he struggled from the bath they pulled him into and the soaps they rubbed him down with. It masked the natural woody smell of him - sap and dirt and worn leather. Old blood. Off-putting it was to nobles, their aid wasn't worth the perfumes and soaps.

Ada was hesitant to near him, now, and it took a moment's coercion with meat and low whistles to get her to come close. She watched him with a tilted head, wary, and the great flapping of her wings smacked him with the full force of her confusion until she settled at the customary perch at his shoulder with a beak full of fresh kill.

Fahleon ties up his hair again into a loose tail and hopes for the wind to change and take the smell away from him and the sweat beading on his skin to wash it off. He lifts his bow to another target. He could find a patch of mud to roll in, if nothing else.

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Fahleon’s ears still rung with the cheers and hopeful shouts that roared throughout all of Haven. An added cry was sometimes heard just outside the doors of the Chantry where a crowd still lingered, maybe to listen to new orders now that the threat was over or to catch another glance of the hero. He scratched at the edge of his ear with a thumb and caught the scabs still healing over the cuts where his manacles had chaffed. He was free, now, from them and the cell he’d been tossed in, sword points inches from his throat while he awaited trial from the Seeker. The dark and dank had been traded for light and a cloying scent of frankincense, the shouts at him - and for him - dulled to a background hum of nonsense chatter.

One instance of heroics, all but forced upon him as had been the blame, and he all was forgotten, swept under the rug. He sat high at the table pushed against the Chantry’s main sanctum, seated in the center between the interrogating Seeker and her slippery friend, the Spymaster. Their eyes were still heavy upon him with hate and mistrust, which he found fair to return until their judgment softened. He felt uneasy surrounded on all sides by those who had, just hours ago, were ready to slit his throat, and nausea rolled with more fury than the Waking Sea in his gut. It was only furthered by the spread put out before him.

Fahleon pushed a bowl of broth as far from him as he could. It knocked into a plate piled high with fruits of all colors and shapes, dominated by a large, orange sort with a rough skin. Apples were stacked beneath, and berries in colors he had never known were scattered like some sort of embellishment rather than for a purpose of eating. Bread, he recognized, dark and fluffy, with saucers of honey, butter, and oil nearby for dipping and spreading needs. Fish mixed oddly with a platter of eggs stuffed with ham that made his nose wrinkle and his lips curled at a display of desserts.

A king in a castle not his own, surrounded by cutthroats and back stabbers, but a king nonetheless. Fahleon rose and ignored the heat on his back as the Seeker and Spymaster watched his every step to the great carved wooden doors. He shoved one open only far enough to slip outside, and breathed deep of cold, bitter air, filled with the scent of oncoming snow. Somewhere, someone was roasting a simple breakfast of hare. Fahleon turned in its direction

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It was rumored, from the dawn of human life, the Brecillian Forest was haunted. They had a right to be afraid.

Twisting paths ran in circles, and the towering trees shaded the light from illuminating tripping and catching roots that pulled any unwary wanderer's feet out from under them. Rain turned the dim foggy, hiding the true dangers of the forests. Animals stalked freely through the underbrush, careful of mud pits and rock falls. Old spells whispered silken words across the hills of power and health for a simple price, and the forest fought back against the tainted promise with fury.

Fahleon walked the forest, steady and confident. Unafraid. It was the woods that should fear him.

It had tried, for the last time, to knock him down. It was a slow march, each step through the forest was an agony, each breeze a heavenly gift against fevered skin. Muscles weak from the days spent abed, unable to even lift his head to drink until the shem warrior preformed his cursed ritual to spell it away. His bow trembled in his hand, and he tightened his hold. The forest would not have him. It would not have Tamlen.

A group of humans gathered, again, at the entrance to the old ruins. A foolish new enterprise into the deeps, or a even foolish return of the past group - it made no matter. Fahleon took them all down, and drew his arrows from each one, wiping the life blood clean on their shirts. There was more inside the ruins from, splattered along the walls and dripping on the floors from his last fight, here, with the blight bear. He found its body still heaped in a corner, nearly unrecognizable from the puss and corruption leeching from its wounds.

