I just wanted to say thank you to a couple incredibly helpful people - first, Amy (abelas-solas on tumblr) for helping me with the concept and reading over everything as I went, and Tinyfierce on tumblr - for being an awesome beta. The patience you guys have shown me is amazing, and I'm glad to have had your assistance.
Anyway. I hope you readers enjoy the story!
“You move, we die.”
Despite the urgency in Dorian's voice, Velahari couldn't help the way she faltered, eyes drawn to Solas's prone body on the ground of Redcliffe castle as Leliana grunted against the hold of the demons. A swirl of dark green energies opened up behind them then, and Velahari cried out a distressed sound as one of the demons lifted its gnarled, clawed hand and swiped it across the spymaster in a single, lethal stroke.
The portal swallowed them then, and as Velahari landed harshly on the ground on the other side, she had to forcibly keep away the emotions welling up within her; it was one thing to envision the world should the Elder One win, and something very different to see how it affected people – affected her friends, companions whom she'd come to trust with her life. And to see them die in front of her, just a few feet beyond her own hands...it had taken a visible toll on her, and while Dorian at first looked towards her, dark eyebrows knitted together in concern, the pair would soon discover such was the least of said concerns.
“Are you all right? No ill effects from the time magic?” Dorian was half-smiling when Velahari looked up at him, though his smile disappeared under a small frown at the tears at the corners of her eyes. “We're safe now! We've only to defeat Alexius, and that future will never happen,” Dorian attempted to assure her, though it wasn't just that – she didn't understand how he could shrug off something like that so easily.
“But where are we?” Velahari had looked briefly away from Dorian to survey their surroundings, to better familiarize herself with where they were and if they were far away from Redcliffe castle,only to discover nothing but mountains and snowdrifts around them. Dorian helped Velahari to stand, though his eyes were on the mountains.
“I...don't know,” Dorian eventually admitted, confusion contorting the twist of his lips and the lines around his eyes. “This certainly doesn't look like Redcliffe, so it's safe to assume the portal dropped us elsewhere, and perhaps, else-when.” The pair exchanged a look, and Dorian waved off Velahari's expression; “I know, I know. That isn't helpful, but we won't learn anything just standing here, will we?”
He had a point, though even as Velahari looked more carefully around the mountains, she saw no signs of life – no activity, save for the light flakes of snow falling from puffy grey clouds overhead. Just as her lips parted to ask Dorian where he thought they ought to go, something glinted out of the corner of her eye, and though she didn't see anything out of the ordinary at first glance, she narrowed her eyes: only to see the same, queer glimmer.
“Ah, far be it from me to correct the illustrious Herald of Andraste, but shouldn't we try to leave the mountains?” Dorian queried, undoubtedly freezing with nearly half of his chest exposed to the elements.
“There's something there,” Velahari murmured, a hand lifting to point across the way – not that it would be easy to get to. Dorian's eyes narrowed in the same direction, and when he was unable to detect whatever it was she had, he gave her an uncertain look.
“Are you sure?”
Velahari nodded, her smile as reassuring as she could make it under the circumstances, and eventually Dorian relented with a sigh. If he froze to death because of this, he was going to be very, very cross with her. Nevertheless, when she began plodding across the snow, he followed closely, not about to be left behind – he was still the one with the amulet, after all, and if they were ever to make it back to their proper time, she would need him as much as the world would need her.
The distance was further than it initially seemed, but the strangest thing happened as they drew closer. Magic tingled across their skin, and the pair exchanged a single glance when they felt it most strongly; something magical was hidden here, and Velahari had not been imagining things at all. Even stranger, there seemed to be a boundary of the magic – once they passed it, the wind was not so fierce, and the temperature was even and warm.
“A shame we forgot such magics – think of how much better off Haven would be!” Dorian remarked, pausing for a glance at the magical barrier, though he could see nothing but mountains and snow.
“Whoever cast such a spell is a powerful mage, Dorian,” Velahari murmured, expression sobering. “As exceptional and impressive as it is, we should be wary in case whoever's inside doesn't appreciate the intrusion.”
“Us? An intrusion? Perish the thought! Anyone would be lucky to have us on their doorstep.” Dorian's jape was accented with a crooked smile, though Velahari still felt uneasy, even as she returned the expression with a more subdued one of her own.
“Creators.” The stronghold seemed to appear out of thin air, and Velahari whispered the word breathlessly. How had she not seen it before?
“Well,” Dorian began, the mage clearing his throat before continuing. “You were certainly right about something being over here.” Neither could see guards at the first watchtower: one that stood as a silent sentinel at one side of the bridge.
“Let's...be careful. There's something too easy about all of this.”
Dorian nodded his agreement, and the pair made their way slowly across, the only sounds they could hear the echoing of their footsteps against the stone. As they crossed into the courtyard under a portcullis, Velahari knew they'd made a mistake; the portcullis fell behind them, trapping them inside, and when the pair glanced back after looking at their blocked exit, it was to see several elves, arrows taut against bow strings and primed to fire.
Velahari knew enough of the elven language to know it was what they were speaking, but aside from a few disparate words, she couldn't even begin to translate.
“What are they saying?” Dorian murmured, the mage daring only to lower his head half an inch in case the elves thought he might be reaching for a weapon.
“I don't know.” Velahari's heart pounded, but even so, she could not help looking more intently at the elves: their lack of vallaslin marked them not as Dalish, but they certainly did not look like city elves either. It made her wonder at Solas's explanation of elves eking out a living on the fringes of both societies, but he'd said he'd mostly spent his time alone; did such a haven exist for elves who fled shemlen cities and for whatever reason did not seek the Dalish?
It was clear the elven archers were becoming frustrated at the lack of answers they were receiving, and one of them, a taller man with fierce brown eyes, bellowed out another question in elven, his tone noticeably agitated and angry. “Say something, anything, before they decide to fill us with arrows and toss us over the mountain,” Dorian urged, but what could she say?
“Ir abelas, but I do not speak Elvish fluently,” Velahari attempted, though judging from the frowns she received at her words, the exchanged looks, she doubted very much anyone understood her.
“You speak the common tongue – you, an escaped slave who has also had the audacity to drag a shemlen to this sacred place.” The tall elf from earlier, brown eyes dark and angry, was the one to speak, and Velahari floundered in response – an escaped slave? “Why have you come here?”
“Ah, please forgive me for interrupting, but if you could tell us where we are, we would be most grateful.” Dorian's smile was sheepish and fragile, and he flinched away from the angry tone in which the elf answered.
“Silence, shemlen. You will hold your tongue unless addressed.” Velahari was only just able to see the dumbfounded expression cross Dorian's face, though the mage did remain quiet, however disgruntled he felt at being condescended to from the elf. “You have not answered my question, slave of Dirthamen. Why have you come here?” Velahari's jaw clenched just a bit tightly, eyes hardening.
“We don't even know where here is,” she finally replied, exasperated and irritated. “If you could answer just a few questions, it would be help-”
“Do not pretend you do not know where you are,” the elf sneered, brown eyes narrowing down the long line of his thin nose. “Tarasy'lan te'las is no forgotten place – do not presume me a fool.” The elf paused then, just long enough to turn his head and share a few, short words with one of his fellows; Dorian and Velahari exchanged one of their own in the interim, and when both cared to look back, the brown-eyed elf nodded wordlessly at them.
Their staves were confiscated even as the pair struggled against strong arms that grabbed hold of them, and Velahari didn't bother attempting to contain her glare at the elf as they were led up stairs and to an upper courtyard, many loitering elves watching curiously as they passed.
She could scarcely hear the murmurings as she and Dorian trod past, the elves' grip on their arms unforgiving and likely bruising, though at least she'd be able to heal the bruises when she could focus enough. At the moment, however, all she felt was as a caged tiger, ready to pounce and flee the moment the opportunity arose. Her hand twinged uncomfortably as a sharp, elven shoulder harshly nudged her towards another set of stairs, and though her left hand clenched and tightened – hoping to alleviate the pressure – Velahari could only bite her tongue and do as her captors bid her.
There were a great many more elves in the massive structure than Velahari had anticipated, and all of them promptly ended their conversations to look at her and Dorian: some curiously, others suspiciously, and some with hateful, disgusted scowls that made Velahari's frown deepen until it almost spilled over into one of her own.
“We have found intruders. Undoubtedly sent to uncover secrets of your plans and turn them over to Elgar'nan and Falon'Din.”
Elgar'nan? Falon'Din? Velahari's expression was overcome with confusion then; how was it these elves spoke of the elven gods in such ways? They were sealed away for all time, had been for ages beyond counting by the Dread Wolf; was this some elaborate ruse to keep their true purpose a secret from her and from Dorian?
“Maker's breath,” Dorian breathed at her side, his voice little more than a whisper only she could hear, and when Velahari caught the human's line of sight and looked up as well, she could well understand. “It can't be.”
The elf in question had at first been leaning over a table, a map of the area spread across its surface; fingertips moved across it, following the movement of a compass and subsequently by little markers which presumably held some sort of significance – though the map and the table were the least of Velahari's concerns. The face which now peered curiously at her and Dorian was a face they both recognized, and for a moment, Velahari could not breathe. There was no recognition in the elf's features, though she had all-but-memorized the grey-blue of his eyes, the slight twinkle when prompted into the subject of spirits or the Fade, and even the slight tug of his lips as he attempted not to smile at a jape made by one of their companions.
“What shall we do with them, Dread Wolf?” The elf spoke the common tongue as if to inform Fen'Harel tacitly that their 'guests' did not speak elven – how else would they learn of their sentence otherwise?
If recognizing one of her companions was a tough pill to swallow, hearing him addressed in such a way was a punch to the gut. Had she not been so certain, Velahari might have believed they were stuck in the Fade: in the elaborate dream of some vindictive demon, but nothing about their surroundings betrayed such a prognosis, and indeed, the Dread Wolf could see the dilemma spelled out on her features. His gaze did not long remain on her, however; it swept over to Dorian not long afterwards, curious and uncertain himself, though it was but a cursory glance.
The Dread Wolf was a far cry from the Solas they'd left behind; he stood taller, more confidently, with an easy-going gait and a provocative smile that seemed to promise the fulfillment of deep, dark desires Velahari hadn't realized she'd even possessed until that very moment. Long, tangled tendrils of auburn fell in waves of his shoulders, a dark shade of red that burned into brown from the sunlight billowing into the chamber. A pelt of dark, grey fur was draped over one of his shoulders in a silent homage to his own namesake, though the rest of his chest was bare: it appeared the cold mountain air did not bother the Dread Wolf. A jawbone still hung around his neck, though even without it, the resemblance was unmistakable; this was Solas from another time, and though Velahari scarcely wished to believe it, any doubts vanished the moment his lips parted and he addressed them.
“Ah, visitors. I had not thought to hear from Dirthamen again, not after what happened the last time. But a shemlen? Would even Elgar'nan stoop so low, or does he hope I will pity the human and allow him sanctuary?” His head tilted slightly to the side, and there was a dark glint to his smile, in the way the points of his canines suddenly appeared and grazed across his bottom lip as a predatory smile began to take shape there. “Well? What say you? Confess your treachery, and I might grant you a swift death.”
“I have committed no treachery,” Velahari replied, green eyes blazing. Fen'Harel's lips twitched then, amusement playing across his features though his eyes were hard, unyielding stone. “As I informed your servant,” Velahari began, scowl spilling into a sneer as her gaze lingered on the elf from earlier. “We don't even know where we are. Hear us out. What have you to lose? Surely two cannot hope to stand against so many, least of all against the Trickster.” The brown-eyed elf bristled at the way he'd been addressed, though as he stiffened and made a move towards Velahari, Fen'Harel gestured his hand with such a minute movement she hadn't even been certain she'd seen it.
“All those accused of guilt plead innocence,” Fen'Harel replied tartly, though his crooked smile never once wavered. “And you have shown us no reason to give credence to whatever it is you might say, so if that was all...” Fen'Harel's voice trailed off, though as he nodded towards another elf and turned back towards his table, Velahari's quiet gasp caught his attention. She curled her hand into a tighter fist – pressure seemed to help make the pain dissipate for a time – though for now, it did little; Dorian's eyebrows drew together in concern as he turned towards her, though when he made a move towards her, two elves nearby dragged him back by the shoulders, their eyes noticeably not on the shemlen.
Velahari tucked her hand against her chest, yet the pain continued, growing and pulsing with every passing moment. Another louder, pained sound forced its way from her lips, and eerie green light began to play against the skin between her fingers, casting slivers against her opposite arm. Cassandra told her that as the Breach grew in the sky, so too did the mark on her hand; now that the rift just under the Breach was closed, her mark was stabilized – such as it was – but it did still pain her from time to time. The pain had never been quite this intense, however.
She only made the realization that her eyes had been shut when someone unceremoniously grabbed her hand and forced it open, though the grip was not as tight as she might have expected from such hostile beings. Part of her was little surprised to see Fen'Harel kneeling in front of her, his eyes focused on the mark even as he held on to her wrist; green tendrils writhed and snapped against her skin, not physically, but she could feel them slithering about like serpents all the same.
“How did you obtain this?” Fen'Harel touched the mark only once, and though she had certainly heard his question, Velahari found herself more surprised to find that the pain was gone from that one simple touch.
Blue eyes were narrowed at her, not angrily, though there was understandable suspicion there; “I don't remember,” she offered weakly, and Fen'Harel merely huffed out a quiet, ironic chuckle before releasing her and standing once more.
“It seems you do not remember a great deal,” he taunted, the dark glint returning to his features in the time it took to blink. The Dread Wolf was quiet for a few moments, his eyes lingering on his marked map before returning to Velahari.
“Perhaps it would not be such a waste of my time to hear your story. Come, and bring the shemlen. This shall be amusing, if little else.”
Introduced in this chapter is one of the elven OCs, Samahl'Din. His name comes from the Elvish 'Samahl' which means laughter, and 'Din' which is a negative - rough translations might be 'doesn't laugh' or 'no laughter'.
The elf who first escorted them to Fen'Harel murmured angrily to the supposed deity as they made their way elsewhere, Dorian's eyes darting from the pair who led them to Velahari several times before he caught her gaze.
“You're feeling better now, I hope?” He offered her a small smile, though she could see it just beginning to crack: she was his only real connection in this place, a place he did not know or understand, and in which he did not belong – felt as such even more keenly than when he'd been back home amidst the power-mad magisters.
“I am,” she replied with a smile just as gentle. We'll make it. Trust me. Perhaps Velahari wasn't certain as to how just yet, but there had to be a way back – if they didn't find it, the entire world was doomed to fall to the Elder One's madness.
“Dirth'din!” Shut up.
One of the elves trailing behind them growled, and Dorian likely did not need a translation for that – even if he did allow Velahari to see him roll his eyes. The chamber they were led into was not an overly large one: it housed a central table with faded, curling maps only held down by polished stones carved delicately with elven runes Velahari could scarcely make out – the otherworldly glimmer as her eyes gleaned over them betrayed their magical origin. The map itself was of more interest, however; the writing itself was written in flourishes and loping details, though neither could read it: an ancient elven cipher, undoubtedly, lost to their time but alive and well for Fen'Harel's uses.
The grumpy, brown-eyed elf promptly took a step that blocked Velahari's view of the table, his eyes glaring and his arms crossing across his broad chest.
“Come now, Samahl'Din. There is no need to treat guests in such a manner.”
The jape in Fen'Harel's tone was clear to everyone, and if anything, it only made Samahl'Din's expression turn more sour even as he stiffly inclined his head. “Now, then. Tell me: how is it you've never come to hear of Tarasy'lan te'las? Even those holed away in Dirthamen's more secluded temples have heard the tales.”
While Dorian's lips parted to address Fen'Harel's query, his gaze was pointedly on Velahari, grey-blue eyes gleaming with something she could not pinpoint, though it gave her no confidence. “As I've attempted to explain, we are not from here, not truly.”
Dorian's voice was apparently unwelcome, and Velahari let out an angry cry when one of the elves rather unceremoniously knocked an arm into the back of his head. It was not a harsh hit, but she could hear the hiss from between the mage's grit teeth.
Fen'Harel's gaze cut across to the elf who stood behind Dorian, lips pursing for a mere moment to convey his displeasure before darting back to Velahari, whose fingertips pressed gently on the back of Dorian's scalp attempting to find the lump that had undoubtedly resulted. She was finally beginning to understand how the ancient elves accomplished anything, and she did not like it – such was apparent on her features when she turned back to the Trickster after Dorian had assured her he was all right.
“My friend speaks truly,” she began, green eyes darkening venomously. “We...have been displaced here against our will.” That earned a rather shocked look on Fen'Harel's face – she refused to connect him to Solas after his behavior – though he did not stop her as she continued. “We do not belong here, in this time. A massive rift is tearing apart the world, and only I can help close it before the demons destroy everything.”
That was all of the detail Fen'Harel would receive from her: he did not need to know about the Elder One, about the mages in Redcliffe or the time travel magic involved – who knew what sort of havoc he might wreak on the world if he discovered how to wield such a magic.
The elves in the room looked skeptical, exchanging glances, though Fen'Harel was alone in his thoughtfulness even if he hid it well. Samahl'Din, however, was more forthcoming in his disbelief.
“Do not tell me you believe these outrageous claims!” Samahl'Din exclaimed, though he quieted quickly enough when Fen'Harel lifted a hand and continued to ponder, his hip finding easy purchase against the table.
“I have witnessed and encountered a great many magics, but to travel through time?” Velahari wasn't altogether certain whether he was speaking more to her or himself, though in the end, it mattered little . “Let us believe for a moment you are telling the truth,” he mused, his smile disdainful and knowing and utterly smug. “What proof have you to offer of such a claim?”
“You intend to seal the gods away, to free the elves of their shackles and ensure they can be enslaved no longer by those who would demand their supplication.” Velahari murmured such a thing quietly, nearly under her breath, though she held Fen'Harel's gaze as she spoke, knowing well that he could hear her. The god had stilled in place, grey-blue eyes unguarded for all of a few seconds; surely he had planned such a thing, but had he informed his followers? How could she possibly know such information if he had not succeeded in the future she supposedly come from? Or, perhaps, his was a cautionary tale told to enslaved elves to keep them from turning their gazes defiantly upward.
She could not claim to know how he planned to do such a thing, but the mere fact that Solas remained in that future she was a part of while the other gods curiously were not was not to be overlooked; the truth of her claim was apparent when Fen'Harel looked past her towards the other elves standing beyond them and gestured for them to leave – whatever he had to say was to be said privately. His followers were trustworthy, but it seemed he had already learned the hard way the consequences of including everyone in his plans and intentions for the future - if his action were any indication.
Dorian turned to watch as the elves slipped away from the chamber, including Samahl'Din, at whom Dorian smirked just as the door shut with a deep, resounding sound which echoed in the chamber.
“Is the great Trickster certain he wishes to be left alone with the runaway slave and the human? What if we attack?” Dorian's tone was obviously jesting, and where Velahari could envision Solas frowning at such a provocation, Fen'Harel allowed himself to smile a dangerous smile, eyes narrowing slightly with a gleam she'd seen earlier when they'd first been introduced.
“A shemlen and an escaped slave? Do be reasonable. I have been fighting and practicing magic longer than ten of your combined lifespans. Let us not delude ourselves.” Instead of annoying Dorian, however, the Trickster's words merely earned amused laughter from the Tevinter; at first, it seemed Fen'Harel was almost startled by the human's outburst, though the corners of his lips twisted into amusement and Velahari was surprised to find him chuckling moments later, his lips pulling back to reveal rather pointed teeth.
They're like two children, Velahari sighed, a hand lifting to rake back through loose, red bangs.
“I'm so pleased the two of you can play nicely, but there is the matter of getting back where we belong.” Her gaze moved from Fen'Harel to Dorian, and while the pair of them did sober to a degree, she half-expected one to make faces at the other and force another onslaught of giggles.
“I fear I'm less concerned with your supposed time travel than I am with your knowledge of my overarching plans,” Fen'Harel informed her, smile stripped from his lips altogether and eyes slightly narrowed: the shemlen was negligible, but the slave – she knew more than she cared to say, and she could see the distrust in the god's eyes.
“My knowledge of such a plan is limited. I know only that you plan to lock away the gods.” She couldn't even begin to guess at how he would accomplish such a feat, where his power might come from, or his reasoning for doing so – though being stigmatized as an escaped slave already helped to add perspective.
“And I suppose you would volunteer to having such knowledge if you were in possession of it.” There was not quite an accusation in his tone, though he was only half a step away from one. His gaze was probing as it locked on Velahari, though for her part, she did not flinch away from it.
“You think I'm lying.” She couldn't quite determine why the thought rankled as much as it did. Fen'Harel merely leaned back further against his table; his thoughts were carefully hidden, though it was clear he was considering, and at the very least, they had yet to be removed for whatever form of execution they might have received earlier.
“I have no reason to trust you.” It was a comment tossed carelessly at them as though he'd shrugged it over his shoulder, and when he finally pushed his hips from the table and rose to stand, his hands dropped back to his sides. “For the time being, you'll be detained.”
His smile was sharp and unfriendly, an expression which bared teeth and did not meet his eyes in the slightest. Whatever they'd interrupted had apparently been important, and Fen'Harel looked only somewhat impatient as more elves suddenly seemed to materialize behind them and drag them away.
As she and Dorian were shoved rather callously into separate cells, Velahari began to wonder if they'd been better off trying to rework the amulet wherever the magic had initially dropped them.
“Friendly lot, your people. Not even a blanket for the cold,” Dorian remarked in the cell adjacent to her own, his voice drawing her attention and her gaze through the iron bars separating them.
“They're not my people, Dorian,” Velahari informed him, eyes narrowing. “Besides, it wasn't my doing that dropped us in the middle of nowhere.”
