Chapter 1: Chess
He remembered laughter. He remembered delight. He remembered people that stood as his equals in power. He remembered friends.
He remembered the best of them, cut down by the Evanuris.
There was a time when magic was wondrous. There was a time when the limits seemed endless, the bounds of spirits tight and flowing. When ones’ magic could shape the world through careful study and contemplation.
He remembered how everything he knew and loved fell to pieces, and how he destroyed all that was good and wonderful left in the world.
Solas sighed, leaning his head back and staring up. His head ached from thoughts circling in his mind. Ever busy, ever muttering. There is something thrilling about being able to be with people again. They are not his, indeed, the only other elf in the Inquisitors inner circle appears to distain of what she is and has no interest in her roots. But somehow this hodgepodge of individuals the Inquisitor picked up feel…
Perhaps it is because he had isolated himself so long. He hadn’t been able to bare walking with his people. To see what he had reduced them to. Not that they had welcomed him back with open eyes. The Dalish stubborn minds still grate against Solas’s memories and patience. Solas bit back a sigh, flipping open a book on his desk to a random page. He wasn’t so conceited to put all the blame on his shoulders… but still. Who’d created the Veil? Who’d made mages so feared? Who’d caste them into this time of darkness and ignorance where the voice of a dwarf drew more stimulating conversation than he’d had in over a hundred years.
A dwarf who sided with another Child of Stone to bring down a pure spirit to mortal bindings. Changing not just Cole’s nature, but the very essence of what he was.
Solas slammed the book closed much louder than he had intended to. He could see a couple of eyes peak over the railing and decided he should take a walk, at least out to the gardens to clear his head.
The hall was crowded in diplomats. Silly humans, for the most part, dressed in finery and masks. All danced around each other with words and discrete actions. All had different eccentricities. Some played their games with quick wits and clever minds. Some steamed rolled over decorum and asserted themselves directly. Some seemed all the more baffling in their eccentricities that won out through sheer charisma. And most were just bores.
There was a moment when Solas was tempted to stop moving. To join them in their games and gossip and petty livery. To move the world with people that seemed too removed to be anything but useless to the common man. But then he kept walking. There was a time when court and intrigued had him whispering and manipulating. When tricks and idle gossip in the right ear had been as deadly as a knife to him.
But he had forsaken that. He had no mask, no shoes, no fancy dress.
He was an apostate mage. One removed from all this petty politics and whining.
The air was fresh in the garden. Solas took a deep breath in, feeling the fresh air circulate and clean his lungs. Perhaps he should have headed for a breath of fresh air sooner. After all, the paints were strong in smell and even now made his head spin with their smells if he worked with them for too long, but sometimes he simply forgot how a deep breath of fresh air rejuvenated him. Solas loved people, but in his self-imposed exile taught him to love his solitude. To be outside, to walk unbeaten paths, to become closer and closer to the spirits that had once been so easy to find in the past.
The plants the Inquisitor tried to grow had gone to weed. They were shriveled and pathetic, but she tried. She was rough and hard, but thoughtful and kind. Solas could hear the chantry voices echoing in her gardens, always speaking prayers with Mother Giselle always seeming so proud, almost smug as she watched over every person who entered her domain. Not that she was unkind, but she was steadfast sure in her ways. And the Inquisitor, despite being a dwarf, seemed a genuinely devote Andastrian.
At first, Solas had thought her proclamation of her belief that she was indeed the Herald of Andastre to be an act to make people love her. To use that belief made in the confusion of the explosion and twist it to make her into an agent of a false God. But Solas had seen the Inquisitor have moments of doubt. Especially after walking in the Fade a second time. He had heard her discuss with Mother Giselle her confusion over herself and her Maker. He’d heard her on their trips out of Skyhold, talking with her friends until she had reconfirmed her faith. There were other signs that was just devote, not someone who chose to pretend.
How could she believe in the Maker? To her, how could that god give her meaning?
“Solas?” Solas turned to see Dorian waving him over. Commander Cullen sat on the other side of the table. They must have been playing one of their games of chess. “Been able to drag yourself away from your contemplation of the fade? Come, you can play the winner.”
“Actually,” said the Commander, even as Solas allowed himself to wander toward his companions. The constant prayers to the Maker always made him uncomfortable. It’s not that he was against the idea of Gods, he understood that they were important tools for some people. But still… “I think you’ll have to play the loser. I’m afraid that I see a runner coming to call me to the War Table.”
It was true, when Solas turned he could see the Runner signaling Commander Cullen and then slipping away.
“How did you win?” asked Dorian, looking down at the chess with an unflattering expression of surprise.
“I let you cheat,” said Cullen, smirking as he stood and carefully walked down the couple of steps. He nodded to Solas as he passed. “Perhaps we can play another time.”
“Perhaps,” said Solas, nodding back. He felt almost drawn to the board. He could make some excuse to leave. Dorian would complain, but it wasn’t like Solas was known for being social. “How did you get cornered like that?”
“I think some of the pieces were jostled,” muttered Dorian. Solas found himself chuckling, but he sat down and watched as Dorian rearranged the board.
Dorian didn’t immediately start chatting, which surprised Solas. He’d only been out on a few excursions with the Altus. The Inquisitor preferred to take groups with another warrior, a mage, and a rogue. She also preferred Cole, Iron Bull, and Dorian in her group. Not that Solas didn’t get out, about half the time he or Dorian would be chosen.
Still, in the Emerald Graves, deep in the cave when the group had become used to working together again and were just exploring the area, the Inquisitor had decided toad Solas to make their number five. Solas had been surprised as well as the rest as there was a common theory going around that the Inquisitor liked sets of four because she only ever took three other people with her unless she didn’t have a choice, and then she would complain about it for days later and look genuinely concerned she’d had to take more than her three chosen.
But still, the four went to explore a cave she hadn’t been able to explore when they were in the Emerald Graves before, and Dorian had started complaining the minute their feet got wet, and continued to complain, about the light, the damp, the structures, the everything. The Inquisitor had ignored him, spending her time running around and trying to get people to stay where she put them, which was harder than it should have been because if Dorian wasn’t getting distracted by walking over to the person he was shouting at it was Cole who had got that dreamy look on his face and started to wander toward the thing that caught his interest. Dorian mostly talked at The Iron Bull, but he tried to drag Cole into the conversation until he became frustrated, or at Solas until Solas purposely was too vague to continue the conversation or irritated the other mage to spluttering incoherence on purpose.
That meant even when Solas or Dorian were taken along as backup incase the other was grievously injured or the Inquisitor wanted a new set of people to banter back and forth, they didn’t get to socialize a lot as one or the other would be at her side. Vivienne was often allowed to stay at Skyhold as she seemed to prefer being cloistered in the castle, or at least the Inquisitor believed so. Solas couldn’t complain. He and Vivienne had very different perspectives on the world. And often being in the same space as the other degenerated into insults. Solas had started to wonder if he ever liked the royal life until he went to the Winter Palace.
Solas wasn’t sure about Dorian. The man seemed to be fine with slavery. But he didn’t seem to have actually thought about it. Dorian had even made suggestions that Solas should go to Trevinter. Not because he wanted to subjugate Solas and put Solas in his rightful place, but because Dorian seemed to forget that Solas was an elf or at least the treatment Solas would get if he went to Dorian’s home.
Is that why they were so silent as they played? Dorian had once been boastful of his people, his home, derisive of those who criticized the way it was run. Acting as if he was the only one allowed to make derisive comments about it. Now a days, Solas heard less angry ranting. Perhaps more introspection.
“I wish I could change… I am sorry Solas,” said Dorian.
“For what?” asked Solas, letting the mage stew a little. He remembered the last time Dorian had apologized. When the other mage had talked about a time he didn’t understand. When the Altus hadn’t believed he could make a difference back in Trevinter but voiced that he wished to.
Solas glanced up to see Dorian frowning at the board. Making no move of make any sort to continue their game. Solas always found playing chess with Dorian fun when he just allowed Dorian to cheat. Dorian oddly enough did not enjoy this, mostly because he complained that Solas wasn’t trying. Solas decided this was true. When he let Dorian cheat, he watched from the side, moving forward into traps and losing on purpose because he liked watching Dorian’s mind work.
Somethings really had changed in him since he slept.
“Could one person free all the slaves?” asked Dorian. Solas cheated. Now he was starting to wish that he could had stayed in his room, smothered in paint smells, or maybe just a quick walk on the walls outside his rooms.
Sometimes talking to Dorian was worth it. The man was like no other. Solas had wandered enough in this time to know that true knowledge was lacking in the mages of today. Vivienne could preen about her mage circles all she wanted. Even with mortal lives and the Fade an ever present threat, mages should know more than they did. But instead, through fear and sloth, they stuck to rules not hardened in stone but kept rigid under the Chantry and Templays.
And then Solas met a Tevinter. A man who though he might not have owned slaves, saw no problem with them, from a culture that abused their magics almost as badly as the elves had in the end… and yet. Solas could talk to him. Speak of spells and techniques. Where talking to Madam De Fer was a battle of wits and wills and insults. Talking with Dorian was sharing a loved experience from the perspectives of two men who had dedicated much of their study to magic.
It was refreshing.
“I believe you could start,” said Solas. “I cannot tell you how to go about it, but it must start with someone.”
“I want it to be me, I think,” said Dorian, finally moving one of his pieces forward while also ‘subtly’ displacing one of Solas’s pieces. “But I wouldn’t know where to start. I could just go around, dashing about and killing slavers, but there will always be slavers and Magisters who buy slaves. Even if I freed all the slaves, the mistreatment would continue. I want to love Tevinter, and I do, but I want it to be the best it can be.”
“And you believe freeing the slaves will make Tevinter better?” asked Solas, his stare locked onto the board in front of him. This world was not his. This world lacked the life and ability to ever reach as high and grand as it could because of what Solas did. But these people… he had thought they were like what the Veil made the world. He thought they would be lesser. He thought they would always seem less real to him. They would always be inferior to the people that he had known and wronged.
He had been incorrect.
He should never have joined the Inquisition. The Anchor would have been his, eventually. The Inquisitor could have defeated the armies of Corypheus without his help, and perhaps by then he would have gained enough power to not just take back his orb, but to fix what he had broken.
Instead, no matter how he tried to keep everyone at arm’s length, to remember that they weren’t his people, he would find himself believing in them and supporting them in their goals to better themselves and the broken world he had created for them to struggle in.
He had led them to Skyhold. Most days, he talked at length to a reflective dwarf with Elvhen magic in her hand. He talked magic techniques and spells with a Tevinter. He tried to explain the world to Cole even after the Spirit of Compassion had lost himself to becoming more human. He argued about being your own person, being a living being, with a child of the stone who called him Chuckles.
So many people that were so vibrant in his mind. Clearer than the friends he had let down before these people were a twinkle in the eyes of this grand play.
“I believe it is a single step in the right direction,” said Dorian. “And also, what I believe is something I can believe in passionately enough to apply my mind considered mind to changing. It’s just… I burned a lot of bridges back home. And for every person I could think that ever showed any reservation toward slavery, I can think of fifty who didn’t think about it or were actively involved in it.”
“I know a couple of titles of books about civilizations and disbanding slavery,” Solas said. He wanted to ask where Dorian’s apparent drastic change in belief about slavery came from since the other man had joined the Inquisition.
Still, Solas found himself eager to help Dorian in some small way. He was hardly going to interfere in Trevinter when he was going to rip this world to shred when he tore the Veil, but helping to steer a person who wanted to change his homeland for the better. Solas knew that feeling, and found he wanted to be some small part of it. After all, he could get away with talking about his past in abstract. Solas had talked mostly about his memories of the great empire. Vaguely, acting as if it was reflections from the Fade or obscure texts.
“I’m not sure that will help, but perhaps some of the information will give me some inspiration,” laughed Dorian.
“Perhaps I can meet you in the Fade there is...” Solas trailed off. What was he doing? This was the second time he was doing this. He had walked in the Fade with the Inquisitor. The experience for him had been gratifying beyond belief. Both meeting someone like the Inquisitor in the Fade, her presence there making it harder than ever to still consider her a child of the stone, but also so close to one of the tricks he would play when he was younger. But that was part of the problem, Solas supposed, he had drawn her to dream in the Fade. It had taken her days to realize what had happened, and then she had run and demanded if she had dreamed, and while he tried to explain the situation, she had made up her mind and hugged him and then punched him in the shoulder and ran to tell… someone or no one. In that moment, it had been clear that she at least had been a child of the stone.
The trouble with the Inquisitor was she was truthful when it seemed to be a detriment. She lied both to say what people wanted when she wanted them to like her or to help sooth them. She lied when it would better for her to tell the truth. And he still couldn’t figure out when she was lying, she seemed so open that catching her in a lie took knowing the truth or hearing her voice a contradiction.
Or to realize how well she did at Winter Palace. Or even how close she was to Madam De Fer.
“I stumbled upon where spirits were recreating a conversation where the people decided to end slavery and how to do it without completely destroying the economy that thrived on it,” said Solas, which was only part of it. But that is where a lot of his focus had gone. Perhaps it was bitterness. This world was broken, worse, the Veil brought more than a mortal life, it brought the Blight and caused spirits to go mad. Yet in so many corners, slavery had been abolished. Only a corner of the land continuing the practice slavery openly embraced.
“Alright Solas, I had a feeling that we’d end up walking together in the Fade at some point. What with your obsession over it,” said Dorian, but his smile was light and teasing. When had they become so close that Dorian believed so wholeheartedly that Solas would make the other man so sure Solas would invite him to walk the Fade with him? Solas was solitary. Yes, he’d bantered with Dorian and the others of the inner circle. You had to little else to do when the Inquisition dragged you along on one of her excursions to save everyone while she took over the world like some benevolent tyrant.
But had that created such a strong bond between them? Especially when compared to other companions, Solas and Dorian really hadn’t spent that much time together.
Or perhaps he was reading too much into it. Dorian was very glib about certain things, and he liked to overshare.
And, because Solas was paying enough attention to the board, he won. Dorian swore as the Inquisitor arrived. First talking to the new fixture in the gardens, Morrigan, but wandering over their way with a bemused smile.
Solas stood to leave.
After so long in the Fade, with only shadows and spirits who tried to copy but were never substantial, this much socializing was still too hard on him. It was time to return to his studies. Perhaps time to enter into his dreams and the Fade to see the old memories and new played out by those here.
“I was just leaving, friend,” said Solas, nodding to the Inquisitor. “Perhaps Dorian will play. He has lost to both The Commander and I already today.”
The dwarf nodded, looking between him and Dorian in interest, a question at her lips, but still she allowed Solas past and started teasing Dorian.
The atrium still smelled of paint. Solas took a deep breath, sitting down into his chair. He breathed, counting, letting the smell be acknowledge and then letting it go out of his head. Everything disappeared into the background.
When he opened his eyes, he was in the Fade. He recognized the place he woke. There was a twist in his chest even as he smiled. He missed his home. He wished he had thought. They had to be stopped, but to create the Veil, it was a type of evil. If only because in the time to come, Solas would be forced to turn on all his friends, to destroy the world in order to save it.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Dude these first chaps are short.
The Inquisitor was skulking again. That meant that for a week or so, she would pick around Skyhold, hurry into the library to whisper with whoever caught her eyes and then running away into some corner or even outcroppings on the mountain around them to read. And while she read stuff like what Varric put down that people had fun with, mostly she found the driest text she could and then immerse herself in and absorb every fact it had to offer her in her chosen quiet corner.
Everyone knew this pattern. So, her three advisors started to get a schedule set to catch the Inquisitor, to train as many recruits as possible until the next time she went out, and to work in areas that could not be reached when the forces followed the Inquisitor went on her conquests.
Solas opened his eyes. He walked the Fade often, but he was also bound to his body. It was always strange when someone woke him. Took him from the home he had known for so long.
Standing before him was Varric. The dwarf smiled at him.
“Hey there Chuckles,” said Varric, rocking back on his heels with that amiable smile when Solas’s eyes sprang open and the elf glared at him. “We’ve convinced everyone to join us for dinner and Wicked Grace.”
“I don’t gamble anymore,” said Solas with a shake of his head. “And Blackwall taught me to play, and swore I was never allowed to play ever again.”
“Oh, come on Chuckles. Beating one person is hardly proving anything,” said Varric with a tsk. Solas lifted an eyebrow. Blackwall hadn’t been quiet about his loss. Solas had been challenged by many in the inner circle, even some bold diplomats. He played most of the inner circle who asked, if simply because they wore him down eventually, though playing against Sera had been… well, a mess as he should have expected. “Come on, we want to see you in a group.”
“The Iron Bull saw me when we were coming back from the Hinterlands that time,” said Solas, pointing toward the Tal Vashoth who was pretending to look over his paintings. The Iron Bull sent him a smile and sauntered over to them, obviously fine with Solas having pointed him out. There was something so easy about him, at least the way he held himself.
Solas and Iron Bull hadn’t agreed at first, still didn’t, might never. Solas believed that Bull had chosen to become Tal Vashoth. That he had chosen to save the Chargers despite the cost, even if, as Dorian had said, he needed urging from the Inquisitor. That did not mean The Iron Bull wouldn’t choose to return to the Qun. Which Solas had to admit, would be his choice, but the idea grated against everything he believed.
Still, he had experienced even before this broken world, people who choose to return to their lives as slaves after he had removed the Vallaslin.
“Ah, but that was with a bunch of drunken tavern dwellers who the Boss swindled into thinking we were just a bunch of mercenaries just this side of stupid. Got some good information off them until they realized they’d been played out of their gold,” said Bull fondly. “This is against the inner circle that our Inquisitor has gathered. People who are friends and desperate to see you lose.”
“Are you all going to be working to beat me?” asked Solas, one eyebrow raised.
“All friendly of course,” Varric said with a wave of his hands. “Plus, I’m interested to see you against Josephine. She’s no slouch when it comes to Wicked Grace.”
“Vivienne won’t be there,” said The Iron Bull and there was a meaningful pause before he kept talking. “Which is too bad, but apparently, it’s too vulgar for her taste.”
“I’m supposed to go because someone else has turned you down?” asked Solas, standing to stretch at the very least.
“Not at all,” said Varric. “You’re supposed to come to hear my stories. I’ve got a fun one about Dorian from our last excursion.”
“Speaking of Dorian. He’s also hoping to beat you, seeing as he can’t do it properly at chess. There’s a lot of people looking to win money and reputation from beating you,” said Bull. Solas raised an eyebrow and stepped away from the Quanari as Bull made as if he was going to steer Solas the way he wanted.
“And you are too I suppose?” asked Solas. “You don’t wish to try to beat me at chess again?”
“I can’t at the moment. Can’t have more than one game going in my head at a time, but I’m about to beat Cadash at our game,” said The Iron Bull.
“You’re playing our Inquisitor? I didn’t know she was interested,” said Solas. Bull shrugged, opening the door into the main hall of Skyhold. Solas walked through. He at first assumed when The Iron Bull did things like this, he was exerting power over the person he had helped in whatever small way. Now Solas wondered if he did it because he wanted, craved to help people. Perhaps still about power, but something that felt gentler. One that was out of a need to make people happy, to put them at ease, then a show of force or away to ingratiate people to him.
His intention softer instead of cutting.
“Yes,” said Iron Bull, a smirk quirking his lips. “Though she likes to play during the most interesting times. I suppose she has to have some sort of control even when she’s giving it all over.”
“Let’s keep that talk to a minimum, remember how she almost let a giant beat her silly after Cole talked about your bedroom activities last time,” said Varric. Iron Bull chuckled but didn’t push.
When they arrived at the table, the servants were finishing up setting the table and stoking the fire. Many of the inner circle had already arrived. Cullen was talking with Blackwall, and Josephine was setting herself up as the dealer. Solas found himself sitting next to Dorian. The other man had apparently picked up an interesting book the last time he went out with the Inquisitor about magic. An interesting author that apparently had attributed more spells and magics to elves than any Dorian had come across.
Solas found his own reaction fascinating. When he had started walking the land and he came across humans that felt so sure of all the magic they had discovered while the elves had only been pretending, he hadn’t cared. They were shadows of people. The reflection he had seen of humans were a people that fought against each other more desperately than the elves ever had. That the only thing that had propelled them above other races was the sheer rate they seemed to have children, and their fierce hatred and mistrust of anyone or anything different than them.
When he had started to care, for lack of a better word, about the opinions of others around him, Solas found himself irritated by just how much every race had gotten wrong. He hated how history had twisted itself, and while he tried to let it all roll off him in the knowledge that he would soon set everything right, there were moments when his irritation flared and he snapped. Now, with these people, he often found himself talking about how the elves used to be. Talking about his home and desperately reminding himself to talk as if it were detached from him, just something he saw in the Fade.
Now Solas argued, debated, and tried to cram knowledge into Dorian’s head. The other smiled, joked, and was often pigheaded when they were debating, but Dorian was the sort who wouldn’t let something Solas claimed just be incorrect. He would put time away from his research for the Inquisitor to find books to back himself up, and if the book wasn’t credible, he’d discard it, and if Dorian ultimately found out that Solas had been correct, he would admit to his shortcoming. More than that, he would go looking deeper and listen to Solas as he tried to guide Dorian’s knowledge.
Perhaps they hadn’t spent much time together, but the little they had left Solas rattled about the other. The human was someone who once saw no problem with slavery, had opened himself up to debate and knowledge and was now someone who claimed to want to abolish it at his home.
The Inquisitor arrived. It was amazing how silent the room went. It wasn’t that she looked that imposing either. You’d think she’d be easy to overlook. At first glance, the most someone might be was confused. She was curvy for a dwarf. Short, but still pulling off a decent hourglass figure, especially for a woman who often fought with swords bigger than she was. However, she also had a constant bit of fuzz covering her face and wore her hair cut short.
But despite this, she wasn’t overlooked even by the diplomats. Even at the Winter Palace, people had taken notice of her. Her dance with the Duchess earning her over in the sights of the court, especially after she had arrested the woman.
The Inquisitor smirked as she sat, her eyes moving from person to person. She didn’t ask about the people not joining the game, but that didn’t mean she didn’t notice their absence. She had gotten after Solas once when he hadn’t joined a party meant to celebrate their victory when they were back in Haven.