The mirror was just beyond.

Broken and stained, as it was when he'd found it. Bloodied and tainted as it was when Tamlen touched it. Dread wolf take the elf, if he hadn't already. It would be a mercy compared to the end the mirror showed.

A rock echoed down the stone corridors and Fahleon pivoted, bow raised and arrow pointed at the shem warrior. Fahleon pulled the bow taunt and the man lifted his arms, slowly - casually.

"You should not have left you camp, hunter." Fahleon made no move to attack or recede, and the man lowered his hands back to his sides. "You won't find you friend here."

"Then tell me where." He shook his head, and Fahleon took a step closer, jaw tightening. "You will tell me where!"

"You cannot save-"

Fahleon let the bow strong snap forward and the arrow embedded deep in the stonework in front of the man's boot. A stone chip flew to cut an exposed arm. "Then I'll look elsewhere."

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The ground shuddered beneath Fahleon's feet, and Cullen shuddered with it. Rocks tumbled down the mountain side and rested under a blanket of snow that fell after. Cullen had no such blanket, and continued to shiver. Fahleon didn't think it that cold, what with the stables on fire.

Corypheus rose from the snow, raging and cursing and clawing at the sky.

"What do we do now?" some soldier said behind him. Fahleon felt eyes on his back.

"The catapults didn't work." Another worried whisper that encouraged several more. Cullen glanced at him from the cornr of his eyes, face flushed. Embarrassed maybe, that his plan hadn't gone as imagined. It wouldn't be the last.

"What do you think?" he asked, hand reaching for the pommel of his sword.

"I thought he would be bigger," Fahleon answered.

"Are you serious?"

Fahleon nodded. Corypheus had taken to cursing the Maker, now, and it made sense for a god to be imposing and encompassing - on an incomprehensible scale. Covered in snow and blight he looked more like a darkspawn, and Fahleon had seen enough to feel mild concern instead of fear. Until, that was, until Corypheus moved through space at a speed he couldn't comprehend, and his full form towered over him.

"Ah."

Corypheus grabbed him by the front of his tunic and lifted him until Fahleon felt all his five foot something height. He frowned and kicked his feet, meeting only cold air. The fire from the stables had spread, to the inner walls of Haven's keep rather than upward to warm his toes.

"You will bow to me," he hissed. Fahleon wrinkled his nose at the stench.

"You'll put me down, first."

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Trudging through snow was a difficult thing. Snow, itself, sounded the landscape, rounding out the sharp points of trees and filling in shallow hollows until the earth ran flat. It silenced birdsong and swallowed the natural music of the forest until all that was left was the crunch of Fahleon's footfalls and the occasional curse when his step fell deep. Here, Fahleon could not hide his noise in the ambiance of the forest. There was no chirp and chitter of small critters to hide within, not steady rustle of dried leaves to mask his own. Fahleon could follow the tracks of fox and hare for as long as he was able through the snow, but tracks could not teach him the right places to step or the pace that would silence him.

It would take time he didn't have to put the confidence back in every step, the strength in his arms, and precision in his movements. The patterns of the woods were not missing, merely different and unfamiliar, and it would be a slow and frustrating change. He knew the forests of eastern Fereldan, their every twist and hidden turns whether they were bare or covered in snow. He could walk the paths strong and quick, with nothing to impede him. He was silence and determination.

He was noisy and angered, and half a mind to turn back around and leave scouting for some other poor blighter. He would not make a name for himself if he returned, hands empty of food and mouth empty of news, but it would save his pride.

A screech echoed through the empty air, and Fahleon turned his eyes up from the sloppy series of tracks he'd made in the snow to watch Ada take off from a nearby tree. Her flight scattered a nest of squirrels into a panicked escape. Fahleon shot forward, as quick as he could with the snow banks up to his knees, a whistle on his lips between heavy breaths. Ada circled once and dived.