“Though it was your brilliant plan to come here, where we've been treated most hospitably.”
A retort easily formed on her tongue, though even as her lips parted to let it loose, she paused; they were veritably alone in this place, and fighting between them wouldn't help anything. “Let's just try to find a way out of here. Do you think we could work the amulet from in here?”
Dorian cocked an eyebrow at her query, though as he delicately pulled the amulet out from an inner pocket of his clothing, he frowned.
“I...can't. There's some sort of...” Dorian's voice trailed off as his eyes glanced around the stone of his cell. “Remarkable,” he finally murmured under his breath, though he looked rather chagrined when he turned back to Velahari. “It seems we're in cells specifically designed to contain magic. Look around! There are runes glittering all over – I doubt we'll be able to cast any spells at all, let alone something powerful enough to take us back home from in here.”
Velahari's head met the stone wall behind her as an exasperated groan escaped her lips. “That is not what I cared to hear, Dorian,” she told him, fingers flexing as she willed mana to manifest – with limited success as a single spark ignited and was promptly snuffed out by the runes surrounding her.
“So very few things in life are,” Dorian replied, expression not without a little sympathy as he turned his head and caught her gaze. “Do you believe him – believe all of this?” Dorian gestured with his arms, and Velahari's expression slipped into a grin despite herself.
“I half-expect to wake up and find I've tried too much of something Bull insisted I try in the tavern,” she chuckled quietly, though it took her only a moment to realize Dorian had yet to meet Iron Bull. “When we get back, I'm sure he'll have drinks enough to go around,” she informed him, her expression softening.
The conversation lulled into silence for a little while afterwards, Velahari's hands picking at a loose thread and wringing together frequently; the reality of their situation had yet to sink in, but what Dorian said was true: there was no going back to their proper time without getting out of the cells, and who knew when that would be happening. Neither had the brute strength required to break the locks or the dexterity to pick them; it appeared they would be stuck for however long the supposed trickster decided.
“Not that I...mean to intrude, but this Fen'Harel. He looks like that companion of yours. Now, what was his name...” Dorian's voice trailed off yet again, and Velahari looked pointedly away at the reminder. How could she not have noticed such a similarity? She'd purposefully overlooked it when speaking to him, half-afraid she might confuse the two or her impression of Solas would bleed over into her interactions with Fen'Harel. At first, she'd been blindly convinced that it was merely a coincidence: Fen'Harel was an odious figure in her Dalish lore, the reason why the elven gods were unable to answer the prayers of her people for millenia.
“Was it Solon? No...”
Dorian continued to murmur to himself as Velahari's thoughts raced. Solas did have supposed impossible knowledge of the ancient elves, but did that automatically make it true that he and Fen'Harel were one and the same? The resemblance was uncanny, but who was to say that two disparate times and places couldn’t yield a figure who sounded and looked exactly the same?
“Solas,” Velahari finally told Dorian, though the Tevinter couldn't profess to know much of the elf – Dorian had only seen him first in Redcliffe's Chantry and then for a brief moment in Redcliffe castle.
“If it's true, then that would mean that the elves truly were immortal. And that your companion was one of their gods.” Dorian paused after he spoke, allowing the implications and the overall enormity of such information to settle. It had serious implications for not only the elves, but all the world.
“I know, Dorian.” She hadn't meant to snap, but reconciling Solas with Fen'Harel was no easy or simple task; she'd allowed herself to befriend Solas, to speak with him and find comfort from his company – she had to force away the inaudible whispers in her mind that spoke of more than a mere friendship. What would the Keeper say? What would her clan say? The thought made her stomach churn, and her eyes squeezed shut as she tried to will away the sudden cacophony of their imagined accusations; she was supposed to protect against the Dread Wolf, not invite him closer and desire his company.
“So what do we do, then?”
Velahari almost envied how easily Dorian could dismiss the revelation of Solas as one of the Elven gods, but it was not something she could bat an eyelash at and come to terms with in mere seconds. Still, they needed to get back, needed to change things so the Elder One's future never came to pass – the lives of everyone in all of Thedas depended on them, and their success in returning to their proper time which first required their release from Fen’Harel’s prison.
So...the fate of the world rests in Fen'Harel's hands. Such a realization made her grimace; it was equally as likely he would find them a curiosity and allow them out as it was he would forget about them entirely and they would rot.
“Tell me you have a plan.”
Dorian sounded not unlike Velahari when they'd first appeared in the future, though sadly, false bravado was not her forte, and Dorian could sense from the expression on her face that there was no plan – aside from getting away from Tarasy'lan te'las and managing to get back home.
Introduced in this chapter is another elven OC, Falera. Her name is also from the Elvish: a combination of 'Falon' meaning friend, and 'Era', meaning dream. I'll let you come to your own conclusions.
Whatever plans the Dread Wolf had in store for his captives remained a mystery in the following days. Dorian and Velahari remained in the dungeons with naught but each other for company, save for the few instances when one of their jailers would bring a loaf of hard bread and some water to split between them. The elf to bring them food changed every time, Velahari noticed – likely to keep them from becoming overly friendly with one; it was a wise move, truly, but every elf who traipsed down to the dungeons either outright glared at the pair of them or muttered something dark in Elvish before heading back towards the stairs while ignoring whatever she or Dorian might have had to say or ask.
“So. Assuming we ever get out of here and back to our time, what are we going to do about Fen'Harel?” Dorian asked out of the blue perhaps the fourth day into their incarceration, black stubble dotting his jawline from lack of a proper razor edge.
“What do you mean?” Velahari asked tiredly, her head lolling on her shoulders as she turned her gaze towards the other mage. “Why would we do anything about him?”
“Perhaps you've forgotten, but if he is indeed this Solas we left behind in the future, then wouldn't it be a smart plan to ensure he doesn't remember this little fiasco once we return? Who know what sorts of problems it could create.” Dorian was grimacing by the time he was finished, and while Velahari would be hard-pressed to imagine a world where something more important than the Breach could garner their attention, he did have a point. There were not past instances of time travel to offer guidance, though it stood to reason that their appearance in the distant past might influence something to come later, and not in a beneficial manner.
“You think he'll willingly agree to let us, what? Wipe his memories? Even if he did agree, I don't know any spells offhand that would yield such a result.” Her arms crossed under her chest as she considered; she could almost hear Dorian roll his eyes at her rhetorical questions, though he had no answers either– not yet.
“Perhaps a spell is not our answer,” Dorian eventually murmured slowly, his eyes lifting until he caught Velahari's gaze once more.
“A spirit,” she whispered just under her breath, and the Tevinter nodded just as breathlessly; a strange sort of exhilaration filled her with an energy and enthusiasm she hadn't felt since getting away from the poor future in which the Elder One was victorious. Perhaps it wasn't progress to ending their circumstances, strictly speaking, but it was a plan for whenever they managed to be free of their current conditions, and it was more than they had a moment ago.
The pair both started when the door to the prison opened, allowing a few slivers of light to slip down onto the stone in the corridor.
“Everyone awake down there?” A woman's voice echoed across the hewn rocks, her tone a slightly-japing one as she stepped down the stairs and came to stand in front of their cells. “Ah, good! Fen'Harel has asked to see you again, now that things have calmed down.”
Long blond tendrils flowed over the elf's delicate shoulders, her skin almost shimmering bronze in the sunlight; her smile was easy, hazel eyes wide beneath a fringe of golden bangs, and the very air about her put Velahari at ease. Dorian straightened at being addressed so civilly, and the elf chuckled when he stood.
“Sorry, shemlen, but he asked for your friend here specifically. You'll not wont for her company long.” The blonde then winked at Dorian, and Velahari could hear him groan where he stood; it was clear the elves in Tarasy'lan te'las had been gossiping about the nature of her relationship with Dorian.
Velahari’s eyes rolled as the blonde elf produced a key and turned it in the lock of her cell.
“Do try to convince him to let me out on occasion. It's so dusty and dank down here.”
Velahari almost laughed to see a pout on Dorian's lips, though when his expression sharpened, her own sobered and she inclined her head before following the blonde up the stairs and towards daylight.
Despite the loquacious nature Velahari had observed down in the holding cells, the blonde did not speak as they moved; in fact, her expression had hardened, eyebrows drawn together, and just as she came to pause in front of a closed door, she turned to Velahari with lips pursed and eyes so harsh they nearly glared.
“I can offer you the aid you seek,” she murmured quietly, her gaze not once wavering. The words caught Velahari off-guard, however, and when the she did not immediately reply, the blonde pressed onward. “In exchange for helping end Fen'Harel's needless rebellion, you and your shemlen companion will be helped back to your proper place. Think on this, outsider: you owe no loyalty to Fen'Harel, and he has not ingratiated himself to you by placing you thoughtlessly into his dungeons. Elgar'nan and Falon'Din would see you treated properly, deservedly, if you but accept our offer.”
She said no more before she pushed the door open and her open smile reappeared. Fen'Harel and Samahl'Din were inside conversing, and both lifted their gazes at the sound.
“Falera,” Samahl'Din greeted with a soft smile, though it evaporated the instant it turned towards Velahari. “ I still do not see why you have insisted on keeping them alive. Their story is utterly ridiculous.”
“We have had this discussion, Samahl'Din. Several times. Tread lightly, lest I begin to question your devotion to our cause,” Fen'Harel responded with nothing but a smile on his lips: a cutting smile that was as sharp as a dagger on his belt. “There are matters which require your attention, and those which require mine.”
Samahl'Din harrumphed, but did not offer any more resistance before Falera led him away, her laughter on the wind as the door shut behind them. It was a sitting room, Velahari realized, complete with a hearth and several chairs, even a bookcase or two.
“It occurs to me I know little and less of you,” Fen’Harel began. “So tell me: what is your name, and what are the specifics regarding your circumstances and how you came to be here?”
Velahari heaved a quiet sigh before taking a step closer, her lips twisting into an ironic smile despite herself. “I told you before. Dorian and I were stranded here through time travel. We've come from the future, though you'll forgive me if I leave out details.”
Fen'Harel cocked an eyebrow at being told what he might do, though he did not interrupt as she stepped closer and eventually took a seat on the edge of a chair across from him. “I can tell you that the focus of such magic is an amulet, though Dorian alone is the one who knows the spell required to use the magic.”
“And your name?” The trickster sat back in his chair, head tilted and expression a clear cross between curious and amused.
“I thought you would be more concerned with time travel magic,” Velahari teased, though not without a sharp, chiding voice inwardly berating her for being so casual a moment later.
“I am, though it does not mean I cannot be civil, does it? Samahl'Din has made his feelings on the matter of your presence here perfectly clear, though I cannot help but think you are what you claim: of the future. Shall I assume you will not humor me with answers regarding what's to come?”
“You assume correctly,” Velahari replied crisply, crossing her legs and mirroring Fen'Harel's posture. Her answer was met with yet more laughter.
“I find myself both surprised and not,” he murmured with a shake of his head. As silence settled between them, it was difficult for Velahari not to see a weight settling on his mind: something he'd been able to cast off until that point, and with an easy glance towards her hand, she knew what it was. “The mark on your hand...you say you do not remember how you acquired it. Do you know what it does?”
Her hand flexed unconsciously, and her eyes landed on the loosely-curled fist propped up by her knee.
“It...closes rifts into the Fade.” She didn't quite know what to make of his reaction; his eyes drew together, though it wasn't confusion – not exactly. He seemed to realize she was reading his expression, however, and up went the mask of carefree belligerence he seemed to favor.
“And you are certain you have no desire to stay?” His smile was sly, and Velahari raised an eyebrow.
“Stay here, in the comfort of your dungeons? Where I can't understand the common language and where everyone looks down upon me for being a supposed slave? No, I can't say I do,” she replied, her tone as biting as the mountain winds, though her reply had apparently not been one Fen'Harel had anticipated.
“You surprise me again,” he murmured a bit more quietly, the deity leaning forward to peer at her better. “You bear the slave markings of Dirthamen, once a man I considered an ally and friend, yet you do not act as though you have ever been enslaved. Your demeanor, your manner... even the most chafing of slaves need time to adjust to a life of a freedom.”
“You sound as though you're just realizing I've been telling the truth,” Velahari pointed out, and the smile she received was perhaps the first genuine one from the Trickster she'd ever gotten; it easily quickened the pace of her heart, and she pointedly ignored the reaction until it was gone entirely.
“We have had many a former slave come to me to seek sanctuary within my halls, and many come with hidden blades and cloaked daggers to stab me in the back for my compassion. Elgar'nan and Falon'Din are cruel: they would use their own people for the opportunity to strike at me.” It was almost shocking to hear the tone of his voice, the pained quality tinged with melancholy. “You cannot blame me for taking precautions.”
Velahari frowned as she mulled over his words; the Dalish believed the trickster sealed their gods away out of spite or simply a desire to treat everyone poorly, but there was more than simple evil or malevolence. The elves were slaves to the very gods they revered, and when Fen'Harel demanded dignity for those elves, he was demonized and ridiculed and ostracized. Or perhaps that is simply the sympathetic tale he wishes to tell to get into your good graces, another, darker voice intervened.
“I will allow you and your companion to leave, on one condition.”
It was almost surreal to hear him agree to let them leave at all, though Velahari had almost expected there to be something more to it than simply letting them walk out of the citadel and being on their way.
“You must retrieve something for me. Once I have it in hand, I will even help you and your shemlen return to your proper time.”
“And just what exactly shall we be retrieving for you?” Velahari asked after a moment, suspicion clouding her gaze; knowing the trickster, it would likely be at the bottom of the sea or hidden behind traps filled with poisonous serpents or stinging insects.
“That is not for you to know,” he returned, though Velahari merely rolled her eyes.
“I will discuss your offer with Dorian.”
Though I can't see how we'll be leaving otherwise.
“Very well. Though I can assure you that the pair of you will be remaining in the dungeons should you reject my offer, and until you've come to a decision at all.” His smile was all knives, and whatever softer side of him she'd seen earlier was abruptly gone under the guise of the Dread Wolf once more.
“We have a slight problem.”
Dorian waited until their elven jailor was out of earshot before turning towards Velahari and informing her, his lips twisting and contorting frequently as she turned to look over at him. “The amulet has been... damaged. We were rushed too quickly out of Redcliffe last time.”
“Can it be fixed?” Velahari's heart pounded at the thought of being stranded forever, though mercifully, Dorian nodded, even if his lips dipped into a frown.
“There's nothing to be done about it in here, though. I don't suppose the great trickster is willing to let us out, is he?”
“He's agreed to help us return home, but only if we get something for him in return.”
“Sounds simple enough. What is it?”
“He wouldn't tell me, though I don't imagine it will be easy to retrieve if he has relegated such a task to us.” Dorian's lips quirked into a wry smile then, and Velahari had to fight away the urge to chuckle. “Though, you do remember the blonde who took me away earlier, right?”
“Did she ask after me?” Dorian sighed wistfully. “I do hope you told her I'm not looking for anything serious–”
“She also offered me a way home.”
Her statement earned contemplative silence from Dorian, and his eyebrows were drawn together when he next looked in the redhead's direction.
“She...wants me - or us, I suppose - to help derail Fen'Harel's rebellion against the gods.” Velahari's hands settled in her lap, her teeth drawing in her bottom lip and chewing idly.
“So she's a double agent? I'm surprised she revealed herself so quickly. All the better to ensure your loyalty to her instead of Fen'Harel, I suppose. What did you say to her?”
“Nothing. I didn't have a chance to.” Why did it feel so wrong to want to side with the elven gods? What had their disappearance wrought aside from the despair of those elves left behind? If they were not wandering the forests as Dalish, forever grasping at remnants of history and lore, they were slaves in Tevinter or little better in shemlen cities, surviving off scraps tossed to the wayside by the humans. Though from what little insight she'd had into the current state of the world, the elves were not so very idyllic as she might have believed. Fen'Harel had unwittingly allowed her a glimpse into his feelings on the matter, and he seemed so distraught, pained even, and who was she to judge a matter she had almost no knowledge on?
“And what do you intend to do?” Dorian finally murmured, and when he caught Velahari's gaze, a single, syllabic ah sounded in the back of his throat. “You don't know what to do.” There was no judgment in his tone, no suspicion or disdain; he was even more out of his depth than Velahari was, though he could appreciate she'd chosen to let him try and help solve her dilemma.
“I suppose it comes down to what will benefit people the most.” Neither option afforded her a clear-cut vision as to what needed to be done before she and Dorian would be able to leave; Fen'Harel needed them to procure something, and Falera had not had time enough to elaborate on what precisely would be needed. She also could place little enough trust in both of them; Fen'Harel still retained his reputation for deception and trickery, though she had never directly interfaced with the other gods and could not possibly know the consequences of keeping them safe and defeating Fen'Harel. Perhaps that was another reason to side with him: his side, without her interference, was the one to prevail, was it not? How would the world change if she altered the course of its history?
Her thoughts continued in a similar circle for a long while, and only the interruption of being served a lackluster supper drew her attention elsewhere for a little while. Dorian continued to scrutinize the amulet, though he hid it well when the door to their little prison would open – if Fen'Harel gained possession of it, even as unusable as it was in its current state, they would suddenly be out of options, and Fen'Harel could bid them do much more than retrieving a single object.
It was several hours later, as Velahari began to doze with her head propped against the cold, stone wall that her thoughts wandered.
When I dream in such places, I go deep into the Fade. The thrill of finding a thousand-year-old memory...I would not trade it for anything.
His voice reverberated on the inside of her skull, had all but woven itself into the fabric of her memory until she could hear it with absolute clarity. What would you do if you were in my shoes, Solas? Velahari wondered idly, though the answer came to her: Tarasy'lan te'las was a massive place, full of people and likely aged – perhaps she could discern more of Fen'Harel by taking a leaf from Solas's book and dreaming here?
She could scarcely contain her excitement as she settled more firmly against the wall, and even as she heard Dorian quietly snore in the cell next to hers, finding slumber was not difficult. The Fade awaited her as consciousness slid away, and when her eyes next opened, she was not on the inside of her cell; her figure was ethereal, as translucent and ephemeral as a spirit, and no one noticed her presence in the massive courtyard of Tarasyl'an te'las. Elves were crowded in every inch, all bearing the marks of their gods, though they were shouting and yelling – arms and fists raised in defiance and anger. Velahari shuddered as a particularly dark, passionate anger swept down her spine, and for a brief second, she could almost profess to know exactly how rage demons felt: every dark, vitriolic emotion that settled heavy in the belly and swelled and surged like the sea during a great storm.
Velahari refocused on the memory, shrugging off the anger and diverting undue attention: she could feel the eyes of demons upon her, and could almost hear their tantalizing whispers louder than her own thoughts, louder even than the shouts of the mob gathered.
“They have decided our fate – they do not care for our input, so I say let us set aside their input. By what right do they rule us? Do they believe themselves the executors of our wills?”
This earned a vehement denial from all assembled, and as Velahari lifted her gaze, she could finally see him: Fen'Harel, eyes wild and dark, a freshly-puckered scar running jaggedly from one corner of his chest to the other.
“We will teach them, friends! We will show them we are not to be trifled with – that their supposed better status is worth nothing without us!” More shouts and cries echoed in Velahari's ears, and it was then that Fen'Harel turned towards another elf who shuffled forward, his head low and eyes downcast.
“Take heart, lethal'lin: I would strip away your stripes of servitude. But have no fear: it will not hurt.” Velahari felt herself falter when Samahl'Din looked up into Fen'Harel's face, brown eyes soft and full of wonder. The trickster's hands glimmered tellingly with magic, and after pressing them gently to Samahl'Din's face, Velahari's eyes widened.
The elf's vallaslin was gone, and the shouts and cheers nearly deafened her.
When she finally began to wake the following morning, Velahari felt better-informed of Fen'Harel; whatever the god's true intentions, the fact remained that he harbored former slaves, helped them, kept them safe, and spoke for them against the other Creators when they would otherwise not be heard at all. Her hands settled in her lap as she recalled what she'd witnessed, the height the emotions of such a reenactment reached while she'd lingered in the memory.
Her lips dipped into a frown not long afterwards. If this was all true – and how could Velahari say that it was not? – then everything her people believed about Fen'Harel and the rest of the gods was incorrect. Solas had already made his opinions of the Dalish clear during one of their first conversations, and while she'd originally thought his judgment of them was harsh, she was beginning to understand why they chafed at him so. He'd stuck his neck out for them, for the slaves and those who were not in 'higher standing,' and thousands of years had managed to skew his sacrifices and intentions into something dark and ill-intentioned.
Despite how she may have otherwise felt about the Dread Wolf in her clan, Velahari couldn't help the wave of foolishness that swept over her then; her mind was mostly made as to whose offer she would take, though a nagging, little voice constantly murmured that she still might be making a mistake – walking blindly forward as she had before.
Her pensive demeanor did not go unnoticed. Dorian's eyes were on her from the time she awoke, and for a long while, he was content to watch several expressions flit across her face. When his curiosity became too strong to bear, however, he cleared his throat and garnered her attention. “All right. What's going on? You look as though you've been having a silent conversation all morning, and it's driving me mad – there is someone else in here you could speak with, you know,” Dorian reminded her, and the smile she gave him in response was both sheepish and amused.
“I am aware, Dorian,” Velahari informed him, her smile wide and the glint in her eyes sarcastic. “But, if you really must know, I dreamed last night – dreamed of this place.” Her tone and expression both sobered as she told him this, her voice quieting as though it were a secret she did not care to share with whoever might venture down into the dungeons.
“Dreamed?” His question was skeptical, though the way she'd phrased it, he doubted it was a simple dream.
“I found a memory of this place, woven into existence from the will and curiosity of spirits in the Fade: pressing and clawing at the Veil for a glimpse of the greatness that happened here.”