Solas wondered if she’d realize that Sera was already drunk under the table. The elf was being surprisingly quiet. Though Solas was decidedly uncomfortable with her there, but Cullen had already tried to drag her out and been stopped by the protests to leave her alone from Blackwall, Dorian, and Bull.
The cards were dealt. Solas wondered if Josephine usually won because she set herself up as the dealer. It was an ideal spot if you were crafty enough. Many novices would claim she cheated, and they wouldn’t be wrong, but the trick wasn’t just knowing your opponent cheated, it was countering their cheating and cheat better.
Stories were shared, and faces became redder and redder. Commander Cullen had no idea what he was doing, Cole didn’t care he didn’t know what he was doing, and Solas was half sure the more human spirit kept giving away what his card was in funnier and funnier ways because he liked everyone’s amusement at his fumbling. Dorian seemed enamored with every story told, and Varric mostly just seemed to be there to tell his stories. Indeed, no one seemed to be slacking in their play on purpose, except Cole, but to be honest he didn’t seem to understand the rules either. The only ones taking it seriously was Cullen, Solas, and Josephine. Even the Inquisitor just seemed to be there to socialize.
Josephine had a moment where she made the entire table groan in well-meaning disappointment and triumph over her friends before Solas showed his hand.
“Well, I suppose that answers my question,” said Varric with a shake of his head. “And here I was hoping even a natural wouldn’t be able to beat our illustrious Ruffles.”
“Natural?” asked Josephine. Solas couldn’t help but smirk in triumph as he sat back and shrugged.
“Blackwall taught me how to play two months ago,” Solas said, and even though he tried to say it like it was just a fact, some of his smug tone must have escaped based on how the others snorted and shook their heads. A couple of mutters of ‘cocky bastard’ circled the table, one of them Solas was sure was their Seeker.
“Two months?” spluttered Josephine before her glared intensified. “We will play again.”
“If you have the gold,” said Solas, allowing himself to join in on the banter. He didn’t need the gold, but they were right, this wasn’t about gambling, this was about being with people. He should enjoy this as long as possible. It might not have been his intentions to care about these people when he first came to this place, but that didn’t mean now that he did care he shouldn’t enjoy the little time they had together.
“The gold he says,” said Dorian, knocking shoulders with Solas.
“You take the trousers off him Jose!” shouted Sera from under the table. Most of the Inquisition agreed to join in as well as the Inquisitor looked under the table, apparently having not realized before this that Sera was with them.
The game continued. Most of the circle had completely lost any real interest in the game, their attention focused on whoever’s turn it was to tell the story. Dorian went between raucous storyteller who showed Solas his hand by mistake every five seconds, to drunkenly giving Solas bad and distracting advice about how to beat Josephine. Despite this, Solas won.
Josephine didn’t stop smiling, she even quipped back and forth with Cullen as the other seemed to think he was still a player in this game. Still, Solas could tell that Josephine was now convinced that Solas was a worthy opponent, not just someone who’d won by mistake. Solas smiled and then looked over at their Commander.
“And you, I won’t lose to you either,” said Cullen to Josephine. The other blushed a little, maybe blushed wasn’t right, it was more just a flash of emotion that rippled across her amicable mask. She had obviously been bantering with Cullen while forgetting that she had also lost. She met Solas’s eyes, and the elf was pleased when they were able to communicate their agreement to take the man down together.
Perhaps letting Josephine win was simply giving in to the woman. Part of her game, but Solas really didn’t mind. He was competitive, that was sure, and when he was younger losing on purpose would have been beyond his capabilities. He was the one who made his nickname the Dread Wolf into one to fear instead of mock.
But ever since he’d met the Inquisitor and her people, he’d found himself giving ground, agreeing with viewpoints that had been completely foreign to him before that moment. Some things would never change. He still believed that people should always be allowed a choice no matter what, but the people formed after the Veil had taken so much from the world went from broken and missing important parts to make them truly real to survivors, people who found meaning in who they were and were not so much complacent as working within the world as best they could despite their circumstances.
There was something noble in that. Even if Solas still couldn’t always understand why they didn’t try to take that next step toward greatness and often got stuck in ruts that seemed so fruitless to him.
As the Commander slowly lost one piece of clothing after the other, Solas couldn’t help but let his old side take over. And by the end, Josephine’s smile could only be called wicked, though she was gracious to Solas, even in defeat.
“I can’t believe you double-crossed Josephine like that,” said Dorian, leaning against Solas as they headed back to their rooms. They weren’t that far apart, though honestly, half the time Solas fell asleep in his chair. Solas also suspected that Dorian was acting more drunk than he actually was. Whether that was because the mage wanted physical contact or was trying to avoid being confronted by well-meaning people who disliked the Vint getting to close to the Inquisitor was unclear. “You’re like Fal’Hear.”
“Who?” asked Solas, his heart skipping a beat. He didn’t falter though, continuing to let Dorian lean against him. Perhaps they were both more drunk than Solas had assumed. Dorian had to be drunk, he’d hardly mispronounce a God, even an elven God’s name, on purpose. Solas might be dismissive of the idea of Gods, but he respected why people needed Gods. It was when people made themselves into Gods that bothered him. Maybe that’s why it was so easy with the Inquisitor, even when she firmly believed she was Andastres chosen she didn’t expect people to just listen to her because of that. She knew she had to work at it.
It did frustrate her when they continued to look down on her even after she had proven herself, but she was just more likely to show off and do things for those people, unless she found out they were manipulating her, than she worked with Josephine on how to make those people have to acknowledge her.
Solas shook his head. Whatever Dorian had said, he had missed.
Not that it mattered. No one knew who he really was so it was a moot point. Very few people knew who he was. Fewer still knew him by sight. Solas’s spy network was vast, many loyal to him and eager to, despite the cost, restore the world to its former glory before Solas had crippled it with his acts.
It had seemed like the only thing he could have done at that moment, but now he realized how wrong he had been.
He dropped Dorian off in his room and stumbled to his own. Corepheus had been a mistake. He hadn’t meant to make so many suffer. But while it hurt to know he was going to be the cause of so many deaths, he couldn’t help but be glad that in some ways he appeared to be making their lives easier, maybe even happier. Even if that blasted name Varric gave him was supposed to be ironic.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
I know the Requisition Officer isn't in the Frostback Basin. I'm creating a satisfying reason as to why.
The Inquisitor left Reiner back in Skyhold. She seemed torn on the decision. Solas was not. He had not seen Reiner since his sentencing. Solas could not blame the Inquisitor for giving Reiner a light sentence of eventually apologizing to the people he had hurt through his murders. It would be hypocritical of her not to offer him a way to find redemption considering her past. The Inquisitor wasn’t quick to like to talk about her past with the Carta, but whatever she part she’d had in it. She wanted to forget and move on. There was a chance she would later find herself growing closer to him. Reiner was trying to be a better man. Through, many people had already pointed out.
That the Inquisitor was upfront and honest about her part in the Carta.
Where Reiner, who’d lied. He’d lied and lied and lied again. Solas could see this fact running through the Inquisitor’s head. It was harder to know if she was angry at Blackwall because he hadn’t trusted them enough to tell the truth, or because of her hasty actions to free him from prison. The Inquisitor had been in a flurry of activity after Reiner had tried to do his noble act. She’d been simultaneously discussing the best way to free him on time and process the man he was with the man he turned out to be.
Cadash understood Reiner had a past and saw it as a bad decision that Reiner was now trying to make up for. The fact he was remaking himself into a better man, like she was making herself into a better woman, resonated with her.
Solas did not see it that way. In Blackwall he had seen a reflection of his own struggles: someone who had made decisions in his time as a Warden that were necessary but horrid. Where Blackwall tried to make the right call, and it turned out that it was something he would live to regret. Instead, Blackwall’s regret was an act of senseless violence. An act despicable without any nuance. No high ideal or goal sunk low by impossible circumstances.
That meant their trip to the Frostback Basin was short two party members. Vivienne, the second person missing from the Inquisitor’s side. Vivienne remaining behind at Skyhold seemed to be at her preference. Cadash, while good friends with the mage, only asked Madam De Fer to accompany her if she knew she wanted Vivienne’s direct help on any of the Inquisitor’s quests.
Solas found her preferred Reiner’s temporary banishment from their excursions a relief. The Inquisitor was a bit on the excitable side as the Inquisitor got settled in camp and choose her companions to join her traipsing about.
“Even our Lady Harding looks a little pale,” said Dorian. The Inquisitor was currently shining her rather feral looking smile at the Requisition Officer. The woman was standing very straight and trying not to stutter as the Inquisitor looked at her with what was supposed to be polite interest.
“I think she might be nervous for another reason,” said Varric with a chuckle. “It’s not that uncommon.”
“Oh, and what is scarier than our Lady Cadash who is doing a surprisingly competent job of striking the fear of the Maker into everyone with just one brilliant smile?” asked Dorian.
“Oh, it’s really not my place to say,” said Varric.
“And yet you were the one to comment on it,” Solas pointed out, leaning against his staff as he watched the Inquisitor. It was very impressive to watch her strike fear into the heart of all her subordinates. He remembered Mythal having a similar way of projecting her anger. Mythal had thought that she needed to show kindness even during hard times. Everyone close to her soon learned to be very cautious when she smiled at them with just a little too many teeth.
Varric just waved his hand at Solas and laughed again. Then the Cadash turned her attention to them, walking toward them with that smile and a swagger to her hips. Even Solas felt himself straightening under her attention, even as he saw the Requisition Officer scurry to find something to do as far away from Cadash and her scary smile as possible.
“Sorry guys, but I’m taking out a group of warriors with me,” said the Inquisitor. “I want to smash somethings, and magic just seems to… finicky. Varric, I need you though. Cassandra won’t let me leave without my usual three-person team.”
“I’m hurt,” said Varric, clutching his heart, though that smile gave away his life and Cadash seemed to soften enough to roll her eyes. Solas was glad the dwarf was able to relax their Inquisitor. It had been proven time and again that when she forsook her three-person team, it was because she was feeling flustered and wrong footed. “Though I’m frankly surprised you didn’t ask Sera if you really wanted to just go all out.”
The Inquisitor looked shocked for a moment before she turned on her heels, looking toward where Sera was hanging upside down in a tree.
“Yo, Sera, want to go cause some mayhem with Bull and me?” the leader of the Inquisition shouted.
“Friggin’ yes!” Sera shouted back, jumping out of the tree to go prepare to actually be on the field with Cassandra and The Iron Bull. The Inquisitor looked back at mages and Varric with a smile.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be taking you three out with me tomorrow to find these Hakkons,” said the Inquisitor with a smile. “And maybe learning a little about the last Inquisitor that the Professor here is studying. So, you three have full day off.”
The Inquisitor turned to leave, and then turned to mock glare at Varric. The dwarf’s body stood a little straighter as her attention turned to him.
“You work on your book. I don’t need another lecture about how you stole money off all the hard-working scouts and guards at a camp,” said the Inquisitor pointing a finger at the dwarf, her mock glare perhaps a little too feral considering the circumstances. “And Solas, weren’t you planning to take Dorian into the Fade with you outside Skyhold? I really won’t need you no for the rest of today. This will probably be your best chance in the near future to do your bit of exploring. Or whatever you can find out in the dreams of the Fade.”
Solas glanced at Dorian from the corner of his eyes, wondering if the Trevinter had spoken to Cadash after their chess match. But Dorian seemed equally as confused. Solas looked back at the Inquisitor, who was at least pretending not to see the exchange. Solas didn’t think she was close to Leliana, especially after that little trip they took together. Ever since then, when the Inquisitor went to see Leliana, arguments could be heard.
Still, perhaps her relationship with The Iron Bull could be to blame. The man had been Hissrad after all.
“I told Whatshisname in the little house back there,” said the Inquisitor, pointing to where she had gone to talk with the Professor Scout Harding had mentioned. “He said he could make a spot for you in the little hut he’d set up. I’ll see you three tomorrow.”
The Inquisitor ran past the camps boundaries with her version of a battle cry, Bull and Sera joining her with Cassandra seeming a little more cautious behind them.
“You two think she actually forgets what people’s names are?” asked Varric with a shake of his head.
“Not in the slightest. She always remembers if she needs to talk to them,” said Dorian with a roll of his eyes.
“Perhaps it is that she wishes to forget?” asked Solas with a chuckle.
“Trust her to find a way to make our lives harder in weird ways,” said Varric with his own chuckle. “Well, I don’t know about you two, but I think I’ll actually listen to her. Unless you want to tempt her ire, Sparkler and play a few hands of Wicked Grace with me?”
“I think not,” said Dorian, though he looked over at Solas uncertainly. Solas shrugged.
“This was not the place I had in mind, but perhaps we can walk together here first. It can be disconcerting to walk with a Dreamer,” said Solas. Dorian nodded, his eyes sparkling in a way that Solas was learning meant Dorian was opening to learn more about magic and the Fade.
“Well then, I suppose we should get acquainted with Professor Whatshisname,” said Dorian. Solas shook his head and started to walk toward the building that the Inquisitor had mentioned.
“I’ll catch you two mages tomorrow. Sounds like we’re going to have fun killing the local wildlife. Who knows, maybe we’ll actually be able to play nice with the locals. They’re supposed to be brutal I hear. They’ll probably love the Inquisitor’s smile,” said Varric, going off toward where Cole had wandered off to. The former spirit was sitting on the ledge of a house, feet dangling back and forth as he stared at one of the colorful birds with a faraway look in his eyes.
Professor Bram Kenric seemed a little shocked to actually see Solas and Dorian. Apparently, he had thought the Inquisitor was joking. He couldn’t believe there were mages so interested in going into the Fade together or any mage mad enough. Still, he hurried to accommodate them. Of course, Dorian complained about sleeping on the floor.
“Do you need some help with a sleeping spell?” asked Solas as he sat settled herself in a corner amongst random books and junk. He kept most of his armor on and even his staff handy. The camp was well fortified enough, but the Inquisitor liked her new areas dangerous, and she liked attracting danger. It wouldn’t surprise him if they were sent out to help her and her current party in the mood she was in now. Usually she was cautious. With the trouble she got into, she had to be in order to live. That meant though, when she did allow herself to act on impulse, or even when she just ran into something unknown, she tended to get in over her head.
Dorian snorted in disgust and walked over to sit next to Solas, trying to support himself so he wouldn’t fall over as he slept.
Professor Kenric seemed to let out a small sigh of relief. Obviously thinking that the Vint was going to get him trouble with the Inquisitor, and not realizing that Dorian just complained to complain. Even if Dorian had said something to Cadash, she would just roll her eyes and tease him about his sensitive Trevinter self and then remind him all the worst places she had made him sleep.
“I would think that even your Circle mages should be able to do a simple sleep spell. I couldn’t imagine the embarrassment I would be back home if I couldn’t do something so plebian,” said Dorian dramatically.
“Of course, it would be simpler for both of us if you let me put you to sleep. It will help to have my use of magic so that it seems more natural for me to enter your dream with you. I woke the Inquisitor when she realized she was walking the Fade with me. It will also make it easier to enter your dreams.”
Dorian seemed shocked for a moment. Then pouted at Solas as he wiggled, continuing to try and make himself comfortable on the wood floor. “You really do like playing The Game don’t you?”
Solas shook his head, but didn’t correct Dorian. Mostly because Dorian was saying things to get a rise out of Solas, and if they were going to do this then it was better to do so as soon as possible before the Inquisitor had a chance to call on them for whatever reason. Dorian sighed and closed his eyes. She had often promised a day of rest and meant to give one. Only to realize she needed one of them for some reason five steps out of the camp.
The sleeping spell Solas used washed over both of them, and Solas felt his body fall as he fell asleep and entered the Fade. He hadn’t been lying to Dorian exactly. He was adept enough from his years exploring the Fade that finding Dorian’s dream would be easy enough, but he was a little concerned about waking the other mage when he arrived in Dorian’s dream. Solas had often experienced disquiet from mages when they realized he was actually there and often they woke themselves simply from shook and forcing them to stay in the Fade could harm them.
The scene that Solas walked in on was something obviously constructed partly from Dorian’s mind. Solas didn’t recognize the place on sight, but that could either be because he hadn’t spent much time in Trevinter, or because this place was a mesh up of several locations. The architecture hinted at it being somewhere in Trevinter, but the way plant life wove around the architecture with gold gilt painted on some of the leaves didn’t appear to be a beauty able to be pulled off in this limited world, and there was a desk in the middle of the courtyard with a river running under it.
“Can you change this?” asked Dorian, sounding both wistful and depressed. Solas turned to look behind him. Dorian’s frown twisted his face, and he stared out at the scene before them like a man longing. Though for what, only Dorian knew, at least for the moment.
Solas decided not to pressure the other mage. This seemed like something personal that Dorian wouldn’t be open to talk about yet.
“Come, follow me,” said Solas. He looked Dorian over, the other was wearing something fancier than his usual fair. Solas decided to change it to what he usually saw the other wearing on the field once the exited the dream. The change of clothes would help adjust Dorian’s mind to his presence.
Dorian followed Solas without complaint or comment, his staff swinging in his hand. Using magic in the Fade was always different, at least for Solas. He wondered if Dorian would be equally as creative and free or if he limited himself so as not to attract demons.
Solas opened a door and walked into how the Frostback Basin looked back when his people had been in power. Back before he created the Veil and destroyed everything.
“This is grand,” said Dorian, “is this something you created from your mind?”
“Actually, it is a reflection of a time long past,” said Solas, frowning a little, because the area seemed bereft of spirits. There were some, but there was something odd about what he saw.
“And this won’t draw the attention of demons?” asked Dorian. Solas chuckled but shook his head.
“Not unduly. Demons react to things that seem outside the realms of possibility. So, I can’t do things like fly, because even with magic, that is not possible in Our World. However, walking through a door and ending up in another place much different from where you came from is expected,” said Solas. “It at least will be less likely to draw the attention of demons especially if the act itself doesn’t trigger our own emotions as well.”
“Yes, I suppose that would make sense,” said Dorian, looking around him. The area was deserted for the most part without enough spirits to take the forms of elvish memories. Only some animals could be seen. The landscape didn’t seem to have changed much over all. Different trees, but the same rolling hills. “I suppose my reaction to the Fade helps. If I had been surprised or disturbed, that would have could have caused a demon to wander our way.”
Solas smiled and nodded. They started wandering the Fade. Dreaming wasn’t too dangerous. Demons could be a problem, but most of the danger came from his body that lay vulnerable back in the Physical world. Solas took a deep breath in, letting his head fall back and letting the Fade fill his very being. It was like taking a breath of fresh air after painting. The Veil caused so much harm. It stifled the world.
“This doesn’t seem so much different than my normal dreams,” said Dorian with a laugh. Solas smiled.
“The exercise is to get you used to my presence in your dreams,” Solas pointed out. “Even when I walk the Fade, I don’t do anything too extravagant. Often, I allow the spirits to play out what they repeat from what they drew from our world. The exercise is informative for me and often has a soothing effect on the spirit in question. But I can also shift the landscape to reflect more what the spirits might perceive as a dream.”
“Do you tell the spirits to leave rifts in the sky like that?” asked Dorian, pointing with his staff into the distance. Solas looked that way.
“I believe that is a rift in the Veil,” said Solas, a little surprised himself. He’d seen the rips before, but often the spirits would make pains to try and at least cover it up, especially in memories like this one. But it didn’t feel like the usual rifts in the Fade, and was perhaps why the spirits seemed so thin in this area. Most drawn to such a wide opening to the Physical world.
“Do you think that is where the Inquisitor will try to go?” Dorian asked with a chuckle. “I can’t imagine Sera being so excited to join her if she knew that the Inquisitor was going on a rift hunt. Spirits, magic, and all that, oh how did she phrase, unnatural shit, still tend to make her jumpy.”
“No, I felt a rift close earlier,” said Solas. “And the spirits actually do a good job of covering those. I think they fear they’ll be drawn in too. This one feels… old.”
“Old?” asked Dorian, and Solas couldn’t help but to shrug. The description was inadequate, but without getting closer to the rift, Solas didn’t feel comfortable using any other description. “Well, should we go check it out?”
“This was about getting you used to having me in your dreams. Introducing an unknown element is probably not wise,” said Solas. Dorian snorted.
“If I was known as wise, then the Inquisitor would spend hours asking me about the technicalities of the world instead of covertly trying to manipulate me to her way of thinking,” said Dorian.
“I don’t think she’s so manipulative,” said Solas, though he wasn’t being completely honest. “I think she genuinely likes hearing other peoples’ point of view,” which was true. The Inquisitor listened and remembered everything. The way she watched you, it was like you were the most important person to her and that your every word was spun gold. Which made it all the more shocking when she disagreed with you.
Perhaps it was the Anchor, but of all the people Solas had met since he’d awaken, she was the one most vibrant.
Dorian shook his head and chuckled in disbelief. Whether he thought Solas was thick or that Solas was lying wasn’t clear to the elf.
They ended up wandering toward the rift, but got distracted along the way. Solas saw an opportunity to get a better view from atop an ancient tree, built and manipulated to be easy to climb for elves, and Dorian followed. So, caught up in following the path that had been crafted, Solas didn’t realize until near the top how nervous Dorian was.
It wasn’t that Dorian was complaining, he was doing that, but it was also his body language and the way his voice actually wavered.
“Are you afraid of heights?” asked Solas, not really stopping, but slowing down and allowing the other mage to come closer. Dorian snorted, but he didn’t step away from the trunk.
“Whoever designed this obviously did not think very often about how high they were up in the sky and what would constitute as proper footing,” said Dorian. Solas laughed and stopped walking. Dorian sent him a resentful glance, but took several deep breaths as he rested with Solas, though it was clear he was trying to be covert about it.
“I suppose it’s because I’m a Dreamer. I’ve always found it simple to find the Fade a safe place to roam,” said Solas. Dorian looked at him in confusion.
“Really, I thought being a Dreamer was actually quite dangerous. Most Dreamers I’ve heard about eventually became possessed by a demon,” said Dorian. Then he shivered as if remembering something else. Solas watched the other man and couldn’t help but wonder if the man was thinking of the Dreamers that had influenced others in their dreams and driven the victims mad.