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The ground beneath them all is bucking like some wild animal, attempting to throw the weight off its back. It's successful, very so, and Dorian finds it impossible to keep his feet. He's smart enough to throw himself backwards, away from the fight, but he's not strong enough to go far. The dragon's claws rake against stone and the bridge crumbles under the weight. Bull is close enough to solid earth just beyond the bridge's arch to get a firm footing and he lunges towards the other side. The side where Fahleon is quickly tumbling down after the bricks.

Bull is fast, but Dorian is closer. He turns himself around and makes a stumbling and faltering mess of himself that he is sure to demand Fahleon never repeats if they - when they - make it out of this mess. Fahleon's balance gives out after a minute of struggle, and he's on his back, rolling down what remains of the bridge and into thin air. Until there's a sudden stop that has him crying out at the sharp jerk of his arm. Dorian's arm shakes with the strain and he tightens his hold.

Fahleon returns his grip with a brief pull on his - a test to see if he call pull himself up the edge. Dorian can fell the callouses of years with a bow under a layer of sweat and blood. There's a rough patch on the outside of this thumb from a healing wound after an encounter with a frightened nug, and Dorian's finger traces the scab while looking for a better purchase. It's difficult when Fahleon's hands are so much smaller than his own, and nearly impossible to bring Fahleon up to solid ground. Not without help, at least. There's a look on his face that must have spoken for him, for Fahleon's grip has gone slack and there's a frown on his face with more determination than fear. It's one of Dorian's favorites.

He can't feel the prickle of magic, but he can hear it - the way the very air below them snaps and rips until there's a jagged cut in the dark pit where the bridge had once been. There's light, now, bright and unearthly, and the hollow sound of the Fade echoes from it.

"Let go," Fahleon says, and the elf's hand had never felt so heavy in his own before.

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I would like to get you know, Cassandra had said, in as pleasant a tone as she could manage with the icy distance between them, made from years of mistrust and current grudges. She'd frozen up again when he wove a tale of Seheron and the lands across the Great Ocean. He was no storyteller like Varric and no prankster like Sera, he could not put the humor in his voice and Cassandra took it for what it was - another lie, one more reason to deny his trust. Fahleon hadn't sought it, either, but was frustrated with her reasoning to his story.

He would not bring up the past he'd tried hard to remember, and harder to forget. What would anyone benefit from the knowledge of his clan's massacre, the murder of his parents, his transfer to another family of elves when his own kicked him out. Humans had a system of pity that went beyond race, if the circumstances were dire enough, and Fahleon would not have it. He already had their adoration as the Herald, something he did not ask for, and he would not take on their pity, either, as an orphan and a victim. His home was gone, and what home he'd made within the Sabre clan disappearing with every day spent away, as well. Gone, soon, if the messages received by Leliana from the Free Marches were to be believed.

No, Fahleon would not speak of the clan and his role in it. He told Josephine earlier the dangers of handing out such information to they wary and suspicious, whether their intentions for use were well-intended or not. They did not deserve it, and Fahleon would not risk it for some shem's approval.

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"It wasn't my fault," Fahleon snarled. He was aware of the eyes on him, no less sharp than the blades pointed at his chest. He was aware of the darkness and the dampness of an underground holding cell, too far down for anyone to hear him or reach him in time. He was aware of the burning mark on his hand and the light he couldn't hide. It brightened when the woman yanked his arm away from him and he grunted at the sword poking at his side.

"This wasn't you?" she demanded, and every word was followed up by another pull on his arm until Fahleon felt blood wet his tunic. She jabbed her other hand towards the sky. He couldn't see the great gaping whole in the sky, dripping with demons and all manner of the Beyond, but he knew it was still there. "That wasn't caused by you?" He didn't answer and she met his snarl with one of her own before throwing down his hand. The wound popped and he clutched it close to himself, biting down on a noise of pain. When he could open his eyes again, a second woman had appeared.