His eyes widened at her explanation. “What you describe...are you somniari? Can you manipulate the dreams of others? How is it you can dream so lucidly as to search for a memory?” The ancient magisters of old had been somniari, though the gift was rare anymore. Velahari almost felt as though she were disappointing Dorian by allowing him to see that there was indeed not more to this Herald of Andraste than he’d first assumed, aside, of course, from the mark on her hand that could seal rifts.
“I am not somniari, no.” Velahari shook her head, lips pursing slightly. “Dreamers can shape the Fade. What I do does not...intrude on the Fade so much as peer deeper inside of it.”
“Do demons not find you?” Dorian then inquired, his eyebrows drawing together.
“I felt a demon last night, actually,” Velahari remarked with a quiet chuckle. “I had to let go of the residual anger from the memory until it lost interest.”
“Remarkable. Just when I think I have you all figured out, Herald, you go and surprise me some more.”
“You should pick Solas's brain when we get back,” Velahari informed him, her smile just a little pointed. “He's the one who showed me how to do all this.”
“I must admit, if I were to pick his brain, I'd be far more interested in asking about all this,” Dorian answered, and Velahari's smile dimmed at the reminder. “Sorry. I feel as though I'm... stepping on toes whenever I mention him?” Dorian gave her a small frown and Velahari waved away his concern.
“It's a silly crush – nothing more.” The revelation came as a great surprise to the Tevinter, however, and when he let out a surprised laugh, it caught her off-guard.
“An Elven god? Truly? I'm not certain if you have impeccable or horrific taste.”
Velahari couldn't say either, though the longer she remained locked away in Fen'Harel's prison, the more she began to take on the opinion that it was horrific and not impeccable in the slightest.
That night brought with it another memory Velahari dipped into: a memory stuck to Skyhold like a burr on the edge of her cloak. This time, however, there were no cheering crowds, no raucous applause or grinning trickster who looked as though he'd just won an incredible victory against the oppressive Creators.
Fen'Harel was nearly alone in the chamber, the room mostly bare save for Samahl'Din, who wore a sympathetic expression. He was so very different from the harsh elf she'd met, she had to wonder where the two intersected and what had changed to warrant such a stark transition.
“ Do not tell me you hoped they would see reason and accede to your – our – demands,” Samahl'Din murmured, the elf approaching the trickster slowly, brown eyes lingering on the other.
“ Perhaps not, but I did not anticipate this . They would sooner wipe us all out than see any of us alive and out of their jurisdiction.” Fen'Harel shook his head, a few strands of auburn slipping over a shoulder, and the touch that followed made Velahari gasp quietly. Samahl'Din's fingers lingered against the Dread Wolf's neck, and the elvish he spoke quietly was not something she could catch. Fen'Harel shook his head miserably, however. “This will only get worse. I will need your assistance. Yours, and everyone's if we are to stand a chance of maintaining our freedom.”
“You have it,” Samahl'Din replied, as though it were the simplest, most obvious piece of information. Fen'Harel smiled then, eyes gleaming warmly, and Velahari turned her gaze away when they kissed – it was a private, intimate moment, and who was she to intrude?
The streak of jealousy that coursed through her then was strange; it did not belong, and she felt guilty that it existed at all. Solas and Fen'Harel may have been one and the same, but this was millenia before her time; it almost felt like a violation of trust. Even if Solas had not been completely honest with her, she was beginning to understand why.
“Gather those you trust. There is much to discuss.” Samahl'Din nodded at Fen'Harel, and only reluctantly pulled his arm away before heading for the door. When Fen'Harel was alone, Velahari drew closer, eyes probing and gauging him for when his guard lowered since there was no one for whom he had to don a guise or wear a face in the room any longer. As she expected, his facade crumbled mere moments after the door shut and he was alone. His lips pulled back over his teeth tightly, sharp canines bared as something feral and livid growled deeply in his chest. The sound sharpened and became louder until it was a shriek, and with a singular sweep of his arms, the entire top of his vanity fell to the ground. Glass vials and bottles shattered into thousands of shards and pieces, the contents spilling and swirling together on the floor; carved gifts of sylvanwood cracked, metal daggers and keys clanged loudly, and Fen'Harel's shoulders quaked as he tried to regain control of himself, his hair spilling over his shoulders until it shrouded his face like a dark red curtain.
Part of Velahari sympathized, wished only to reach out and try to help, but that was the drawback of glimpsing a memory. The magic surrounding her began to dissolve, and Velahari knew her time was done: the memory was over – or, rather, the intense emotion driving it forward was.
Dorian was again peering at her curiously when she awoke, and when he lifted an eyebrow in a tacit question, she merely inclined her head. “You seem...melancholy. I take it this memory was not so kind as its predecessor?”
“I doubt the start of any rebellion is cheerful,” Velahari returned with a frown. “I don't think he knew it would happen like this – almost like he hoped the Creators would let them stay away, and leave well enough alone.” Her lips pursed, and Dorian gave her a thoughtful look before adding a remark.
“ Would any god be so inclined? What does it say about you or your supposed divinity if your allow a group of slaves to be carted off by one of your own peers? Think of all the scandalous dinner parties these Creators must attend – all the whispers and slights they must endure because of one, tiny, minuscule blemish upon their godhood.”
“ They're people , Dorian. They're not simply some mark of power to establish their dominance and right to be among the other gods.”
“I think your gods would beg to differ.”
“ As would your magisters in Tevinter.” That struck a chord with him, and whatever rapport they'd had until that point soured; he turned away, arms crossed over his chest tightly, and Velahari stared in the opposite direction, her jaw tight though she wasn't glaring – not yet.
Slavery was a topic they had not yet broached, and for good reason, it seemed; it was tolerated, even encouraged, in the Imperium so far as Velahari was aware, and it also did not escape her notice that elves made up a rather high percentage of those enslaved.
Both were glad for the distraction when the door to the prisons opened once more, though instead of being summoned as Velahari might have preferred, it was only the midday meal of lukewarm water and hard, dry bread – a bowl of some sort of stew had been added as well, though it was stone cold. Its arrival forced interaction between her and Dorian, for as irritated or angry as either one were, neither cared to pass up a meal, even one as lackluster and lacking as this one was.
Neither instigated conversation as they would have before their conversation earlier, though there was a grudging albeit silent truce between them. Ultimately, their fight was folly; they were the only one the other could trust at the moment, and allowing division would only set back their goals and their trip back to the present.
Being permissive of slavery was not simply a flaw of character Velahari could easily ignore, however; for generations the humans had trod the elves underfoot, and it was high time the imbalance between the races came to an end – or, at least, an outcome that was not so obviously hierarchical.
The silence between them lasted the better part of the day. Dorian fingered the amulet and turned it over in his hands so many times Velahari lost count, and by the time their cold supper arrived, she'd been staring at her own hands for what felt like countless hours.
It was Falera who brought the meager meal, and the face she wore was the more reserved, secretive facade as she slipped a sliver of parchment into Velahari's hand through the bars of her cell – had another of the elves been present, she would surely have been scolded for getting too close to the prisoners.
“I await your favorable response in the coming days.” Her smile was cold and curt, and she wasted little time in heading back up the stairs.
Dorian was the one to finally shatter the silence between them. “What was that about?” His tone betrayed his curiosity, and Velahari gingerly unfolded the scrap of paper which held but a single word: orb .
“I'm...not sure.” She frowned down at the word, and when Dorian gestured for the paper, Velahari didn't hesitate to drop it into his extended palm.
“ You can read this?” His curiosity bled over into fascination, and the redhead tilted her head in a tacit gesture for him to continue. “This isn't in any language I've ever seen before. What does it say?”
“ It says 'orb'. But I've never even heard of such a thing. Is it hidden in here somewhere? Does it belong to Fen'Harel? I can't even begin to imagine what it might do, how it might alter things if it's detrimental to Fen'Harel's success...” Her voice trailed off, and she curled her hand into a fist, the people crinkling quietly – when next she was allowed out of her cell, she would have to destroy it or risk incriminating herself further.
“So, are we friends again? Things became...heated earlier, and I think we both said things we regret.” Dorian frowned when he finished speaking, a finger idly smoothing over his mustache as Velahari turned and caught his gaze.
“We're all we really have, aren't we? I suppose I'm stuck with you regardless of how we might differ on contentious issues.” She wouldn't pretend she was comfortable with his views of slavery, but Dorian himself was a good man – was trying to help heal the world after a rift had begun tearing it apart, and he deserved the benefit of the doubt, at least until they were clear of immediate danger. The pair exchanged subdued smiles then, and ate supper with a bit of idle conversation – Dorian asking about life among the Dalish, and Velahari reciprocating with queries about life in Tevinter that pointedly did not center on slaves.
They even managed a few laughs: a few recollections of Dorian's time with Felix while being an apprentice to his father, and of Velahari's with the hunters of her clan and the silly, childish wagers they tended to make when their conceit eclipsed their good sense. Still, the sense of unease refused to leave her entirely; the fact remained that she and Dorian were prisoners of the Dread Wolf, and regardless of whatever deal he may have offered, they were at his mercy and his whim until they were freed of their shackles.
Velahari fell into a fitful slumber once her and Dorian's conversation faded into silence, and the memory that came to her, almost unbidden, was a bittersweet one.
Many dozens of elves were assembled in the hall where she and Dorian had first been dragged: the main thoroughfare of Tarasy'lan te'las. Fen'Harel stood at the forefront, expression grim and lips pursed tightly – a stark contrast from the enthusiastic revolutionary and passionate trickster she'd seen in the very first memory she'd accessed. Samahl'Din, Falera, and several others stood with him, faces equally somber.
“They will not simply stand by and allow us to live outside of their realm. Our very existence poses no threat to them, but they see us as one nonetheless.” Fen'Harel sounded unhappy at the revelation, though Velahari could see the discontent his words stirred among those assembled. “They would see us chained and yoked to them again, heads bowed and tongues stilled in mindless obedience. If that is a life to which you would prefer to return, would prefer to a life here free of chains but not of anxiety, then I bid you leave. Fighting will be taxing - I do not claim otherwise - but ours is not an unreachable goal.”
Elves were murmuring amongst themselves now, some faces still colored with vallaslin while others yet were bare. He was offering them an easy way out if they wanted it, a way to return to their old lives with no retaliation, though it was unlikely any would be welcomed back to their temples or homes without punishment. Even so, Fen'Harel allowed his words to settle, his eyes glossing over the crowd slowly, making eye-contact with several in a silent assessment of loyalty.
Was this a trick of the Dread Wolf? Would he cut down those who disagreed, who truly wished to avoid conflict and return to the bonds of eternal servitude?
What first began as a glimmer in the corner of her eye brightened until she turned her attention towards it; the fact that no one in the dream turned in the same direction proved it was not a part of the memory at all, and only part of her was surprised at the truth behind it. Fen'Harel had been attributed with powers to manipulate dreams, to enter them at will and twist them into nightmares. And while the stories the Dalish told of his powers were now questionable to Velahari, his ability to walk the dreams of anyone with a connection to the Fade could not be refuted, not when she caught sight of the slight twist of his smirk and the curious, almost mistrustful glint in his eyes.
“You have been glimpsing my memories of this place.” It was not a question Fen'Harel posed to her, though neither was it an accusation – not exactly. Velahari stood her ground regardless, the redhead doing her best to stamp out the feeling of exposure of being found out. “Why?”
“Memories in the Fade tend to be more reliable than outright asking about one's past, or one's intentions.” While it was certainly true that memories in the Fade were driven by emotion rather than the logical flow of events, the way a memory appeared to Velahari was something Fen'Harel would not have been able to control – unless he was the one to trap her in the Fade and force her into such dreams.
One of his eyebrows lifted lazily at her explanation, and he inclined his head in understanding before replying.
“It is impressive you know how to do so at all.” Such a comment reminded her keenly of Solas, of how very fondly and enthusiastically he'd spoken of dreaming. She must have smiled a sad smile, or perhaps even frowned, for when she next looked up at Fen'Harel, he was gauging her quietly, grey eyes probing and inquisitive though he made no queries of her – not yet. “Have you come to a decision? You and your shemlen companion?”
The thoughtful side of Fen'Harel was once more buried underneath his guise of belligerence and conceit, and Velahari's lips pursed before she nodded.
“I will obtain this object you requested – so long as you aid me and Dorian on our quest home.”
“And just what will stop me from changing my mind after you've claimed what I ask you to retrieve?” He sounded intrigued rather than angry, though it did anger her somewhat – that he might rescind the offer and forever trap them in a past where they did not belong and were entirely unwelcome.
“You began your rebellion to help your people, did you not?” she murmured quietly, Velahari allowing her gaze to soften. “If you do not wish the total destruction of them – of our entire world – then you must help me.”
Fen'Harel was poised to answer, to return her serious comments with a jape, though something in her tone stilled him in place, struck a sensitive area that was not physical so much as mental, emotional even.
“I'm still not certain I believe your story, but there is truth to your words I cannot deny. Come. Awaken. There is much to do, and I must show you before the sun rises.”
Velahari's heart was racing when her eyes opened, though it was merely the darkness of her cell that awaited her – that, and Dorian's quiet snoring in the cell adjacent to her own. She did not even hear the door to the prisons open, nor the steps down the stairs, though her heart raced all the more when a pair of eyes sought hers out in the darkness, silvery-grey and stark against the shadowy backdrop. Fen'Harel did not even need a key to unlock the door, though he produced one from the inner folds of his cloak to unlock the shackles.
“A little warning in the future would be appreciated,” Velahari murmured darkly, though she could see the glimmer of a white canine as he grinned.
“Best be quiet, lest your partner awaken.” He gestured towards Dorian with an upward movement of his head, and though Velahari was curious as to the need for secrecy, she could appreciate it until they were better-situated for conversation. She followed him quietly, though her steps were never as silent as his were. The corridors were deserted, and once they reached the main hall of Tarasy'lan te'las, Fen'Harel turned into a room that opened into a massive circular structure. The moonlight streamed in from the rafters above, and it took but a glance upwards to see the dark sky dotted intermittently with twinkling stars.
Despite the oversized room, it housed but a single object of note. A pedestal stood in the middle directly underneath the opening to the sky, and the many magical barriers keeping it safe and unassailable parted for their creator as he strode past them. A shallow depression was carved out of it and inside, glowing a brilliant green, was an orb: the orb, Velahari presumed. She paused in her steps then, lips parting silently as she began to make connections; her marked hand lifted just as her gaze swept down to the jagged line of green across her palm, and as Fen'Harel lifted the orb from its support, it began to pulse and glow even more brightly.
“That...that looks like–”
“The mark on your hand, yes. The two are clearly linked.” Any notion that Solas and Fen'Harel were not connected in some regard – if not the same person entirely – was now effectively shattered, and while she couldn't blame Solas for his deception, it did not lessen the sinking, unpleasant feeling that settled deep in her stomach.
“You are...distressed?” Fen'Harel sounded nearly surprised at that, though he stepped closer: close enough for Velahari to inspect the orb, though she could sense he did not wish for her to touch it – neither had any way of knowing what contact with the orb and Velahari’s marked hand might do, if anything at all.
“Allow me to be direct, then: I am aware that there is a traitor in my midst, but I have no way of flushing said person out. Since you and your shemlen companion are new here, and thus waste no loyalty on me, it would behoove whoever seeks my destruction to gain your assistance whilst you are here.” For just a moment, Velahari allowed herself to forget the connection between the mark on her hand and the orb, and instead looked up at Fen'Harel with an astonished expression. “I am also aware that those against me wish to steal my orb, so it is likely the target of whatever plot they are hatching. Lure them here, expose them for the traitors they are, and we will move forward with plans to send you to your proper time.”
“When?” The sooner they were one their way, the better, and Fen'Harel was pleased she hadn't dragged things out with questions – how he knew was not quite so important as being rid of such a pest.
“Tomorrow? The following day? It does not matter: trigger the outermost ward and I will know you are here. After that, you need merely to keep them busy.” His was a half-smile then, crooked, enhanced by the menacing gleam in his eyes.
“Would it not be simpler were I to just...tell you?” It seemed a rather roundabout method to oust a traitor, though Fen'Harel merely chuckled quietly, deeply – a sound that resounded in the circular room.
“Do you think any of the others would take your word at face value? No, it must be this way. Once it is done, they will know you are trustworthy, and will not be so prone to cruelty, I think.” She blinked at his explanation - what care did he have if she was treated with cruelty?
“Well? Do you think you are capable of doing this without giving your intentions away?” The look he donned then was almost cheeky, and it stripped away his age until Velahari felt as though she were conversing with a teenager.
“I will do my best not to embarrass myself.” Her eyes rolled, and his laughter, strangely warm and amused, earned a shudder down her spine as he delicately replaced the orb back onto its pedestal, the ambient magics surrounding it tugging slightly in her direction before his hand retreated to his side and the orb appeared dormant once more.
Fen'Harel wasted precious little time in escorting Velahari back to her cell, all with the promise that he would send for her and her shemlen later that day.
She may have questioned his sincerity if he'd not just gone out of his way to show her the orb, though. It was somehow significant, both to Fen'Harel now and in her own time where it was somehow linked to the mark on her hand.
Did he use the orb to create rifts? To...alter the Veil somehow? Was it designed to maintain or destroy? These and many other questions consumed her thoughts as she waited for Dorian to awaken, her hands settled in her lap and her eyes far-off, gazing into the darkness though not truly perceiving anything.
If Fen'Harel and his orb were somehow to blame for the Breach in the sky, did it not stand to reason that he would know how to fix it? Her lips pursed as she tried to fit the pieces together, though in truth, there were two separate puzzles to be solved, and before fixing the Breach, there was finding a way back - or, rather, forward. Her lips twitched even as she repressed the urge to smile; she still needed to make contact with Falera and expose her to Fen'Harel. Sometimes, it just seemed all too simple: take Falera to the circular chamber, trigger a ward, and keep her there until the god deigned to make his appearance. Velahari doubted it would be so easy, but at the very least, she could ensure Dorian would shadow them, stop her himself if need be. There was no room for error or mistake, not now when they were so close to such a major step.
She peered into Dorian's cell when she heard him begin to rouse, his arms stretching above his head and a wide yawn parting his lips widely. “Good morning.”
It was clear as he started and blinked over at her that he hadn't anticipated her to be awake yet, though such a look was quickly forgotten and replaced with an expectant one.
“Ah, and to you. I don't suppose you're so cheery this morning because you've received good news, are you?”
“I have, as a matter of fact.” A grin stole over Velahari's features, and Dorian's eyes lit up with a familiar curiosity. “You'll be pleased to know we should be free of these cells forever within the day. Fen'Harel has assented to our release.”
“Hah! And how did you manage such a feat?” The light laughter invigorated Dorian, made him come alive in a way Velahari hadn't seen in days.
“Simple. I agreed to his terms. He...may also have caught me dreaming and reliving some memories concerning him.” Velahari’s hands wrung together as she averted Dorian’s gaze, though his reply had her turning towards him once again a moment later.
“I'm sure that made him so very fond of you.” The sarcasm in his tone was easy to detect, and Velahari merely shrugged in response.
“He didn’t seem offended to me. In fact, I think he was more intrigued? It appears even in this age, many do not seek out memories in the Fade as he does.”
Dorian's lips parted in another reply, though the sound of the door opening to the prisons garnered his attention instead, and Velahari looked past his turned head towards the stairs. It was a grumpy Samahl'Din striding in their direction, and even as he produced a key and began grumbling to himself, he did not bother informing them of what was happening. “I know not how you have earned such trust from Fen'Harel, but know that I will be watching all of your movements, and I will not hesitate to strike you down should I even think you will do anything to subvert the goings-on here.”
“And a pleasant morning to you as well, Samahl'Din,” Velahari drawled with a sly look. The use of his name shocked him in place for a few seconds, brown eyes wide and thin lips parted slightly. Dorian only barely covered up the peal of laughter that clawed its way up his throat, though when Samahl'Din's cutting expression turned towards the human, Dorian promptly coughed and attempted to look anywhere besides the elf's furious gaze.
The key turned in the lock holding her shackles around her ankles, metal groaning against metal until Samahl'Din yanked it away with more force than was strictly necessary – undoubtedly a measure against her. Her fingers traced the sensitive skin on her wrists as she stood and followed Samahl'Din into the corridor just outside her cell, though she paused when he turned towards Dorian's cell, his lips pulling back in a scowl. “I can't remember the last time I was allowed to walk without having armed guards shoving at my back,” Dorian japed once he was free, Samahl'Din ahead of them as he led them up the stairs.
The elves of Tarasy'lan te'las had no qualms with staring openly as Velahari and Dorian passed them by, though some did pause in their motions and murmur something in elvish to Samahl'Din before they were on their way again. Samahl'Din, for his part, was quiet; he did not once glance back to ensure they were following after him, though Velahari was under the distinct impression that should they think to flee or run, they would find themselves back where they started: chained in a prison cell, if not killed outright.
Eventually, Samahl'Din led them to a closed door after navigating a set of sinuous passageways – likely to disorient them were they to try and find their way back to Fen'Harel. The Trickster was sifting through a few parchments when Samahl'Din led them inside, and Velahari did not miss the twitch of his lips as he set them down onto his desk and turned to his visitors, head tilting slightly as he turned to face them.
“It's been far too long, Trickster,” Dorian drawled, fingers idly itching the stubble lining his jaw. “I nearly feared you would leave us to rot–”
“Perhaps I intended to,” Fen'Harel offered with a careless shrug of his shoulder, the glint in his eyes playful and daring and so very alive. “Perhaps you have your companion – who has still not relinquished hold of her name – to thank for my allowance of your release, provided the pair of you are capable of retrieving what I desire.”