That actually brought Solas pause. After all, Dorian was trusting Solas not to mess with his dreams and use what he learned against him, something that would have been a real fear back in Trevinter.
Still, the fact that Dorian couldn’t influence the Fade this way. He couldn’t just trust that he would be able to influence the world around him. More than that, Dorian simply couldn’t. It was the hardest thing to fathom when the elf woke up from his extended rest. Solas had known, intellectually, how removed the people had become from the Fade. He had even known of the other races, but to see that disconnect from only the Fade’s sights, and how they reflected that in the Fade hadn’t prepared him for how foreign it would be in real life.
Or even how wrong he had been about the races and how alive they ended up being despite their disadvantages.
He had thought they were too gone, to lost to the Fade for him to care. The people that surrounded him when he woke seemed more like Tranquil to him. They were missing something essential. The world itself was missing something essential.
And it was easy at first to dismiss these people. Solas had created the Veil. He had set everything up for failure. He had made these people this way, and he was determined to fix the world and make it right again. He hadn’t even really considered them people. At the most they were just things to be pitied. Better to rip the Veil open then continue to deny them true life.
The problem was he hadn’t separated himself from them. He’d become invested in their lives. He had spoken and learned about them. And the more he talked and interacted, the more alive, the closer to people they became.
The more he realized how he had failed when he made the Veil. Because when he ripped it open, this world would burn. Be torn apart in chaos, and these people that had been born so separate from the Fade would not survive.
Now, more than ever, he wished he had Blackwall to talk to. Perhaps Solas wouldn’t have been able to be specific, but it had been nice to see what he had thought was himself in the other man. To know someone else had been forced to do something terrible in order to do something necessary and right.
“Would you like to try and change the shape of this dream?” asked Solas. Dorian looked at Solas as if the elf had gone mad.
“I’m not a Dreamer,” Dorian pointed out slowly, like he thought Solas might have gone a bit mad. “And wouldn’t changing things like that attract demons?”
“Depends on how you change it,” said Solas. “If you simply make it so it seems as it the branch was always there, then it attracts less attention from the demons. If you start walking out into thin air however…”
“Hmm, I wonder how they got the tree to grow like this? Or is that part of what you created for us to look at?” asked Dorian. Solas shook his head.
“No, this is what a spirit saw through the eyes of another from this time,” said Solas, looking out at the twisting landscape of time. “From what I have observed about the elves of this time, they were able, to a certain degree to influence the real world as spirits influence the Fade.”
“That… doesn’t sound possible,” said Dorian, and Solas started their journey back toward the top of the tree. Dorian followed, not paying as much attention to his feet now that he was thinking more about something academic. “Our world is always too real. It has rules and limitations.”
“And yet we are able to bend these rules as mages. We can make fire appear, influence the will of others,” Solas pointed out. Dorian opened his mouth, then thought about it and shrugged.
“So, you’re saying that the world of the ancient elves was like that of the Fade?” asked Dorian. Solas laughed.
“Not quite. It was like a mix. The world still had rules. It had substance and you couldn’t just change with will, but you could influence it. Take this tree. As it grew, the elves in charge of its growth may have worked to form it so that it would create branches that wrapped around its trunk in this fashion. They may have even been able to influence the time around the tree to have it grow faster,” Solas pointed out, and then laughed again at the incredulous look the other man was giving him. “It makes sense in theory. If there was a time that the Veil was not a part of this world.”
“That’s… impossible,” said Dorian.
“Perhaps,” Solas allowed. It would be dangerous to continue to have this conversation. “So many spirits show it when I look back at that time, but so many spirits are also fascinated with our world. Perhaps it is simply a shared dream that makes it into the memories that it displays.”
“It is an interesting thought experiment,” said Dorian jovially, apparently more at ease with thinking of Solas’s words more as something obviously false than a possible reality. He wondered if Tranquil thought that way. That they thought of emotions as something ridiculous to even consider as having effect on the world.
Though, that would be different. Tranquil usually had emotions first and could still see that in others. They were confronted by the fact daily that emotions existed in others.
“Oh wow,” said Dorian, apparently losing his more verbose observations as he walked on top of the leaves to look out over the landscape now sprawled under their view. “That view is magnificent. Only the mountains are taller than us. I could get used to a view like this.”
“Yes, and I believe that is the rift we saw earlier,” said Solas, pointing to what appeared to be a distant island. There were the other spirits that existed in this memory the spirit had recreated. It was like they were being drawn there.
“Hmm, yes, and now that I’ve looked at it, I also have had a look down. It’s all fun and games until you’re reminded how far your feet have to go before you become a lovely decoration on the forest floor,” said Dorian, his voice visibly strained. Then he knocked his fist on the leaves, an amused smile twisting its way across his lips. “Did you make the leaves this way in the dream, or is this also something the Spirit created?”
“The spirit,” Solas confirmed. Dorian laughed, throwing his arms back behind his head.
“A very accommodating spirit you found for us Solas,” Dorian said with a chuckle. “If you don’t take into account the height, this is a very peaceful place. The view is gorgeous. Could you imagine coming here at sunset? That would be sublime to witness I’d venture.”
“It is easy to get lost in the memories of old,” Solas said in agreement. Sitting down next to Dorian, though he continued to look out toward the Rift. He would have to encourage the Inquisitor that way tomorrow, perhaps ask if he could be part of her party when she finally went to investigate. “Time slips by in here without the usual signs of it passing. A spirit could hold the memory of an hour indefinitely, or they could make a lifetime play out in a heartbeat.”
“Do you think we should wake and check in on what time it is?” asked Dorian. Solas wanted to stay, but it probably would be best to allow themselves to wake. They did walk a good ways both in the forest, and on the climb up the tree. He had a feeling that they should be eating dinner soon and start preparing for the next day and whatever the Inquisitor had planned for them.
“Yes, I’ll bring us back to the waking world. We’ll have to talk about how you feel after. Some people find that after sharing a dream they might be physically rested but mentally drained,” said Solas. Dorian nodded.
“Give me a little bit after we’ve awoken before you interrogate me,” said Dorian. “This was very exciting, and the rush might make it seem as if I’m more aware than I actually am.”
Solas nodded, and couldn’t help but be a little impressed that Dorian knew himself that well. Or perhaps, if not impressed by that, then that the other man would admit such a weakness.
Still, Solas took in a breath, and within that and the next he opened his eyes. As he did so, his grabbed someone who was reaching out with a brush to touch his face.
“Told you he would notice,” sang the Inquisitor from where she was standing next to Professor Kenric. Solas looked back at Sera, who was glaring at him, and as she went to pull her hand out of his grip, he let her go, watching as she fell right on her arse.
“Stupid, jumpy elves. Can’t even take a joke,” muttered Sera. Solas glared at her. They didn’t get along, though perhaps it’s more because they don’t understand each other than anything else. In Sera, Solas saw someone who was missing so much of herself that she was completely foreign. Or at least more human than elf. It helped that her mannerisms and way of thinking often baffled him. Her ways of living delighting in such flighting fancies that it worried and confused even the humans. But in that way, she was the embodiment of everything lost when he created the Veil. An elf unable to even comprehend what she was missing, and seeming to revel in her situation as something that just survives.
Though, even in Sera, Solas finds himself understanding sometimes. Her Red Jennings, her organization, they were what she wanted them to be. She could make them greater, but through talking with her, he’d almost begun to understand how what she did is enough for her and why she didn’t feel compelled to run an actual revolution.
Of course, then she pulled a prank like this, and all he felt for her was a sense of irritation and annoyance.
“Well, that is an interesting way to wake up,” said Dorian from above Solas. Solas looked up from where he was propped on the Altus’s lap. He supposed the way they had fallen asleep could easily have ended up this way.
Of course, Solas saw that while they dreamed, Sera had time to decorate Dorian’s face with some… interesting and crude scribbles.
“Looks like Sera’s used us as her canvas,” said Dorian with a chuckle, and Solas’s eyes widened as he realized that he must also have some ink on him, and what with Solas having less hair, he can imagine she’d let her imagination take flight as she used his head as her canvas.
The Iron Bull was the one who gave him the mirror, though he quickly walked away after. Solas looked himself over, his face was largely unmarked, just a dot of black ink on his cheek, but the top of his head appeared to be covered in…
“Here, before you explode from turning so red Chuckles,” said Varric, kindly handing Solas a wet towel, though the dwarf still had that amused smile spread across his face. Solas stood then, allowing Dorian to stand if he wished, and he scrubbed the embarrassing pictures that only slightly resembled asses and dicks and arrows off his head.
Dorian took the mirror, and slowly stood, seeming to turn the thing this way and that as he looked over the marks Sera had left on his skin.
“Not bad,” said the mage. Solas couldn’t help but look at the human in alarm. Dorian laughed with an exaggerated shrug. “My face is too beautiful to be marred even with Sera’s rushed artwork. Indeed, I think it might even help make my eyes pop.”
The Iron Bull and Varric laughed even as Solas threw his towel at the ridiculous human. Despite what he said, Dorian did wash the ink off immediately, and they end up wandering to a campfire where dinner was being served. It was even actual food, seeing as the land was lush, though it was plain and hard to eat.
“Well, at least we know more about how alert you are when Dream Walking, Solas,” said Varric as they sat next to the fire. Dorian sat on opposite him.
“I am normally more aware than that,” said Solas, which even as he said it, he realized could be a lie. He used to be more aware. He walked with friends in dreams even when the Veil had not existed. But he’d only been a wake a year after his long slumber, and his exhaustion could still overwhelm him. “Perhaps it is because it was a shared dream with a friend.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to flatter myself,” said Dorian, but before he could go on, Varric laughed.
“Of course, you do Sparkler. You live to flatter yourself,” said Varric.
“Well, yes, but I have to, don’t I? It would take eons to explain all the wonderful attributes that I possess,” said Dorian, fluttering his hand in exaggeration and making Varric laugh into his tankard.
“Inquisi!” yelled Sera, making those closest to her jump. She was sitting off to the side. “Tell Creepy to leave me alone.”
“But you seemed to have meant to inspire fun in everyone. I’m sorry I can’t tell you about Solas. He doesn’t let me look to find the hurt,” said Cole. Sera’s eyes actually flickered to Solas, and it was clear she wanted to ask Solas to teach her how to stop Cole from getting into her mind. He really hoped she doesn’t. He can’t teach her. She just doesn’t have the mental capacity to learn the mental control and ability to influence the Veil.
Solas sighed. Another proof of what he’d deprived these people when he had created the Veil.
But Sera seemed to actually come to the conclusion that either she couldn’t learn, or didn’t want to learn, and turned instead to whine at the Inquisitor again.
“Hey Kid,” Varric said to Cole. The former spirit looked over at the dwarf and then drifted their way. Solas smiled as he made room for the former spirit, though watched Cole in interest when the spirit frowned at the spot made for him before sitting down.
Keeping his thoughts and emotions from Cole would be easy enough. Solas had become accustomed to it as Cole and him tended to either end up working with the Inquisitor together or be left in camp together. He sometimes slipped, but not often enough that he was too worried what the spirit would find in his head.
The night slipped by with light conversation and no world shattering events, and eventually everyone retreated to their beds. Solas ended up in a tent with Dorian and Varric as the Inquisitor had confirmed that the three of them would be the ones heading out the next day. Then, before Dorian or he could tell her about the rift, she dragged away The Iron Bull where they were very loud in their own tent.
The next day was blessedly sunny and comfortably chilly. Solas couldn’t help but wonder if the Inquisitor didn’t still want to hit things with her sword. Though she seemed less likely to bite everyone after she stopped smiling. Now she just seemed filled with a never ending, invigorating amount of energy that kept her and everyone near her on their toes.
As it was, Cadash had them all out of their tents early. Dorian hardly getting to apply his usual makeup before they headed out. Varric grumbled, but they still headed out just as the sun was starting to peak over the air. They ended up fighting and destroying the local wildlife that the Inquisitor seemed to be trying to annoy on purpose. It wasn’t until they were looking for shards after staring through the ocularum, something which Solas still felt disquieted about, that he remembered to bring up the Rift he and Dorian had seen. Still, he held his tongue for the time, partly because The Inquisitor found another thing to beat with his sword as soon as they caught their breath.
Still, the Inquisitor seemed to enjoy walking on trees and getting into odd crevices and snickering at anyone who fell or calling them an idiot depending on how bad she felt the fall was. Never mind that by noon Solas forced them to stop because she was the one limping even after taking a healing potion.
“We haven’t been able to mention yet, but Dorian and I saw a rift in the Fade yesterday,” said Solas, gently casting a binding spell over the Inquisitor to try and help with the healing of her leg. She bounced as the magic engulfed her. She said the feeling of healing magic was strange. Not that she disliked it, and then she would mutter that perhaps that was the problem.
“Hm? A Rift? Well, we closed a couple yesterday,” said the dwarf, then looked at Solas and smirked. “Made Sera mad as a cat dipped in water. Though, the last one we had to run from had her literally spiting water.”
“Yes, we heard about that all last night,” Dorian called from where he was drinking some water while conspiring with Varric. “You know she’s still scared of demons, right?”
“Yeah, Cassandra offered to teach her techniques again,” said Cadash with a shake of her head. “But the way Sera goes after things she’s scared shitless of is fascinating.”
“Sadist,” grunted Varric, shaking his head and chuckling, Dorian’s own laughter followed the dwarf’s. Cadash just smiled at the both of them.
“This rift was different. It felt old, and was still there when Dorian and I left the Fade,” said Solas, trying to steer the conversation back to what they had been discussing. Cadash looked him over, and a soft, small smile graced her lips. Something much more forgiving than the manic ones she had been giving recently.
“Where was it?” she asked.
“It’s actually in the direction we’re vaguely wandering,” said Solas, pointing to where he remembered seeing it as reflection from the Fade world. Cadash looked over her shoulder, though she would hardly see the rift from so far away and with hills in the way. Wherever the rift was, it was close to the shore if not on some island close by, which could cause problems. Perhaps he could go into the Fade close to there and see what the problem was.
“Hmm, that’s where that island for the Professor is supposed to be,” said Cadash with a purse of her lips. “You mind if we wait until after we’ve gotten in contact?”
“Of course,” said Solas. “We simply thought you should know. I could stay behind one of the days in a camp and walk the Fade there to see.”
“Would that help?” asked Cadash, and then shook her head, bouncing to her feet. “Well, I’ll think about it. And we’ll talk about it more when we get closer. Right now, we need to find that Shard on the hill over there. If we’re lucky, it’ll be at the top of the rock.”
“Sadist!” Dorian yelled, putting away his water skin. Varric mostly seemed cautious, then again, it wasn’t like they were far off from some Lurkers. Though they should be safer once they got away from the water.
“Remember, you didn’t bring Bull. No one’s shoulders to stand on,” Varric pointed out. The Inquisitor snorted, adjusting her helmet over her head.
“Seeing as the last time I tried to that, I took that tumble that almost killed me off that cliff, I think I’m going to hold off on standing on his shoulders for a time,” said the Inquisitor. Dorian and Solas snorted in laughter. Solas hadn’t been there, but after the group she’d left with had brought her back to the camp, Bull, Dorian, and even Cole had been beside themselves until she was stable, but after the story had become legend.
Even Cole, who was confused at first at the story and how so much pain could lead to so much healing, had eventually understood, and often could be found telling the story to those he felt needed to hear it.
Cadash dealt with it at first by rolling her eyes, and now by trying to one up the storyteller, either by telling a story equally embarrassing about them, or one even worse about her past life. Though, some of them couldn’t be true seeing as she was still breathing and had all her limbs intact.
They wandered around after that, letting the Inquisitor take the lead, which she was more than happy to do. They fought off some Avvar, and the Inquisitor poked around the bodies as she usually did. Ignoring some things, and homing in on the most certain things like their purses and any nice gear. The inner circle all had been given permission to take anything they like from what the Inquisitor called her Direct Stash. This included any money they feel they earned traveling with her or weird trinkets.
And while at first, some of the Inner Circle were hesitant to take anything, they soon learned to take what they wanted. If you went around in old and fraying gear, the Inquisitor would get fed up looking at it, sit you down wherever that happened to be whether it was in the Dread Marshes or Val Roleax and play dress up with you. Solas got to watch in Skyhold when Dorian was finally settling in after only being recruited a few weeks before Haven was attacked, the Inquisitor would find him in the library and very publicly, with lots of explanation, give him things he needed. Like food, because she noticed he was getting skinny. New clothes because his were fraying despite how patched up they were. Coins because he needed to buy supplies. Supplies because she heard that people wouldn’t trade with him because he was Trevinter, and the fact people didn’t trust her judgement made her feel guilty.
It had two effects from what Solas could tell. After a walk through the Hinterlands on the pretext of helping Reiner out, Dorian had spoken to the Inquisitor and agreed to take from her gathered supplies and loot more while they were out and about with her, as long as she stopped giving him things in the library. And most people started to trade with Dorian and treat him gentler, more likely to ignore him than spit on him. Because the Inquisitor might hear about how they treated a member of her inner circle and come talk to them.
And Solas meant talk. He’d heard whispers from some servants and nobles how some of the newer members of Skyhold thought she’d be a murdering tyrant. But the rest just feared how she could make you feel grateful for whatever punishment she gave you, because really you deserved worse and maybe now you could start mending fences and she’d think better of you by the end.
Solas slipped on the new ring she’d thrown at him. The effects sang in his mind.
The Shard the Inquisitor was looking for turned out not to be in too dangerous a place. Hardly near the edge of a rolling hill.
They then went to talk to the Avvar. An interesting people, with a unique and even refreshing outlook on their God. Or at least the ones favorable to the Inquisitor.
Still, in true Cadash fashion, they ended up on a quest to rescue a Bear. Which ended up in muck up to their knees, squinting and fighting in the dark, dealing with enemies that left them blindsided even as they systematically mowed them down, and the Inquisitor trying to placate a bear and treat it like it was her pet. By the end, the Inquisitor sent the bear away, sat on the ground, and started to try and figure out the best place to setup a camp.
Finally, she headed out and they started to climb again. Though this was followed by most of her group holding their breaths and watching as the Inquisitor tried and failed to scale up steep hillsides. It was actually a breath of fresh air when they met some enemy Hakkonites and had to deal with them. When it came to places high up in the air, even when she was more settled, the Inquisitor tended to go at climbing with no finesse but the resolve to climb it and then stand in the most precarious spot imaginable.
It wasn’t until the night had ended, everyone yawning and stumbling and grumbling, that the Inquisitor walked up an old treehouse and sent the signal out to the scouts that this was the new place she wanted setup as their camp. They then took turns dozing, trying not to upset their sleep schedules but to also get some rest before they went after the rift the Inquisitor was sure she saw not too far away.
Solas ended up back to back with Dorian. After spending so much of his time exploring the Fade, it had been difficult to explore like this. Before, while his sleep schedule might have been erratic in some sense, and overly indulgent to the elves that dared to tease him about it, but it had been on his schedule. Now they all worked on the Inquisitor’s schedule, which was always erratic. Solas wondered if it was because she didn’t dream that she could go days without sleep before crashing down on in a tent for a couple of hours.
It seemed like the only time she got any actual sleep was when she was grievously injured past the help of healing potions, which, despite her love of testing her ability to defy gravity or overestimating her ability to climb or balance on a ledge, wasn’t as often as someone as active in battle as she was.
They ended up exploring when the Scouts finally arrived to start making camp. The Inquisitor did switch Varric for Cole. Varric begging off to work on his book.
More fighting, and Solas wondered as they interrogated a rogue Hakkon on why she had chosen to live in exile if he had really ever faced this amount of fighting. There had to be a time, but before he had deafened this world by separating the physical world from the spiritual one, he had been fighting a war against elves who made themselves into gods. He fought for the freedom of choice.
He had thought he had fought for freedom.
But while he had been in his share of fights, as he advanced in influence. As more of his time was taking the Vaseline, keeping track of his people and what they got done. Soon it all seemed to be about negotiating. About deals and betrayals. Complications that got thicker the more his influence spread until he was somehow a God himself. It wasn’t that Solas hated the ideas of gods. He understood why people needed them. But he saw others try to trap others by his words, calling them unbelievers.
This fighting, how the Inquisitor went out, fought against the injustices she found and tried to the best of her ability to make the right calls. Solas didn’t know what to make of it. He could see corruption starting within the Inquisition itself. He himself had already placed spies himself in her ranks, but for every spy Solas had, he knew there was a Quanari one and another for Trevinter. And eventually, even if Leliana knew all of them, they could eventually do something to undermine everything the Inquisitor stood for.
It was what Solas both loved and hated about politics. These people might be unable to connect to the Fade meaningfully. Be unable to comprehend how to affect the Spirits they did come in contact with, but they still fell prey to the same limitations Solas had seen through the ages.
Finally, the camp was finished, and Solas not only got a full night’s rest, but was left behind at the camp. Which was interesting, partly because he watched as Sera channeled the Inquisitor and appeared to be testing her balance on the edge of every walkway and jumping on branches, much to the irritation of the people working in the camp, though none of them said so.
Solas also wandered higher up the hill that the camp was settled next to. While it was fascinating to look at the world through the eyes of the spirits, often Solas liked to explore the area first. Find what he could and see what had changed through the passage of time. He’d often explore afterwards. Only a year, but he had started a pattern.
He had wandered the paths of the Fade so far. He didn’t need to walk the world, but it added something to see the land as it was in the physical world. It added something meaningful.
Solas woke before the person above him could touch his shoulder.
The elf was almost surprised to see Dorian standing above him.
“The Inquisitor was afraid that you had been eaten or killed,” said Dorian. “Why did you decide to sleep away from the camp?”
“I felt a difference here,” said Solas. He could have walked here and then back. He had only wished to see the land that he would see reflected in the Spirits reflection of this world.
“Right,” said Dorian with a smirk. “Sounds fascinating. You’ll have to tell me all about it after I show the Inquisitor that you haven’t gotten your painfully dull self eaten or murdered.”
Dorian offered a hand that Solas took, though he stumbled a little as his limbs woke up with him. He wondered if Dorian meant it, actually talking about the Fade and its nuances. Or was he just giving his pleasantries? Solas spent a lot of time below Dorian, and even some time yelling up at him, but they really hadn’t had enough time for Solas to think that the other man had any interest in the Fade.