"We need him, Cassandra," she said, finally stepping out the shadows. She glanced at him, once and only for a flicker of a second, and turned to the Seeker.

"We need his information," she corrected. "If he would talk."

"I'm accused whether I talk or not," Fahleon said, with a humor in his voice that was almost a laugh.

"Not unless you wish to help," the woman in the shadows said. He did laugh, then, and Cassandra quiet him with a stomp of her foot.

"We cannot trust him, Leliana."

Leliana regarded him a calm, if cold, look. "Do you trust us?" He narrowed his eyes and gave a curt shake of his head. "Then I guess we have an understanding."

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Fahleon's lack of verbal response had become a slow learning curve. An answer consisting of a shrug did not suggest an apathy for a situation, silent looks were not part of a cold shoulder technique, and scoffs and sighs meant no offense. It was his form of communication, and his companions had come to understand it. Which brought utter confusion when Fahleon refused to quiet. He was silent and still for only a manner of minutes before pacing the length of the great hall, a mutter under his breath just a tone beneath hearing.

"This is ridiculous," Fahleon said, and not for the first time. Nor the second, or the third, and everyone was counting. There was no telling when he'd speak this often again, and there would be opportune times to tease him about it later. Fahleon had other concerns in mind than the stares following his steps. He stilled again, and tipped his head back to watch the ravens flit between the rafters, listening for their croaks. "It's like she doesn't even remember me." He glanced at those gathered around him, frown wobbling between hurt and fear. It hurt just to look at.

Dorian was the first to clear his throat. "I can't say I know much about the memory of birds, but I don't think they just forget who raised them from chicks."

It didn't pacify the elf. "Whether Ada remembers me or not, she won't come to me." She'd been avoiding him, at the least. His idea to have her roost with the messenger ravens had backfired, and instead of giving the kite more space to be comfortable, she'd refused to leave.

"And it requires Leliana to fix?"

"Maybe." Fahleon worked his jaw. "She knows her own birds. More than me, even."

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"Spit...spit that out." The mabari hound attacked to his arm by the sleeve of his jacket did the exact opposite, and instead worried further at the leather. He could feel the dog's hot breath like a burn and every brush of short fur was a scratch laced with a threat that the strong jaws tugging at his clothes was but a small taste of the power it held. Fahleon swallowed a scream and risked a glance around himself in search of anyone or anything that might help. A quick look of the empty training ring revealed nothing useful in sight and he locked eyes with the dog the instant he finished - he didn't wish to take his eyes off it any longer than he had to. He cleared the throat and tried again. "Spit it out."

Fahleon thought the dog understood, this time, as its jaws parted and showed its rows of sharp teeth, yellow from years of biting into the flesh of creatures that were not limited to just walking on four legs, and he moved to snatch his hand back to himself. The mabari was quicker and nipped at his sleeve again. Fahleon did scream, this time, an ungraceful thing. He thought he saw the giant muzzle split into a grin, and he wondered in that brief moment of clarity as shock burned away his fear if the dog meant this as some game. The heart beating hard and fast in Fahleon's chest, making him light-headed and dizzy, had a different opinion on the idea of play.

A game inspired some fear, or something equivalent to promote a need to win, but was ultimately made up of fun. This, Fahleon decided, was no where close to fun. This was powerlessness, a hatred towards things he could not control. This was a torture he never wanted repeated.

A whistle sounded, so suddenly and so sharply Fahleon flinched hard enough to knock himself off balance as the hound let go. The mabari's tongue lolled in the same grin before trotting after the master who'd called for it. Fahleon rubbed at his wrist before walking off, shoulders hunched and face red in embarrassment.

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The peace of the Hinterlands was broken by a half muffled snort of laughter. The birds Fahleon watched through lazy, half-lidded eyes fluttered away, startled at the sound so out of place in the soft pattern of a river rock rocks and the chuff of mountain rams. Fahleon arched his neck back to find what Dorian found so funny, and a tug of his hair stilled him.