It had not even occurred to her that she'd never given him her name – it had seemed so very unimportant in the grand scheme of things, and beyond that, what did it matter?
“Ah, well, that is something I can help with,” Dorian continued, eyes glancing back in Velahari's direction knowingly just before Fen'Harel's gaze followed. “It is terribly impolite to keep your name from our host, I'll have you know. Were we back in Orlais, you would have a rod smacked across your knuckles.” His tone was teasing, gaze lighthearted for the first time since their arrival in this alien time. “Allow me, if you would, oh-great Trickster, to introduce Velahari, the closer of rifts and survivor of the Fade.”
“Dorian.” Her tone was sharp, and she didn't pretend not to notice how Fen'Harel's eyes narrowed curiously, his gaze lingering on her for several moments.
“Was that so difficult?” Fen'Harel's voice was deceptively soft, eyes darkening with thoughts he did not share and implications Velahari did not care to know.
“Excruciating,” was her dry response. “Don't tell me you called us in here merely to learn my name.” She met his gaze head-on, and when he chuckled, she found the stubborn nonchalance she'd been clinging to began to melt away – no one had warned her the Dread Wolf was a charismatic trickster, and she'd been wholly unprepared for coming across him.
“Among other things, perhaps,” Fen'Harel remarked, though his gaze flitted from Velahari to Dorian after a moment. “The focusing element you used to come to be here: give it to me. I wish to examine it.” Gone were the japing smiles and bright eyes from Fen'Harel's features, instead replaced with a serious expression that seemed more appropriate for Solas's countenance than his.
Dorian waffled momentarily for something to say, to evade the question, though Fen'Harel shook his head after a few seconds of it. “Do not think to outwit me, shemlen. My guards are more perceptive than you believe, and I could feel the curious magics upon you the moment you entered Tarasy'lan te'las, even vastly overshadowed as it is by your companion's.”
Dorian's gaze floundered on Velahari before he grudgingly pulled out the amulet, Velahari's lips pursing despite herself; having the amulet was the only way to ensure Fen'Harel did not keep them eternally in limbo, working for him until he saw fit to let them be on their way, but how could they refuse? They were supposed allies now, and lying to Fen'Harel would be a step backwards, and perhaps their very last step at all.
Fen'Harel noticed the look they shared before Dorian handed over the amulet, his smile greatly subdued and even tightening at the corners as the smooth surface of the pendant slid from his hand and into the god's palm.
The trickster's gaze moved deliberately and slowly down to the amulet, his hands turning it over and over until he was apparently satisfied. “Fair craftsmanship, though it's been drained of the magic that apparently brought you here.”
“So it – what? Needs more charging, and then poof? We're back home?”
The corners of Fen'Harel's lips twitched upwards into the slightest of smiles. “I imagine it will take more than you realize. Charging an object such as this one will take time.”
“Time enough to retrieve whatever it is you've decided as an even trade for your assistance?” Velahari's question was somewhat pointed, though Fen'Harel inclined his head and did nothing to hide the amused grin that spread across his lips.
“Are we ever to know what it is we'll be fetching for you then? I've never been an errand-boy, though I imagine knowing what it is you're sent to procure is moderately helpful.” Fen'Harel laughed at Dorian's jape, though Velahari could see Samahl'Din stiffen out of the corner of her eye. She didn’t know if it was because they were being so familiar with Fen'Harel, or because he believed Fen'Harel treated them too lightly, but either way, it was clear Samahl’Din did not approve.
Fen'Harel's reply to Dorian had been most unsatisfactory.
Have patience. You shall find out soon enough.
That had also been when a knock at the door sounded, and Falera peeked her head inside to ask if now were a bad time; Fen'Harel looked to Samahl'Din who nodded curtly, and the three passed by Falera and a few elves standing behind her as they made their way back into the corridor. Dorian had not been pleased to leave the amulet in the care of the Dread Wolf, though with the glare Samahl'Din leveled in his direction, he'd not been in the best place to argue or protest.
Dorian asked several idle questions as they roamed, all directed at Samahl'Din, though the elf never once deigned to answer. It was clear he heard Dorian from the tight shoulders and clenched hands at his sides, though Dorian pointedly ignored the signs and pressed onward anyway, perhaps hoping that it might yield them better insight into the world around them.
Eventually, once his patience met its end, Samahl'Din rounded on his heel, gaze hostile and focused solely on the shem. “Do not assume that simply because Fen'Harel has assigned me the unpleasant task of keeping watch over you that we are friends, shemlen. Now be silent. Once Fen'Harel has finished meeting with the others, he will come and retrieve you.”
“I have done nothing to you, have I? Why so hostile?”
Perhaps it was the sincerity of his tone, but such a question caught the otherwise-ornery elf off-guard.
“We have accomplished much, and Fen'Harel has placed greatfaith in you for reasons I cannot even begin to fathom. If you decide to oust us, all is lost, and I do not understand why such a weighty burden would be placed upon you, especially when it is not your life or fate hanging in the balance.”
Aside from her venture into the memory of him and Fen'Harel, this was the very first display of sincerity from Samahl'Din she'd seen; he did not often allow himself to be perceived as weak or vulnerable, and truly, Velahari could little blame him, not after enduring all he had while still a slave to Falon'Din. There was contemplative silence among them after Samahl'Din's outburst, though Velahari could still hear a few, not-so-quiet whispers as they walked through Tarasy'lan te'las, even some giggles poorly hidden behind raised hands.
“They do not know what to make of you,” Samahl'Din answered her unasked question, the elf pausing in his step momentarily to turn his head back and catch her eyes.
“Surely they've seen humans before? Or is the supposed slave a more offensive sight?”
“Neither. They are simply unaccustomed to a shemlen and a slave so obviously together.”
“Together?” Velahari and Dorian spoke simultaneously, and while Samahl'Din's eyebrow lifted curiously, the peals of laughter nearly deafened him as Dorian and Velahari fought to keep themselves propped up against each other. Their ruckus undoubtedly garnered even more attention, though neither seemed to care. Velahari had known him for a week or two at most, and beyond that, he didn't seem genuinely interested in her in such a way. Furthermore, the subject had never once come up; the safety of the world and its future seemed a bit more important than some silly, romantic entanglement anyhow.
Beyond that, Velahari had attempted – poorly – not to remember the burgeoning feelings for a certain someone else whose doppelganger haunted Tarasy'lan te'las and served as a constant reminder.
Their combined laughter earned nothing but wide eyes from Samahl'Din, who had likely believed as the others had.
“Well, you certainly make plenty of assumptions,” Velahari managed between giggles, though Dorian breathed in a few shallow breaths before dissolving into another fit that had Velahari fighting off a smile valiantly, however vainly.
“You were traveling alone together,” Samahl'Din pointed out, the corner of his jaw twitching in irritation.
“Because I'm sure you never travel alone with another person, do you?” The sarcastic quip left Velahari's lips before she could contain it, and Samahl'Din merely harrumphed with an exaggerated roll of his eyes before stomping away.
“How could I ever hope to compete with Solas? Might as well try to rein in the sun or get Samahl'Din to smile.” Dorian's jape sobered the grin on Velahari's lips, and some of the good humor faded from his own in response. “I'm sorry. I shouldn't have mentioned it. This...can't be easy for you.”
She offered him a reassuring smile before traipsing after Samahl'Din who had yet to even notice their disappearance from his heels. Some moments, it was more difficult to remember the future they'd left behind: the horde of demons, the ubiquitous rifts, and Solas who seemed always to know more than he cared to disclose. Others, Velahari felt a stranger in a far stranger land, as unwelcome as she was out of place.
“Samahl'Din!” The sound of his name drew the elf's rapt attention, and it was clear to see the affection in his features as they softened. Falera was strolling towards them, her blond hair pulled back save for a few strands that fell over her ears. “Fen'Harel has need of you, and he bid me take over for you.” Her smile was disarming, and Samahl'Din eagerly nodded before striding away without so much as a backward glance.
“There is much to discuss,” Falera informed Velahari in a darker tone, eyes narrowed angrily though her tone remained mostly-neutral as not to draw suspicion from others who might overhear. Dorian grimaced sympathetically from across the elf's shoulder, and when she turned to lead them elsewhere, neither lagged behind her. She led them up a staircase and into the atrium of the main building before darting abruptly through a side door that led to an area of greenery, meticulously cultivated and full of herbs - some of which Velahari recognized readily while others she had never once come across in her life.
“Become scarce, shemlen,” Falera barked in a tone unlike anything Dorian had likely never heard spoken in his direction before, and while he huffed out an indignant sound, he did as she instructed without comment. If Falera hadn’t been so intimidating, Velahari had little doubt he would have had a few choice words for her rudeness. Still, Velahari didn't realize her concern for Dorian was better spent on herself: the look Falera leveled at her was venomous and scathing.
“You would turn against your own gods for the sake of a pretender?” Her voice shook with scarcely-contained fury, and Velahari felt somehow small next to Falera, whose aura seemed to pulse with magic she'd been commanding for who-knew how many centuries.
“I can scarcely search for an orb from the inside of a cell,” Velahari whispered through a glare. Falera pulled back perhaps an inch, considering, her eyes never once relenting in the intensity of her gaze.
“Besides, Fen'Harel has already revealed its location.”
That piece of information caught Falera's immediate attention, and while part of her certainly was disbelieving and suspicious, it was apparently too tempting to ignore. Had she been unable to find it after all her time at Tarasy'lan te'las? Velahari almost couldn't contain the smug smile that tugged at her lips; she'd been there for what, a week and a half? And already she'd discovered this orb which apparently was a source of great power for Fen'Harel, for the rebellion?
“I only agreed to his terms so he would release me,” Velahari continued quietly, her eyes meeting Falera's as understanding came to the other elf. “We make our move tonight, unless you have objections.”
Falera shook her head far too swiftly for Velahari's comfort; the gods must have been putting an incredible amount of pressure on her for her to act so rashly. It was baffling, truly: why work for those who would sooner shackle her once more when she could live freely and do whatever she might wish to do?
“Now, I suppose we'd better find Dorian before he gets himself into trouble,” Velahari murmured, her tone joking though Falera was far too lost in her own thoughts to pay Velahari's words any attention. With a quiet sigh, Velahari stepped past Falera into the garden proper, the sunshine warm on her skin as she passed a few of the gardeners hard at work. “Dorian,” she called, eyes peering around high hedges and bright, flowering blossoms that enticed her closer only momentarily with their fragrant aroma.
“Dori–” Velahari stopped short as she rounded a pair of sculpted bushes, the sight before her earning a few peals of laughter until Dorian laid eyes on her and tacitly asked for assistance with frantic gestures and worried glimmers in his eyes. Half a dozen elves poked and prodded at his person, fingertips pressing against the curious fabric and clothing he wore, eyes cocking to the side at the strange ears that were so very rounded...
What Velahari didn't notice until she stepped closer were the hounds at the elves' sides, though as she drew closer, she paused.
No. Not hounds - wolves.
Clearing her throat, only a handful lifted their gazes to her instead. The wolves regarded her warily, as though they hadn't quite decided if she were trustworthy, though she was merely glad none had approached to growl or even bite. “Ah, well, this has been...fun, but I'm afraid my friend needs me.”
Dorian tried to shoo the elves away, and Velahari had to hide a giggle behind her hand when some of them continued to cling at the fabric draped across his shoulder, some even offering up words of protest in Elvish – words which neither of them could rightly understand.
“It'll take a month to get all the dog slobber off,” Dorian bemoaned as he walked at Velahari's side, his lips falling into a wince as he tried to brush off some of the stray hairs left behind from the elves' furry companions.
“They were wolves, you know,” Velahari pointed out.
“Of course they were! We're in the bloody citadel of the Dread Wolf,” Dorian exclaimed with an upward flourish of his arms, and as they finally descended back to his side, Velahari could hear him chuckling. “I don't suppose they have a library here, do they? I can't even imagineall we could learn from this. Think of the possibilities!”
Velahari's eyes narrowed. “We're not here to change the future, Dorian. Beyond that, I doubt we'll be able to read anything – Elvish language, remember?”
Dorian's face fell into the most childish pout Velahari had ever seen, and she patted his arm reassuringly.
“Perhaps someone here in the keep will read you something from one of the books if you ask nicely.”
The library proved as extensive as Dorian might have anticipated, though, as Velahari predicted in the gardens, every tome was written in Elvish and utterly unreadable. Velahari could make out only a few words for every dozen, and eventually Dorian shook his head with poorly-concealed irritation. Falera was keeping an eye on them, though from across the railing on the opposite side of the library.
How would she react to know that the orb she sought was only one floor below them in the circular room, Velahari wondered.
When Falera had first led them up into the library, Velahari had been confused; there was nothing physical to keep her from peering down into the lower level where the orb was stored, yet as Velahari herself looked, she saw nothing. Even more than that, she could feel no magic shielding it from her view. There had to be enchantments or wards to keep prying eyes from viewing it, yes? How was it Fen'Harel managed to utterly mask his magic in addition to the magic of the orb? The implications made Velahari uneasy; she'd always heard the Dalish tales of Fen'Harel and his wanderings of the Fade and interference in the dreams of those who fell out of his favor. But to find this magic was so powerful? Was he capable of this?
Dorian noticed the expression twist across her features, and his gaze lifted from the book propped up in his lap. Velahari had watched him disinterestedly for the past hour as he attempted to decipher a language he had never before seen, and even after asking him if he thought the words would suddenly make sense if he stared hard enough, he'd not ceased.
“Is something on your mind?” Dorian eventually inquired, dark eyebrows drawing together curiously.
Velahari blinked at being addressed, and she shook her head with a small smile - she'd not mentioned finding the orb to Dorian, though she could already imagine him poring over it, at least before Fen'Harel snatched it from him and refused him study of it. Dorian did not seem utterly convinced of her response, though his thirst for knowledge – knowledge he would never again have access to – took precedence for the moment. As she turned to finger some of the tomes on the shelves, Dorian stood from his chair and wandered over to Falera, who was not terribly pleased at being bothered by the shem. Velahari couldn’t quite catch what Falera said to Dorian in response to his question, though it was sharp and dismissive and just as cruel as she imagined a response from Samahl’Din would have been
“You could have just said 'no' and left it at that!” Dorian shot back over his shoulder as he returned to Velahari.
“I take it she doesn't want to translate for you,” Velahari remarked quietly, a twinge of sympathy tugging her lips into a sad smile as he shook his head and his enthusiasm seemed to dissipate in a single breath of air. Dorian then settled into his chair once more, noticeably worse for wear, though when a lone wolf padded over to him, sniffing at the strange clothing and scent that was so very different from every other elf, no one was more surprised than Dorian as the creature took a seat at the human's side, intelligent grey eyes looking up at him as if able to sense somehow his discontent.
“Well, I suppose dog slobber isn't so bad,” Dorian murmured under his breath, though if Velahari were to notice how Dorian's hand idly scratched behind the creature's ear, she was certain he would have fervently denied it.
The day passed slowly afterwards, and it was Samahl'Din, not Falera,who was sent to collect them once more – though not before blinking at the wolf who'd taken up residence at Dorian's side. Velahari could not quite catch the sharp reprimand Samahl'Din issued in the wolf's direction, though it did not slink forward as might a scolded dog, but rather licked a line up Dorian's hand and bounded away moments later. Dorian later informed her that the wolf was apparently Samahl'Din's.
The elf in question led them to a rather small room with a bed big enough only for one – though he gestured towards another door which opened into another that matched. He turned to leave as abruptly as he'd first appeared, though not without warning them that eyes were always watching if they thought to flee – a warning that was unnecessary as it was unwarranted.
“Falera will be by tonight, Dorian,” Velahari finally informed him once they were alone, the information earning Dorian's attention and an incomprehensible expression with it. “I told her I know where the orb is, and she thinks we're to go and claim it.”
“And you, what? Decided all this without me?” It was not quite anger in his voice, but it was close; she hadn't intended on keeping secrets from him, but it seemed as though so much had happened, and they'd had little time in private for her to tell him everything. “It's not like my life hangs in the balance or anything, so if you make any major decisions, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me in on the secret.”
Velahari did not realize how very much she had to tell Dorian until she sat him down and began to explain: about her last lucid dream, about Fen'Harel and the orb he possessed, or the plan to trap Falera as she attempted to steal the orb right out from under him. By the time she finished, Dorian's lips had parted and a vein in his temple throbbed noticeably. She allowed him a few moments for the information to settle, and once it did, she could see him consciously relaxing.
“I never thought I'd be so keenly reminded of my own homeland when coming down South, least of all in the past where elves are still at the height of their empire.” His eyes turned upwards then, easily catching her gaze. “Are you sure you know what you're doing? What if Falera turns this around on you, claims you were the mastermind behind wanting to steal the orb? Do you really have so much trust in the Dread Wolf? He isn't your Solas from the future–”
“I know that, Dorian,” Velahari sighed, lifting a hand to rake back through her hair. “But you've not seen what I've seen – either in dreams, or the few moments when he lets his guard down. I believe he...trusts me. To some degree, anyway.”
“If you're sure,” Dorian murmured, his hand reaching to pat hers gently. “Still, I would not sit by idly whilst you're amidst all the danger and intrigue. Shall I follow? I'm no rogue, but it shouldn't be too difficult if you keep Falera occupied.”
“Just be careful. Who knows what Falera's capable of.” Despite their squabbles in the cell, Dorian had become something of a constant in her life – she wouldn't call them best friends by any stretch, but he was an ally and a confidant. He would have her back when no one else would.
Supper came perhaps a half an hour later, something hot and substantial that Velahari relished; she could not remember the last time she'd had something warm to eat, and it was certainly welcome tonight, of all nights, when she would learn if her gambit would pay off.
When Falera came, Velahari was ready. Dorian feigned sleep as the blond elf let herself inside, hazel eyes narrowed as she gestured wordlessly for Velahari to follow. Darkness had settled across Tarasy'lan te'las, and with it, most of the elves had scattered, to their own chambers, presumably. It was only as they moved out of the corridor and into a larger hallway that connected with several others that Falera turned to her expectantly, eyes gleaming in the firelight cast by torches flickering in their ornate metal sconces.
“Lead the way.”
Velahari inclined her head in understanding, and Falera made no remarks as they rounded a corner and headed across the way, her eyes on the door to the room just below the library. Falera's eyes narrowed in confusion behind Velahari, though before she could ask why they were going into a seemingly-empty chamber, the redhead pushed the door open and stepped inside. Moonlight filtered in from the gap in the ceiling overhead, and Falera blinked slowly when she saw the orb on its pedestal, glowing benignly and emitting a low, quiet noise that almost sounded like snoring if it had been alive.
“You were telling the truth,” Falera murmured under her breath, clearly surprised. “Well, what are you waiting for? Go and retrieve it, and let's be done with this place.”
Velahari turned to catch the blonde's gaze, though she did not hold it long. She did not care to be the object of Falera's ire if it was at all avoidable.
She forced down a nervous swallow before stepping closer,wary of the wards the trickster set: he'd used the plural, and had not been so forthcoming as to inform her of all the details when they were triggered. As she stepped past the first one, she could feel the magic: very much like passing through an envelope or atmosphere, much like when she and Dorian had first come across Tarasy'lan te'las.
Run quickly, Trickster. She will know I'm stalling if you do not.
“Why do you move so slowly? It merely increases our chances of being detected,” Falera spit out angrily, her jaw clenching and her eyes narrowing even further. Her anger was borne out of more than simple impatience, however; perhaps she merely disliked having to associate with someone supposedly beneath her and the other elves whose lives did not end so very quickly.
“I'm going,” Velahari returned sharply. The orb seemed to murmur unintelligible words as she drew closer, the familiar hum of magic prickling at the ends of her fingertips as her hand hovered above it. The metal was strangely warm under her palm, and as she lifted it from its pedestal, she could hear Falera release a breath of relief. She'd even begun smiling, though it was not merely a relieved smile - she seemed ready, though for what, Velahari could not say.
Velahari had thought she'd been careful – she hadn't given away her true purpose, had she? The shadows she saw in that smile were dark, lurking things that made Velahari uneasy, and the tone the blonde used a moment later possessed a quality to it that was not quite smug, though hovered around it closely.
“Come. Bring it to me, and let us be done with this.” Falera reached out a hand and gestured for the orb, her expression torn somewhere between anxious and anticipatory. Velahari did indeed step closer, though when she was just beyond Falera's reach, she paused, lips pursing and eyes hardening.
Even as she appeared irritated by Velahari's hesitance, she was not as desperate as the redhead might have otherwise expected; someone was undoubtedly coming to investigate this asylum of Fen'Harel's, and yet Falera scarcely looked alarmed in the slightest. She appeared more annoyed than worried, and that lack of worry bled over until it made Velahari frown.
“I feared Fen'Harel had swayed you somehow,” Falera drawled condescendingly, the disgust evident in her gaze as she stepped forward. “The least of the gods – it's a wonder he was ever considered powerful or influential enough to join the pantheon, truly,” she continued, her arrogance almost palpable. “Tell me: how can you follow someone so very weak? Or is it because you are weak? Weak and afraid of disgracing yourself before the true elven gods – and who can blame you? You are a pitiful excuse for an elf: closer to a shemlen, and even keeping shemlen company.” Falera shook her head, and Velahari did nothing but listen – even as her jaw grit and her eyes narrowed into dark, angry slits. Falera continued as Velahari’s anger swelled in silence.
“But I am not weak! I serve the gods in their glory: Falon'Din and Elgar'nan and the huntress Andruil. I do what they bid me, and so I procured this while I was attending his little meeting this afternoon in the likely event you might sympathize with his doomed plight. Hand over the orb, or I will ensure you will never return to this so-called future you hail from.”