Though, Solas was starting to realize that Dorian was mostly off putting because of how much he loved his homeland despite its flaws. Solas found himself reflected in the other man the more time he spent around the human. He could understand wanting to go home, to support his people despite their seemingly insurmountable flaws.
“So, she sent the person with the loudest clothes in hopes of scaring whatever had killed me away?” teased Solas. Dorian snorted. If there was one insult game they both threw at each other, it was how they dressed. Dorian was a peacock. Solas was sometimes tempted to tell Dorian that he hadn’t always dressed in such simple dress. He’d never dressed with as many sparkles as Dorian, but Solas had dressed to impress, to reflect the name he’d been given as an insult.
He’d dressed to inspire, whether he was trying to give hope to his friends, or strike fear into his enemies. Solas had used everything at his disposal to do so. And he’d succeeded where so many others had failed.
“Why didn’t the Inquisitor send just you?” asked Solas. “Colette is waiting in the ruins with some information.”
“Sera mentioned her too,” said Dorian, knocking his staff against the ground, surrounding them in a Barrier. Solas wondered if the other had always done things like this. He did. Often. Especially since he’d woken, he’d perform magic just to feel it wash over him. It made him almost feel like he was home again. “But there was a scout that needed to see her immediately.”
“Anything important?” asked Solas. Dorian shrugged.
“She wanted to make sure you were okay,” said Dorian with a shrug. Solas couldn’t help but wonder if the Inquisitor wasn’t overreacting because she was afraid of what one of her companions would pull out next.
The disappointing thing was, Solas already had a secret that would send her reeling once again. And worse, it was because of Solas’s actions that she was Inquisitor to begin with. Well, and the reason the whole world was going to shit too.
“Who is she planning to take out next?” asked Solas. Dorian shrugged.
“I think she plans on going back to the Hakkon to talk about the bear situation and check on the bones, and the exile,” said Dorian. “I think she’s going to send you ahead of us, something about wanting to take time with Bull to bash a couple more things.”
“He should be happy with that. He seems to think they need more time alone together,” said Solas. Thinking about the way The Iron Bull had been moping in his own special way these last few days. Solas had wondered about the Inquisitor not bringing the Chargers with her for Bull to work with when he wasn’t being her bodyguard, but apparently they were off on their own assignment while their Boss was busy being a bodyguard.
“I’m not sure that’s what he had in mind,” said Dorian with an inelegant snort. “I think Sera’s coming with us. Apparently, she’s been driving everyone nuts with her antics and pranks these last few days.”
“She did seem to be making everyone nervous. I hadn’t thought that Blackwall’s past bothered her,” said Solas. Dorian shrugged.
“I don’t think it did,” said Dorian. “I think it’s everyone’s reactions that got her acting out even more than usual.”
The camp was full of activity when they entered into the area. Solas found himself swept up with the inner circle and the Inquisitors personal guard as they rapidly put effort into pulling the supplies and manpower needed to leave the Basin and make their way back to Skyhold. The Inquisitor was fielding all sorts of requests and trying to keep up with rapidly changing information as she got ready to leave the Frostback Basin for whatever was calling her back to Skyhold.
It wasn’t until they were back on the road again that Solas was able to get any information why the Inquisitor had left in such a hurry. Commander Cullen had apparently found some information on how to beat Samson. Though they didn’t have information beyond that nothing was certain. Varric told them when they actually stopped to make camp at night while huddled around the fire.
Solas watched as Dorian used a spell as subtly as possible to warm his body. Though he was interested to note that the other was careful to use it so that not even a scorch mark appeared. Solas wondered if he’d learned it even before he’d come to work for the Inquisition, or if circumstance had acted like a motivator.
“Cold to the touch. He remembers burnt fingertips and wonders if there was something even more ancient to help him learn,” said Cole, appearing between Dorian and Solas. Solas glanced at Cole, putting a hand on the other even as Varric reminded Cole to not poke around where he wasn’t wanted. Still, by comparison of what Cole usually pulled out of the head of those around him, that had been tame.
Perhaps he had pulled that thought from Dorian because of what Solas had been thinking. Usually Solas kept his thought guarded, but even he slipped from time to time, and the gentler he prodded, the more likely Solas was to not be at his most guarded. Though, whether he would tell the Inquisitor would depend. He probably would. Cole saw the past as the past. He didn’t tell the Inquisitor about Blackwall’s past because Blackwall was a different man now.
Solas on the other hand, intended to kill everyone and everything while remaking it to the glory it once celebrated.
“He’s reflecting on the past again,” whined Sera. Solas looked at the elf, and yes, she was talking about him.
“Come on Solas,” said Dorian. “You should try some of this swill they’re trying to pass off as… well, I’m not entirely sure there is any alcohol in this, no matter what you people claim. But it does seem to do a passable job of warming you up in this unbearable weather.”
“Sparkler, you’d be complaining even if the weather was perfect Trevinter sunshine,” said Varric, leaning back as he took a draft of his own. “Plus, I don’t think Chuckles is too worried about keeping warm. He does walk around practically barefoot in Skyhold most of the time.”
“Don’t remind me,” said Dorian with a shiver. “I feel myself getting frostbite just thinking about it.”
“Probably some magic mumbo jumbo,” said Sera with a sneer, leaning back and then giggling at Dorian. “Or you’re just a pampered little Magister. It’s really not that cold. We aren’t even in the mountains yet.”
“Not that cold?” asked Dorian with a scoff. “And how many times do I have to tell you that I’m not a Magister Sera, just an Altus.”
“Altus, Magister, what does it matter? You’re still rich shits,” said Sera, but she has that ruthful grin that means she’s having fun. Solas has seen it before. Never directed at him, but Sera gets on with Blackwall and Bull enough that he knows it when he sees it. He wondered how the friendship between Dorian and Sera seems so strong. Yes, Dorian for all his preening, is rather quick to admit to faults when they’ve been put before him, and he tends to make jokes at the expense of everybody, including himself and his home, but he’s also from a very rich family and sometimes doesn’t seem to realize what he has had in comparison to others.
But maybe that’s why they got along. Plus, Sera didn’t put up with whining, so enslaving the elves probably didn’t bother her. Not that she thought that it was right. More that she just thought it was Big People looking down on Little People, and some of the Little People getting morose and using it as an excuse not to do anything and feel superior to other people.
The way she looked at things was unique and frustrating. She didn’t know what she missed being an elf of this age, and Solas was often frustrated that she didn’t have any interest in learning about her people’s past. But he could also see how it would be freeing to not look back.
Besides the simple point that asking Sera to reflect or look ahead to the future went completely against her nature.
A loud explosion went off next to Dorian, making the other man practically jump into Solas’s lap. For once, Solas hadn’t done anything but jump in surprise, steadying Dorian as the human hummed with magic. The barrier Dorian had erected however, was unneeded. That was easy enough to tell from the cackling Sera was doing.
“The look on your faces,” she screeched, almost tumbling backwards. Dorian chuckled, but Solas found himself frowning and shaking his head. It wasn’t that he didn’t see how a good trick could help loosen friends up. He had been young and impulsive once. But he had never understood doing tricks like this against friends. Against enemies, sure, especially those you wanted rattled instead of killed. But why play loud, fear inducing tricks when you were on the road where the threat of death by bandits, red Templars, and even Corypheus existed?
Better to temper the tricks to something light and actually humorous instead of there being a chance that your prank could lead its victim to seriously harm themselves or another under the pretense they were being attacked.
“And don’t you two look nice, all cuddled together,” said Sera, leering at them.
“Watch out Chuckles,” said Varric, his eyes glinting in the firelight. “Dorian and Sera were probably plotting together so Dorian could steal some warmth from you.”
“If you catch his meaning,” said The Iron Bull with a lewd chuckle of his own, coming to sit at the fire at just the right moment to get his two cense in.
“Don’t be ridiculous. I can keep myself warm enough without stealing from my friends,” said Dorian with a wave of his hands. Then he looked over at Solas, his face very close to the elves, and his eyebrows knit as he leaned in and touched Solas’s face. The elf found himself blushing, not used to people being comfortable enough to stay this close to him for any length of time. “Though, you are very warm.”
“Are you sure it’s not the Barrier that you put around both of us?” asked Solas.
“No, this doesn’t feel like that,” said Dorian, staring at Solas. Then the Altus shook his head, sitting up awkwardly with Solas’s help.
“What is going on here?” asked Cadash, the implication clear from her tone and the smirk on her face as she sat next to Bull.
“Oh, nothing much. Our two mages were getting warm together with Sera’s help,” said Varric, which made everyone laugh, even Cole and the night spiraled into a competition of who could make the worst lude implication or pun.
Solas listened for the most part, not adding any ideas himself, but supporting some of the better ones and rolling his eyes at the ones that didn’t make any sense at all. Still, this easy comradery. It did feel like being surrounded by friends. By people who respected each other, shared together, felt a connection deeper than any words could express. He hadn’t thought he could feel that in this world so separate from that of the Spirits.
Then again, perhaps this is what he got for judging people based on what the Spirits took from mortal minds. He had thought he had them all figured out. Such desperate people that strove for nothing. Who didn’t live so much as they existed. They allowed themselves to be enslaved, to give up on being better on being their best. All because so much could not be when the Veil had been created.
But that wasn’t the whole truth, was it? These people, Solas was starting to think they were exactly like the ones he had destroyed when the Veil had been erected. The only difference was that their abilities and connections to deeper truths had been stifled due to many being cut off from the land of the Spirits. The races that had come about weren’t lesser, as Solas thought, simply different.
But still people, and still capable of so much.
Solas let his mind go back to the game. They were alive now. They were fighting now. Sera was right, in some respect. This moment mattered. No matter what Solas was forced to do later, for now he could try his best to make this life they lived just that much more better. He owed it to all of them that he would murder trying to make things right.
I'm not sure when I'll update again. I'm losing the computer with my microsoft word on it for at least a week :(
Also, slow burn is slow, and while I think this chapter is important, I wondered after reading it now if it doesn't to most people just seem like a filler chapter.
The Inquisitor had to be practically led to her room by The Iron Bull before she was allowed to go interrogate Commander Cullen. Solas himself hadn’t done more than slip into his usual clothes, keeping the ones he would need for the road close at hand. He hoped they would have at least a day to stay and recuperate after the long trip.
Not that it was a guarantee. The Inquisition had a lot on its plate, and as its figurehead, Cadash, was always kept busy until she mentally had to take a break from it all, and even then her advisors were always finding sneaky ways to get her to look at important documents, talk to important diplomats, and inspect her soldiers.
So Solas sat down and picked up a light book he wanted to pursue in order that he might better understand the dwarven culture and how it worked. Before he got into another discussion about them with Varric.
It wasn’t too surprising when Solas found himself roused by one of the Runners to get ready to head out with the Inquisitor. The Runner stuck around, helping Solas with some of work needed to get into his armor. It wasn’t that it was complicated, but the Inquisitor obviously was chomping at the bit, so he accepted the help and the food the Runner had for him and made his way out the gates to where a small party was gathering with a squad of Cullen’s men.
“We’re heading to the Shrine of Dumat,” said the Inquisitor. “We’re heading out with a small party at first, and hopefully we’ll be able to catch Samson before he slips away. Commander Cullen will be coming with us.”
Solas nodded, then glanced behind him when a hand was placed on his shoulder.
“Is that a meat bun I smell?” asked Dorian, leaning over and taking a deep breath in, even as two horses were led to them to mount. Solas handed the treat over to the man before he mounted, taking it back once he was seated.
“Your runner didn’t bring you breakfast?” asked Solas.
“No, practically dragged me out of bed shouting,” said Dorian, shaking his head like the voice was still in his head. “Had some very interesting ideas of the company I kept despite the fact that there was no one but me to be found under the covers. Perhaps he thought I’d made them disappear with blood magic.”
Solas frowned. He understood the prejudice, and perhaps some people hadn’t had the experience he and the rest of the inner circle had to know Dorian was trustworthy in a fight, but sometimes the way people lashed out at those they felt were safe baffled him. Solas had seen that sort of reaction, and had even come to anticipate it, he even understood it on a certain level. But it seemed so senseless to him. Why treat a member of the Inner Circle so harshly? Just because the Inquisitor didn’t always jump to Dorian’s aid immediately, didn’t mean she didn’t use her connections to make others’ lives harder when they threatened her carefully built up Inquisition.
“Here,” said Solas, reaching over to hand Dorian the bun. Dorian looked scandalized. Solas lifted one eyebrow. “I already ate one. A second will sit heavy after that.”
Dorian still looked hesitant and Solas sighed and broke the bun in half. Dorian still hesitated a moment, before he reached out and took the bun in hand, sighing as he took a bite.
“Thank you, my friend,” said Dorian, almost too softly to hear. Solas found himself smiling. It was always interesting to catch his friends off guard, when they weren’t putting on whatever mask suited their needs to hide whatever they truly felt from the world.
Had there ever been a time when even elves felt comfortable just being themselves? Not that Dorian wasn’t brash, but this side of him, the soft, grateful, openness when he said thank you. That was a moment he would not want to share with many fearing that by showing that side of him, he was showing weakness. Better to be verbose and loud and seem to not really care when caring could bring so much heartbreak.
What would it be like if Solas could openly talk about what he remembered? If he could talk about the would be Gods. Could tell the Inquisitor about his mistakes. That it had been him that gave Corypheus that orb.
To tell someone about Mythal and how her death had broken him.
The signal went for the company to start moving. Despite the supposed smaller size of the company, it was even larger than the one that usually followed the Inquisitor to whatever area in Orlais or Ferelden that she decided to head out to. The way forward was slow. Solas found himself playing chess against Bull again. It was a fun experience to do so without a board. Challenging in a way that was refreshing.
Of course, Varric interrupted at one point. Not that Solas and The Iron Bull weren’t used to playing the game over long stretches of time. Often deciding moves weeks after the last one, but this game had been of a much faster pass by mutual decision agreement, and Varric very craftily snuck in his comments so that the board became confused. Eventually they couldn’t decide what the real last move had been, or where the pieces were, though Solas was sure Bull was being dense because he knew he had let himself be led into a trap.
Still, the end result was Varric declaring himself the victor, and Solas and him getting into another discussion about the rise and fall of dwarven people and culture.
They stopped only briefly to water the horses and for hard tact to be eaten. Solas learned that Reiner was near the end of the party. Solas wondered if the Inquisitor had meant for him to come. Vivienne was in their troop also, though she road upfront tittering with high enough people and whispering in Cadash’s ear.
They finally stopped to camp outside a small village. Solas ended up in a tent with Dorian, Varric, and Cole. The Fade was stirred with all sorts of interesting thoughts. That was one amazing thing about living in this world again. Solas had traveled much of the Fade. He wasn’t as restricted as others, but he hadn’t spent time with such interesting people since he created the Veil.
Here, in their midst, he moved from dream to dream. Pulled by Spirits reflections of the minds around him. The landscapes, the battles, the fears, the joy. Now that they were riding out, some with lots of information, some with none, the ideas of what they would find reflected back in fantastical situations as the Spirits tried to reflect their minds back.
Solas found one recreating a ruin that was shaded heavy in light and shadows, as if the world had been made more vibrant. Little insects floated through the air, that Solas looked closer at and realized were really tiny people, floating without meaning through the air. Another Spirit seemed to join, creating a child in the landscape who played and grabbed at the insects, holding them too tight and squishing them in grubby, uncoordinated hands.
Then they were roused by the call of the horn. Many soldiers getting to their feet. Solas watched, taking care to get something to eat as he scanned around. It was always interesting to see reactions after such a night. See those whose minds were refreshed beyond those that just seemed more stressed.
It was particularly interesting among those so removed from the Fade. Basically, those who had not been lucky enough to be connected enough to the Fade to use magic. Still, though they hardly remembered what they had seen, in some ways they were more effected. They’re emotions during the time spilling into the waking world with only vague memories of what had caused them.
It was night, and Solas was called to the front with Cassandra and Cole. What they found was not what they had hoped, but still gave way to some answers. Still, Samson had tried to burn it to the ground, and while some answers could be found, most had been lost to fire. It was a waste. The building in ruin both from fire and the growing of the red lyrium. It obviously bothered both Commander Cullen and Cassandra, and while Solas would have liked more time to explore the secrets that might still be hidden, but the way the two pursed their lips and commander Cullen actually seemed to shake after the Red Templars were all taken care of, so he could appreciate that the Inquisitor made a point to leave behind a few of Leliana’s people while taking them a little was back toward Skyhold before settling down for the night.
Solas yawned, but he hadn’t yet retreated to the tent he shared. He wasn’t sure if trying to sleep would be worth it.
The Inquisitor yawned next to him. The Iron Bull was busy somewhere, and no one seemed too worried about her safety. Solas didn’t have the same confidence. He knew perhaps even better than Leliana the debts that the Inquisition had already been infiltrated by outside forces. Not that she wasn’t aware to a certain degree, but she was overly confident and often missed the most obvious.
It was amazing how often elven servants were overlooked.
“This would be a wonderful place to explore the Fade wouldn’t it?” asked the Inquisitor seemingly to the air. Solas looked over to see her looking at him from the side of her eyes. She turned to him, hands clasped behind her back. He could just make out a tired smile on her shadowed face.
“Do you want me to draw you into the Fade again?” asked Solas. He had done it once before. It had been fascinating. Dwaves didn’t dream, but with her having the Anchor, he’d been able to draw her there, though it had obviously shaken her. She had avoided him, and never asked him to do a favor like before. If it hadn’t been for her constant questions about his knowledge of the Fade and the past, he would have thought she forgot he was a Dream Walker entirely.
“No, I need a good night’s sleep,” said the Inquisitor. “Though I would be interested in walking with you again. It was certainly an experience.”
Solas smiled and nodded. Despite how rattled she was, Cadash had simply taken time to process it, and now she was ready to face it head on again.
“I was thinking you and Dorian could check things out,” said The Inquisitor.
“Dorian?” asked Solas. The Inquisitor nodded and then looked where she was being summoned. She gave a signal that she would be there as soon as she could, and turned back to Solas, bouncing on the balls of her feet.
“He might notice things you don’t. Variety,” said the Inquisitor, looking him in the eyes. “Take as long as you need. I’m keeping you, Dorian, Varric, and The Iron Bull with me along with a small troop here for another day to check in on the locals and gather any immediate evidence to bring back to Skyhold with me. So, you and Dorian have plenty of time to Dream Walk.”
Solas just stared at her. This was quite the one eighty, going from practically ignoring his gift until her curiosity got the better of her, to trying to use it to her advantage.
“Unless you’re uncomfortable Walking the Fade?” asked The Inquisitor, looking confused at the idea. Solas shook his head.
“While Dream Walking can be abused, this is one of the more benign uses when it comes to war,” said Solas. The Inquisitor looked at Solas, her eyes narrowing a little as she looked him over. Then someone called to her again, she glanced to see Cassandra glaring at her and cursed.
“Let me know if I ever ask you something beyond your comfort level. I would rather you tell me so I can understand than the alternative,” said The Inquisitor, then swore when she was signaled again. “We’ll talk more later. Find Dorian, you’ll have tonight and all tomorrow for you two to do whatever you need to.”
She went to Cassandra and ducked under the tent to talk.
The energy of the camp was frantic. Lots of plans being changed. Lots of soldiers who had expected a fight, left instead with nothing to do since Samson and most of his men had fled before they made it to the Shrine.
A couple of clouds passed over to the moon. The stars weren’t as clear as they could with fires blinding the side of his eyes. He started to wander to his tents. Dorian was off to one side, a book in one hand as he tried to sit close enough to the fire to see the page.
He caught Solas’s eyes as the elf came toward him and stood.
“I hear the Inquisitor wants us to go into the Fade together again,” said Dorian, with a wide smile, though he was clutching his book tightly. Probably nervous then. Solas wondered at the reason. Was it because he didn’t wish to do it again? Had the experience been fine during but disturbing when he reflected on it? He knew elves back even when the Fade hadn’t been separate that had been cagey about him entering what was dreams back then.
“She wishes to…”
“Yes, Cole, thank you! You don’t need to repeat it!” said Dorian, his voice actually cracking as he spoke.
Solas felt himself relax and quietly called himself an idiot. If Dorian had been disturbed by Solas walking in his dreams than it would have come up sooner. No, this was just a case of a certain Compassion Spirit probably pulling something embarrassing from Dorian’s mind.
It was probably also how Dorian learned what the Inquisitor wanted before Solas approached him.
“She wishes us start as soon as possible. Probably to help the Scouts,” said Solas.
“I like when we help,” said Cole absently. Dorian sent him a glare and the former spirit made himself scarce.
“It is still a part of his nature,” Solas pointed out.
“I know,” said Dorian as they started to walk toward their tent. “Sometimes I find myself thinking I would rather deal with a demon. At least I understand their motivations.”
“He wishes to help,” Solas pointed out. Dorian sighed.
“Yes, but you’re forgetting that I’m a Trevinter Altus. We don’t understand Compassion and all these weak emotions. We live on debauchery and smiling as we poison each other’s drinks and spread malicious lies until our friends are disgraced and dead in the ground and all their relatives are too,” said Dorian, his words both playful and serious. The sort of joke that holds too much truth for the teller to be truly funny. “I have heard of compassion, but a spirit that simply is that is completely beyond my understanding.”
“You give yourself too little credit,” said Solas, opening their tent and ducking inside. He would strip enough of the armor to be comfortable, but not so much that he couldn’t be up and fighting in moments. They weren’t out in the wilderness, but being so close to where their enemies’ right and man had been scheming away on lyrium armor wasn’t safe either. “You show much to the apprentices in the library.”
“Those idiots?” asked Dorian with a snort of laughter. “It’s not worth being cruel to them.”
“I have never seen you purposely cruel to anyone. Perhaps you have a bit of a sharp tongue, but when you realize what you have said caused offence, you often admit to it and ask forgiveness,” said Solas, careful to say this casually, just keeping the other man in his sights by the corners of his eyes. As he thought, Dorian looked flustered, his expression almost devastated.