"Don't you dare ruin my work. I'm almost done," the mage chided, with no true heat behind it. Fahleon heard a smile in his voice and he was content to relax across the grassy cliff overlooking the hills of Redcliffe. He stretched his legs until his knees shook and fell into the feeling of Dorian's fingers combing through his hair, shivering when he brushed against the nape of his neck.

It was a rare day where Fahleon could simply be...Fahleon. The Inquisitor was not needed to spy on the talks and movements of the supposed lyrium smuggler hiding amongst the Chantry's sisters. That was Varric's job, until the dwarf returned with news and he would have to don his title once more. There was time before that, enough for a time to soak up the early afternoon sun and feel the grass under his toes. Enough for a nap, even.

"Done," Dorian said, after Fahleon had closed his eyes and tilted his chin back to angle the sun out of his eyes. He blinked, slow, and turned on his side to assess Dorian's handiwork. The mage looped a lock of his unbound hair around his finger and Fahleon raised a brow at the small white petals of wildflowers he found tied into the loose strands. Fahelon lifted a hand to the crown of his head and felt a dozen more flowers, soft and silky under.

"No one will take me seriously like this," he said, but he felt his lips quirk at the idea of it - marching through the town to demand the sister to work for him.

Dorian lifted the hair still in his grasp to his lips. "I can take them out before we go."

"Keep them."

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There were some responsibilities he could understand the importance of, and it was the single Fahleon tolerated them. He little knowledge of battle plans and training regimes, but Cullen walked him through the ranks of templars and farm hands nonetheless, and Fahleon nodded where he should and let the rest filter through his ears as background noise. He cared none of the people Josephine called allies - the primped and pampered nobles knew none of the hardships he had and their concerned well-wishes were slaps against his cheeks - but he greeted them all the same with tight lips and tense shoulders. The war room was stuffy and the cracked ceiling made him nervous, but he stood it under it and endured the talks of things that should require his attention, but meant nothing to him. A skirmish in the Orlesian outskirts was too far from his Skyhold quarters to instigate any fear of it reaching the mountains to warrant a small team of soldiers, darkspawn crawling from the storm coast did not mean the coming of a blight and it was easier to leave them to the dragon than clear out the caves. Horses in the hinterlands...Fahleon supposed he could reach out to the farm holds if it saved his feet in the long run.

Other responsibilities he found crazy, outlandish, and outright removed himself from. Speaking prayers spoken to the masses from a god he had no faith in, in a language that rubbed him the wrong way or cleaning up the rubble that amassed after ages of the Keep's disuse. A babe, human and pink with a shock of blond hair, in his arms and a teary eyed young mother, looking down at him with exhaustion and hope. Fahleon cradled it in the crook of his arms, eyes wide and breath stuck in his throat as he concentrated on not dropping it.

What in the Void was he supposed to do with it? Feed it or cloth it or bathe it - though the mother looked more in need than the child? Bless it - in a word neither of them would understand and lose all meaning of the meeting? Fahleon cleared his throat and uttered a word of strength and hoped it was enough, wincing when the mother reached out with confusion and hesitation. He turned away as soon as he was able and glared at anyone with mocking looks.

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Fahleon knew what to expect when the clan asked for those brave enough to watch the lands around the human settlers, but it did not make the challenge easier. He thought taking on such a request would improve his standings amongst the Dalish, yet instead of hope there was only fear settled low in his stomach. He would not see another of his homes, if this was what was to become of the new Fereldan scenery, be taken from him again through human hands.

He watched the father and his son carefully, wary, longer than necessary if only it meant he could keep his own family safe. The boy was a mage, not much younger than him, with fire in his hands. It wasn't the magic he weld that unnerved Fahleon - it was his adventurousness. He furthered from his cottage father each day until the tree line was a shadow over his brow. Fahleon ducked under the bushes to hide his gaze, and readied his bow. Ada, nothing more than a ball of downy feathers, peeped a note when her roost was disturbed at his movement. Her beak was still sharp, and she snapped at the point of his ear and he bit back a cry of pain.