Dangling from her fingers was the amulet Fen'Harel had finagled away from Dorian earlier, and Velahari felt her heart jumped into her throat. Her eyes focused on the amulet before finding Falera's gaze again, the smug smile on her lips igniting a fury just below Velahari's skin that made the orb pulse tellingly.
“That's a good girl,” Falera cooed as though speaking with a small, frightened creature. “Hand it over, and you can return and forget all this nonsense.”
Green eyes glanced down at the orb briefly, and after only a moment, she looked back at the blonde who, for all intents and purposes, believed she'd already won.
Such a response was not one Falera had anticipated. The contours of her face sharpened and tightened until they were taut, and the furious shriek that leapt from her lips was not unlike a lynx pouncing upon its prey from the top of a tree.
Before she could hurl her insults or even begin to crush the amulet as Velahari thought she might, however, strong fingers wrapped around her wrist from behind, white teeth glistening in the moonlight and grey-blue eyes glimmering with something Velahari could not quite decipher.
“So, it seems Falon'Din's reach is not quite so limited as I originally thought,” Fen'Harel murmured lazily, as though he were sitting in the sunshine on a sleepy afternoon rather than catching a would-be thief, a charlatan, a traitor to his own cause.
“Falon'Din is a true god, Trickster. You are not worthy to even speak his name!” Falera snapped, though Fen'Harel's smile did not once waver. The amulet that dangled from her fingers was instead clenched in her fist, and when the broken shards fell to the ground, the triumphant and defiant expression on her face twisted any defeat she may have felt a moment earlier. “You could have had it all! But you threw everything away for a pretender who–”
“Enough, Falera!” It was not Fen'Harel, but Samahl'Din who roared at her, and when his glare descended upon her, it was genuine pain that flitted across her face.
“I am not your brother.” His tone was as disgusted as the look on his face, and Fen'Harel allowed the siblings to step past him and presumably towards the prison cell where Velahari had been earlier that very same day.
Velahari had fallen to her knees, her fingertips picking up the pieces of the amulet despairingly; how could Fen'Harel have been so careless? If it had not been for him- ! She could feel angry tears welling up just behind her eyes, though she refused to let them touch her cheeks. The orb had fallen away from her hold and Velahari noticed only idly that Fen'Harel had picked it up, his fingers glossing over the surface to ensure no damage had come to it before he loped gracefully towards the pedestal and set it down into the carved depression once more, its green lights fading as though it fell into a slumber.
Velahari stood and rounded on him then, cheeks blazing an angry red and eyes gleaming like emeralds.
“You let her take the amulet, and now Dorian and I will never–”
“Your amulet is perfectly safe. Fear not, Lethal'lan: I planted the false amulet Falera found with the assumption the traitor would want leverage over you, and I was not wrong.” Velahari's shoulders stiffened and her anger melted away as Fen'Harel showed her the real amulet, brazen enough to dangle it in front of her eyes before returning it to one of the inner folds of his cloak.
“But why?” Velahari murmured, not understanding. “Why allow me to...to become so distraught when I had nothing to fear?”
“I had to see,” he answered enigmatically. “You were willing to sacrifice your own way home to preserve what I've done: the chance at a future for the elves to be free. When Falera demanded the orb for the amulet, I thought you would trade without remorse or hesitation, but you did not.” His tone had become quiet, scarcely more than a whisper, and though she thought she ought to be angry at his test, all she could recognize was that he had yet to step away after showing her the amulet.
“Even those most devoted to freedom are not so ready to risk their lives, their own desires or goals even if it were to mean another is freed from their shackles. You, I do not understand. You arrive with a shemlen, with a slave's markings upon your face, stare defiantly into my eyes, do not apologize or compromise, yet you would see freedom upon those you have never met.”
He paused for a moment then, eyes gleaming, and for just a moment Velahari could not breathe.
“You can dream deeply within the Beyond, can find remnants of memories embedded so deeply within the stones of this place I scarcely thought to find them myself.”
She dared not look up at him, his eyes or his face – would she see him, or would she see Solas? Did it even matter? Was there even truly a difference anymore save for some hair and more years? Soft, deft fingertips slipped gently against the tender skin of her wrist, not quite holding, though they lingered there as he leaned closer, the warmth of his breath a noticeable heat against the side of her face.
“You have a rare and marvelous spirit,” he murmured, as though the thought had just occurred to him, and the chuckle that followed reverberated against her scalp. “I find myself surprised yet again, Velahari.”
The point of his nose slipped between delicate strands of her hair, and she could feel his shuddered breath against her as he paused, presumably to think of yet more to say lest they fall into complete and utter silence; in truth, all else paled in comparison to how he'd spoken her name. It was the first time he'd done so, and his tone had sent nothing but warmth down her spine until all she could feel was him,in proximity, certainly, though it was more than a simple physical warmth or feeling.
She could not keep herself from frowning as he drew his head back even as she lauded his self-control, though it slipped away just as quickly when his free hand lifted her chin, and she saw the crooked, strangely-soft smile tugging at his lips. His eyes searched hers in silence for a long while, and though she saw him shake his head minutely, her breath caught in her throat when he leaned closer, lips brushing lightly against her own.
Something forced her back, however - away from his hold, from the soft skin of his lips or his curious, probing gaze. He did not appear angry when she did so, though she could see the shock there, the disbelief, and when she ran, he did not pursue.
Velahari had nearly forgotten all about Dorian in her mad rush, though the mage did catch her, his hands stopping her in her tracks and lingering just barely on the upper parts of her arms.
“I saw them take Falera away,” he informed her, though judging from her red face and shallow breaths, it was easy for him to see had taken place. “Is everything all right?”
His question snapped her gaze upward to meet his, though she could not respond. Her throat felt as though it had swollen shut, and even as worry creased the lines of Dorian's face, Velahari could only nod affirmatively, even if Dorian little appeared to believe her answer. The trek back to their rooms was a blur in Velahari's mind, though to his credit, Dorian did not lead them astray.
He waited until they were safely back in their adjoining chambers, the door shut and latched behind them before turning to her and expecting an explanation for her strange behavior. “All right. Tell me what happened.”
For a long moment, Velahari remained silent. Her thoughts were a jumbled mess of memories and conflicting feelings, and Dorian’s eyebrows drew together in concern. He gave her a few more moments before pressing forward with a lighthearted request.
“Come now, don't leave me in suspense.” Dorian's light tone was a clear attempt at lessening the otherwise heavy mood, and it did earn a grudging smile from the elf who let out a sigh before her head fell into her hands.
“That doesn't tell me anything!” Dorian exclaimed with a chuckle, a finger poking once at her shoulder as though it might coax her out of her shell. His smile returned when he heard her laughing, her shoulders shaking just before her fingers raked back through her hair and she finally looked up at Dorian.
“Well, Falera has been discovered for one. Samahl'Din is her brother, and he looked so upset...I hope he'll be all right.” It did not occur to Velahari that telling Dorian about the switched amulet might upset him; how would he react were he to learn that she'd nearly traded their way home to ensure the success and survival of the elven rebellion? He'd already made his stance on slaves apparent, and he seemed not to sympathize wholly with them – why would now be different?
Dorian grimaced at the news. “He's always been nothing but dour and frowning, but even that has to be a significant blow. I don't imagine you've endeared yourself to him by ousting his sister.”
Truly, Samahl'Din's perception of her was the very last thing on her mind; indeed, it was difficult to consider what he might think when – if – he found out what nearly transpired between herself and Fen'Harel. Such a thought begged another question, however: what did Fen'Harel truly think of her? Were his words that night sincere, or had he been merely out of his mind with relief at the safety of his precious orb?
“Mm. That's not everything, is it? It's never anything simple...” Dorian's voice trailed off in thought, though his gaze returned to her not long afterwards. “So what else? Falera and Samahl'Din were out of there long before you came running out.”
Velahari winced at the reminder, and did not anticipate her next encounter alone with Fen'Harel.
“Fen'Harel was... grateful,” she murmured, and Dorian chuckled as she glanced pointedly away from his eyes.
“So grateful that he swept you into his arms and pronounced his undying love for you?” The idea was so very ludicrous Velahari could not contain her laughter at the silly idea, and when she noticed Dorian's waggling eyebrows, it only managed to increase her amusement.
“No,” she finally managed, her hand lifting to her chest to steady herself. “He did say a great deal of nice things, though. And he mayhave tried to kiss me.”
“Tried?” Dorian did not miss her wording, and she flinched away from his probing gaze before he finally understood. “Is that what you ran from? Maker's breath, I'm not sure if he'll be tantalized by the chase or angry you rejected him. Maybe it's telling that he has yet to follow...”
“Dorian, please. I'd rather just forget.” There was little point in a romance here and now: she was leaving as soon as possible, and getting overly attached seemed inevitably to lead to heartbreak.
“Ah, perhaps that's for the best.” His smile was perhaps tinged with sympathy, though it was clear the night had taken its toll on him; dark shadows hovered around his eyes, and Velahari bid him a good night before he stumbled into his own chamber and shut the door. The snoring Velahari heard perhaps an hour later was unmistakable, and she smiled as she curled into her own blankets, thoughts still positively abuzz with the night's activities.
She did not remember her dreams upon waking, though she did wake with the peculiar feeling that she'd been watched; Velahari forced away the underlying implications, and was simultaneously surprised and unnerved at the fresh basin of water and warm food awaiting her. Someone had been in her room, but she'd not heard anything.
It was rather strange, Velahari found, to be allowed free movement without others overseeing her; even before ending up in the distant past, she'd been under watch from the humans and Cassandra in particular, but now she could do as she pleased. At least until Fen'Harel decided it was time they retrieve whatever it was he desired.
A chuckle slipped from her lips when Dorian knocked on the door between them, though she supposed he was both being polite and ensuring she was dressed and decent. “Come in, Dorian.”
The smile he wore was the most genuine one she'd seen from him lately, and the lack of stubble along his jawline and his chin was proof that someone had left a razor for him that morning. “Sleep well?” Came Velahari’s teasing question, and Dorian chuckled in response.
“Perhaps it's simply because I'd grown accustomed to sleeping in an uncomfortable stone cell, but I feel better than I have in ages.” His fingers entwined behind his back, and a quiet pop sounded as he stretched, a yawn parting his lips as he slipped over towards the platter of food which had likely been the main reason he'd wandered into her room in the first place.
The table housing the platter was scarcely large enough for two, and Dorian helped himself, Velahari joining him not long afterwards. The conversation as they ate was idle and easy, a pleasant change from the apocalyptic scenario going on, though even that was abruptly jarred when Samahl'Din appeared, dark circles making his brown eyes appear even darker. He'd clearly not gotten any sleep the previous evening after Falera's capture, though it was likely he'd volunteered for something to keep his mind off of his sister. Velahari couldn't blame him, though the scathing look he wore when his eyes fell to her quickly evaporated any pity or sympathy she may have extended him.
“Prepare yourselves, shemlen. The relic you've agreed to procure for Fen'Harel - we leave to obtain it on the morrow.” He offered nothing more, and Dorian and Velahari exchanged grimaces at the implication the elf's words brought: he was going with them on the retrieval mission.
Dorian did not inquire further about the previous day, not that Velahari had given him reason to believe she'd left anything out. Still, the thought ate away at her as the day progressed. The pair remained in their chambers for the most part, only venturing outside when the need for fresh air or a walk was too keen to ignore. Visiting the library would be merely another exercise in folly since neither of them could fluently read Elvish, and loitering elsewhere in Tarasyl'an te'las would only serve as reason for others to converge on them with probing questions to feed the rumors and gossip running rampant within the citadel.
Velahari awoke with the same, strange feeling as she had the previous morning, though it seemed pointless to dwell upon; spirits often watched the dreams of mages and mortals, did they not? Perhaps one had simply become curious due to the mark on her hand, but remained too shy to approach her in the Fade. If it were a demon, she had no doubt it would have shown itself already, prepared and willing to make a deal if only she might become the bridge it might use to manifest in the mortal realm.
Samahl'Din was once more their chaperone, and while some of the hostility seemed to have tempered into nonchalance, he still did not bother attempting to keep a glare from his eyes when he looked at Velahari. Dorian received little better, though both could sense the differences as they trailed after him. Those elves who'd only days earlier sneered and glared in their direction now openly smiled or even waved, and Dorian donned a rather self-indulgent smile and gave a confident wave in return. Watching the reactions he received made Velahari smile, though it only took another glance at Samahl'Din's tight shoulders and grit jaw ahead of them to wipe her face of the expression.
So caught up in her thoughts of Samahl'Din was she that Velahari nearly forgotten that he was leading them to Fen'Harel to be informed of what it was they were doing. In truth, she'd not allowed herself to dwell on the night of Falera's capture. She could not deny that he was a charismatic leader, or that he was wholeheartedly devoted to his task and admirably so, but she also could not deny the pull she felt towards him. Even then, she was not entirely certain whether it was merely a result of her residual feelings for Solas from the future, or if this was different – and if it were, did it really matter? She could not stay, and he must remain. Even logically knowing such a thing, however, did little to stifle the attraction, the memory of his warmth, of the honeyed words he'd spoken against her skin. Perhaps part of her did not wish to do so. When she returned to her future, this would be a memory to hold her, to keep her warm at night and to keep sour thoughts at bay when dark, ominous prospects otherwise loomed ahead.
One of Dorian's eyebrows had arched upward when Velahari blinked and looked over towards him, the pair of them waiting at the threshold of a door as Samahl'Din presumably spoke with Fen'Harel. She shook her head at the question in his gaze – even if she'd wanted to answer, there wasn't time enough as Samahl'Din reappeared and all but pushed the pair of them inside, his impatience and growing irritation a mediocre sight, even as borne of Fen'Harel as it was.
“You seem to be adjusting to life outside of a cell rather quickly,” the trickster japed, an eyebrow lifting casually as a smile spread across his lips.
“Indeed! And thank you for that – it was so very drab and dreary.” Dorian easily intercepted the question, and Velahari avoided the Dread Wolf's gaze when it dared to linger on her for a moment. Instead, she stepped forward until she was at Dorian's side, hands clasped behind her back and a half-smile twisting her lips as she looked over at Dorian once he replied.
“So, I take it we finally get to hear all the sordid details of what we're to be bringing back here?” Dorian's voice earned Fen'Harel's attention once more, and while the trickster's smile did dim, it did not disappear altogether.
“You shall be heading for a temple once dedicated to Mythal. She left something to me long ago, though I have been thus far unable to retrieve whatever it is.”
Velahari stifled the urge to ask why Mythal would have given him anything – would she not take the side of the other gods? She could not recall any tales linking the Dread Wolf to the Mother of the Elven pantheon, though her clan's tales were hardly complete by any stretch.
“Wait. So you don't even know what it is we're supposed to bring back?” Dorian asked skeptically, and the laughter that slipped from the trickster's lips was self-deprecating. Velahari could see the briefest glint of remorse flash in Fen'Harel's eyes, though by the time she blinked, it was gone; there was something he wasn't telling them, though she doubted he'd reveal such information to her even if she pressed him for it. Whatever it was, it had pained him a great deal, and Velahari was not about to reopen an old wound, especially if it still rankled on occasion. Still, he caught her watching, and even catching his gaze for a moment was enough to pull her back into the memory of the other evening. She would not look away bashfully, however. There was certainly a degree of embarrassment she felt, but she was no child, not anymore. Not since the Conclave's explosion and the insanity that followed.
“Mythal's sentinels will know,” Fen'Harel instead replied to Dorian's question, his eyes roaming to the human for a few heartbeats. “Not that I predict they will be terribly forthcoming.” A grin twisted the trickster's lips then, a certain mischief sapping his age until he appeared little more than a teenager playing at political machinations. “But do not fret,” Fen'Harel continued, his hand lifting as he waved off the concern Samahl'Din and Dorian's expressions had betrayed. “Show them this to prove I have sent you, and you should not meet with trouble.” His hand deftly curled around the leather cord which strung the blackened wolf jawbone around his neck, though instead of turning towards Samahl'Din and ensuring its safety with him, Fen'Harel turned pointedly towards Velahari, the softness of his gaze informing her he had not forgotten what had nearly transpired a few nights before.
She found it difficult to look away when he paused in front of her, his fingers unfurling her hand until he dropped the item into her palm and gently curled them back over what seemed to be the most precious thing he possessed.
“Keep it safe, Lethal'lan. I expect it returned once you come back.”
I just wanted to point out that the fatigue Dorian is experiencing after traveling through the eluvian is canon, specifically in reference to The Masked Empire. It's likely only elves were ever meant to use them, which is why doing so for Dorian (and Celene, Michel, and Gaspard in the book) is so taxing.
Whatever bitterness Samahl'Din felt because of Velahari increased twofold as he watched Fen'Harel drop the seemingly important pendant into her hand.
It was only Dorian clearing his throat that prompted Fen'Harel to look away and to remember why exactly they were assembled together in the first place. “Come,” the trickster finally spoke, a few plaited strands of auburn sliding down and over a bare shoulder as he stepped past Velahari and towards the corridor.
At first, Velahari thought he might be leading them to the library, though instead of heading across the crowded aisle of the main structure, he headed for a door further down and on the left before slipping down a flight of stairs Velahari had not yet seen. Dorian and Samahl'Din followed quickly and quietly, though that changed when they came down to the landing and several paintings adorned the walls, frescoes painted across smooth stretches of stone and oils scarcely faded from sunlight given their location.
Velahari didn't need to turn to see that Dorian's jaw had dropped, though Fen'Harel did not give either of them time to gawk or inspect more closely – Velahari presumed Samahl'Din had seen such a place already.
“There will be time enough to admire my works once you return,” Fen'Harel teased Dorian with a self-serving grin, and not for the first time that day, Dorian's eyes widened.
“These are yours?” Dorian asked incredulously, and Fen'Harel's resounding laughter bubbled from deep in his chest to escape from his lips.
“Do you think I would showcase other artists? Am I so very humble and lacking in desire for praise?” There was a bite to the trickster's rhetorical questions, a play upon the undoubtedly numerous insults and cruelties the other gods hurled upon him for leading a rebellion against them.
Movement in Velahari's periphery distracted her from any further consideration, however. A great grey wolf sat tall and proud, its intelligent eyes almost impatient as it waited for them to draw closer. Samahl'Din's expression softened at the sight of the beast, and as he reached out a hand, the wolf nudged the tip of its nose against his palm in a clear sign of affection, of acknowledgment and tacit understanding the pair of them possessed.
The elf's fingertips glided up the wolf's muzzle and carded through the soft fur on the top of its head idly as Fen'Harel strolled past, the wolf turning in time with Samahl'Din's footsteps before following after the trickster into another, smaller secluded room. Dorian and Velahari exchanged a glance before trailing after them, only for Dorian to gasp quietly a moment later as Velahari's eyes widened in shock. While Dorian's gaze pored over the countless tomes littering the cramped space, Velahari was instead focused on what lay at the end of the room where Fen'Harel currently stood with arms outstretched and mumbled, scarcely audible Elvish on his lips.
“An eluvian,” Velahari gasped quietly, and just as Dorian turned to inquire as to what she meant, the mirror came to life with a glittering blue haze of magic. The air was potent with it mere seconds after it awakened, and that was when they paused – undoubtedly poised to say their farewells to Fen'Harel before heading for the temple to Mythal. It still didn't make sense: if Mythal was allied with the other gods, why would she leave something to aid in Fen'Harel's rebellion? Was she torn between the two sides? And if so, why? What was the nature of the relationship between her and the Dread Wolf? Was she a spy? Did she sympathize? Beyond that, why would she not be at her own temple?
Velahari paused only when she caught Fen'Harel's gaze lingering upon her, though Dorian appeared at her side a moment later, his gaze ever curious as he stepped closer to the eluvian and reached out a hand to touch its surface. When the tips of his fingers seemed to disappear, however, he pulled them back with a quiet cry of surprise, his eyes darting down to ensure he was still whole and unaffected. Samahl'Din's eyes rolled at Dorian's behavior while Fen'Harel fought away a wicked grin poorly, the wolf sitting at the former's heels yawning widely and revealing a mouth full of perfectly white and no doubt razor-sharp teeth.
“Samahl'Din will show you the way.” Fen'Harel indicated with a gesture towards the eluvian, though Velahari could see the elf in question roll his eyes at such a distasteful task. He turned towards the mirror then before stepping through with the wolf at his side, and Velahari turned to follow before she could catch Fen'Harel's gaze once more. Dorian was at her heels as she slid through the glowing magical barrier, though what she saw on the other side had her turning in seemingly every direction at once.
Several similar eluvians stood in rows, all dark save for a few.
“Fen'Harel has sealed most of the eluvians to keep spies at bay,” Samahl'Din volunteered, his voice earning Velahari's attention even as Dorian audibly breathed behind her – as though he were laboring particularly hard for some reason.
“Did he create them?” Velahari questioned, though such a question earned a sneer and a thinning of the other elf's already-narrow lips.
“He had a hand in their forging,” came the enigmatic reply, though before Velahari could press further, Dorian was speaking between pants, the human pausing as his hands slid to his knees and he fought for breath.
“Can't we...take a moment for a break?” Dorian heaved, his forearm lifting to wipe away the sweat on his brow.
“We've only just gotten here,” Velahari remarked, eyebrows furrowing in confusion.
“These sacred places were not meant to be traversed by shemlen. It is little wonder you are so vexed.” It was likely Dorian was the first human ever to use an eluvian, and Velahari frowned at the information and its implications. “Let us not tarry. The eluvian to Mythal's temple is not far.”
Dorian nodded glumly, and though Velahari attempted to remain at his side even as his steps faltered, she always found herself wandering away until she and Samahl'Din were forced to wait for him to catch up once more.
Like many of the eluvians they passed, the one Samahl'Din came to pause in front of was dark, as silent and steady as a slab of marble, and it did not reflect like one would expect of a mirror.