He took genuine compliments hard. Solas wondered if it was a part of his personality, or if he simply hadn’t had many growing up.
“You don’t know me well enough. Letting my blindingly good looks trick you into thinking I’m a decent person,” said Dorian. Solas sat on his bedroll, carefully placing his staff so it was easy to grab and couldn’t be taken without waking him.
“I think it’s your blindingly bright clothes and my own prejudices that kept me from seeing how decent you were in the first place,” said Solas. But he wouldn’t push more than that. Dorian already looked like he might faint from the praise. Still, perhaps a little encouragement would help him let his shields down enough that those close enough could see under all the bravado. “You don’t give yourself enough credit friend. Now, am I to put you to sleep while you’re still stand?”
Dorian seemed caught off guard, then he laughed, probably relieved that Solas had changed the subject for him.
“Well, that would make quite the sight for Varric to walk in on wouldn’t it?” asked Dorian with a chuckle. “But I better lie down in case our dear Inquisitor draws bears to us simply by being her.”
The other man laughed weakly, he had already discarded the armor that he could, but removed his staff from his back and placed it in easy reaching distance as he settled into his bedroll. He did it with a practiced air around him, though whether that was form all the trips the Inquisitor dragged them on, or if Dorian was used to sleeping like this, Solas had to admit that he didn’t know.
“Alright, I think we’re ready,” said Dorian, his voice sounding a little tight. Solas smirked a little, apparently even in Trevinter where magic was so common, the other wasn’t used to relying others to help him sleep. Though, knowing the reputation that place had, perhaps he had reason for his anxiety.
Solas sighed as he let the spell wash over both of them. The spirits didn’t have a dream for him, instead he was pulled instantly into Dorian’s, as if they lifted from their heads what Solas’s plan was and decided that if Solas was going to do what he wanted, then they’d just go along with it because it wasn’t like they could pull anything from Solas to show him anyway, so they’d just be reflecting someone else’s memory at him.
Elev used to find these situations, when they happened, humorous. Saying that Solas was depriving the poor spirits and that he could just feel them sulking whenever they just did whatever Solas wanted instead of coming up with ideas of their own that they had taken from other people.
“Now that isn’t mine,” said Dorian. Solas looked down to where the other man sat on the thin branch they were perched on. Solas looked out into the vast sky stretched before them, they were so high up that they appeared to be above the clouds, obscuring the view so Solas couldn’t even tell if there was a ground to fall down to.
Then he heard the laughter. Ah, he had let himself get distracted. Seemed that a spirit had been able to pull Elev’s laughter from his mind. And he’d been trying not to reflect on those thoughts.
“An old friend,” said Solas, a little embarrassed.
“Really, sounds evil enough to be a Magister or at the very least an aspiring evil overlord of the same ilk,” said Dorian, who brought up his legs as if to stand before gripping the branch so tightly his veins stood out a little.
“He would have thought that was a compliment,” Solas said, then shook his head. They had a job to do, and it was better not to dwell on things like this.
To remember his past friends, all those close to him, it was a distraction. Remembering all the hurt and pain he caused and the way the world was supposed to be, that was important. But if he spent all his time reminiscing about every soul lost that day, all the friends killed, murdered, gone, then he would never be able to correct what had gone so terribly wrong.
“We should leave here soon,” said Solas, watching as a tree with its roots dug deep in the clouds, turned yellow and started to fall. “Demons will be drawn to this dream.”
“And here I thought you liked to be around people with the ability to inspire interesting dreams from the spirits,” said Dorian, sounding teasing. Solas laughed, taking his hands and helping the other man, up, only to pull them down off the branch. To Dorian’s surprise, the human only let out a small scream before they landed in a strong, freshly created memory a spirit had created. “Well, that was certainly dramatic.”
“I’m sorry my friend,” said Solas, not trying hard to hide his smile of amusement. Dorian looked him over and then snorted.
“No you are not,” said the human, dusting off his robes, raising an eyebrow at Solas. “What if that had woken me up?”
“I thought it would be easier than just bringing you there,” said Solas. “Like the door last time. This time I was just seeing if you could stay asleep while we walk this way.”
“Your sleep spell so weak?” asked Dorian with a laugh.
“Hardly, but this isn’t a Harrowing,” said Solas, who had done a lot of research, both through books and from memories of spirits that had been brought there. It was fascinating in its own way. Tragic for the sprits, and even to the mages, but mostly because of the limitations of the belief and connections these people had with spirits.
Still, it was, in many ways, an inspired test. A show of how these people adapted to a threat against them. It didn’t say much about their ability to learn about the actual nature of spirits, but seeing how fluid spirits were, especially since they’d been cut from the physical and stuck in the Fade, that was excusable to a point.
Basically, Solas gave them credit for their ability to adapt and keep living, if not to their ability to work things out without resorting to violence. But that had always been a problem, he for one as long lived as him.
“I have slept through dealing with demons before,” said Dorian with a laugh. “Really, some of them can throw the most outrageous parties as long as you have a mind twisted enough to evade letting them possess you. Which I can assure you I have. My Trevinter upbringing shining through to make me the life of the party no matter sort of party I’m dragged to. There was this lovely one… though perhaps your sensitive ears wouldn’t want to hear it.”
“Oh?” asked Solas, strolling through the path as they made their way through toward the temple. He took his staff in hand, not intending to use it, but he could sense the demons that had been attracted to the high emotions and actions taken by the ones who had worked and then destroyed the temple.
“Well, perhaps not, I heard of a certain interesting incident where you apparently urinated magic,” said Dorian, raising an eyebrow at the elf.
“I tried,” Solas admitted, and then laughed with the other man. “But I passed out before I could even really try.”
“You sure?” asked Dorian with a wicked grin.
“Believe me. If I had, I would have never heard the end of it,” said Solas, and he couldn’t help the found tone. He tried not to think of the people that made it found, only because he didn’t need the distraction at the moment, and the heartache was something he would deal with no matter the memories.
“Your friend again?” asked Dorian.
“A different one,” said Solas, and then looked away, because that had sounded sharp, and that wasn’t his intention.
“Sorry, I seem to have stuck my foot into my mouth. Not that uncommon really, all things considered,” said Dorian, and Solas smiled. He is reminded that Dorian owns up to his mistakes. He can be flippant, and sometimes his apologies can seem insincere if you don’t know him, especially when he is apologizing for something like this, which is just him saying something that caused Solas to remember a painful part of his past. But it’s nice to be reminded that Dorian is a man that can admit to his own faults, that he is smart and observant enough to see them, and that he is honest enough to own up to them.
Of course, the man continues to prattle away, waving his staff in large movements and saying things that mean nothing.
“Perhaps if you didn’t prattle on so much, you wouldn’t have to acknowledge your faults so often,” said Solas carefully. He liked trading jokes, but even when he was at his worst in his youth, he’d always been careful about it with people he genuinely liked.
Dorian however, has fairly thick skin, which is what Solas is counting on, slightly. He is a Trevinter Altus surrounded by people who hate and fear him because of where he was born. He was also, apparently, fairly good friends with Sera, so he had to be able to take a joke.
“But what fun would that be?” asked Dorian.
“Perhaps if you were more sincere with your words, instead of flashy like your clothing,” said Solas, looking the man over.
Dorian threw his head back as he laughed.
“Seeing as I’m pretty sure you created this look for me. I remember being in something a little more embarrassing when you found me,” said Dorian, his voice squeaking just a little. Solas didn’t look at the man. He’d been trying not to look. Sometimes what went through people’s head was what they really didn’t want. “And didn’t we have this conversation already?”
“They’re a little distracting,” said Solas. Dorian threw his head back and laughed. Solas chuckled, though he couldn’t imagine how it was so funny.
“Oh, finally, we’re here,” said Dorian, and Solas couldn’t help but agree. They had not been that far from the temple. The mind that the spirit had taken the memory of the temple from that had made the path to the temple so much longer. “I don’t remember the temple being this shiny even when it was on fire.”
Solas had to agree. It was clear right from the beginning that this version of the temple was tempered by an imaginative, probably unstable mind. Not too surprising considering the red lyrium they had found growing throughout the building.
“Oh, wonderful, it appears to also be made out of mica,” said Dorian with a grimace. Solas looked to where the other man was carefully stepping back from the stairs where the rock did appear to be paper thin and flaking where Dorian had stepped through it.
They both took a step back, looking at the temple in front of them. It did seem to shine. The stone was sparkling against the dark light. The entire place seemed to be lit oddly. The stones darker than they were even though they had entered during the night. Solas pushed against the stone stairs. Pushing down and watching as the stone crumbled. But a few stones stayed floating in the air.
An interesting little bit of patterns that Solas had seen in the minds of those that seemed to have been born even more broken than what he had already made them. What the Spirits took from their minds was always fascinating. Solas had been finding reflections like this more and more in the fade. Those men and women addicted to lyrium would find that reflected in interesting ways that seemed to reflect a world that was very real for the dreamer, but was often missing important places or would have needed to exist in the real world.
It made sense then that those people were often surrounded by demons who were drawn to the sorts of spirits that reflected back the world as it wasn’t. It was amazing how demons could find these differences.
“Perhaps we should pick a spirit who chose to reflect a world from a mind less… disturbed,” said Dorian, looking over at the stairs. Solas chuckled and started to carefully walk onto the stairs, testing his weight on each stone before moving to the next. He couldn’t do so very gracefully, and he probably looked a little ridiculous, but somehow looking ridiculous and keeping his composure didn’t seem as important as it usually did.
He supposed here, and even for such a long time as he struggled against the Evanuris and became more and more a god to those he rescued even when he rejected the title. Even here, when he apologized to for his missteps, he calculated it to be a teaching moment or to try and influence a person in some way. Which, he supposed that’s what they were meant to do, except… somehow when compared to how Dorian or even Cassandra apologized, his apologies seemed disingenuous.
But here, jumping on stones with Dorian squawking behind him, and then laughing as the other mage stumbled behind him and complained more. Solas felt young again, and then so very old.
Yay, I'm writing. Boo, honestly this isn't edited at it's best. Sigh.
Getting through the temple was a little bit of a trick. Every step forward, one of them was bending the Fade to check what patches they could walk on. They found that magic didn’t always work when finding the weak spots in the floor. Solas had been the one who almost fell this time, finding himself pulled back by a swearing Dorian. Solas couldn’t help but smile, going along with it, mostly because he wasn’t sure he could influence the Fade around him without attracting the demons trolling so close by.
It was better to put off meeting them as long as possible so they could learn what they could. The facts might be skewed, but there was a chance they could find the person this spirit had pulled from to create this world, and if that turned out to be true, then perhaps it is a red Templar, or at least someone effected by it.
How the red lyrium affected the mind could be of use. At the very least, it would give them some insight.
“What is that?” asked Dorian, pointing up at one outcropping where a light of pure blue shined gently from somewhere just hidden from sight.
“Let’s go find out,” said Solas, and Dorian groaned. They walk across the railing, and Solas looks down, the fog covers the lower floors and he wonders if he never went down there or if he separated it in their mind. The stairs up are actually easy, there’s a path right down the middle that’s comfortable to walk. Thy find themselves doing a sort of hopscotch to the spot where Solas can see the blue glowing from what looks like a little blue stone.
“Well, this is certainly interesting,” said Dorian, sounding mostly sarcastic. Solas rolled his eyes, it was a bit of a trek, but it was hardly that horrible yet.
The little blue stone was cool in his hands. Solas allowed the feeling of being submerged in ice water to pass over him. It was not an unpleasant feeling. A sort of discomfort one might get from treating a burn. There was a feeling of something like pain, but also a sense of relief after as the pain you might not even acknowledge any longer washed from you.
“Is that a face under all that glow?” asked Dorian, leaning very close to Solas in order to look at the little rock held in his hand. “Curious, I can’t quite make it out, but I think it’s female, right? Or are those just robes?”
“You shouldn’t touch that or they’ll see,” said a soft male voice. They both stood up abruptly to look at where a boy, probably no older than fourteen, stood, looking up at them a little defiantly even as his body was strung tense, all his muscles bunched as if to fight or run, his fists clenched tight so that if he has any nails they’re probably digging into his skin.
He was human, muscled but still growing, with a slight tan to his skin and no sign of corruption.
Well, he was supposed to seem human.
“Why not?” asked Solas. The demon pouted. And it was a demon. The Fade around him spook of the desire to get out, to enter into the physical world. To be more than just an idea. But it was a fear demon. A spirit born through desperation, probably attracted to the humanity that had existed within the Templars here, or even the people near the shrine.
At one time, when everything had been as one, it would have been possible to work with the spirit, well demon. Solas had done it many times before the rift. It didn’t always work spirits were a force of their own, and even with no imagination of their own, they still possessed a will, even if it was one they had dragged from the mind of an elf. But their nature is not one that can’t be soothed with a mind that speaks to their natures, that can’t help untwist what has been corrupted.
Often it was too late, and battling demons had never been uncommon, but there used to be a chance. Now, where the Veil has separated the spirits and physical world so completely that both desperately tried to understand while never being able to. It didn’t help that the Veil was so complete that there were only a couple of people who could even reach it, and because the knowledge of the Fade was so incomplete and often just incorrect, those people were feared.
Solas took a breath in, and then released it. This was not the time to reflect. He knew what his actions had brought about. He knew that this world missed so much because of the Veil. So much had been destroyed and lost, and by bringing it back, none of these people would ever be able to experience it. The chaos created when the Veil was lifted would destroy them. Unlike the Tranquil, known of these people had even experienced being a part of the Veil. To be connected to the Fade, it wasn’t even conceivable to them.
Not even the mages truly knew what it would be like.
“They might find it and then it’ll be gone,” said the demon, nervous eyes going from Solas’s hand to Dorian.
“Why would they destroy it?” asked Solas, and winced as even as he asked, Dorian snorted.
“You really think we’re fooled demon?” asked Dorian with a snort. Solas let out a sigh even as he threw up a barrier spell. The demon revealed himself, changing from the young human form to a floating green monstrous creature with spikes. Dorian seemed to enjoy himself, a smile splitting his lips. Solas changed the floor beneath them, so that neither of them needed to worry about their footwork, but not manipulating anything else around him.
The battle was surprisingly well-balanced for Solas staying within the bounds of nature. The Fade had limitations, but not nearly as many as this fight would make it seem. Dorian was bound to his usual magic because this spirit reflected the world back, and he was bound by his own mind’s limitations.
Still, Solas was able to create enough to pull healing potions enough to heal the worse when the spells and attacks left Dorian bleeding. Then there was a sound, a snarling yell that had to be even more demons. Solas knew there were more, and that his changing of the dream would draw them. He wondered how many would come to them, and how many would use this as a way to fuel their will to push their way into the physical world.
The Veil here was still thin after all. You could feel it in the air.
“We could wake up if you wish,” said Solas, wincing a little. They would have fought the demon. The air was too thin, there were too many demons and aggression floating in the layers of the Fade that surrounded them.
“Better to deal with them now. It’s still night, even if we don’t walk together, than we’re going to sleep and dream. I’d rather deal with the demon now together, then face them on my own,” said Dorian, his voice sounding a touch short. Solas found his own irritation building. They had come to learn more what had happened here, or at least the impressions ingrained in the events, and instead they ended up battling the very creatures that had these impressions left on them.
Still, Dorian had a point. Now that the demons were aware of their presence, they might as well deal with them. Though, in the mood Dorian was in, he didn’t think they should stick around for long. They might encounter a spirit, only for it to change into a demon in order to be what Dorian saw it as.
There was a reason he hadn’t even considered this before. Apparently, he’d become too comfortable with these people. He’d forgotten their limitations created by being so separate from the Fade.
There were only three demons left. Dorian seemed a little shocked, but that was quite a few when you actually considered it. The real reason that demons had come in such numbers around rifts was because the shock of a spirit being ripped from the Fade into the physical world. Not that there weren’t dangers. There were still many spirits that had been drawn by the elevated emotions of the people and red Templars that had littered the Shrine. Many held the after images of places and people so corrupted and twisted that it was a fine line between being a demon or being a spirit.
“Well, that was quite a work out for the mind,” said Dorian, rolling his shoulders and twisting his head as he shook out his hands. Solas always found it fascinating how even mages, who knew they were dreaming and thus not in a real body, still would move and act as if they possessed one. “I’m going to be starving when I wake.”
“Really?” asked Solas. Dorian shrugged.
“Everyone always knew when I had faced a demon and best it. The next morning I’m always ravenous, like I was in an actual fight,” said Dorian. “There’s some backing to this. After all, the body can still react, tense, flail, the heart in your actual body pound, when you’re having a nightmare, or facing a demon. I’m just worse than some.”
“It is about time for breakfast,” said Solas absently. Dorian looked at the elf in shock.
“Surely not?” the human asked. “It feels like it’s only been an hour at most.”
“Time can appear different when walking the Fade,” Solas pointed out.
“Well, yes, but I thought it would be different walking with a dream walker,” said Dorian. “Well, in that case, we should wake up at least long enough to get our fill before the northern barbarians demolish our food.”
Solas agreed, and cast the spell for waking. He’d try to convince the Inquisitor that he didn’t need Dorian to accompany him into the Fade again. The mage had been mostly a detriment this entire trip. Solas tried to avoid fighting in the Fade. It generally just destroyed what information could be obtained by charging headfirst and battle ready. Perhaps Dorian would find something that needed his immediate attention. Maybe some Trevinter artifact would show up. Before Solas walked again, he could see if he could find anything.
Solas woke, and dusted himself off, only to stare at the pile of clothing left next to his bed. There was a note on it. The Inquisitor was apparently playing dress up again. Still, with a few adjustments for size, these robes had woven in some spells to boost his refinement with magic. Which, admittedly, he needed. He still remembered when he had set himself on fire a little bit in front of Vivienne.
She was so young compared to him, and Solas should have better control over his own magic, but while regaining his strength seemed to move at a snail’s pace at time, at other moment, his connection seemed to strengthen in bursts, and suddenly a spell that had taken most of his concentration and connection to caste, was as easy as breathing. In those cases, he’d pull too much power behind the spell, and he’d end up freezing more than he meant, or setting a larger fire then he had anticipated.
It was embarrassing, but it did make it seem as if he was an untrained apostate who was, for the most part, self-taught.
Forget the books he’d poured over or the conversations he’d had with spirits of wisdom.
Dorian appeared to have also gained a new hat, that wrapped around his head with tough leather. He also had a new staff, one specifically made for necromancy that the man was admiring as they ducked out from the flap of the tent.
“Did she pick this up in the shrine?” asked Dorian, as he slipped the staff onto his back.
Solas shrugged. He didn’t remember her doing so, but what Cadash found when she looked around was astonishing. She could find things shoved into the tightest corners and barrels while completely ignoring everything else around her.
Cullen and Cassandra were saying their goodbyes when they made it to where almost everyone was gathered around a campfire. They claimed they needed to head back and organize the men they hadn’t brought with them, and secure Skyhold in case of an attack. After what happened in Haven, there was a lot of caution used around their new home, even if it was easier to defend than Haven ever had.
There was also the constant hum of red lyrium to think about. Both Cassandra and Cullen had obviously been effected when they went into the Shrine. Cullen worse of all. Understandable given his position as a former Templar, but it did make him a bit of a liability to stay in camp so close to such a horde of the tainted stuff.
“There is a rabbit den over the hill. I had to talk to the guards because they wanted to use them for food. It still circles in their minds though, tasting, hunger, meat, and I can’t make them forget anymore,” said Cole, sounding distressed as he talked to Varric over their meal. Solas sat down with them, a touch piece of dried meat and bread in his hands.
“That’s what it means to be real, kid,” said Varric with a chuckle. “You can’t just make people forget. You have to actually work at presenting your way of thinking, that way they will be safe no matter what. Think about it. If you just made them forget about your rabbit friends, then they could easily find them later and then they’re still rabbit stew.”
“I could’ve twists their minds so they don’t want to go near where the rabbits are,” Cole pointed out.
“You can’t just do that kid. It isn’t right, and what if we needed those guards to go over there because we were attacked, and because they hesitated, more people got killed?” asked Varric. The dwarf looked over at Solas. “I’m explaining this shit right?”
Solas raised one eyebrow. “You were the one who believed Cole to become more human.”
“Hurting, there’s something there, regret,” said Cole. Solas quickly shut himself off, retreating and shielding his mind so sharply that the former spirit flinched.
“Sorry Cole,” he said sincerely. Solas knew it bothered the spirit that he couldn’t route in his head. Actually, it was a little ironic that while Solas was so disappointed in who Blackwall turned out to be, Cole had known all along, if you understood the hints that Cole had pulled from the other man’s mind, and chosen not to tell any of them. Yet, if Cole did pull from Solas’s mind, he would probably tell. Blackwall’s past was his past. Cole’s concern was for the people of the now or future. Solas’s plans meant danger for everyone living.
“Come on Kid, you know how touchy Solas gets about his thoughts despite what he tells us about you,” said Varric, and Solas could hear the disapproval in his voice. It grated against his nerves, but he could understand why the hypocrisy would annoy most people. It would have annoyed him even if he knew why… well, that was a useless train of thought.
“I agree with Varric,” said Solas. Making the dwarf stare at him, shock morphing his face before he could smooth it out with one of his smirks as he muttered under his breath. “It is always wise to try and reason with people. Many, regretfully, will not see reason, but if we do not make the effort, then there will be no room for understanding. And they will simply continue to hunt and kill your rabbits.”
Not that Solas thought that it was possible to stop the inevitable from happening. Organizations, even ones built on the most sought after ideals, even meant to just free slaves and give them a chance at choice and freedom, could become corrupted and rotten to the core.
“Plus, you must remember, that while the rabbits are fluffy and warm, they are also prey animals. If the men here don’t kill them and eat them, then a fox or other such predator may just as easily hunt them down,” Solas pointed out. Cole knew this, he had too. But sometimes he was like a child with such knowledge. A sort of unreality surrounding the situation until he learned to care about it, and then it became devastating.
Instead of becoming morose however, Cole’s head quirked to the side and then the former spirit looked over at Varric.
“What is that song? Jeering, cheerful, sang when…”
“Please stop kid,” said Varric with a chuckle.