The boy jumped, brown eyes wide and flicking over the bush he crouched in. Fahleon tensed as he watched the boy clutch his hands close to his chest, but he didn't feel the tell-tale static of magic use. Instead, the boy stepped forward even closer, lips parted and pants heavy. Fahleon dropped an arrow and he scrambled to pick it up.

"I know you're there."

He stiled, snapping his head up at the words, surprised and yet not. It was impossible for either of the humans to remain naive of the eyes that watched them day and night.

The boy's feet touched the roots of the first tree and moved no further. "We aren't going to hurt you...we're not liked...either, I think. We ran away, too..."

It was a poor explanation, but it was all the boy's courage was capable of. His knees shook before he turned away, and long legs took him quickly back to the house. Fahleon eyed the door to make sure it stayed shut before turning away for home, as well.

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The old hermit living under the stump was, officially, the high of his day, Fahleon thought. The deep scratch he'd earned from testing Witherfang's patience throbbed with every beat of his heart, and his heart was making a mad dash for a safer place in the pit of his stomach. He winced and wrapped a hand around the cut. The werewolves growled, their fur fluffing up and clawed hands flexing, and Fahleon returned his arm to his side. Blood dripped to the floor from his fingertips.

"That is no way to treat our guest," a woman scolded, lightly but with a strength in her voice that sounded both familiar and strange. She spoke like the wind through leaves, and when she walked from her chambers offset from the ruins, her movements were stiff and creaky like wooden branches. The wolves bowed at her approach. When she stood by Witherfang to place a hand on his shoulder, Fahleon caught a scent of magic more pungent than the death and decay around him. "I invited you here to make known your intentions."

Fahleon didn't look away from the wolves when he answered. "You're attacking my people."

She let out a laugh that sounded of rain. "Did your Keeper not tell you? Your people were the first to attack. This curse is nothing but yours to blame." She stretched a hand out towards him and Fahleon was too stunned from the revelation to defend himself from whatever magic she would throw at him. "Hear this: I am the Lady of the Forest and I will not hesitate to protect what is left untouched by your Keeper. The curse will end until he does, by hand or yours."

"You want me to kill my Keeper?" Fahleon asked.

"It is the only way to end this," she said. "Unless you wish to suffer the same fate."

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Fahleon had second thoughts about enveloping the mages into the Inquisition's ranks. They whined and they bickered and they flaunted their newfound freedom...and they tested their magic like tomorrow it might be taken away. He supposed it might, if every day was just another chance for Corypheus attack. The mages could have, at least, the courtesy to practice away from him. Especially if neither party knew the exact consequences for the spells they were slinging about.

At least Fahleon knew what the one particular spell did when it missed its target and struck him - the target being some stray tabby innocently washing itself on the fence lining the training grounds. Fahleon wasn't sure what the spell was meant to do, make the cat talk or do a funny dance, but instead he was the one to feel funny and speak in a strange language. Specifically meows.

Fahleon looked upon his body, his own, elven body, still and limp and with vacant eyes from the fence post. He jumped to the ground, paws and all, and wondered how long it would take for someone to notice he wasn't aware of himself, or that he was a cat. He wondered how long it would last. Long enough, he hoped, to cause some chaos within the Inquisition. He'd have to make to most of his current situation.

He bounded from the courtyard and weaved himself through the throngs of people ascending the stairs to Skyhold proper, fur puffing at each brush of legs against his sides. One reached down to pet him and he hissed, darting out of the way and losing himself within the castle's rooms from his disadvantaged height.

Josephine was at a desk stacked with papers and he wandered closer, slow, to see if she could tell it was him. Her eyes brightened in a way that was all interest but not at all recognition, and he jumped onto the table top.

"What brings you here?" she asked, as Fahleon settled himself on the corner of the desk to wait out the length of the spell. He reached out and smacked a neat pile of papers to the floor.

