She wonders how Circle mages learn to deal with the dreaming of the Beyond, having so many of them so close together, pressing on each other’s minds when sleeping. In the clan, the Keeper, old and wise and experienced, always kept her dreams tight within herself, aware of their intrusion in another’s home, the dangers the locals might mean to them. Revas and the other young mages, mindful of the First’s supervision, romped with the wisps that followed them like fireflies. The others in the clan, not aware in the Beyond, were invisible ghosts to be tripped over, small feelings of loss and happiness and togetherness all twisted up to simply feel like home, a beacon to navigate by should they wander too far.
She wonders why Lavellan, with more mages than tradition and prudence dictate, has never had trouble with demons.
The Beyond when she dreams at Skyhold is bigger than the fortress is when she is awake, each dreamer holding a world within themselves. They haunt the places they occupy during the day, and each room goes on forever if she loses focus. The wisp-chasing of her youth has turned into her leaving her personal dreaming to circle theirs, lightly checking on all those who have charged her with their care.
(She’s not the Herald of Andraste, she does not believe in their Maker, but they call her it all the same, and they will all be hurt if- when- she remembers what happened at the Conclave. She doesn’t truly mind Herald, when they don’t mention the mortal woman they worship. She is a herald. The Andrastians just think it’s about them. She likes Inquisitor better. It sounds like inquisitive.)
The dreams of the magic-blind feel more scared and in pain than what she had grown used to from her clan, but it is to be expected, considering the events that have brought them together. She sends peaceful thoughts their way when she trips over one of the invisible dreamers, soft soothing songs of clan lullabies to still their dread, to make Skyhold feel more safe to them when they are awake. (It is like trying to fill a lake one droplet at a time, but over time, each droplet helps to fill each person they know, until it is an interconnected bucket brigade, everyone helping fill each other up, until the dreams she trips over are no longer terrified nightmares of Haven burning and drowning in snow.)
The commander and the few templars who have trickled in are brighter and noisier than the other magic-blind, but the noise is the soulless steady song of mined lyrium. Cullen’s noise fades, as days with the Inquisition turn into weeks, months, and even before he tells her about his talk with Cassandra, she knows. The agony of his dreams is terrible, and she can do little to help it beyond sing the clan songs she knows to replace the song he has known for so long. (He steadies, finally, humming songs he’s never heard. Dalish catches him at it, laughs, and spends an evening in the tavern trying to teach him the words to one before declaring him a tone-deaf Chantry boy and washing her hands of the matter. Dalish pulls her aside, tells her to knock off whatever it is she's doing, now that he’s been clued in to its source. She doesn’t ask the other mage how she knew- there are only a few from the clans in Skyhold, and she and Dalish the only mages.) Sometimes she catches him watching her across the war table, a question in his eyes that he doesn’t know how to phrase. She doesn't know how to answer.
Half the tavern patrons know the song now, sing it whenever they get too far into their cups, and Maryden asks her about elven pronunciation. She thinks little of it until they hear a bard singing it in Redcliffe and then she cannot stop laughing at Solas' confused, affronted face. (When they return to Skyhold, she seeks the minstrel out and sings her all the clan songs she knows, lets Maryden pick out the ones she likes and sings them again and again until the minstrel knows all the words, the proper fingering. Translates when needed. Find common ground, she hears her Keeper whisper from memory. As long as we are isolated and alien, there will always be fear. Let music be a step forward. It is another lake she can fill only with droplets, but she must attempt all the same.)
On the balcony overlooking the throne room, Vivienne keeps herself buttoned up as much in the Beyond as she does in the waking world, and whenever she comes across the tower the First Enchanter dreams herself into every night she carefully steps around it, leaving the enchanter to her solitude, Orlesian court music following her as she continues on her way.
Once, there was a chateau, its doors open and Vivienne’s usual closed-up presence spread wide, inviting, melancholy. She was only there the once, but she thinks it looks like the home of Vivienne’s dear duke. She steps around it all the same. The invitation isn’t for her, but a memory of love and loss. Vivienne would never admit to such weak emotions- they could be used against her- but Revas knows all the same, can feel it in these wanderings. (She thinks Vivienne knows she’s here, circling, touching base, empathizing with the lonely tower the enchanter has built to keep herself above those who would hurt her, but the woman never mentions it, merely smiles enigmatically and continues to try and dress her well. She thinks it's a thank you. The hats are especially nice, though the shoes make her feet ache.)
Dorian is different. Vivienne hides herself above others, closed off, a will of iron suppressing that which will not let her succeed, surpass, survive. Dorian hides himself by wearing his every passing thought on his face, his every unimportant emotion on his sleeve. See a dandy, expect a dandy. But her feelings for him are formed by that frightful future, fighting to return to where everything first went foul, and no amount of flippancy will let her forget him, all farce burned away until only fiery focus remained, a passionate determination that this will not happen, will never happen. He may play the dandy, but someday all of Tevinter will quake at the mention of the pariah of House Pavus.
The strange foreign mansion he inhabits in the library of Skyhold’s Beyond is always open to her, ever asking her to poke her nose in and say hello. Sometimes he joins her as she moves about it and they argue history. (Dorian loves his homeland as much as she loves the People, for all its and their faults, but prejudices of childhood are hard to unlearn. For the both of them.) More often though, he is occupied with his own dreaming and wandering and leaves the mysteries of his mansion for her to explore. (She wonders if he has found the aravels encamped in her room, or if the doors she passes through to leave her dreaming bar the way to others. Solas steps past them with ease, but he is a dreamwalker, somniari, and no doors may bar them.)