“Digging deeper, good memories, but it plays over and over and over, like a worm digging further into the earth,” said Cole, sounding a little dreamy.
“Yes, exactly, so please don’t start singing it. Maybe pull a different song from someone’s head or I’ll never stop hearing it,” said Varric.
“… Solas mentioned,” the Inquisitor said, her voice drifting from where she was talking with Vivienne and Dorian.
That was right, Dorian got along with Vivienne. Solas had heard complain about other places, usually Orleis after they had made fun of Trevinter and the Circles for a while over the campfire after the Inquisitor called them all together when they were wandering Fallow Mire.
The Inquisitor titled her head, obviously asking for him to go sit with them. So, she had raised her voice so he could hear her name. Now the only question was, what had they been talking about.
“I hear you’re encouraging the Inquisitor’s little pet to find a pet of his own,” said Vivienne, even as she made room for him to sit between him and the Inquisitor. Not what Solas would have preferred, but that seem the only space left on the makeshift bench. He was a little surprised that Vivienne hadn’t found a way to bring something that at least made it look like she was flowing in wealth, influence, and comfort.
“Vivienne,” said Cadash with a long sigh. The mage raised an eyebrow.
“You know how I feel about…”
“Yes, yes, worse names and all that,” said the Inquisitor with another put upon sigh. “I thought you had something else to ask Solas. Or was that just a joke?”
The Inquisitor sounded a little tense. Solas tried to hide a smile. While Cadash often worked toward trying to create peace within her Inner Circle, and beyond if time allowed, she was a little overprotective when it came to Cole. She annoyed and pissed people off both on purpose and by accident and because she had a hard time giving ground to put him down in front of anybody. Where she could lie about her feelings, or even talk behind someone’s back if it meant creating peace that she could use later to create deeper understanding or at least truces between the people she worked with, with Cole her actions were strongly in his defense.
It was why Solas had trouble getting truly angry about Cole becoming more human. The Inquisitor hadn’t done it because Cole made her uncomfortable. That was the thing about Varric and Cadash, they cared about Cole. They both saw Cole and saw that he desperately wanted to fit in, to do good, and that he wanted to understand humans. Cadash believed that Cole wanted to be human, and the way to be human, was to hurt.
“Dorian was telling us about the trip you tow took into the dreams or thoughts left over from those creatures. Said the experience was unpleasant, to say the least,” said Vivienne with a flick of her wrist. Solas looked at her and then he realized that he had been a complete cad. Of course, it hadn’t just been that Dorian had been spoiling for a fight. It had been so long since Solas learned to control his own thoughts, to, even in dreams, keep his own mind. Dorian was used to working with demons, who could push at the mind, but he didn’t have the training to walk in others minds, the spirit caught the mindset of the person, reflecting it, and often it could be felt in the minds that walked it.
Solas had been worse than a fool to forget that when he took Dorian into that part of the Fade. He had been callous and stupid.
“How did you phrase it Dorian dear? Like you had eaten some bad herb? Your mind wanting to splinter and hard to gather your thoughts unless it was directed in anger and violence?” asked Vivienne, though not quite a question. More a pointed critique at how Solas handled things.
Solas was a bit annoyed at himself for how much he resented Vivienne for bringing it up. He knew as soon as she mentioned it that he had done Dorian a disservice, he’d been so interested in exploring a mind that had, perhaps, been infected with red lyrium, he’d forgotten that to those who didn’t know how to shield their minds from the Fade’s influence, would feel echoes of that mind within themselves.
“Yes, well, perhaps it would be best if I don’t go in,” said Dorian with a forced laugh. “I seem to only make more a mess of things. It is the Trevinter way, as I’ve been told so much in the South.”
“Perhaps we shouldn’t look into the Fade here,” said the Inquisitor with a long sigh. “It was a long shot anyway.”
“Much can be learned in the Fade,” said Solas. “But what is in the minds of people, does not always reflect reality. You can learn much though, if you have the mind for it, especially about others mindset. How they saw the situation.”
“That seems to be the part I’m shit at,” said Dorian, and Solas flinched. That did not sound like anything good. That seemed like a break in Dorian’s cool, collected armor. “Is there anything I can do in the Shrine, Inquisitor? Perhaps I can put myself to better use there.”
The Inquisitor frowned at her food. “I’m afraid not. Leliana’s become very protective over the Shrine. Not even I’m allowed in.”
“You’re not the most gentle, my dear Inquisitor,” said Vivienne, Cadash frown, well, more pouted at the mage.
“Sure I am, I have gotten sensitive shit before,” said Cadash and then sniffed. “Are you talking about that time I threw your book? I told you that I’m not good at sensational text.”
“You threw a book? How far?” asked Varric, walking toward them as he adjusted Bianca on his back. Vivienne rolled her eyes.
“Right off my balcony,” said Vivienne with a drawl. Varric roared with laughter.
“I thought that was a rumor,” said the dwarf.
“Wait, is this the fight over a book I’ve been hearing about?” asked Dorian. Solas looked at the Inquisitor in interest. If was a ridiculous rumor that no one took seriously except in fun. It was generally believed to be just one of those stories that ultimately just sprang out of the mind of someone having a little fun and then just getting out of control.
The Inquisitor was blushing and not looking anyone in the eyes, which, combined with the comments before meant that it had some truth.
“I suppose. Leliana doesn’t like it. I think it’s a huge letdown,” said Cadash. Varric chuckled.
“I was apparently there and didn’t see it, though I heard it involved one of my books,” said Varric. The Inquisitor huffed.
“No, I threw your book in the comfort of my room. This one was about the Hero of Ferelden, and how she lived and is now living as King Alistair’s secret mistress,” said Cadash. “So, I threw it because it didn’t fit at all, and it went over the banister, and hit one of the ambassadors on the head. He started screaming and demanding that whoever did that and face him in a duel of honor. So, I jumped down to accept, and he apologized and backed off.”
Everyone was laughing at that point.
“You did not,” said Cassandra from behind them. The Inquisitor looked behind her, then smiled and shrugged. She must have still felt tense if she was being so combative even in her memories. Usually she played up the part of Inquisitor. She had an air of leadership, that was true, but at first it had been forced. It was why Solas had believed at first that she had been pretending to believe she was the Herald of Andastre. Now, especially since coming to Skyhold, she went from someone trying to live up and be the perfect religious figure, and started to act like a leader beginning to find her own identity inside her role.
Which meant she usually had trouble being this forthcoming at silly things she’d done. When she had let herself be a little too mortal in the eyes of even her Inner Circle. Solas knew that it took forever to get her drinking. The Iron Bull was very happy to tell them that he got her properly drunk after she had joined the Inquisition.
Solas mostly knew this because The Iron Bull seemed to think he and the Inquisitor would be the best drinking buddies. Something about her being confusing when properly sloshed.
“You’re leaving already?” asked Cadash, her leg bouncing as she practically pouted at The Iron Bull who also was geared up to leave. The Tal-Vashoth laughed and handed her a book. She glared at the book. “I want to hit things.”
“Red would rather you didn’t unless it’s an emergency,” said The Iron Bull. The dwarf waved her hand at him in irritation.
“We’ll see you back at Skyhold,” said Cassandra, looking a little on edge. Commander Cullen looked pale and shaky. Even so far from the red lyrium it seemed to be bothering him.
“Well, even if Leliana doesn’t want me doing anything of use, I can still see you out,” said the Inquisitor with a long sigh. She stood, dusting herself off as she did. Then she looked back at Solas before sighing and shaking her head. “I’m really not sure about dream walking, but I would appreciate if you stayed, maybe tried again. Any information feels like it would help raise spirits. The notes feel like so little when it seemed like we had Samson in our grasp.”
“Of course,” said Solas with a nod. Then he couldn’t help but wonder for a moment if Dorian couldn’t continue to walk the Fade with him. He turned to the man. “If you like, Dorian, you could join me again. If you’re still interested in walking the Fade that is Dorian. It’s true that Leliana, or any scholar, might be too skeptical of our findings to be able to parse anything meaningful. We could work on controlling your mind against them, it could be useful against demons.”
“Two birds one stone,” said the Inquisitor with a wide smile. “Sounds perfect. See you two when you’re done dreaming.”
She was off in a flash.
“Dorian dear, I’m sure she won’t be put off if you don’t go,” said Vivienne once the Inquisitor was out of sights. “Walking in the Fade, even in dreams, is inviting trouble.”
“Learning to shield my mind from demons sounds promising actually,” said Dorian. “Not that I’m susceptible. But it can grate on the nerves in some places where the Veil is thin. And those places seem more and more common as time goes by. All those holes in the rift.”
Solas smiled. It wasn’t that he wanted Dorian with him. Well, no, he actually was interested. But it was complicated. Even when the world was whole, he’d often find himself spending months or even years in complete isolation. Just learning or crafting a spell. He would wander for ages in the wilds, jus spirits and animals around him.
Until one of his more persistent friends dragged him back usually.
But with Dorian, it was more a sort of need for someone to share his love of the Fade. He understood why they didn’t, but it often frustrated him. Anyone open to the idea made him want to teach, like how he spoke carefully to the Inquisitor for any length that a dwarf could understand. Dorian was a scholar. He stuck his head in books, and sometimes could seem unable to move past his own education, but Solas knew better. He was honest in a way that was refreshing. He still felt pride in his home, but he sought to make it better. He listened to those around him.
To have the man at his side, to teach him what he knew. Solas didn’t remember ever wanting with so much passion to be another’s teacher. He had been before, but he thought the task had been soured for him. To watch his teachings, his words, twisted upon itself and giving credence to something terrible. It had ripped at him. He had always believed in imparting knowledge, but he was weary of thinking he could guide anyone.
“Be careful will you dears,” said Vivienne airily, and then looked Solas over. “And while the Inquisitor is not able to come down hard on her friends, you can be sure that I will protect mine if pushed.”
“That’s a bit pointed for your games, isn’t it Enchanter?” asked Solas.
“Oh Darling, it’s important to show your teeth every once in a while, or they’ll start to think I’m all bark,” said Vivienne, taking out her fan.
“Are we going to walk into the Fade now?” asked Dorian.
“No,” said Solas. “It’s important to exercise our bodies.”
“Well, in that case, I have some fun ideas for making our Quizzy happy,” said Sera, pulling at Dorian’s arm.
“And you need me?” asked Dorian, but letting Sera drag him away.
“Yeah, for the…” Sera made movements with her fingers and then she laughed and dragged the mage away.
“I she actually making plans?” asked Solas.
“Funny, laughing, an idea flighting across her thoughts but she can’t grasp them so it plays and then she’ll forget how,” said Cole.
“Please go stand somewhere else, Dear,” said Vivienne, irritation morphing her face. Solas was tempted to let Cole turn his attention to her. After all, they did have a lazy day here. And there was plenty of hurt inside of Vivienne. You could hear it and see it in her. Not that it excused who she was, but it was fifty-fifty chance that Cole would be able to fix her. But then it wouldn’t be good for morale.
It would probably be a little disturbing after losing Samson and only finding the smallest of information to find him again or even figure out what is going on, for two of the Inquisitor’s closest friends to be fighting. Even if it is the version crafted by Cole and retaliated by Vivienne. The Enchanter might smile and titter, and never raise a hand, but if you cause her anger, everyone knows it.
So, Solas invites Cole to walk with him, which the former spirit happily does. Cole’s voice washes over him. It’s a pity to see him turned so, and he wishes that the Inquisitor had made a different choice. Or that Cole had been able to tell her… but that wouldn’t have been him. She made a choice. Sometimes it felt like she made too many choices.
Cole’s eyes furrowed and Solas tucked those feelings inside of him. Cole got annoyed, and then Solas found something that perhaps came from him being more human. Because instead of becoming despondent, Cole’s face lit up. He felt more like what the Inquisitor and his friends wanted him to be, what he wanted to be. What he wanted to feel. Suddenly he wanted to guess at how to help Solas. To help without seeing inside.
Solas tried to help, to explain what he could. Dorian apparently still gave Cole trouble. Dorian wanted to help and support Cole, but Cole sought out the hurt and Dorian did not react well to others knowing his weaknesses.
This didn't take forever... not at all.
Chapter 7: Pranks
When they dreamed again, Solas kept in mind that they were looking for a mind intact. It wasn’t that the world wouldn’t be effected by how the person viewed the world, but at least it would be easier to help Dorian through the situation. The man was interested, after they explored, in having Solas help him work out in his own mind what was his mind and thoughts and feelings, and what were imposed by the Fade’s reflection from the mind it had taken the landscape from.
The walk to the Shrine of Dumat seems very short and very quiet. Dorian is lost in his own thoughts, and Solas wonders if he will attract any Spirits to him. There are always spirits. Surprising really when you consider people’s nature. But there are always less demons around then Solas expected, but too many existed.
Still, the Fade pulled around Dorian. It was actually fascinating to watch. Even walking in others dreams, Solas hadn’t had the chance to really see someone walk with him in the Fade like this. Let alone someone so inexperienced. It was one thing in your own dream, but here, interacting with the memory captured by the Fade, the Fade reacts to the intrusion by testing the mind and the new emotions that have invaded.
Solas can pass through here unnoticed if he wants. Sure, some of his emotions may slip through, but it used to be that only a child’s, and a young one at that. Or someone doing it on purpose. He used to have friends who just walked for days with their minds open and free, affecting everything around them. Depending on the person, they also did it in public. Sometimes, when Solas was young, he used to find it funny.
Mostly it was just embarrassing.
“I know that I’m a fascinating subject of male beauty, but is there a reason you’re staring? Not regretting bringing a Trevinter monster with you?” asked Dorian. Solas looked Dorian over. He was used to Dorian casually calling his kind, his people, and mostly himself, a monster. It was always said in that glib way that tried to imply that whoever was making the accusation was an idiot. Though Dorian didn’t have the finesse that Vivienne had and it was often easy to see the insecurity he carried with him.
He got visibly angry and snappy a little too quickly. Perhaps that was another reason Sera liked him so much.
“Sorry, it’s just how the Fade pulls at your emotions. I was making sure that it wouldn’t call another demon, or spirit who could easily be turned that way,” said Solas, a little stretch of the truth. But mostly just the truth. Dorian looked a little disturbed. Ah, yes, another reason that elves used to learn quickly. Now, with the Fade separated by the Veil, having someone tell you that they could see your emotions probably felt like an invasion of privacy.
Though he supposes some of their reactions would be different. Cole would be fine with it, probably ask as many questions as he could, or no, he might have made himself forget, but he still remembered, he’d probably just start having fun or be bored. Vivienne would immediately threaten everyone not to look into her head and endeavor to leave the Fade as soon as possible, while also trying to ‘trick’ Solas into teaching her how to hide them in the meantime. Sera would get flustered to the point that she might become a liability. Iron Bull and Cassandra would be uncomfortable, but try to seem unnerved and politely, in their own ways, ask Solas if he had any tips for them.
“Will teaching me to hide my mind stop the Fade from pulling at my emotions?” asked Dorian, seeming to be wrapping his head around the idea even as he said it.
“That is the idea. The Fade reacts to the wishes of the spirits around it, but also draws on the minds, memories and emotions, of physical beings. Usually of those of higher intelligence. Not that you won’t find the equivalent of a squirrel in the Fade, but we are the ones with complex ideas of good and evil, we create ideas like Valor and Honor and often we create personification of those in Gods and ideas, and that is what the Fade and spirits use to create,” said Solas as they walked up the stairs to the court yard.
“Hmm, do you think it will attract demons?” asked Dorian.
“No, it might interest some spirits, but the fear you feel won’t attract anything that wouldn’t already be pulled by everyone else and even the spirits and the Fade echoing it from before, and the spirits dragged by your need for knowledge wouldn’t be demons,” said Solas, he saw Dorian think this over as they headed to go into the temple.
“But, the spirits are demons, aren’t they?” asked Dorian. Solas glared at him.
“Only if you think they are in this instance,” said Solas, then he saw Dorian smirking at him and he shook his head.
“Well, if that is the case, then we should probably see if we could find something for the Inquisitor and then you can help teach me about hiding my mind so as to not offend the masses,” said Dorian with a flick of his hair. Solas couldn’t help but chuckle even as he shook his head.
“We could start now if your uncomfortable,” said Solas. Dorian threw his head back and laughed, almost seeming to dance as he walked closer to Solas. He winked and looked Solas over and The Dread Wolf found himself unsure what to think. But it didn’t meet much, and he let it slide off him. Just because, before these last few days, he hadn’t spent that much time with Dorian, didn’t mean he didn’t spend any. Plus, he spent a lot of time below where Dorian worked, often loudly with a weird amount of book throwing.
That meant Solas knew that, with the few people who were kind to him, Dorian flirted shamelessly. Solas knew this. He had heard him even try to flirt with the Inquisitor for all that she either laughed or ignored it, and that since his confrontation with his father, everyone knew what his preferences were.
“Always the teacher, hm Solas?” asked Dorian. “But I think it better if we split up. I want to see if I can feel what you said made my hair stand on end last time. See if I can feel what emotions were caught by the Fade. Then you play teacher. It’s better if your student has some basis so you can be more thorough in your teachings yes?”
“Careful, you’re channeling Iron Bull a little there,” said Solas, even as he reached out to see if there was anything of note, at least this man’s belief in what was the most important. It could lead to nothing, but Solas was sure this was someone newly to the Shrine of Dumat, before the Red lyrium had really taken hold.
“Oh? Sure, that’s not just your dirty old mind?” asked Dorian, coming close enough that his breath tickled under his chin. He shivered a little. Always fascinating what you could still feel in the Fade. Especially when you walked with someone. Even if they weren’t dream walkers. Especially if they were a mage. “Well, then, let’s see who can find the most interesting thing to tell the Inquisitor first. We come back together when you think there’s an hour left and teach me, and then we see whose information wins.”
“When did this become a wager?” asked Solas, looking the human over. Dorian just smirked.
“I know that you say you no longer wager. So, we won’t have anything on this but pride? Nothing to lose then, right?” asked Dorian, the smirk on his face widening even as they parted.
Nothing to lose indeed.
Finding anything was tricky in its own way. What one person thought was important, was just a job of no substantial use to another. In this case, the weapons and drills that this person performed weren’t of much use. The scrolls that he did find were blank. Or filled with the word Andresta over and over again. There was only one that he had picked up that held any interest in Solas, and that was mostly academic, because he knew this text, and while this person had obviously read it but how he had remembered it written was fascinating.
It gave a good argument as to why you should reread things you thought you had already read. Not that Solas thought he would ever remember something quite this horribly.
But, he was able to find a reflection of a Templar taking red lyrium. He guessed it wasn’t anything not already known. But seemed that while this person was not unstable, they weren’t the most intelligent or reflective either.
Soon, it was coming close to midday. They really shouldn’t work much longer. Their bodies really did need to move around. Even Solas needed to, he spent much of his time in the Fade as he was still more comfortable there, and his body, mind, and spirit were still recovering. It did mean that he had to pay attention to the need of his body now.
Not as much as a regular person that had been born in this time or perhaps Solas could spend more time wandering, but Dorian does need that time, so Solas wanders over to where he’s sitting and watching as some Tranquil talk. Chuckling a little as he does so.
“Are they spirits?” he asked when Solas came to stand next to him. He spoke softly, as if concerned he would be overheard.
“What do you think?” asked Solas. Dorian looked at him in shock. Obviously expecting him to just answer the question as if he were a teacher. And while Solas tended to tell as much as he felt he could get away with. Often it was with a frantic need he couldn’t always deny. To have these people understand, and yet, it was either too much information too fast, or it was too little too slow.
Adjusting to how people thought, acted, were when long life was beyond any conceivable concept was hard. Much harder than Solas could have ever dreamed. He had thought it would be different, but the same. He remembered his youth fondly. Everything was fast. Flicks of moments called out to the Fade, creating things not for longevity, but for brief moments of ecstasy and fleeting joy. He remembered the pranks that led nowhere that had slowly become something as they all learned to make choices last, to dance, twirl, ripple for more than days even out to years and longer still in the memory the Fade provided them.
This, however, the humans, how everyone acted these days. Intrigued boiled to its finest core, worries lasting for years but shed so quickly. Nothing was permanent. To want something that lasted was ridiculous. Relationships started, it seemed, in one breath, and were forgotten in another.
Solas found himself drawn to the Inquisitor because she seemed so unlike everything he’d encountered in this fleeting world. She didn’t look for knowledge that would help her in the immediate future or to find some great answers. She enjoyed it for what it was. She liked knowing things, and not just to hold it over people’s heads. In fact, for the most part, she seemed happy to be seen as a Military Leader. Knowledgeable, but grounded in reality. Touched and chosen by Andraste, but because of that, for the salvation of everyone. But she asked questions with answers that did nothing for her, and seemed happy for knowing it.
Dorian, Solas had always known to be a scholar, but he had thought it was the type you saw as age caught up and knowledge became something less for itself and more for a means. He hadn’t thought the other would be interested in the Fade, because, well, the other was a necromancer, and that would bare his way to using what he learned quite a bit.
But, what they were learning wasn’t manipulation of the Fade. It was guarding of the mind. Still tricky for someone who worked with something so grounded in the physical world as Dorian’s magic was as consequence to his chosen path, but guarding your mind was still easily within his grasp. It wasn’t like he was going to teach him to manipulate the Fade.
And it wasn’t like he was a blood mage after all. He still worked with spirits. His concentration went into putting spirits into physical things instead of creating from the Fade. It wasn’t that he was like a blood mage, using and corrupting blood and cutting himself off from the Fade. He was simply taking spirits and putting them to use in the way that most out of ignorance did.
Perhaps his thoughts as he started to teach Dorian what he knew is why the conversation went from simply thought exercises and beginning to learn ways to hide thoughts from spirits and instead broadcast what you wanted them to pull from. That they started to talk about spirits and using them in spells.
“I’m surprised that you think magic should be used so frivolously,” said Dorian, then he smirked. “Though perhaps if you pulled that prank on the nits in Skyhold that take up so much of our dear Josephine’s time, it would make Sera respect you a little. She and the Inquisitor did put a bucket of water on her door before after all.”