“Thank the Maker,” Dorian wheezed under his breath once they finally stopped, though instead of taking a stance in front of the mirror and using his own magic, Samahl'Din turned to Velahari instead, his gaze both impatient and expectant.
“What are you waiting for?” he finally intoned, his nostrils flaring and his bronze cheeks reddening. Velahari could feel Dorian's gaze slide to her inquisitively, though as she stepped closer, she could almost feel the pull and draw of magic rippling across her skin. In recognition, perhaps? The green tendrils curling around the palm of her left hand extended down her wrist until it fully engulfed her arm, and while at first Velahari was alarmed, she could not deny the comforting aura that seemed to settle over her as her hand drew closer to the mirror. The surface rippled under her touch, much like it had earlier as Fen'Harel activated the one in his own sanctum, and Velahari pulled her hand away slowly, her eyes watching as the green lines began to disappear.
Samahl'Din did not wait for them as he came closer to the eluvian, though Dorian had come to stand at Velahari's side, his eyes on her arm as though trying to discern what had just happened.
“How did you do that?” he finally inquired, his eyes lifting to catch her own. She could see the inward scolding as it flitted across his face, and she very nearly smiled when he spoke again. “Are you all right? That didn't look... natural. Didn't even look as it does when you close rifts.”
“While you two dither on, we could be completing our purpose here,” Samahl'Din reminded them rather tersely, his lupine companion looking towards the pair of them with a degree more civility in its eyes.
“I'm fine, Dorian. Let's go.” While the interaction had indeed been strange, it was done now, and so far as Velahari could tell, there was no lasting damage to her person for it. Dorian gestured for Velahari just as the tip of the wolf's tail disappeared beyond the eluvian, and she let out a quiet gasp at the sight that greeted her once she followed.
A vast pool of water rippled only a few feet away, its magic potent and sizzling across her skin tellingly, while sunlight slanted downward across tree limbs and massive leaves tinged with vibrant reds and golds. Beyond the natural world, however, she could see the massive structure that was Mythal's temple, elven architecture in every angle, in the cut of the stone, and while she would have enjoyed nothing more than to take in more details and study it further, she was not afforded such a luxury.
The welcome that awaited them was similar to the one that awaited at Tarasyl'an te'las: several elves clad in heavy armor had arrows trained upon them the exact moment they stumbled out of the eluvian.
“Who dares step foot in this place, the holiest of places within Mythal's temple? Petitioners must undergo rigorous rites – which of you possesses the authority to open her eluvian and use it so capriciously?”
If Velahari thought Samahl'Din had been dour and harsh, his words and tone paled in comparison to the elf who addressed them now, his face mostly shadowed by the hood pulled over his face.
“We mean no disrespect,” Samahl'Din replied with a deferential incline of his head. “We have been sent by the Dread Wolf, and he has tasked us with procuring an item Mythal left to him from before.” Velahari wanted to ask before what, though the hooded figure seemed to digest Samahl'Din's words carefully, cold golden eyes peering out distrustfully at the lot of them.
“You would speak of respect, yet you bring a slave to another god, a shemlen to this sacred place? Have you any idea how many come to this temple supposedly seeking sanctuary while attempting to drag all of Mythal's guardians into this conflict your god instigated?” Velahari could see Samahl'Din's shoulders tighten only slightly, and while she doubted he would appreciate the gesture, she stepped forward slowly, her hand reaching out to touch his arm gently as the guardian's eyes roved to her form as it drew closer.
Samahl'Din's jaw grit tightly at the touch, though she pulled her hand away before he decided to turn to her and make a snide remark.
“The circumstances are unorthodox, yes, but I have proof of our sincerity.” She could see many of the elves tense as she pulled the leather cord over her head, and the guardian stepped forward to inspect the jawbone more closely as it settled in her open and outstretched palm. His gaze slid across hers coldly, though there was also a deep understanding there she could not rightly identify.
“Mythal was once friends with Fen'Harel,” he said wistfully, Velahari just able to catch the lines of green vallaslin at the tip of his long nose as he dipped his head forward in affirmation. For just a moment, he seemed to lose himself in memory, though only for a moment; he then turned to his fellows, and Velahari breathed easier once the elves lowered their bows, even if the expressions were not terribly hospitable or welcoming. “I do not know why Fen'Harel would send one promised to Dirthamen to us, but I cannot argue the proof of your connection.” He then turned towards the other sentinels and announced something in Elvish – something which caused the twitch in Samahl'Din's jaw to cease altogether, and for Velahari to breathe a bit easier after sliding the leather cord back around her neck, the redhead forcing her thoughts away from how heavily the jawbone pressed against her.
“Come. We know of what Mythal left behind.”
Velahari inclined her head, and the hooded elf turned on his heel to lead them into the temple. He offered no words of comfort or question, merely strode purposefully ahead as the others gave them all a wide berth, some with wide eyes and questioning gazes while others glared openly. Fen'Harel was obviously not well-loved by some of those he claimed to wish to save, it would seem.
If Velahari had been charmed by the outside of the temple, she was enthralled by what awaited them inside. Mosaics gleamed in the firelight of torches and sconces, offerings to one's chosen deity left undisturbed at the foot of statues and carvings and even some of the mosaics themselves. “Remarkable,” Velahari heard Dorian breathe, though he did not loiter – did not wish to be converged upon by angry elves who undoubtedly found his mere presence there to be an affront both to them and the gods.
When the hooded elf paused in front of a bare wall after rounding several corners, Velahari's brows furrowed in confusion while Samahl'Din merely seemed to wait in anticipation. A panel slid open then to reveal a host of treasures and artifacts, all undoubtedly tied to Mythal if those dedicated to her had gone to such great pains to ensure their safety.
He knelt down in front of a small, wooden box before picking it up gently in his hands, the cover carved meticulously with a barren tree and a slumbering wolf taking shelter just underneath its branches. The tips of his fingers traced the delicate grooves on the box's lid as he pulled back to stand upright once more, and Velahari could see the heaviness upon him, weighing him down and dragging him into a darkness she could identify if not utterly understand. What did not make sense was why he seemed so very sad. If she thought it might have yielded a response from the elf, she may have even inquired, though he turned to her before she made any real decision, and as his gaze locked on to hers, the thought was promptly set to the side in favor of more important ones.
“I trust you will keep this safe.” His tone was almost dark, his golden eyes narrowed down at her. It was not so much a question as an implied threat; it was to be delivered to Fen'Harel intact or they would bear the consequences and punishments for failure. Such a thing had not been borne of his dislike of them, however; it was an artifact tied to the goddess he served and revered, and their failure was also his own. Who could bear the stigma of failing in such a mediocre task, if such a charge had been bestowed by one whose value and opinion was the only one which mattered?
“We will,” Velahari reaffirmed with a decisive incline of her head, and she was pleased to see some of the heaviness leave the guardian's expression – could even have sworn she'd seen the corners of his lips curl upwards, though she would never have dared accuse him of smiling. His pain was still remarkably fresh, a deep wound she would never know or hope to understand – perhaps it was better that way, even if her heart sympathized blindly in the interim.
“Then we ought to be on our way,” Samahl'Din spoke, his tone curiously neutral and garnering the hooded elf's attention away from Velahari. It was with a stiff nod that he seemed to give his approval of the idea, and truly, Velahari was just a tad concerned at how simple the task Fen'Harel had given them turned out to be. Her thoughts wandered to the trickster as they slipped out of the hidden chamber and its guardian closed the panel once more with a wave of his hand, the magic evident as it lingered in the air, potent and pungent even as it began to dissipate seconds later. Was he maneuvering his spies and followers on the map she'd seen in one of his private chambers? Or perhaps even slumbering lucidly and prying into the vulnerable dreams of elven allies to the others of the pantheon...?
Velahari caught a frown on Dorian's lips out of the corner of her eye as she willed such thoughts away, and she struggled to suppress her smile; he'd been nothing but curious since their arrival, and he'd had only a few minutes to drink in the sights and sounds before they were cut off from him, seemingly forever – for when would they ever return to Mythal's Temple?
The three of them and the wolf who accompanied Samahl'Din trailed after the priest of Mythal, presumably back the way they'd originally come, though when their guide came to an abrupt halt, Velahari found herself peering around him to see what was responsible for such a disruption. An elf notably without vallaslin blocked the guardian's path.
“Abelas,” was his greeting, and while Velahari's eyebrows furrowed at why their guide had been called 'sorrow', it finally occurred to her: was it his name?
The elven chatter seemed to be idle, though the way the hooded elf's shoulders tightened seemed to imply otherwise. The elf called Abelas replied harshly, more harshly than was necessary, though it again reminded her of the similarities between him and Samahl'Din – despite what she may have seen earlier in his cold golden eyes.
As they began to move past the bare-faced elf, Velahari felt her skin prickle when his gaze landed on her, eyes narrowed in suspicion even before they roved down to the box held firmly between her hands.
Velahari's assumption of an easy job seemed to disintegrate the moment they all stepped back outside, sunlight warming her skin even as an unintelligible shriek preceded an arrow that grazed the side of her face and forced a low hiss to slip from between her lips. Blood slid down her cheek to her neck, and even as the pain bid her drop the box and attend to her wound, she merely curled it closer to her abdomen with one arm while allowing the mana flowing in her veins to manifest in her palm.
The wolf turned abruptly on its legs and bared its teeth in a feral growl, and Velahari could see Dorian reach for his absent stave – which had not been returned to him since their first arrival at Tarasyl'an te'las. Abelas’s golden eyes rounded towards the threshold they'd just crossed out of, smoldering and livid and terrifying.
“They dare start violence here?” His hand curled into a tight fist at his side, and he gestured for them to continue while he headed for the door, his own magic pulsing and undulating like a slithering serpent about to strike.
She did not miss the clanging of blades as Samahl'Din grabbed hold of her wrist and practically dragged her to the eluvian; roars of anger and pain followed not long after, and though she turned her head back to see what was happening, her gaze was direction back with a sharp tug, Samahl'Din's lips pursed as he urged her forward
Their trek to Fen'Harel's eluvian was naught but a blur mixing together in a haze of pain and blood and regret at leaving those at Mythal's temple to fend for themselves – presumably because she and the others had taken whatever it was Mythal had left for Fen'Harel. It was not only guilt that lingered as she and the others crossed Fen’Harel’s eluvian; concern also tore across her heart at leaving so abruptly and without aiding the sentinels, though she supposed it couldn’t be helped now. There were more pressing issues at hand, as loathe as she may have been to admit it.
The last of my elven OCs for this story is introduced in this chapter. Her name is Arlas, and again, her name is derived from Elvish. 'Arla' means home, and 'Alas' means earth or dirt.
No one awaited their arrival when they stumbled out of the eluvian in Fen'Harel's clandestine study, though Velahari couldn't say she anticipated the Dread Wolf standing around and waiting for them. Even so, a fair bit of blood made her neck feel slick, but at the very least, the pain was mostly gone, save for a persistent stinging that seemed to think she'd forgotten the arrow and its damage done to her.
“That looks bad,” Dorian stated with furrowed eyebrows, coming closer and peering down at the wound across her cheek.
“It looks worse than it is,” Velahari informed him, though it would likely scar – such wounds always did.
“Still, it could become infected if you don't clean it up soon. Who knows? Maybe they even used poison.” Dorian shrugged at his last suggestion, though her lack of fever or lightheadedness belied his words.
“We need to deliver this to Fen'Harel, first and foremost,” Samahl'Din spoke, though for once, he did not sound so very condescending. Perhaps he was finally beginning to understand that they'd helped the elven rebellion, and were unworthy of his constant suspicion. The reminder made her wince slightly; the leather cord he'd allowed her to borrow was likely stained with her blood now, and she wondered at his reaction to such a revelation.
“Come. Before you drip more blood on the floor,” Samahl'Din interrupted her thoughts, and had she not glanced in his direction, she would not have caught the very slight twist of his lips, nor the dark sarcasm coating his tone.
Velahari could see anger shift onto Dorian's features at Samahl'Din's somewhat callous words, though when he realized it had been said in jest, he lifted a hand to his heart and shifted his weight onto his back foot, surprise overly exaggerated on his face. “You can make jokes? I didn't know you had it in you to smile, let alone anything jovial or lighthearted,” Dorian remarked, his words earning a roll of Samahl'Din's dark brown eyes and a muffled grunt from the back of his throat.
A few elves turned to stare at them as they passed, though Velahari was pleased to see concern on their faces instead of distrust or outright dislike. She handed Samahl'Din the box from the temple before attempting to wipe away the blood from her cheek. Velahari grimaced at how readily the redness dyed her pale fingertips, and had she and Dorian not been stripped of their possessions upon arrival, she would have produced some bandages and cloths to clean the wound better. As it was, she was afforded no time to continue before they stood once more outside of Fen'Harel's study, though it took a few seconds for the trickster to bid them entry.
His japing smile sobered when he caught sight of Samahl'Din, and he instinctively reached for the carved chest, his eyes drawn to the elaborate designs adorning the top. Velahari only just caught the corners of his lips curling upwards, though even then, it was not a wholly-pleased smile. Like the guardian at the temple, Abelas, Fen'Harel's smile was tinged with sorrow even if it disappeared half a second later.
“Well?” Dorian's was the word to pierce the silence, and Fen'Harel lifted his gaze to the human, quietly assessing him with pensive eyes. “We did just go to the temple and retrieve that, you know – and not without taking a bit of damage ourselves,” Dorian indicated towards Velahari with a nod of his head, though Velahari waved it off as best she could.
“So I see,” Fen'Harel remarked crisply, his gaze sweeping over her briefly before returning to Dorian. “Do not worry, shemlen – I shall uphold my end of our bargain. But first, the matter of Falera and her betrayal must be addressed. Once that is done, I will focus all my energies on sending you both back.” The incline of his head that followed seemed stiff for some reason, though Samahl'Din turned then and gestured for them to follow him out of the trickster's study.
“Our healers can see to your wound,” Samahl'Din told Velahari once the door shut behind them quietly, and she nodded her gratitude before he told her of their location – out of the main structure, and nearer the kennels where the wolves slept at night...or rather, came back to after slipping out of Tarasy'lan te'las to run and stretch their legs since they had not seen battle in a long while.
When Velahari first stepped outside into the daylight, she'd despaired; Tarasy'lan te'las was massive, and finding the healers did not seem such an easy task as Samahl'Din intimated when he'd first described where they dwelled. It was tempting to try her hand at stitching the wound with her own magic, though if Dorian were right and it was already on its way to infection,the outcome would be decidedly less than pleasant. The flat of her palm pressed against the wound as she hissed out a quiet, pained sound, and she headed down the staircase and into the courtyard where elves practiced swordplay while some watched and called at them from the sidelines.
Perhaps it was more to steer clear of the loud crowd of elves, but Velahari slipped past them and down another set of stairs which led towards the outer courtyard where she and Dorian had first appeared and first been discovered. Only a few milled around by the gate, the guardians keeping watch undoubtedly cloaked and veiled by shadows - at the very least, their arrows were not trained on her – and she could breathe easier as she saw the kennels for the wolves, though it was not even remotely similar to what humans kept for their hounds back in her own time.
The smell of wet fur was overwhelming for a time, and Velahari very nearly missed a small, practically hidden doorway up another nearby staircase. She wondered idly if she would have been able to find such a place without leaving the main structure, though as she crossed the threshold inside, she was greeted by another elf, her amber eyes warm and her delicate face dotted with freckles. Long, black tendrils of hair curled around her shoulders and flowed past them to her waist, and the smile she gave Velahari caught her very much off-guard.
“Andaran atish'an,” came the hospitable greeting, and Velahari inclined her head respectfully before reciprocating and approaching slowly.
“I am Arlas,” she then introduced herself, her eyes sliding away from Velahari's to inspect the wound to her cheek instead. “I have heard much of you since your arrival, but please. I would not leave you in pain whilst I babble so.” She ushered Velahari into a chair a few moments later, her long, deft fingertips scouring across her table for whatever lay in one of the many mortars and a small vial filled with light green fluid.
“I appreciate your aid,” Velahari told her as Arlas returned, the redhead finally able to get a better glimpse at the other elf; despite the elves living forever, she could see the lines of the woman's face, even a few tints of grey in her otherwise inky black hair. It suited her, Velahari thought, though she winced away when the woman dabbed at her wound. Much like a mother would a child, Arlas attempted to suppress her indulgent smile before pressing onward, her motions remarkably gentle.
“At least you do not squirm so much – I cannot count how often I have had to attend to the Dread Wolf and he will not sit still,” Arlas sighed, though Velahari could see the fondly-exasperated expression crease her lips. “That was merely to disinfect,” she added at Velahari's inquisitive gaze, the redhead's lips parting in quiet understanding before nodding.
“I have a hard time picturing you tending to Fen'Harel,” Velahari remarked with a grin despite herself.
“Like a child he is – eager to move, eager to play or fight or overextend himself. I merely hope one day his actions do not prove more than my skill.” The tip of her finger slid across the long cut on Velahari's lower cheek – a poultice of some sort to keep it from becoming infected, most likely – and she nodded absently at her own work before finding a bandage and fitting it across smoothly and softly so as not to jar it from place or cause more pain. “I would recommend not removing the bandage until tomorrow at the earliest, da'len, but keep it on longer if you are able.” With that, Arlas stood and dipped her hands into a nearby basin of water as Velahari curiously lifted her hand to her face. “Don't,” Arlas instructed without even turning to look, green eyes snapping upwards at the instruction, equal parts fascinated and nervous.
Such was why Velahari appeared the following day at Arlas's doorstep, smile uncertain and hands tightly entwined behind the small of her back. At first, Arlas had merely gazed at her curiously, a dark eyebrow arching upwards before the pair fell into easy conversation, their laughter echoing off the stone walls and warming the room even more than the fire which flickered strongly in the hearth. When Velahari inquired about the wolves, Arlas appeared less certain.
“I am not bonded with one,” she explained, her smile almost sad – though Velahari was not about to pry. “Still, I don't see why they would try to keep us away, so long as we aren't attacking.” Despite the seriousness of the conversation, Arlas was smiling, and the two giggled quietly before slipping back outside and heading for the wolves' kennels.
The kennels were somewhat of a cross between stables for horses, a cave, and a forest clearing: there were visible stalls to keep some wolves away from the others – perhaps mothers about to give birth? – and no light was able to filter in through the wooden ceiling onto the leaf-covered ground. Wet fur proved a stronger scent inside, though it was an olfactory offense Velahari could set aside for the time being as she watched and observed quietly, taking care not to disrupt any of the creatures unnecessarily. Eventually, Arlas bid her farewell and returned to her own rooms, though Velahari lingered, somehow at ease with the supposedly feral beasts even as they eyed her warily and did not interact with her.
Dorian seemed unusually subdued after she returned, perhaps even cross when she'd knocked on the door adjoining their chambers; she frowned when he abruptly shut the door again, and that had been after she'd knocked half a dozen times in the first place. She did not succeed in earning an answer for him – either about what he'd gotten himself up to all day or why he seemed upset with her, and by the time she was awake the next morning, he was already gone.
Not long after, she paid another visit to Arlas who cheerily announced she could now remove the bandage. That had been somewhat of an ordeal, as the poultice had nearly glued to the bandage, but Arlas did manage to pry it off without tearing skin away in the process. Velahari had lingered with the healer perhaps an hour or two before an injured hunter appeared, blood trickling down the length of his arm as Arlas approached and tried to staunch the bleeding as best she could. At first, Velahari had tried to offer her assistance, though Arlas shook her head – she had it under control, so she claimed. It made Velahari frown, but she did not argue, as she did not want her arguing to mean the death of another, so she slipped out and headed instead for the wolves.
They seemed at the very least accustomed to her presence; one of the pure white wolves even sniffed her hand as she held it out, its eyes a bright, stark blue as it gazed curiously up at her. She had been able to feel the cool wetness of the creature's nose brush against her hand before it had drawn away, presumably thinking better of allowing one so unknown so close in such a short period of time. Velahari hid her disappointment, though she needn't have bothered considering the wolves would not be noticing regardless; her thoughts inevitably drifted to Dorian then, of why he seemed so distant, and of what awaited them once they returned home – the Breach, the rebel mages, Magister Alexius... and Solas. She had no doubt it would be difficult to see him again after meeting his younger counterpart, and part of her still wondered if her perception of one colored the other – perhaps it was an inevitability as well. They were, in essence, the same, were they not?
It made sense for Solas to keep his identity a secret: who would believe him? And if they were to believe him, then the elves would surely not want anything to do with him – the Dalish for believing he locked away their gods callously and maliciously, and the others for lack of knowledge regardless. Perhaps some even thought as Sera did: why look to the past for greatness when the future was so much more achievable? Still, that thought rankled; she could laugh and jest with Sera, but if their conversations ever muddled into the topic of elves, there was a schism between them Velahari would never attempt to bridge. Velahari did not want to dwell on a past that could not be recovered, but neither did she want to throw it away and discount it entirely: what good would that do?
“Ah, so here you are. Your companion Dorian did not know where you were, but Samahl'Din mentioned you visited the healer a few days ago. I take it you are none the worse for wear after your venture to Mythal's temple?”
The sound of another's voice startled Velahari, and she had to force herself to breathe evenly when she rightly identified the voice as Fen'Harel's.
“Arlas informs me I will live, but it will likely scar,” she murmured in a teasing reply, her lips twisting into a small albeit sly smile.
“Well, at least you will not forget your time spent here, then,” Fen'Harel replied just as slyly, grey eyes glittering with mischief.