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The Hinterlands were an ghostly sort of beauty during the snowy seasons. The trees were nearly bare, and what color still adorned their crooked branches scratching at the sky was a dead and dying array of yellows and browns. The rivers were muddy as melt carried dirt from the mountains and swamped the useless farmlands with mud. The land was empty of movement - families stayed home wrapped in furs, the animals they came from asleep in dens or deep underground, and the birds roosting somewhere far away and far warmer.

Except for one.

Ada screeched as she soared above the bleak landscape, the only blur of motion for the miles Fahleon could see stretching out before him from atop a hill. He whistled to her and it sounded loud and sharp in his ears as it broke the silence hanging in the air. She answered him with another cry and Fahleon stretched an arm out. She landed on the offered perch with a flurry of feathers and he winced as he was clipped as she settled for herself.

"Better?" he asked, out of habit. He'd grown of accustomed to speaking to her without any one else to listen to him. There were few left to talk to, and even less so verbally. Letters were a common form of communication, but they'd become few and far between after the disbandment of the Inquisition. A life of his own, once more, to go where he wished based on his own ideas. It was what he craved when staring out the high windows of Skyhold. Peace, quiet, a time to be his own elf again.

He certainly got all he wished for. As much silence, as much space, as much time as he wanted.

And Fahleon found himself lonely.

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"Is this what you want?"

Fahleon heard the threat like a hiss inside his skull and it echoes through his bones like a cold wind, leaving him frozen and empty. He watched himself - this thing wearing his face - throw a man into a cage and slam the door closed before turning to look at him. Fahleon watched it grin, smile with his face and his teeth and his eyes, and he met it with a snarl. The demon laughed, unfazed, not when even Fahleon could hear the fear and panic in it.

"All this authority, all this power," the demon continued, and Fahleon had no choice but to listen. He couldn't find a way to escape, and even then he wasn't sure he could move fast enough to make it out. "What could you do with it? I want to know you."

"No." Fahleon curled his hands into fists. "This isn't what I want!" Not like this. Never like this.

"Are you so sure?" Confidence slipped over every word and stuck in Fahleon's ears, a mantra he couldn't shake. He wanted to be larger than those who trod upon him and his people, to be stronger than any sword thrust towards him, angrier than the enemies that faced him. Anger, yes, he was sure of that. The demon wearing his face licked is lips. "Is that so?"

Fahleon glared, a steady, hard look, even as the landscaped shifted once more from the dark dungeons below Haven's Chantry to a mounain high above a ruin hot with fire and choked with smoke. His face, laughing, mouth stretched into a mockery of a smile, eyes wide and mad. Fahleon refused to look, and he stifled a flinch when the demon whirled to face him. He refused to listen to the screams rising.

"I know you."

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Mythall was real. The elven gods - his gods - were real, in one form of another. Walking the land at the same time he was, looking at the world with the same eyes...what else was real? The stories about them? The old tales of fantastic hunts and gruesome wars? The gift of life everlasting and the touch of magic? Each of his questions were answered in a whisper echoed within his skull, almost too soft to catch and too loud to hear in a language he struggled to comprehend. Yes, the old elves agreed, and no, not in the way he thought.

Fahleon shook his head.

The tales passed on from mentor to apprentice, from mother to child? They were real as well? In truth, he heard, and understood no further. The warnings and tales meant to inspire thought and fear just sticks compared to the truth, and Fahleon grit his teeth against the assault of information and narrowed it down to one. A tale to keep children away from burial sights to avoid the creatures within. Beasts of hunger and long slumbers, so fearsome and strong only an iron bark stake through the heart could kill them if they rose. They rested until the scent of new blood neared before clawing their way through the dirt to dig at flesh and bones. Some preyed on the mind, on thoughts and emotions until all that was left was a husk of a man, living but not alive.

Vampire, the whispered informed, and the tales were true. Hunger, hiding itself in the broken chests of the dead to sate its need for life and blood and power.

Fahlone shivered. The Well of Sorrows had given him much to think upon.