She is careful to never open any doors. Doors are for hiding behind, for private memories and feelings, and she intrudes upon his hospitality enough as it is. Sometimes he leaves them open on purpose, merry laughter and harsh groans chasing her away as her cheeks flame. They always leave her blushing the day after, ducking his and his lover’s eyes. The Bull laughs whenever he notices, fondly ruffling her hair. In the clan, they were less free with their touch, but she has grown used to it, has come to appreciate it. It is easier to speak with touch than words sometimes, the disparate cultures they all come from interfering with true understanding many times. (She has no interest in communicating with the Bull the way Dorian does. It looks... messy.)
She has never happened upon Solas in her wanderings, not unless he actively seeks her out. His solar is always empty and he treads paths too old for her to find, to follow. But she can still close her eyes and concentrate and feel his presence, stepping away to somewhere, his focus fixed on something. He always seems more real than either Dorian or Vivienne, dreaming, even though she cannot properly find him.
There are pawprints in the solar, the wolves on the walls stepping out to circle her with dark glowing eyes before retreating back in to raise their muzzles and howl. (The howling never stops unless they leave the walls and she does not know which is worse.) The magister walks up the steps to one castle, then down the steps from the other, only to circle again, trapped in a loop of his own making. The mural of Haven burns, the wings surrounding it flapping and fanning the fires higher. Corypheus does not move, thank the Creators, but the orb in his hands shifts between glowing red and green in time with the pulses of the glow of her hand. (Its pulse does not match her heart, and she wonders what drives it, whose heart it beats in time with. In the Beyond, it never stops glowing, never stops itching, though it never reaches for rifts from this side as it does on the waking side of the Veil, and she does not know what to make of it.) The people in the painting of the Winter Palace move, sometimes dancing on their spots on the wall, sometimes reaching through to each other’s panels to attack. (Adamant will be undoubtedly be next, considering the wall has become a testament to the great events of the Breach and the Inquisition, but their forces are not ready to lay siege to that great fortress yet.)
She’s taken to avoiding his solar as much in dreams as she seeks it out when awake. The paintings and their movements scare her, and fear is not a safe thing to feel in the Beyond.
In one remote corner of the palace's panel is something new, something not there when waking. Two elves splashed in red dance. The style does not allow for detail, but the white-haired head tilted against a hairless one is detail enough.
“You never hurt. Not deeply, not inside,” Cole says, finding her before she can leave the doors of her dreaming. He is not a mage, but he steps in the Beyond like one, a testament to his odd origin. She rarely sees him, for his path is guided by hurts to heal and hers by her humors. She looks around at the memory of the night before leaving the clan for the Conclave. It’s a bittersweet memory, and she’s not surprised it has caused enough of an ache to draw Cole’s attention, even as he feels the happiness she felt and pauses at trying to solve it.
Her mother is hugging her, crying, demanding the Keeper send someone else.
Who was there to send? The elves in the clan from the city would watch with the eyes of Andrastians and not know what might impact the People, the born Dalish with their eyes on Chantry hurts, and both biases would color whatever they reported. There is only her and the Keeper’s faith that her insatiable curiosity is enough to detail with little bias and her parents’ Andrastian background to keep her from tripping over herself when speaking to humans. (“Do not ask why all the statues are of women with bowls, little bird. Might as well ask why the sky is blue.”) She remembers nothing after arriving at Haven the first time. Everything between leaving it for the temple- as she must have- and waking in chains, shaking off dreams of spiders and shining, is gone.
(Her first time seeing her reflection startles her, the dark hair she and her twin shared gone white from whatever the experience was. She unfurls the long loops her braid was pinned up in, hacks it off, and hides the mess under the first hat she can find, avoiding mirrors for days. Few had seen her before the rift in the temple to know, though the alchemist cracks a joke about high Dalish fashion when she meets him for the first time- awake at least- and she ducks her head to hide behind the hat brim from his amused gaze and stutters out her gratitude for his care. Solas merely quirks an eyebrow and lets himself be distracted discussing what the Breach might do if left open too long. Cassandra trims it into something less ‘attacked by bears’ and orders her never to tell who fixed it. Varric guesses it anyway and distracts her with tales of the Dalish mage he knew and her troubles with moving to a human space. She appreciates his advice, though the ball of twine seems ridiculous.)
Now though, in her dream, her twin is rolling her eyes at the scene and making stabbing motions in Hlan’s direction. (He radiates smugness, but that is her bias coloring the memory, she knows.) She cannot be First if she is not with the clan, so Hlan must step up. She had thought, at the time, “when I return,” but now she thinks she has changed too much to return.
“To have regrets, one must first live,” she replies. “I hadn’t yet, not really. Life with the clan had small regrets, easily set aside. And now I have cold practicality to keep me from second-guessing myself much. Cassandra says sometimes it does not matter what decision is made, so long as one is, in time for it to matter. Dwelling on the past has brought my people to their knees, I won’t be that way. I look forward, not back. So no, past memories don’t hurt me as much, not the way they do others. My hurts are for what will come, not what already has.”
“You want to go home,” he says, looking at her twin, dark-haired and hiding her misery with mockery and oh how she misses her, they have never been apart before, and then back to her. “But don’t know that you’ll recognize it. Or that they’ll recognize you. You’ve changed. You think they haven’t.”
“I don’t know that it will be home anymore.”
He cocks his head, listening to something she cannot hear. “Devotion, distress, determination,” he murmurs. “You’re still you. You could never not be you. They’ll always love you, be your home. If you need them. Do you?”
“I’ll always need them,” she replies, letting the memory fade away, until only her room at Skyhold remains. She should write the Keeper when she wakes. “Thank you, Cole.”
“I’m glad I could help.”