“You honestly think I would have forgotten time traveling? I will not deny that my life has suddenly become more interesting of late, but even that is not something to be pushed to the side in favor of more exciting memories.” She stood slowly from where she'd propped herself against a wooden beam, hands flexing and back stretching idly. “So, is there any particular reason you've been searching for me?” It was with a conscious effort that she pushed away thoughts of what transpired after Falera had been caught and taken away, and the frankness of her question almost seemed to startle Fen'Harel – a nice change, if Velahari were to comment.
“I seem to recall telling you I would want it back once you returned,” he explained with a gesture towards the jawbone still very much hanging from her neck.
Even in her proper time Solas had worn this particular pendant; she hadn’t given it much thought at first, but now it made sense.“It is important to you,” Velahari whispered as her hands lifted to tug the leather cord over her head, the jawbone dangling against the side of her hand as she dropped it into his open and waiting palm. Fen'Harel did not answer verbally, though he did catch her gaze for a moment after she'd returned his totem. A softness seemed to spread across his face, a sincerity and heaviness that spoke volumes of how very true her words had been. She did not notice how breath seemed to catch in her throat, or how she couldn't quite seem to look away, though when he broke eye contact in favor of slipping the leather cord around his neck, she pointedly diverted her gaze, both ashamed and critical of her own weakness.
She grit her jaw as the nagging voice in the back of her mind came back with a vengeance to criticize - what did she think she was doing? Timing was the least of her trouble; what about his identify as the Dread Wolf? What of the fact that he would not remember and she would? Or how about the fact that she would be leaving for a future that did not contain this particular Dread Wolf?
She could have cursed herself for being lost in thought as long as she was; Velahari did not notice Fen'Harel approach until his bent forefinger slid across her skin gently, his lips tugged in a small frown as he took in her new pink and puckered scar that stretched across her cheek.
“I am sorry,” he murmured, eyebrows drawing together as he looked down into her eyes. “Were it not for me, you would not have been injured.” Even if Velahari knew that had precisely been why he'd sent them and not gone himself, she could not blame him – not after seeing so many expressions flitting across his eyes. It felt as though she were indulging: Fen'Harel did not often lower his guard, but he had for her twice now.
“What's done is done,” she told him gently, her lips a sympathetic smile. “Best not to dwell on the past.” Now if only I could take my own advice.
His gaze intensified, seemed to pin her in place after that, and while his finger did eventually move across her cheek, it was only so his hand could splay against her cheek and jaw instead, his skin unarguably warm against hers as he seemed to converse with himself inwardly – she could see the subtle shakes of his head and the not-quite movements of his lips as if he were speaking without them.
“I have never met anyone so selfless,” he finally whispered, his eyebrows drawing together as if such a conclusion baffled him. The pads of his fingertips smoothed across her face idly, one particularly hesitant digit lightly tracing the scar she would now wear as a tacit badge of honor, received in not only his name, but in the name of elven freedom. Such was not a mark he could not easily overlook, nor did it seem he intended – or wanted – to do so.
“You inspire me, and humble me, Lethal'lan. If you truly come from a world where the elves are freed, then perhaps my aspirations are not in vain, and my sacrifices are worthwhile.” His expression was soft, tender even, and Velahari's breath shuddered in her lungs when the tips of his fingers found a few rogue strands of hair and threaded between them curiously, deliberately.
“Perhaps it would be kinder in the long run,” he began with a slight shake of his head, his eyes fluttering closed and his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed uncertainly. “But losing you would...” the Dread Wolf's words seemed to trail off then, though she instinctively knew what he intended as he leaned closer. Instead of feeling trapped or afraid as she had before, however, there was nothing but warmth and tenderness between them, and when his eyes caught hers momentarily before he finished closing the gap, she did not flinch away or run, and that was all the affirmation he required.
Her heart was pounding when their lips finally slid together, his free hand curling at her waist and pulling her closer. The heat threatened to consume her, but as one of her own hands grazed upwards over his chest and earned a startled little sound from the back of his throat, she smiled against his lips and felt herself become more grounded. His tangled locks did not provide easy holds for her fingers even as they slid across his scalp, though from the quiet growls and rumblings her touches earned from the Dread Wolf, it seemed he did not mind – and neither did she.
When they broke apart for air, he was loathe to release her from his arms, though she managed to disentangle herself with a sad smile. “We shouldn't,” she told him in half a whisper, and even as she saw the distress come over his features, she felt her heart sinking. “I'm sorry.”
She shook her head as she abruptly turned on her heel and strode away, uncertain if she heard Fen'Harel calling out after her quietly as a light rain began to descend upon her.
She shouldn't have allowed it to happen in the first place – shouldn't have encouraged it when she knew it would only end in pain for both of them; such a thought had her stilling in place for a few moments, proverbially thunderstruck as she remembered how to remedy at least half of such a depressing situation.
It was not late even if the grey clouds in the sky made it seem so , though when Velahari returned to her chamber – unsurprised that Dorian was still noticeably gone – she slipped under the covers of her bed and willed herself into an easy sleep.
The Fade was a place Fen'Harel knew better than she ever would, and if she did not wish to be caught, she would have to act fast. That said, neither did she wish to alert every demon to her presence and slight vulnerability after what had just happened. Snuffing out the pain entirely would not be helpful in finding a spirit willing to help her, however - it would have to be one with a keen recognition of pain, and a will to alleviate it: Compassion.
Velahari watched as several spirits flitted past, their forms never staying the same for more than a single heartbeat.
“You shouldn't be here – it's dangerous.”
The disembodied voice seemed to echo around her as though they were in a vast chasm, and as Velahari turned to try and find the source of the sound, it spoke again. “I can heal your hurts, if you let me. It doesn't have to be this way – you could stay and help. The future is never set in stone; a single ripple can change everything.”
“But not always for the better,” Velahari replied ruefully as she turned back around, the spirit now across from her with two blank hollows in its otherwise amorphous body for eyes. “You are compassion?” she then inquired, and she heard the spirit chuckle quietly.
“It's been a very long time since anyone wanted to see Compassion. They're much more interested in the power Pride or Desire can give to them.” If the spirit had a face, she could almost see it smile sadly, though she did not offer comment – she had not come here to philosophize on the nature of spirits and the vices of mortals.
“There is someone hurting in the mortal realm, and I need you to shield away the painful memories for him once I return to my home.”
“The home that isn't a home,” the spirit replied as though it made sense, though before Velahari could continue, it pressed on. “The wolf that isn't a wolf, an elf who isn't an elf: he hurts, despairs at departure.”
The visceral way the spirit spoke made Velahari wince and frown, though she did not stop it – it was not incorrect, and she had only herself to blame for allowing this to happen in the first place. “Can you do this? Will you help me?”
“I can help,” the spirit assured her.
Velahari was jarred from her slumber rather abruptly the following morning, the sound of shouting at first an alarm that send her scrambling for her stave which had yet to be returned to her.
She breathed easier when she realized it had not been a cry of attack at all, and laid a hand on her chest as though it might ease the now-rapid beating of her heart. After wiping down her face with the water from the basin, she pulled on the rest of her armor before heading out of the room, intent on finding out what was the cause of such a ruckus.
Finding the source of the cacophony was no difficult feat, thankfully; she was scarcely able to slip into the main hall of Tarasy'lan te'las as elves crowded it until there was not even an inch of space between them all, and while she stood on tiptoes in an attempt to see over some heads, she eventually huffed and settled for ignorance – no one was willing to move to let her pass, and she quite suddenly felt rather short in comparison to the other elves assembled.
The mob abruptly quieted as someone began to speak, the tone obviously masculine though somehow still smooth and lilting as Elvish flowed from his tongue. Velahari could make out only a word for every six or so, though she did not miss when the elf declared Falera to the crowd, which took the opportunity to jeer. It took a great deal of maneuvering, though Velahari did finally manage to catch a glimpse of blond hair as Falera was led closer, presumably to whoever had spoken previously. Unlike many prisoners who might have kept their heads and gazes low so as to give off a sense of humility, Falera held her head high, her expression haughty even as the two burly elves escorting her jostled her between them infrequently.
What was perhaps more surprising was finally glimpsing Fen'Harel. The trickster sat at the end of the room, flanked on either side by Samahl'Din and another elf Velahari had never met. His chair was more akin to a throne, though she doubted he would appreciate her calling it such – he did not wish to be ruler over those he freed, that much she had discerned from her treks into the Fade and his memories of Tarasy'lan te'las. His elbow was propped up on the arm rest, his hand curled into a fist where he set his chin, his eyes dark and cunning and every bit as wild as his moniker – the Dread Wolf – implied.
Furs were draped over the back of his elaborate chair, bits of bone and rock and semi-precious jewels glittering in the sunlight that streamed inside from the high windows just behind him. As was typical, his chest was mostly bare save for the wolf pelt across his shoulders and the jawbone that hung around his neck, though his scars weren't visible – she was undoubtedly too far away from him to see them properly.
His posture spoke of belligerence, of arrogance and conceit, and the lazy smirk that crossed his lips did not seem to belong on the same person who'd come to her the previous day – softly, gently, soul bare and vulnerable, and who'd let her see more of him than perhaps most of those assembled in his stronghold. His hair seemed more red than brown, though that was undoubtedly the light – a subtle manipulation of the circumstances, seeing as red alluded to blood. Fen'Harel would not be so foolish as to miss an opportunity for such showmanship when it came to such a public display. His followers needed to see that betrayal would not be tolerated, not even from within the ranks of those closest to him.
“Falera.” His voice resounded in the hall, and the blonde's gaze found the trickster's with ease, even as it sneered in his direction and merely earned a grin from him in response. “Your guilt is not in question. You were caught red-handed, attempting to steal the orb – myorb - for your former master Falon'Din. If you have a defense, I would hear it.”
Velahari frowned at how Samahl'Din's expression twisted, though to his credit he did not falter – even if her own sympathy made her heart ache for him.
“I owe you nothing, Dread Wolf,” Falera spat, the disgust in her voice palpable; “You will fail – you will all fail, and no matter what becomes of me, I will laugh when that day comes to pass.”
“Will you?” Fen'Harel replied idly, grey eyes rolling. “Well then. If your desire is to run back to Falon'Din, who am I to stand in your way?” Falera's eyes had narrowed at him suspiciously, and with good reason: Fen'Harel's tone was much too pleased, too knowing, and the grin on his lips did not meet his eyes, which were as feral as Velahari had ever seen them.
“You are a greater fool than even I anticipated, Dread Wolf,” Falera remarked with a harsh laugh, though the sound twisted into a gasp of pain as one of the guards accompanying her harshly pulled her wrist around her back.
“Oh, I fully intend on letting you leave, but I made no claim that you would be able to tell your master anything useful of me or the goings-on here after you did so – if Falon'Din will even take you back after losing your vallaslin. He is not known for being a forgiving lord.” He inclined his head at one of the guards before they escorted Falera away and the crowd dissolved into quiet murmurs, the mob eventually dispersing enough for Velahari to breathe easily once more. Samahl'Din drew closer to Fen'Harel, a few strands of golden blond slipping past his ears as he bent his head closer to the trickster – though if he were pleased or upset at the outcome, Velahari could not venture a guess.
It was a tempting notion to traipse up to Fen'Harel, to greet him and smile and see how he reacted after their unhappy parting the previous evening, though after a final, bittersweet glance in his direction, she turned on her heel and headed for the same door she'd emerged from, intent on dressing more properly for the cold mountain air before she trekked down to the wolves once more. She supposed she ought to have expected someone waiting for her once she slipped into her bedchamber, though with how distant Dorian had been the past few days, she hadn't anticipated it would be him. He leaned against the end of her bedpost, arms crossed over his chest and lips pursed; his dark eyes lifted once he heard the door open, and instead of the amusement or warmth she had seen there quite frequently since their adventure through time, she saw anger and irritation, even accusation.
“I can't believe you didn't tell me – we could have lost our only way back home, and you didn't even tell me.”
Her heart sank at the tone of Dorian's voice, and her frown was met with a halfhearted glare; he'd apparently had enough time already to sift through his feelings on the matter so she'd at least be spared the brunt of his ire. “You chose helping a rebellion over saving the world, Velahari. No wonder Fen'Harel can't stay away from you – you're an easy pawn for him to manipulate!”
“That's enough!” she finally shouted, her shame and sympathy evaporating readily under Dorian's scrutiny. “Have you wondered what altering the course of history might do? What if humans ended up enslaved to the elves? Hmm? Would you be upset with me then?”
“Don't pretend this is about keeping history the same - you fancy Fen'Harel and wouldn't ever want to disappoint him!” Dorian shot back hotly, the mage pushing himself to his feet and staring down at the somewhat shorter Velahari.
“Maybe that's because he's freeing the elves, Dorian – not that you'd have any sympathy for their plight.”
Dorian audibly groaned in frustration at her implication, though he did not correct her. “I have more sympathy than you likely believe,” he finally murmured after a moment, shoulders sagging and all the fire in him from a moment ago dissipating. Velahari's scowl sobered into a frown, and for a few lingering moments, the pair allowed silence to settle between them.
“I have more sympathy than you might think, you know,” Dorian eventually repeated with a murmur as though he himself hadn't quite believed his earlier statement, his gaze lifting slowly from the ground to catch her own. “These past few days... I've spent them in the library, listening and speaking with Samahl'Din. He wasn't terribly pleased to have a human puppy eager at his heels, but he eventually indulged me,” Dorian explained, his smile slight and his gaze far off as he lifted his head completely. “Between reading me passages of theories on the Fade and magic, he answered a few questions of before his time spent with Fen'Harel and the rebellion.” Dorian resettled himself against Velahari's bedpost again, his hands falling into his lap as he averted his gaze once more – in shame, she wondered?
“This Falon'Din sounds positively dreadful. Arrogant, sadistic, all too ready to sacrifice his own if it meant advancement or power or an edge.” Dorian took a moment to shake his head, and Velahari took a step closer and then another, her hand reaching out for his shoulder. “I know that some magisters back home were bad, but if they're half as terrible as Samahl'Din described Falon'Din...” Dorian's voice trailed off then, and Velahari tilted her head slightly, lips curling into a light smile.
“You sound as though you've had a change of heart.”
“Perhaps I have,” Dorian finally informed her, his smile equal parts abashed and relieved. Before Velahari could respond, however, the door to her chamber opened and the pair glanced back towards the figure standing in the doorway, a dark eyebrow raised and an easy smile on his lips.
“I do hope I'm not interrupting,” Fen'Harel murmured silkily, though Dorian chuckled with a shake of his head and Velahari's eyes rolled with an unwitting grin. “Regardless, I thought it best to inform you both that the amulet has been fully restored to functionality. You should be able to leave on the morrow.”
“Truly?” Dorian sprang up from his seat and approached the trickster, his anticipation apparent as he waited for Fen'Harel to reveal the amulet. The pendant practically sizzled with latent magic now, more power than even before their first venture into the future. “Marvelous! Did you do this yourself?” Dorian inquired after a moment of inspection, and the self-satisfied grin on Fen'Harel's face was all the answer the human required.
Part of Velahari wanted to speak with him, wanted to mention watching Falera's sentencing earlier that day, though Fen'Harel excused himself only a few moments later, his grin sobering into a small smile when he glanced in her direction before loping out the door and leaving her alone with Dorian once more. Dorian had scarcely noticed – he was far too enthralled with the amulet to pay Velahari much attention, though as he returned to her side and attempted to garner the same amount of enthusiasm from her as he himself felt, he finally noticed the expression on her face and slid the amulet down into one of his pockets for safe-keeping.
“You really do care for him don't you, this Dread Wolf?”
She was frowning when she turned her gaze towards him, with more than a few reasons and logical arguments for why her feelings didn't matter or couldn't matter or were borne of a foolish crush and a stupid girl, though Dorian instead shook his head.
“You should go to him – you know you'll regret it if you don't,” he finally informed her, eyes incredibly sincere.
“I'll regret it if I do,” she told him wearily, even if she did glance towards the door.
“If I've learned anything, it's this: I've only ever regretted things I didn't do over things I've done.” His hand squeezed her lower arm gently as if in reassurance, and though Velahari swallowed her arguments with a slightly tremulous breath. She finally nodded and headed for the door, wholly uncertain about nearly everything save for Dorian's words which continued to echo in her ears, driving her forward and filling her with at least slight confidence.
WARNING!!! This chapter contains Explicit NSFW material of a sexual nature. I did not use that rating for the entire story since it only applies to this chapter, but be forewarned! Read ahead only if you're comfortable with explicit material.
Such confidence began to lag once she slipped out into the corridor, however.
It was almost eerily quiet, a stark contrast to earlier that morning when the crowds had jeered at Falera, and Velahari could almost hear her heart pound with every step she took. More than once she paused and hesitated, nearly turning a handful of times, though once she rounded a corner and passed through a few doors, her flagging confidence seemed to return – at least enough so for her to continue.
Many still lingered in the corridors as the sun began to dip towards the horizon, murmuring in hushed tones about Falera's earlier debacle and their subsequent disbelief that she'd been the mole – her, one of Fen'Harel's most trusted. At the very least, Velahari found herself surprised she had not been accused of besmirching Falera's name, though she supposed a great deal of her credibility had been due to Samahl'Din and his lack of opposition. Her thoughts wandered briefly to the budding friendship between him and Dorian, and while her thoughts were awash with questions she would later have to pose to Dorian, they seemed to all-but-melt away when she finally found herself lingering in front of Fen'Harel's door. The barrier was deceptively simple even as Velahari could feel the protective wards and magics sliding across its surface and beyond.
What am I doing here?
Whatever came of this encounter would only add to the pain, and Velahari turned away, lips pursed and hands tense at her sides. She had come all this way, and she wasleaving on the morrow - and Dorian did have a point; would she regret leaving without saying a proper goodbye? She swallowed away her nervousness before approaching the door again, her hand curling into into a fist as it lifted to knock. Before it made contact, however, her arm faltered and she breathed out heavily.
No decision she had ever made thus far in her life had been so difficult, and she lost track of how many minutes she stood there, hand hovering though never touching, never moving.
I should just go, Velahari finally decided with a tacit nod, though as she turned to leave, another blocked her way. It was the same smile, the same damned smile that greeted her, and Velahari couldn't fumble out an excuse swiftly enough to get away.
“Lethal'lan,” Fen'Harel murmured with an incline of his head, his expression knowing and mischievous. “What brings you here?”
What brings you to me?
“I...thought to say a proper goodbye,” she informed him, lips twisting into a small frown.
“Oh?” Her answer dimmed his smile, even managed to bring something softer and more thoughtful to his gaze as he tilted his head at her. “And what, pray tell, constitutes a 'proper goodbye'?” There was no jest in his tone, merely genuine curiosity, and Velahari found herself waffling under his gaze: a stormy grey bordering on blue, though she didn't dare believe she was the reason for it. Her silence must have gone on too long, for Fen'Harel hummed out a hm, as though anticipating her answer.
She didn't have one. There had never once been an instance in her life where she knew a goodbye would be the last, that she would never again see someone, and the goodbye would be the last memory she ever had of them. Nothing seemed quite good enough.
“Thank you,” she finally found herself speaking, and judging from the furrowing of Fen'Harel's brows, he had not expected to hear such a thing from her. “It is doubtful we would be going home so swiftly or smoothly without your aid.” Velahari hadn't intended her words to sound distancing, as though trivializing their time spent together in more than simply a familiar or friendly capacity, and she could see the trickster's dissatisfaction manifest behind his eyes until it dragged down his lips into a frown.
Her eyes darted away, gaze falling to the ground as she inclined her head and made to slide past him before she did something she could not undo.
“Don't go.” His whisper was scarcely audible, though his fingers reached out and curled around her arm lightly, neither harsh nor imploring. He clearly wanted to ensure she retained her choice even then, not for her to be swayed or coerced by him even if it were a tempting option. Her jaw set tightly, her teeth settling into the skin inside her bottom lip, and even as her heart pounded, she knew that if she looked back, she would lose all her resolve.
Velahari would never know the precise motivation or impulse that had her glancing up at him from the corner of her eyes, but such was not a thought she long dwelled upon as her hands slid to either of his cheeks and he drew her closer into his arms. She gasped quietly when her shoulders slid back against the panels of his door, his knee coaxing her own gently apart before slipping between them and pressing tightly upwards. Any subsequent sounds she thought to make were greedily consumed as his lips pressed against hers, desperate and devouring and deep; any degree of hesitance or tenderness had been tossed by the wayside – left behind as Fen'Harel soon would be, and Velahari could little fault him for it.
He pried her lips apart with his tongue as a hand slid from her waist and up the contours of her back, his free hand reaching and fumbling for the door handle even as he pulled back to suck in much-needed breaths of air. Her hands lingered at the base of his neck, the tips of her fingers curling upwards toward his jaw and the base of his ears as she attempted to even out her breathing as well. She inhaled swiftly when the door moved out from under her shoulderblades, though Fen'Harel kept her firmly in place against him, his smile readily noticeable against her cheek as his warm breath fanned out against her flushed skin.
The breathless chuckles that followed made her swallow solidly, and she caught his eyes only just before his hand returned to her hip and slid downwards over the swell of her backside; she had not forgotten the leg situated between her own, and already she could feel heat pooling low in her belly where his thigh pressed. His hand flitted down over her back, lightly tucking in to her waist before sliding down and over the back of her thigh; he hefted her up and into his hold as though she weighed nothing at all, and her hands clambered for support around his neck, a few guilty gasps slipping past her lips as his fingers began to knead and massage as he moved.
Not once had Velahari seen the interior of Fen'Harel's bedchamber, and it seemed now would be no exception; the moment he allowed her freedom from his touch as he laid her on his bed, he instead hovered in her line of sight, conflicted and uncertain and wholly uncharacteristic of the Fen'Harel she'd come to expect while in his company. His hesitance did not alleviate the fever she felt spreading across her skin, however, and she sat upright before initiating their next kiss, her hands entwining in his long, twisted tendrils of auburn. He growled against her lips in return, the trickster caught off guard only for a moment before resuming his previous onslaught with a ferocity that might have frightened her in a different scenario.