“I use it to look into others dreams, not always to learn more, sometimes just to understand and sometimes looking for a place that is interesting and fascinating,” said Solas. “And I do not need Sera’s approval. We work well enough when the Inquisitor takes us out, and we don’t need to do more than that.”
Dorian sent him a loo that made him feel a little silly. Still, Dorian spent as much time being opinionated and trying to get under everyone’s skin, as he did apologizing and trying to find common ground.
“So, you approve of magic used for silly pranks, but not necromancy,” said Dorian. “Is it like you said before. That I call the spirits into others, pulling them like those mages pulled your friend to act against her nature?”
Solas was silent for a time, thinking it over. He was apathetic as he could be toward this sort of thing. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t forced spirits to bend to his will before. It was easy as a gesture, a thought, the spirits pulled much easier than humans or things. Though less substantial in many ways because of that. Solas had slowly moved from doing so. He had learned more about spirits, about their existence, he saw them more than just tools to shape the world into what he wanted it to be.
His ideas had not been well received. His friends understood why he was against slavery. Perhaps there had been a growing need in the fear of everything for systems of government, for the security that came from being a part of a society and social structure, but they also knew that to force someone to be under them, to force them to serve a person with no guarantees was not only horrifying, but a structure that allowed for corruption and abuse.
Spirits, they were another matter. They weren’t real. Some could play at it. But in the end, what a spirit was, was what they had shown to you as you would expect them to look. Forcing their nature to change wasn’t anything horrible, just inevitable.
Though it might seem traumatic to a person who had known that spirit before that change. That was usually where understanding and empathy came from. Solas had known many of his friends who treated spirits kingly, but as you would a tool or at best a pet.
“When I ask a spirit to do a prank, it’s just in their nature. A simple show of my mind what I wish to happen, and then they move the Fade to make it happen,” said Solas.
“Alright, this is probably to get me hit or throne from this dream or whatever, but isn’t what your implying going to need blood magic? Isn’t that the only way to call spirits to you?” asked Dorian.
“I think we’re talking about different things,” said Solas. “Unless, are you thinking I’m telling you to make a pack with demon to do necromancy?”
“Is that the only way you’d approve?” asked Dorian. “You said you didn’t mind the idea of blood magic, but you wouldn’t do it because it makes it harder to reach the Fade.”
“What you do with your life is your choice,” said Solas mildly, interested in where this conversation would lead.
Dorian snorted out a laugh. “You know, you talk a big game Solas, and you have this whole mysterious thing going but you spend so much time in the Fade it’s clear that you’ve never done more than talk.”
Solas raised an eyebrow. He should have expected this confrontation a while ago. Or perhaps that was it, he was waiting for someone to call him on his, as Dorian called it, bullshit. Vivienne does. It’s one of the things Solas likes, or at least respects her for. After all, the way he describes his days makes it seem like he runs from reality to go to the Fade. Sometimes Solas doesn’t even think that they’re wrong sometimes. He’d spent so much time by himself, removing himself from society as it fell further and further into corruption.
He’d freed slaved. He’d made enemies with his confrontation against the injustices that happened. But Solas hadn’t actually done anything until after Mythal had been murdered and then he had acted without thinking and created the Veil which sealed away the Evanuris but had destroyed so much of the world.
“And yet I’m here,” Solas pointed out. Dorian raised an eyebrow, clearly unimpressed.
“So, you’re here to save the world, but how are you trying to help those people you say are disadvantaged and kept imprisoned?” asked Dorian. “Or is it more complicated than what I’m saying.”
“You think I’m being a hypocrite?” asked Solas.
“Words are cheap,” said Dorian.
“Words can turn the world,” said Solas. “But I know what you mean. Perhaps I am a hypocrite. Or perhaps I tried to make changes and I am simply tired now.”
Dorian looked him over. “Leaving it to the younger generation. You know I’m over thirty, right? Not that much younger than you.”
“And yet your position in Trevinter, no matter how you play yourself off as pariah, puts you in a position to have the influence to influence that change,” said Solas. Dorian opened his mouth, and then, surprisingly closed it. Then suddenly a smile split his lip that made Solas distinctly uncomfortable.
“You said we should leave this dream for some time to stretch our legs,” said Dorian with that same smirk. Solas nodded. “Great, let’s tell the Inquisitor our information.”
Solas still wasn’t sure what Dorian was playing at, but in just moments later, they both woke up. From there they both got dressed. Solas was happy enough that he hadn’t had to play dress up with her and she’d just handed it over. It wasn’t that she was overwhelming, and perhaps now it wouldn’t be so bad, but he remembered her trying to get them to wear all sorts of clothing that they shouldn’t wear as to either how they were built or the type of fighting they did.
Once she’d wanted Solas to wear full armor. Cassandra and Varric had been the one to help her. Varric because he understood her carta backgrounds and how that led to her confusion. And Cassandra because while Cadash liked Varric well enough, she wasn’t sure if she could trust him to any degree or not.
The tent opened and Dorian came out strutting. Solas looked around where everyone seemed in better spirits. The bustle was still there, but there were more signs of smiles and information being shared in a way that showed they were more excited about what could happen next. Seemed the Inquisitor had been able to pull everyone out of their melancholy. She was good at this. After Haven, when they reached Skyhold, she got into going to people and talking to them so they could go about their work with lighter hearts and a new sense of hope.
She even made Cole a positive addition, a thing Solas hadn’t been sure could be possible the way people saw and treated spirits, especially ones they expected to be demons.
They found the Inquisitor looking over fresh notes and teasing the requisition officer while also making sure to be serene and calm enough to be suitably cast as a holy woman. Before they were able to get to her, she saw them, and with a quick work to both of them, she left her papers and walked over.
The information they had was thin, but either the Inquisitor really had sent them to dream walk for her own curiosity, or she was determined to be cheery no matter what and was able to swallow any disappointment before it showed. Dorian offsets their lack of useful knowledge by telling a ridiculous story that claims his real information about a sex closet where he tried to get a better look (once he described what he did see) but was stopped by a woman who claimed it was for Tranquil only.
That drew a long laugh from the Inquisitor.
She then declared Solas the winner, because of course she knew about their bet without them telling her, but that Dorian was welcome to tell her about any strange yet wonderful dreams he had as she had always been curious about them.
“Well, that was fun. But I don’t think she’s taking this very seriously,” said Dorian.
“I never think she ever was. She seemed to be a little desperate,” said Solas. Dorian laughed.
“I think that’s a bit of an understatement,” said the other man. “But we should stretch our legs until dinner right? Let’s go find someone to irritate.”
“I was thinking I would find someplace quiet,” said Solas, looking out toward the forest.
“You were the one that pointed out we couldn’t spend the entire day dreaming,” said Dorian dismissively. “Plus, I think I see Sera.”
Dorian motioned his hand to call the other elf over. Solas sighed. Talking to Sera was difficult, at first he had tried to guide, to help her see what the elves even in this current state could be. But that had been a mistake. Instead he had tried to guide her through her presence as Red Jenny. But then he had heard her and Bull talking strategy. Or The Iron Bull trying to talk to her about strategy.
She just didn’t think that way. She was so far from what she could be that he had thought her like a human. Only interesting in the fleetingly beautiful, but then he realized that that was doing a disservice to humans because they at least remembered where they came from and many strove to learn. Her life to fleeting even for mortals of this broken world.
“Hey Sparky, you done being all Fadey,” asked Sera with a sneer. She gave Solas a quick glance over. He spared her a strained smile and she huffed and turned stared at Dorian, obviously trying to forget that Solas was even present. “Anyway, some nobly shit who took from people has entered the camp. Quizzy can’t do anything about him, but he’s dragging at the work she’s doing and trying to boss people around. I want to take him down a peg.”
“Not sure we should have a dead dignitary in the Inquisitors party,” said Dorian. Sera snorted.
“Yeah, yeah, I get that, and Quizzy’s made that clear too. She wants him humiliated and hopefully storming away with no one to blame but himself,” said Sera. “Thought you might want to do something now that you’re not forced to do, you know. But if you’re to magey now.”
“What is your plan?” asked Solas. Sera’s face scrunched up further so that she looked like she was about to spit.
“We’re just gonna do it yeah? We don’t need all that, it takes away the fun,” said Sera. “What do you care anyway?”
“Maybe I have an idea,” said Solas.
“No, you’re taking the fun at it. Plus, you can’t talk him into humiliation, then Quizzy should have just asked Vivienne,” said Sera kicking her foot.
“You think I don’t know how to put together a prank?” asked Solas.
“I think you’re going to make it boring,” said Sera, then she muttered. “And you probably wouldn’t know fun if it hit you upside the head.”
“I was a bit of a prankster when I was younger,” Solas said with a smile, memories dancing across his mind.
Sera turned her back on him.
“Whatever, past is in the past. You want to stay with him Dorian, that’s your problem,” she said and then disappeared. Dorian sighed.
“Well, now what will we do?” asked Dorian.
“I wasn’t lying about that prank,” said Solas, Dorian sent him a weird look. “Unless you don’t want to?”
“Is this because she challenged you?” asked Dorian. “But fine, what do we need to do? Better be quick otherwise Sera will beat us with her bees or something equally as disruptive.”
Solas smiled, and it turned out that Dorian wasn’t right about the bees. But oddly enough, either Sera was watching them, or she was really good at adjusting her plans, because it ended up the man ended up with a patchwork of clothing that made him look more like a hobo that had gone crazed, hitting at himself and screaming as he ran with a nug in one hand with, at least at the moment, invisible bees following him.
No one even knew that it had been a prank, many of Templars were convinced that despite Sera being in the group, there was no way she had been part of the prank as she had been in eyesight of a bunch of no nonsense warriors who said she had been trying to get bees, but the man had run away before she got the bees down. But how else could they have come at just the right time? Even with the mixture Solas had made.
It had been designed for stickiness, the sweet smell was meant to attract insects and other nasty but relatively harmless things toward him.
Sera found them.
“That was amazing. He ran like crazy! Won’t be able to look anyone in the eyes anymore!” said Sera throwing her arms around Dorian with a whoop and dragging them into the forest. “Gotta keep the image that he’s gone mad. I like that angle. Don’t let them know and they think he’s lost his head. Nobs like him need reputation. Won’t have any with how many of the people that give him power are where he’s going.”
And there was one of those moments where he couldn’t help but see that she could plan. Where she saw the big picture. Not that he should point that out. That tended to agitate her and have her close down again.
“How did you get the bees to go at him like that?” asked Dorian, laughing and hugging her back. The situation had been a lot of fun. Solas felt his blood pumping, different from the fights that he had with the Inquisitor or when they had gone to the Winter Palace. This was just… he felt like he was young again. Like he was pulling these ridiculous pranks that echoed for only a moment in time but that thrill had been addictive.
“Left a trail, and you got him to run into it at the same time,” said Sera with a hard laugh. Then she turned on Solas, and did the wiggly thing with her fingers. “You do your thing and make the bees invisible?”
Solas glanced at Dorian. “Actually, that was me. Solas had the plan with the sap he mixed and got the nug thing going with it. He also had the beginning idea for his clothes, I just changed it after being inspired by his own drab choices in clothing,” said Dorian, still chuckling. Sera seemed surprised, sending an unbelieving look at Solas.
“You’re still elfy,” said Sera. Solas opened his mouth to tell her that no matter how she used that term, it wasn’t an insult. But Dorian gabbed his staff and pretended to collapse into his arms. Sera cackled. “I’m going to tell Quizzy the good news. Try not to wander into the Fade yeah?”
And Sera disappeared as quickly as she came.
“That was amazing,” said Dorian. “I’ve never been dragged into something like that since I was studying in a circle.”
Solas snorted. “You were the one who wanted to hang out with Sera.”
“And you ran with it,” said Dorian.
“Well, you are persuasive,” said Solas, watching the other man as Dorian stood, flicking at his robes like he was getting rid of some of the dirt or blood ingrained in the stitching.
“I’ve been born to be persuasive, my good looks have always been able to get me what I want.” Said Dorian expansively. Solas let his gaze travel over the man, taking in the entire apparel.
“I suppose I could see…” Solas was surprised when Dorian stepped forward and grabbed Solas’s face and kissed him. Solas, honestly, was surprised, unable to react. He hadn’t even… And he pushed away. The last person he’d really been with was Mythal. Who could live up to her? Before that, well, in his youth relationships had been fleeting, momentary, until he’d found someone he just didn’t feel like straying from. Others hadn’t interested him the same way, it had happened even as he pretended that he’d never fall into the same boring dance as other more mature elves.
He hadn’t seen it coming. He spent more time interested and drawn to the female form, and his first love ended up being male. Just as surprised as their lives evened out from pranksters to warriors, to leaders. And then he was lost. Not the last love.
Even Mythal. His love with her. It had been so deep, but so complicated. She had been the best of the Evanuris, but she still had servants. She still had control over them. They had not agreed on everything. Their disagreements turned into fights where they didn’t speak for years. At times, it was hard to know if they were still lovers or if they had become enemies.
Solas pushed Dorian away.
And then he met the other man’s eyes. This man whose life was so short, but who wanted to change so much. A man who loved where he was from but could admit to its faults. A man who himself could look into things that he took for granted and see the underbelly and admit that he was wrong.
The Fade reflected so much of the physical world, but Solas had forgotten how shallow it was. The Fade could reflect ideas and things that could not be understood just with words. But it lost some of the reality of the world. Solas hadn’t thought he would find people so deep when they were cu from the Fade, unable to influence it.
People like the Inquisitor, people like Dorian. They made him realize that his first impression had been so far off the mark. They were so different from what he had grown with. Dwarves themselves, they were so much more than they had been before the Veil, even though their empire had fallen.
And Solas found himself smiling and dragging Dorian into a kiss. Hard and long and something he hadn’t even realized he ached for. He hadn’t thought he could feel this again. This want. This need to be closer to a person not because of physical attraction but because he saw something he wanted have reflected and drew him in and shined inside them and made him want to be with them. To keep talking, to keep thinking, to sink into his skin.
Not that Solas wasn’t attracted, because as much as a peacock Dorian was, it fit him, it defined him as much as it hid himself.
“No, this isn’t right,” said Solas and then winced, because he knew about Dorian’s past and Trevinters ideas toward those attracted to same gender, and that’s not what he meant. “It’s not fair to you.”
Hurt flashed in Dorian’s eyes, and Solas smiled sadly. He didn’t want to hurt this man. He didn’t want to push him away. The Inquisitor might be bright, but she was no mage, any interest she had in the matter was fleeting as her interest in everything. But Dorian wanted to learn and Solas wanted to teach and explore and learn with him.
Because he wanted to learn.
“Right, we got carried away. Heat of the moment and all,” said Dorian. “I’m going to go speak to Blackwall. There was something I needed to ask him.”
“Of course,” said Solas, and he felt himself unsure in a way he hadn’t been sure of before. “We will see each other tonight.”
“I can’t pass up finding more fun facts for the Inquisitor, can I? She would be so disappointed,” said Dorian, and then he left. Solas shook his head and turned on his heels and went to walk in the forest.
Chapter 8: Friendly Fire
I actually have twelve chapters written, my interest is just extraordinarily fickle.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It seemed that there was no awkwardness. Well, perhaps not completely free of it, but that was because Dorian went about the kiss way he usually did other subjects that he was uncomfortable with. He addressed it in a very sarcastic manner that made it all seem so silly and completely his fault. Solas had been evasive, but couldn’t help expressing that he had some attraction, he just didn’t feel it was right to get involved.
“Ah, yes, you said it wasn’t right, or that it wasn’t fair?” asked Dorian, seeming to not be remembering completely. “I suppose it’s understandable. I am the big bad Trevinter.”
When Solas had tried to explain further, Dorian had held out a hand.
“No, you’re right. I wish to return to Trevinter after this. To make the changes you have partly been the inspiration for me to make,” said Dorian. “And I’d never dare take you to Trevinter. It’s simply not meant to be, and no matter the pranks you play. You don’t seem the type to seek something fleeting, even if you come off as grim and fatalistic. No, better for us both not to complicate things.”
And so, they’d entered the dream and started looking for something. Then they’d gone into another. Eventually Dorian had wanted to enter another unstable one. They had more information now. An account of the first day from what seemed like a mostly stable Templar, and one from what appeared to be janitor or the like from long before.
Now they walked another part of the Fade reflected back from a broken mind. This time under Dorian’s urgings. The human mage wished to see if he could separate out the emotions and insecurities and find just himself. Solas decided to support him, though the Dream Walker kept close to the other man because this sort of training of the mind took longer than just two days. Dorian would be old before he mastered it, and even then, he would still struggle. After all, even Solas had to concentrate, and spirits still saw into his mind even when he was shielding, though that was partly because he did not wish to shield his mind and wanted that connection to the Fade and spirits.
Cole, even more human, just made that more complicated.
Finally, after only spending some time in the last mind, they awoke. Dorian laughed uneasily as they looked out the tent. It was still early, but Solas knew that the man was probably completely off his own sleep schedule. Solas didn’t feel that different. Elves had learned to manipulate their own rhythms to a reasonable amount back before the Veil fell and that became impossible to the degree they used to. But Solas was still able to use those tricks. In fact, it was more that he was able to stay awake so long when the Inquisitor took him out on her quests because he knew these tricks. Without the anchor and the return of his power, he was still recovering. He had woken just a little while ago in comparison to how long he slept.
The camp was just beginning to pick up, getting ready for the longer trek back to Skyhold. At least, Solas assumed it would be longer. After all, they weren’t in as much of a hurry this time.
Soon everyone was off. For a time, it was slow, but after everyone had woken up, the camp was put away efficiently and they were off. The pace was much slower, the goal three days to the mountain and then the last one spent scaling it to get back to their home. Solas spent the first part of the day alone, mediating as he moved with his horse until he felt comfortable to just let his mind wander, sensing the spirits just on the other side of his consciousness.
Interestingly, while he was alone in his thoughts for most of the ride, except for a time a curious elven warrior had tried to poke him into some sort of response, after when everyone had seen to their horses and were heading to eat, Dorian took it upon himself to drag Solas to the rest of the group. Solas had planned to join the Inquisitor and the rest of her inner circle anyway, but Dorian seemed set on making sure Solas was a part, only backing off when Solas, Vivienne, and Sera all got into a fight, escalated by all of them with biting words and Sera actually trying to physically attack Solas.
But then, at the tent, Dorian had started ribbing him about letting himself get dragged into the argument, which had turned into another discussion of spirits and how one could communicate with them without them becoming demons, or the mage becoming possessed or having to resort to blood magic to draw the power needed to summon them.
The next day was much the same. It baffled Solas to some extent, and even the others seemed a little wary and curious. It wasn’t that Solas hadn’t spent time with the others, he just made it clear that he preferred time by himself and was more found of the Fade. The beauty of the Fade was, that, it would ‘burn’ and be ravaged just as the physical world would. The difference was that the Fade was ever changing place. Yes, there were spirits, and they would be destroyed, but in that same vein, they would also continue to exist.
And, for the most part, his companions had gone along with his choice. It wasn’t like the Inner Circle of people that the Inquisitor surrounded herself with were known for being social, especially with each other. Most had their own social groups, or, in the case of Vivienne, preferred to look over everyone else, miles above them, only dealing with the people she choose to. Solas supposed he also fell into that same group. Someone happy enough to be with the Inquisitor and interact with the Inner Circle without making lifelong friends.
Dorian, he was a little more complicated. He was a pariah, and that was a title he was used to both here and back in Trevinter. And he spent days lost in books. But he spent that time not hidden away in his rooms, or disappearing into some obscure nook. Instead he planted himself in the hustle and bustle of the library. Not in the way necessarily, but still in the thick of it.
He craved to be around other people. He was just so used to putting on airs and not letting anyone in past that defensive bluff that he stayed mostly on the fringe.
Though, perhaps not as much as Solas himself. After all, despite no longer sleeping with the Iron Bull since the Inquisitor now took up all the Tal-Vashoth’s time, Dorian and Bull still teased each other ruthlessly. The mage also seemed to make lots of wagers with Varric, most of which he seemed to lose for one reason or another. He was friends of a sort with Sera. Even he and Vivienne were cordial enough on trips, though usually at the expense of others. Dorian liked gathering people around him. Still, Solas hadn’t seen him actively drag any of those friends to join him, though perhaps that simply was because Solas hadn’t been paying so much attention before this.
“Thought that Dorian’s clothes were too bright for your elfy eyes,” said Sera right in Solas’s ear. Solas couldn’t help but flinch away from her. Shivering in annoyance at the feeling of Sera’s breath against his ears.
The other elf cackled wildly, not even pausing before kicking her horse into a trot to catch up to Dorian. The human mage reacted with a hard flinch when Sera leaned hard against him, their horses much to close together. But even as Dorian started talking to her, and got her mostly on her own horse, he didn’t look back at Solas, so hopefully Sera wasn’t going to bring it up.
Though Solas had no doubt that all sorts of wild rumors about him and Dorian would be flying between lips by the time they had settled in Skyhold.
Still, Solas found himself falling back in their troop. Not so far that he had to talk to Blackwall, but he could no longer see Dorian or really anyone that he recognized by name.
When they settled camp for the night outside a small town, about a five to seven hour ways from Skyhold depending if they could keep their current pace up, it wasn’t that surprisingly that Solas found himself somehow sitting between Dorian and Sera. He wasn’t contributing much because he really had given up on Sera for the most part. She seemed happy enough with herself anyway, even though she lost so much by refusing to even acknowledge the few joys that elves could still find different from any other race even with the Veil.
So, he sat as Dorian quipped and Sera went between hot and cold with enough ferocity to ware out any sensible person. Didn’t help that Vivienne was in one of her moods where she irritated Sera by offering the elf rivals in her grand game for Sera to set her people at. Sera knew what Madame de Fer was doing, realizing even as Vivienne explained who the man was that he probably did deserve whatever horrible thing Sera’s people could pull off, but also realizing that if she acted, she’d be doing something for Vivienne in her game.
Then, Sera turned on the Inquisitor as Cadash made some neutral quip and pushed Solas. The mage was so surprised by the rogue’s entire weight suddenly pushing at his back that he ended up crashing into Dorian, who had been turning to laugh at Sera. Someone’s magic crackled, fire crackled loud above their heads making them all wince.