His hands mapped over every crevice and indentation of her body, even clothed as it was, in something of a frenzy, likely because he knew now would be his one and only chance, and he was not about to let the opportunity slip from his fingers. She gasped and moaned quietly from the feverish touches, even let her hands drag over his chest, across his sides and down his back before Fen'Harel's impatience won over and she felt his callused fingertips slipping under the fabric of her clothing. Velahari jolted under the first of the touches, and while she expected him to smirk, he did pause in their kiss to smile against her mouth, though it was not smug - it was fond and soft, tender even, and while she indeed noticed his attempts at slowing for her sake, he was not able to manage it as entirely.
Goosebumps rippled across her belly when her tunic was stripped away and tossed over Fen'Harel's shoulder; she shuddered at the colder air, though it little helped matters when the trickster turned his attention to her bared skin. Her heart skipped a beat as his tongue swiped across his lips in a decidedly hungry manner, though she should have anticipated it as he bent his head down and began to nip and taste curiously. His eyes glanced upwards from the breathless groan he heard shudder from her lungs; her head had tilted back, white throat bare, and her lips remained parted, both to breathe more easily and to let out more sounds of approval and encouragement – not that Fen'Harel required them.
His lips trailed upwards over her breastbone, stray locks of hair slipping over his shoulders and tickling the bare skin they touched. The hand he'd used to steady himself already began to tremble under his own weight, the other settling at the top of her thigh which earned a quiet albeit ragged gasp of surprise. He glossed over the material band covering her breasts to instead busy himself with her collarbones, the sides of her neck and the dip of her chin – perhaps this was his one chance to be with her, but he would not be satisfied until she bore the marks, it seemed. It was a realization that came belatedly, and Velahari was surprised it came at all as his thumb began to rub slow, small circles at her hip: precisely where the leg and thigh met, and the tender bit of skin was incredibly sensitive, even covered still as it was.
She was appreciative of the attention, truly, but a fire burned just below her skin, and all his actions now seemed to incite was a further need to have more. Her hands trembled as they found his face and dragged it towards her own, one of her knees bending and sliding upwards until her foot was flat and she heard him groan a quiet sound against her. His eyes were dilated when they stared down at hers, more blue than grey, and though she yearned to speak, her throat was dry. Fen'Harel did not seem to need her words, though. Their next kiss was brutal, and as he drew her bottom lip between his own, there was a moment where she lost herself fully to the sensation – especially so when his hips pressed down onto hers for only a moment.
It was Fen'Harel who let out a garbled sound when Velahari pressed upwards and arched her hips, her heart pounding in tandem with the white-hot desire currently balling itself inward and more tightly in her gut with each passing moment. The hand previously at her thigh made its way upwards until it found the hem of her trousers, and while she could see the impatience spreading his features in concentration, he did eventually manage to push the material far enough down to reach what it was he sought. Her feet kicked off the fabric as it bunched at her ankles, her hands settling at his sides and flattening against his back mere moments before curling against his skin and lightly dragging in response to the motions of his head and his hands.
His lips had returned to the base of her neck as a curious, probing finger slipped easily into her slick folds, and her quiet gasp was eclipsed completely by the deep shudder that raked down Fen'Harel's back. When next she dared to peek open her eyes, he was staring down at her, his gaze somehow both feral and heartfelt as it burned into her skin and ensured she would never forget this moment. Next came movement, and with it a strange friction that Velahari hadn't yet decided if she liked or not; it did not pain her, certainly, and the distraction of Fen'Harel's teeth tugging at the band across her breasts was enough for him to slip another finger alongside the first. She stiffened at the additional stretch, at the rush he seemed to be in, but the movement did not increase – in fact, if anything, he'd begun pressing inward more slowly, as though he'd been acutely aware of her relative inexperience and discomfort.
It was a short-lived discomfort. When he'd first begun, the overwhelming heat had threatened to consume her fully, but had since died down even if she were still keenly aware of his groin pressing against her hip as he attended to her – a selfless act she wouldn't forget. Warmth came flooding back as the material of her breast band finally gave way under the sharp points of his teeth, the sudden whoosh of air and slip of fabric flying earning a rather giddy smile from her, a smile that did not escape his notice. Velahari had not anticipated forgetting her sorrow when she'd first come to see Fen'Harel, but as he returned her smile and nudged her nose with his own in a manner similar to the wolf who'd earlier nosed her hand for attention, it was left in the back of her mind.
Her giddy smile disappeared when Fen'Harel turned his attention to yet more newly-bared skin, and her moans echoed across the inside of his chamber as he simultaneously increased the pace of his fingertips and lapped hot, teasing circles around her nipples. It was not long after he'd sucked one in between his lips that she began to beg him: to stop, to keep going, to never stop. . . her words were but mindless pleas on her tongue, and Fen'Harel, while undoubtedly enjoying her words, had no intention of leaving her without for long.
Otherwise pale skin was flushed pink when he pulled back long enough to look at her, her chest heaving as she attempted to breathe through the onslaught of sensations, though he allowed her only a moment to regain such breath before he kissed a trail down her belly, past her navel, and to her hips. She cried out wantonly when he pulled his fingers away, though he drew something similar from her when his lips and tongue instead replaced his nimble digits. Her feet flattened once more on his bed, knees bent and toes curling into the blanket beneath her; soft yet insistent fingertips threaded as best they could through his hair, and her hips strained under his hands as he tasted her with slow, deliberate swipes of his tongue.
Her loud cries and sharp inhalations of breath only increased in frequency as he continued until a particularly loud one warned him that she was not far. If anything, however, his resolve seemed to spur him onwards until she felt control slipping from her fingertips altogether. Climax swept over her in a mad rush: heat and tension and desire unwinding from the coil low in her belly until she settled back against the bed, utterly boneless and sated. She could feel her heart pounding against the inside of her rib cage when the euphoria slowly began to wear off, her body curiously numb as the heat began to dissipate. It was a challenge to find the energy required to open her eyes, though when she did, Fen'Harel's gaze was upon her: watching, assessing, drinking in the details of her face after such an intimate moment.
She willed her arm to move, for her hand to reach out for his face and draw him closer, but the limb refused to obey – the capability of movement had not yet returned to her. As she regained her energy, Fen'Harel shrugged off the furs covering his shoulders, a slight yet still noticeable quiver to his movements that belied his own condition. The minute shift of his hips against her sent something fluttering in her belly, and when she saw his hand dip down to the cords holding his trousers at his waist, her hand stilled his in place, her smile crooked and lazy as his eyes lifted to meet hers and his Adam's apple bobbed uncertainly.
His own hands were tremulous under her touch despite how light her touches were, and he hissed quietly as the material pooled around his hips and he pushed the infuriating fabric away, clearly impatient and irritated. She giggled quietly at the crease in his brow before he settled over her, lips bruising against hers and hips sliding together shamelessly. There was a certain tension to Fen'Harel's movements, Velahari noticed, though she could hardly blame him, not after he'd given her release and not himself. Venturing hands slipped up the contours of his chest: over the slightly-puckered skin of his scars and the muscles which contracted as she did so.
The groan he released from her touches was pitiful and low, and with a singular glance back at her, it became clear he was through waiting; he had already been far more patient with her than even he'd likely anticipated. She was still sore from how his fingers had stretched her, but this was something else entirely, and her jaw clenched from the first moment he pressed inside of her. It was with measured, even breathing that she found herself relaxing, though a moment later found her crying out gently as his hands found purchase on her hips and he gently maneuvered them so she straddled his hips instead.
He looked up as she settled on top of him, his hands on her hips and content for the moment to let her remain there; her own had found his shoulders as she braced herself, the new angle and sudden stretch not an entirely pleasant surprise at first. Her fingernails dug lightly into his skin as seconds that felt more like hours passed, a few beads of sweat collecting at her brow before slipping down her neck. Experimentally, she rocked her hips and in the very same instance let out a breathless moan before Fen'Harel dared move his own as well. His thrusts were shallow and easy, a slow rhythm that undoubtedly would not last long no matter his endurance. Several moments passed before Velahari began to move in a blind attempt at joining the motion, and such was when they began to move in almost a singular rhythm – before Fen'Harel's control slipped and Velahari began to cry out in earnest.
Several new rows of goosebumps fluttered down her skin as his lips sought out her neck and begun to kiss and suck intermittently, sending bursts of heat ricocheting down her spine until it felt as though she might very well explode. Her cries came more frequently, and all else seemed to blur from her perception save for Fen'Harel beneath her, just as inarticulate and unrestrained as Velahari herself felt. A familiar tightening in her gut warned of what was coming half a second before she reached climax, and once she felt the same heightened euphoria from before, she scarcely even noticed Fen'Harel's teeth clamping down into her neck as he, too, found his end through the blind rush and frenzy through which he'd led them.
She sagged against him then, breath warm and quiet against the base of his neck as his hand lingered at the small of her back. A smile twitched at her lips at the thought that he worried she might flee, and she pressed a light kiss to the underside of his jaw as almost a tacit reassurance. She groaned quietly when she felt him slip out of her, and while she could not see his face, she felt rather self-assured he'd grinned at the sound even as silence settled around them. Sleep was tempting, Velahari discovered as she curled against his chest, his skin warm and the beating of his heart more comforting than she might have thought. Just as her eyes flickered shut and she felt herself relax completely against him, he pressed a light kiss to the top of her head, his hands holding her more firmly – as though he were afraid of letting her go. Velahari frowned, though when Fen'Harel spoke, it seemed to shock the expression from her lips.
“In this. . . future,” Fen'Harel began slowly, fingers curling lazily against her spine and twining a few tendrils of her hair. “Do you have someone?” He did not sound angry, but there was a hesitance to his tone that belied how little he might like the answer he anticipated.
“Not exactly,” Velahari murmured after a moment, her head lifting from his chest until she rolled to his side, simultaneously glad for the cooler air and missing the warmth of his body against hers. The look he wore seemed confused, and prompted Velahari to elaborate with a quiet chuckle and shake of her head. “There is someone, but I doubt he even knows.” Her smile was subdued and small, and Fen'Harel lifted an eyebrow at her explanation, though before he could probe deeper, she interrupted. “What of Samahl'Din?”
In truth, it felt as though she were stepping on sensitive territory, and she had little desire to be shut out into the corridor for her troubles. Mercifully, Fen'Harel's expression twisted and morphed several times before settling on a grim smile. “Samahl'Din is devoted, and he is strong, but I freed him from his shackles,” Fen'Harel murmured, eyes holding Velahari's gaze. “I would never take advantage of one who felt as though he owed me loyalty. I do not want to be anyone's superior in such a... sensitive relationship.”
Perhaps his response should not have surprised her, but it did, and Fen'Harel almost flinched when her hand cupped the side of his face. At first he appeared shocked, though his eyes searched her face for the answers he sought before something else prompted him to speak.
“Your vallaslin – I have not asked. They are not slave markings?”
Her expression turned stony for a moment, irritation raking through her unabashedly, though he did have a point – how was he to know, even as she'd never shown the temperament of a slave?
“No. They are. . . a rite of passage. Those of my clan wear them with pride, our heads held high in reverence to the gods.” Such an explanation understandably baffled the trickster, who blinked curiously at Velahari.
“You would venerate gods who yoked others in servitude and slavery – to be sacrificed or used as pawns with no regard for their health or safety? No say in the matter of their own lives?” Anger was prevalent in his tone, and Fen'Harel's nostrils flared at his second rhetorical question.
Truly, she could not answer him, not without giving away happenings in the future that were not for him to know. When he realized she would not be divulging more, he merely sighed, a hand lifting to smooth back the wild strands of auburn that were sticking upwards from sweat and Velahari's own fingertips.
“I could remove them,” he then offered quietly, gently, his fingers gently brushing her cheek. “As I did with Samahl'Din, and so many others.”
She could not deny the allure of removing markings that at one time had been nothing more than a god's branding upon her people, but returning to the future without her vallaslin would draw unnecessary attention – specifically from the one person whose memories she was trying to shelter from this. “Thank you, but no. I appreciate the offer, but I don't know how I would explain the loss of them to my comrades once I return.”
Once more, they were both reminded of her imminent departure, and Fen'Harel merely nodded reluctantly, his hands reaching for her waist until she was flush against him and his eyes closed as his forehead knocked gently against her own. Her hand settled at the curve of his waist, and sleep was blissfully easy to find while slumbering in his arms even as her mind was heavy with the burden of what she must do.
Her sleep was disturbed only once in the Fade, by the same spirit she'd originally sought out; it seemed disquiet, and if it had a face, she imagined it would be frowning at her.
“He loves you,” it stated, voice torn and compassionate and so very sad Velahari could feel the residual sorrow welling up within her – as though she needed more. “He loves you, and you love him, and you're leaving.” The spirit sounded genuinely distraught and upset, though before Velahari could interrupt, it continued. “Why?”
“I'm needed elsewhere,” she informed it grimly, the Anchor on her hand pulsing once as though it might be more convincing.
“You don't want to leave,” it then pointed out, and Velahari nearly flinched from the bald-faced truth flung at her.
“I must. I do not have a choice.” She was frowning, and her heart was heavy, but she was resolved.
“You always have a choice,” spoke the spirit, though even as Velahari's lips parted to reply, it was gone.
Velahari awoke to soreness and a tautness of muscles in the backs of her legs and between them she'd never felt before. She grimaced as she moved her hips, though she was veritably trapped in Fen'Harel's arms, her back to his chest and his nose at the nape of her neck and blowing warm, ticklish breath against the sensitive area.
With a deep inhale, Velahari gingerly moved the arm currently curled around her waist and slid far enough away for him to release her. Bending to retrieve her clothing was one of the greatest challenges she had thus far faced, and as she turned back to the slumbering trickster to kiss his brow one final time, she blinked down at him, fully awake and so incredibly apprehensive he looked as though he were just then understanding that she was leaving and he would not see her again.
She attempted to give him a smile, but even then, she could feel pressure behind her eyes and the tears that would follow pricking the corners. Even as she tried to think of something to say, she knew she'd never be able to get it out – her throat was dry, emotions too high to speak without tearing up or leaving her a sobbing mess.
His hand slid smoothly to her wrist when she turned her gaze away and towards the door, effectively holding her in place as he murmured the unimaginable plea and confession all in a single breath undoubtedly spurred onward from sleep and desperation.
“Don't go. Stay with me – in this time.” When she turned to him with a trembling frown, he redoubled his efforts and held onto her wrist more firmly. “I love you, Velahari – not once have I ever encountered anyone like you. Please. Don't leave me.”
I can't be hearing this. Her teeth dug into the flesh of her bottom lip before she extricated her hand from his grip and slipped out into the corridor, her cries echoing off the walls as she fled as swiftly as she dared.
Every step seemed harder to take than the previous one, but still Velahari struggled onward, tears firmly pressing against her eyes though she refused to let them slide down her cheeks.
Already she could feel regret settling in her belly like a heavy stone, and no matter what she might have tried to rid herself of it, it did not abate. Gritting her jaw, she forced away the tears until she was no longer in fear of losing her composure, and headed for her chamber where nothing but cold ashes in the hearth and an empty bed awaited her. Any desire to socialize was gone, even if leaving without a farewell to Arlas or the wolves made something within her chest twinge uncomfortably – as though she were being ungrateful and rude at not doing so. Perhaps she could have Samahl'Din or Fen'Harel pass along her thanks and well wishes.
As she'd anticipated, the fireplace was bare when she stumbled into her chamber, and predictably, Dorian's quiet snores were the only true sound she heard as she fell into a heap on her mattress, her fingers reaching for the blanket more out of comfort than any sort of physical warmth. At first, she feared falling asleep, feared dreaming of phantasms that took on Fen'Harel's form and begged her once more to remain with him and forsake the grim future from which she'd originally come. Fighting away her fatigue did nothing but strip of her the very strength which kept her conscious, however, and so she eventually succumbed to her exhaustion borne more of mental than physical exertion.
The Spirit was there, as though it had been awaiting her, and when it inevitably offered to take away her pain, to heal her hurts, she declined – this was a pain she needed to remember. It informed her when it felt her mind straining towards consciousness once more, and promised yet again to fulfill its promise to her: to conceal Fen'Harel's memories of her and in so doing relieve him of his pain. Perhaps, one day, he would be ready to remember, but thousands of years of pain was not something she cared to inflict upon him.
When her green eyes finally opened slowly, it was to Dorian lightly shaking her shoulder, his expression a small, understanding smile. She found it more difficult to push down the overwhelming slew of emotions that seemed to erupt within her then, and even as she pushed them back down in an attempt to snuff them out completely, Dorian rubbed slow, soothing circles on her back before she shook her head and made to stand.
“Come. We've been offered a safe place to conduct the ritual. Hopefully with no demons clawing after us every second we'll end up in the correct place this time,” Dorian japed softly, his words earning a grudging smile and quiet chuckle from Velahari before he moved back and allowed her space to maneuver. Her feet shuffled over the side of the bed and to the floor slowly, a hand lifting to wipe the sleepiness from her eyes; her heart still felt incredibly heavy, though she gave Dorian a wry smile before standing and extending a hand for her stave – they had been returned sometime during the night, and Dorian had already been clipping his to the back of his armor.
Dorian led her to the same small library which housed Fen'Harel's eluvian, and she supposed she ought not have felt so surprised that Fen'Harel awaited them with Samahl'Din, the trickster leaning against a desk with a book propped open on his thigh – it was clear he was not reading, however. His hands did not move to turn pages, and his eyes did not waver from their original position. Velahari almost felt guilty for disturbing them, though Samahl'Din straightened when he caught sight of them, and that movement caught Fen'Harel's attention.
“I suppose it is time,” Dorian was the one to speak, and Velahari nearly missed the soft smile he exchanged with Samahl'Din.
“Before you leave, I have something for you,” Samahl'Din spoke up then, and he stepped forward before revealing a thin book which he handed to Dorian. “It was all I had time to translate. Use it well.”
Dorian had spoken with Samahl'Din earlier – had ensured the elf would never bring up their arrival at Tarasy'lan te'las after Fen'Harel's memories were altered, and would ensure others did the same. They could never have hoped to wipe the memories of every elf there. It was then that Dorian retrieved the amulet, and the quiet chanting of the spell fell from his lips – so softly Velahari had to strain to hear it, even while standing at his side.
You're certain you will not change your mind? You will not be swayed to remain? Fen’Harel’s eyes seemed to convey the words he dared not to speak, not again; still, it did not make her choice any easier. When the portal opened, both Fen'Harel and Samahl'Din winced away from it, though there was a curiosity in their expressions as well.
“Come. We must get through before it closes.” Dorian's hand was insistent on her arm, and she nodded at him steadfastly; he did not move towards the portal – he was likely unwilling to go through without her at his side.
She exchanged one final, longing gaze with Fen'Harel before stepping into the swirling green mists, and the stone beneath her feet did not appear to change before they appeared at the other end of the portal.
“You're alive.” Velahari heard Solas gasp behind her, though before she could focus her attention on him -
“Alexius.” Her tone was dark and angry, and while Dorian made a humorous gibe in the magister's direction, it was Velahari who indicated the Inquisition forces take the man away.
During all the excitement, Velahari had nearly forgotten their purpose in Redcliffe in the first place: to recruit the mages. Fiona stepped out from behind a pillar once she discerned she was no longer in danger, though soldiers Velahari did not recognize halted her in her tracks as a pair dressed in rich robes and silks came closer, their expressions nonplussed.
While the royals spoke with Fiona, however, Velahari's gaze wandered over her shoulder at Solas who peered at her with a small, enigmatic smile; there may have been relief in his eyes if she were an apt reader of his more subtle expressions, though that was all – no recognition, no sign that he remembered her from so long ago. Somehow, the thought left her both relieved and intensely disappointed.
“You have abused our hospitality, and even had the audacity to throw my uncle, Arl Teagan, out of his own arling. We want you gone from Ferelden - now.” King Alistair did not mince words as to his feelings, and Queen Anora seemed to share them wholeheartedly, given her expression.
“But where will we go?” Grand Enchanter Fiona murmured, her tone suffused with supplication.
Velahari wasn’t certain was drove her forward, though the Herald took a step closer to the angry royals and the leader of the free mages nonetheless. “The Inquisition needs the aid of the mages in sealing the Breach, Grand Enchanter.”
Fiona turned abruptly when Velahari spoke, her expression grateful and surprised in equal measure. “And what are the terms of this arrangement?” Fiona then inquired, her expression wavering between skeptical and hopeful.
Velahari spared only a brief glance backward towards her companions before replying. “We would welcome the mages as allies, and all that entails. Please, join us.”
It was several days later by the time Velahari made it back to Haven, and truth be told, it was almost too surreal. She’d only just become accustomed to life in the ancient empire, and now she had to return to a place where elves were second-class and humans were content to leave them there.
More than simply the atmosphere, however, was the almost strained air when she spoke to Solas. She’d actively made excuses to get away from his company on their journey back to Haven, and while she did feel guilty about it, she couldn’t yet shake the memory of Fen’Harel - even as she knew Solas was noticing her imposed distance from him.
“Have I offended you in some way?” Solas’s question and sudden appearance caught Velahari off-guard, the pair idling just outside the Chantry as night began to descend around Haven.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Velahari replied, her lie an obvious one even to her own ears. His lips tightened at her response, eyes hardening tellingly; her lies were incredibly transparent, and just as his lips parted to speak yet again, scouts were sounding the alarm at the gate. The pair exchanged a glance before rushing for the door, their conversation all but forgotten as they readied themselves for what was to come.