Sera became spitting mad and Solas felt something dig into his side before she disappeared completely.
“Dorian, Solas, are you alright?” asked the Inquisitor, quickly coming to their side.
“Yes, Sera’s reaction simply caught us all by surprise I think. She’s been a little high strung all day. Tried to drag me off my horse while singing some crude tavern song,” said Dorian, pushing and helping Solas sit up since Solas had literally ended up in the human’s arms. Solas could still feel that biting pain.
At first, he’d just thought that Sera’s elbow or knee had dug into his side as she ran. But he put his hand against the spot, and came back with his fingers covered in blood. Swearing filled the space, and surprisingly, a moment later, Vivienne was at his side, her magic mixing with own. Solas took in a shaky breath. He had felt her use her magic on him before, but usually it was during a fight, and usually they were more focused on barriers, healing magic being finicky and in need of delicate knowledge of the wound it was sent heal.
Cool, like brittle ice that breaks and smokes in hotter weather, covered the wound.
“Let me take control dear,” said Vivienne. “Wouldn’t want your untrained magic healing something incorrectly and causing further harm.”
“I’ve survived this long,” said Solas, and then winced, he’d had worse, but… “I think the blade was poisoned.”
“It most certainly was,” drawled Vivienne, her gaze going to the Inquisitor. Cadash’s lips were pursed, and she was looking presumably where Sera ran off to. “It seems…”
“Is there anything I can get to help?” asked the Inquisitor sharply, then smiled at Solas as she saw him looking her way.
“A healing potion won’t go amiss,” said Vivienne, and surprisingly let the matter drop. Perhaps she felt that the Inquisitor having to cut her off before she finished the sentence enough of a win, or exactly what she wanted to get in this situation.
“Alright, drink half of this,” said Vivienne, and Solas took a draft. Vivienne closed her eyes, and Solas did have to admit, she did know how to work within the Fade. How she could use it was probably very limited, her imagination stifled by adherence to proper ways to cast spells, but that did mean that she’d dedicated herself to strengthening and improving those spells to be precise and effective as possible. As a result, Solas could feel the magic tracking the through him with the potion.
The wound was surprisingly deep, fatal in the long run, though thankfully caught quickly enough that all Solas would need was some food and proper rest. The wound actually since it had been caught before it caused too much damage or lost too much blood, really wasn’t an issue. A healing potion or two would have been enough; it was the poison that was the tricky part.
Solas allowed Vivienne to speed his healing along and destroy what she found of the poison, only adding a bit of his own magic into the mix. Finally, the Grand Enchanter stood, pushing at her clothes with a huff.
“There, you should be all set darling, though I would suggest we find the antidote just to be safe,” said Lady Vivienne, looking down her nose at the Inquisitor. Cadash nodded and headed off in the direction Sera had disappeared in. Vivienne smiled down at Solas. “Well, that was deep, but nothing worse than what we sometimes get on the field. I’d just suggest some extra bedrest after a full meal, though considering how much you like the Fade, that request shouldn’t be a hardship.”
“You certainly seem adept at the healing arts,” said Solas with a tilt of his head, and watched as Vivienne’s smile became almost predatory.
“Of course, dear. I felt you following along with my magic. The door is still open if you wish to learn something of worth. I know how apostates struggle without proper training,” said Vivienne, bringing up an old argument when it would be rude to show ingratitude. Solas could simply point out what she was doing, but this was the sort of situation he actually enjoyed. Not the idea of being put in a tower, but of countering someone aiming to undermine you through clever maneuvering or even just seizing on a convenient happenstance.
“Simply admiring your work, and extending my own manipulations when needed. We all have our strengths, and if you ever find yourself interested in my own knowledge, I am equally as disposed to teach you what your rigid, fear filled lessons were too meek to explore,” said Solas Vivienne’s eyes narrowed, and then she seemed to realize that Solas was actually offering to return her the favor, though under his own terms.
Madam de Fer actually laughed. “Whatever you say dear. I suppose you must have some skills since the Inquisitor keeps you around. Though I will point out, that if you hadn’t drawn out that crackle of fire from the Fade, our resident prankster probably wouldn’t have been shocked so badly that she stabbed you.”
“Actually, that would have been my fault,” said Dorian, coming to sit next to Solas, pushing a new plate of food into Solas’s hands. “I was going to show the Inquisitor a little evil magic from Trevinter when she decided to antagonize Sera into acting like a madwoman.”
“Well, my dear, it seems the Circles in Trevinter are in worse shape than I feared. But that’s not too surprising considering how many of you seem to have resort to Blood Magic,” said Madame de Fer, her smile was still sharp, but she seemed to be enjoying herself.
“Seems I missed something,” said Blackwall. Madam de Fuer’s smile instantly dropped, and her nose turned up like she smelled a homeless drunk. Solas wasn’t much better, looking away and giving Dorian a half-hearted thanks. Dorian sighed and shook his head.
“Don’t worry about it my dear. It’s not like you’d particularly be against killing members of your own company, would you? No wonder you and…”
“Vivienne, please,” said Dorian, looking up at the Enchanter. Madam de Fer sighed in disgust and shook her head a little.
“For you my dear. I’m sure we’ll have another opportunity to talk,” said Vivienne, then opened her mouth as if she wanted to say more, before she snapped it closed and shook her head, leaving to go into camp. Blackwall ate his own food, and Solas ended up snapping at the man before he lost what little appetite he had and heading to find their tent. Unfortunately, Dorian and him were sharing with the man, but Solas felt comfortable falling asleep before they arrived.
After all, Blackwall was making an effort to be that different person. To be the hero he had seen the real Blackwall as. He was striving not to be the cruel, thoughtless, evil man he had been in his past. Yet, it was hard to have someone he thought was weighed down with regret at a hard decision, and instead be faced with a criminal trying to make up for something he had known was evil when he’d done it.
As Solas was settling down, one of the camp runners found him and gave him the antidote, not leaving until he took it. Solas gave her a strained smile as she beat a hasty retreat. He really hadn’t needed the antidote. He’d been poisoned before, though with the Inquisitor, perhaps never so deep. But still, a couple of healing potions were usually all they needed.
The next day the entire camp was a buzz of nerves and rumors that percolated at the corners. Solas was able to catch a few even when he was fully armored, but it did seem to be mostly speculation about what had happened. Solas heard his and Madam de Fer’s name whispered about the most. Sera a couple of times, but even Dorian seemed talked about more than her.
It seemed that Madam de Fer had not taken it into her hands to discredit Sera, and the woman would probably hold that over the elf’s head. Solas would be able to respect the woman more if she was a little more flexible, or even if she wasn’t so set on taking away the freedom of people simply because she was afraid of herself and the world and had been able to play the game to her advantage and been given an overall good lot on the life she had chosen.
Dark was starting to settle, the stars clear in the air, when they returned to Skyhold.
“Inquisitor,” said Madam de Fer before Cadash could scamper off to her war table. The dwarf looked at her, settling back onto her heels, though clearly, she wanted to leave. “I heard you were heading out tomorrow to the Hinterlands.”
“With Cassandra, Bull, and Varric, yes. I wanted to personally check to be sure that everything was doing well there. Seems impossible the reports I’m getting of a relatively peaceful area after all the things we encountered,” said the Inquisitor with a small laugh even as she looked at Madam Vivienne in honest interest over what the woman wanted.
“It just occurred to me, that the last of the texts I was looking to reclaim had been reported in the Hinterlands,” said Vivienne. The Inquisitor took a moment to consider this then nodded. Solas was distracted by a stable hand coming and taking over care for his horse. He gave the horse up with a pat, only to see the Inquisitor walking up the steps, discussing things with Vivienne.
He could follow them up. Get settled in his room or even with his scrolls and books. Instead he followed the boy with the horse, which at first made the elf twitchy and unsure, casting him odd looks and babbling about Solas’s horse and how it suits him. Soon though, Solas was able to sooth his nerves and while the talk is mostly of horses, Solas found the mindless chatter calming.
The boy eventually gave his farewells, waving as he disappeared into the rafters, apparently having either completely forgotten that Solas was part of the Inner workings of the Inquisitor, or not caring once that person started helping his with the tack. He’s not Dalish, but his father was, and while the boy had been raised in an Alienage, his father taught him as much of the culture as he could.
He was weary of magic, as most people are these days, but it’s peppered with a wonder, and he seemed to still have an open mind about the Fade. Not so much that he’s done anything to learn, but he hasn’t rejected it out of fear either.
He could make a good agent, though Solas would have to continue to work with him. Perhaps he would send Birdy to talk to him. She was a sweet thing working to keep Skyhold clean, and that wasn’t her real name. She was also one of the few that Solas had shared his true face with. She was an apostate cast from her clan before she had the Vallaslin, part of how he and she got to an understanding was when he revealed what the Vallaslin meant. It took a weight from the elf’s shoulder, and she was happy to gather information for Solas, though he had yet to ask her to do more than keep an extra eye on some of Skyhold’s occupants.
Solas walked into the main barn, and couldn’t help the flinch when he saw Blackwall standing there. The other man raised an eyebrow, and then shook his head.
“I didn’t know you had such an interest in horses,” said Blackwall overly casually. There was a bite of reproach in his words, though what he was disappointed in, not even he was sure.
“Am I really the person whose actions are suspect?” asked Solas looking the other man over. Blackwall glared at him, obviously serious about the matter and refusing to accept that he could act like this anymore. The hero thing worked fine when that was all he was, and while the man obviously understood to some degree that he had lost most everyone’s respect, but he was going to have to relearn how to talk to people about these sorts of things and have anyone take him seriously.
“I didn’t think that you liked elves. Too set in their ways which you think are wrong to begin with, or some shit,” said Blackwall, apparently not to be deterred from his interrogation. Solas could walk away, but they’re still expected to work with him. It would be easier if they were civil, which meant Solas had to deal with his anger at letting himself be tricked, basically by himself, and Blackwall couldn’t be suspicious of Solas doing…
“What is it you think I’d do?” asked Solas, genuinely at a loss. Blackwall looked him over, Solas rolled his eyes. Alright, so he’d been feeling the boy out, but that hadn’t even been his intention. “If it would satisfy your curiosity, I’m always interested in learning.”
“You seemed to know a lot about horses already,” said Blackwall, still sounding accusing.
“I find sharing information to be relaxing. Just because I’m able to hold my end of the conversation doesn’t mean I’m unable to learn something knew from someone more knowledgeable about a given subject,” said Solas. Blackwall raised one eyebrow, but actually seemed to believe him. He then sighed.
Solas watched him, wondering what this could be about.
“I wish to apologize for what I said to you, Blackwall,” said Solas, finding that ever in his resentment, he meant it. Letting his pride get away with him had always been a mistake. And it wasn’t Blackwall he was angry with. As Cole pointed out, Blackwall was trying to be a better person.
Didn’t stop him from letting his men take his fall, but even that he had tried to do the right thing in the end. Perhaps the wrong way considering who he had signed himself over to, but he was attempting to be a better person. In this world, what else could people do?
Didn’t change who he was or what he’d done, but Solas was starting to admit there was a reason he’d been fooled so easily that had nothing to do with Blackwall’s evasive confirmation to what he was saying.
“You were right, though. I deserved it,” said Blackwall, showing not only that he understood that he knew what Solas was talking about, but that he was also taking control and dealing with his past instead of just shoving it to the side and pretending to be the hero.
Perhaps Solas had misjudged him again.
“My people had a saying long ago – ‘the healer has the bloodiest hands.’ You cannot treat a wound without knowing how deep it goes. You cannot heal pain by hiding it. You must accept. Accept the blood to make things better. You have taken the first step. That is the hardest part,” and, because Solas knew how to make his point stick, and also knew how to get out a conversation, he left. Making it back to his rooms through back packages, not wanting to deal with anyone at the moment.
So many people. So many different wants, one goal stringing them together in a loose group of people with one goal but an infinite amount of different beliefs and needs outside saving the world. Solas used to love talking with Mythal, in the good days about who was making agreements in order to be there and how far they could be pushed away from their original goal before they broke.
Mythal had always acted like this was childish, something useful, but that should be carried out with the weight of respect for the past and needs of those around them. Solas, almost to the end, had been able to get her to play along with smiles and jokes, letting the weight of the world lift them instead of drag them into the mud.
In the end… in the end, Solas had become closer to what he was now, but impulsive, confused, fighting as the people he had teased before. He tried to help slaves, but instead…
Organizations formed. They were even necessary, but the fact was that in the end they would turn against itself, perhaps become almost the antithesis of what it had been meant to be.
I know, getting Solas stabbed was a little cliche, but I want to work on his and Sera's relationship, and I feel that Sera stabbing him had to happen, especially to help her character growth down the line. Still, it wasn't in the outline I'd origionally penned for this chapter. They were all just supposed to have some fun.
Chapter 9: An Arrow
A week passed since they had lost Samson. Ever since, the library had been in a desperate struggle to study what had been found set the place on the edge of a knife. Dorian seemed especially busy over point of interest, if his grumblings and the way he obsessed hard over the available books and how he lashed out with harsh words at anyone who got close to his notes.
A week since the Inquisitor left with Madam Vivienne, Cassandra, and Varric: a small group meant for a quick trip of perhaps three weeks max to check the Hinterlands, get Madam Vivienne’s books, and run around the forests and pick plants and mine to the Inquisitor heart’s content.
The arrow in Solas’s hand turned as he ran his fingers along the shaft where a certain name had been carved. Waste of an arrow, and even for Sera, this was blunt. She didn’t seem too care if Solas knew and had proof this was one of her arrows. She might ask for you to prove it, but normally what she did was supposed to be found out as a prank, or at least that’s how she appeared to conduct herself. The point wasn’t for Sera to stay anonymous; it was to make other people laugh and make people who thought they were better than others look like people.
Unless they were downright evil, than the prank was meant to discredit them, though ironically, half the time this seemed to be by making them look like people. If Sera really didn’t like them, then the prank ended in their death. Now even in his wild days, would Solas call killing someone a prank, but he did admit she had interesting ways of humiliating people before she shoot an arrow through them.
Solas once again choose not to go through the crowds of the throne room of Skyhold. It felt very empty and vacuous without Vivienne looking over it like some cunning goddess who pretended to care about her people, or Varric’s rough presence hanging in the corner with an easy smile and jokes that oddly complimented everyone in the hold perfectly. It was no secret that Josephine liked him there to greet the guests as they came in.
Still, it felt like more than that, which was ridiculous, because he hardly talked to either of them when they were at Skyhold. There was too much to read, to learn, whether it was in the physical or world or the Fade. So instead Solas spent his time away from everyone. A coward’s way, but he’d always been lukewarm about socializing. Even when he was younger.
Still, considering the last time Solas had seen Sera had been when she’d stabbed him, and the first thing she did was put the arrow next to his head, shoved into the wood in a way that seemed threatening. After all, it could hardly be called a prank. Too blunt, and what humor could be figured from it?
But then again, what threat was Sera giving him anyway? Had she even thought it out? No, that was unfair. Sera was fleeting and fast, but she usually did something like this for a reaction. A specific reaction for that one moment, but she still wanted to get that reaction. This was something else.
“You’re both thinking about it too hard. She doesn’t want to hurt you, but she wants to show she could because she starting to like you,” said Cole, and then titled his head to the side, biting his lips as he balanced on the edge of the wall. The guards walking close by looked uncomfortable. Even a more human Cole made people uncomfortable at the best of times.
Then Cole made a face. “You don’t have to hide from me, but maybe best to hide from Sera. She’s scary, and talking to her without thinking can lead to her spitting mad and causing as many hurts as she can. It can hurt her.”
Solas shook his head and huffed a little, not that Cole was wrong, but Sera would have been irritated by the claim most likely. “Thank you for letting me know she doesn’t wish to hurt you.”
“Not hurt, scare,” said Cole, moving on the ledge and tipping a little with each step as he followed Solas down the stairs. “Hearts broken. Fear and hope and a touch of hatred. She sees how it could heal, but she doesn’t want to. But for him she will. Friends, fleeting, fast, but formed a deeper connection. She won’t forget this place. Make it work, make it better.”
“She is worried about the friendship I am forming with Dorian?” asked Solas, a little slowly, but believing he got the gist of what Cole was saying.
“Yes,” said Cole, bouncing down on the ground happily. “But she sees more, but elfy is old and Dorian has slavery in his bones. Everything could wrong and it’s stupid.” Cole seemed to think back on this. “Those are her words. They hurt her, but to fix it would change her nature. She likes to hurt, it fuels her and helps heal.”
“Thank you Cole,” said Solas as they started to head toward the Herald’s Rest. Cole looked at him, his head cocking to the side before he disappeared. Solas looked at where the spirit went, before shaking his head and heading in.
“Solas,” called Iron Bull from where he was leaning back in his usual corner where he rested when he was back at Skyhold and not training his men by hitting them with various training weapons. He was also clearly encouraging him to come and talk to him. Probably a good idea as he knew alright. “Don’t see you in here often. How about I get you a drink.”
“That won’t be necessary. I’m here to talk to Sera, actually,” said Solas, his fingers still playing along the shaft of the arrow. The Iron Bull looked it over, interest flashing in his eyes even as he did his usual smile, leaning back and signaling one of the serving girls to him.
“Then just humor me. Cabot will glare if one of us doesn’t spend money on you,” said The Iron Bull.
Solas looked the Tal-Vashoth over. But he walked over and took the chair and even whatever was handed to him.
The smell made his head spin. The Iron Bull watched him, but Solas wasn’t taking a drink. He wanted to go back as soon as he could to do more study on the texts on the veil that the Inquisitor had found only partially destroyed in one of the old ruins she found.
“So, you and Dorian,” said the Iron Bull, leaning back in his chair. Solas looked the man over. On one hand, he could play it off as something that mages did, or just getting to know each other as companions to the Inquisitor, but something about that seemed dangerous at the moment. A ripple in the Fade perhaps, or even the wary way The Iron Bull was watching him. “So, which one of you is making it complicated?”
“From what I understand of the Qun, any attachment or relationship is forbidden,” said Solas. The Iron Bull let out a laugh.
“Who said anything about a relationship?” asked The Iron Bull. “You all complicate things. It’s just a way to release tension.”
“Is that what it is with you and the Inquisitor?” asked Solas, knowing that even as he does so, The Iron Bull is most likely to act in one of two ways. Either he will move the conversation so Solas leaves to see Sera in the next minute, or he’ll dig in and try to work Solas out. Before he became Tal-Vashoth, Solas would have expected the man to lean in and threaten him. Not obviously, but just let him know that Solas wasn’t being nice and The Iron Bull wanted the conversation to stay nice. Now, as if he was trying to stop himself from becoming the beast he was afraid of, The Iron Bull kept his conversations away from arguments or anger.
He still fought and killed and yelled at his Chargers to get them into shape. But his personal interaction tended to be directed to make sure they stayed charitable without devolving into something hard.
“She’s my Kadan, and I am Tal-Vashoth,” said The Iron Bull, and Solas heard what was missing in that admission. Had they talked about it? Or had either of them acknowledged it beyond just carefully avoided. “But, perhaps the problem is that what you and Dorian are dealing with is an attraction not based on looks. Though you two have made enough disparaging comments about your clothes and grooming that it could definitely be interrupted in interesting ways. But it wasn’t until you two started to walk the Fade together that anything seemed to start to come together.”
“You think I’m manipulating him in his dreams?” asked Solas, then regretted it, because the look the Bull gives him makes him realize that the thought hadn’t even occurred to him.
“I don’t think you have a good enough reason to do so,” said The Iron Bull. “You like to talk at people, and you’re pushy about what you say, but you believe in choice. I think you would kill someone to get it, but I think messing with someone’s mind would be distasteful, let’s say, to you. Unless I’m wrong.”
There was a challenge in those words. Obvious to anyone that heard them. Solas could just let it go, it would probably be for the best, after all, he wasn’t that man he was before, and putting the past behind you was important.
But so was living up to your faults. Not that Solas could admit to all of them. Sometimes, when he looked at the Inquisitor, heard her giggle and watched what he told her sink into her brain for her to digest and look in deeper, there was a moment of need to tell her. It was fleeting, drowned by the knowledge that he couldn’t leave the world broken this way by his hands no less. And even in the moment that Solas when he told the Inquisitor about Corypheus holding an elven artifact.
At the time, he knew it was mostly that he trusted her and that he needed that artifact. That had been the entire point. Well, that and a test. But she hadn’t been keen enough to find it suspicious that Solas had known it was an elven artifact, despite the former Magister only appearing after Solas had gone to help the citizens of Haven escape. Instead, she’d been concerned and promised to keep as quiet as she could. Well, she had promised not to tell anyone, until she had met Dagna and then told the dwarf because she hoped it would lead to some revelation.
She had told Solas immediately, apologizing for breaking her word, but not wavering on her stance. They needed to know more, and well, Solas wasn’t giving it to her.
“I’m wrong?” asked The Iron Bull, and Solas realized his falling into his thoughts left a silence that was easy to interpret and not wrong.
“Once, when I was just learning about my own skills,” said Solas, and he grimaced at the memory. Because everything he regretted doing always happened when he allowed his anger to overwhelm him and he acted without finding out about all that he was going to do. “Someone in power hurt the people under him, including a dear friend. Left him almost dead. I felt powerless to stop him. He was important…” Solas trailed off. This was getting a little too personal. He hardly ever talked about specifics of his past. It wasn’t a good idea for one thing.
“I found him in the Fade. I didn’t know I was a dreamer,” which was the closest Solas could explain to what had happened and how he had tricked himself. “I thought it was just another of my own dreams that I was special enough to manipulate. To ask the spirits to torment this man that had hurt me. I hadn’t thought about the supposed spirit, and I didn’t care enough about how it might twists the spirits. Turn them to demons. And in the end, because of my ignorance and cruelty, a man was left a hallow broken thing, and the people under him vulnerable to attack.”
There was a moment of silence.
“Yeah, but the shit got what was coming to him, didn’t he?” asked Sera from the seat next to them. Sitting down hard enough that her drink spilled.
“I wouldn’t think you’d approve of magic,” said Solas.
“You care what I think now?” asked Sera, sitting sideways and tipping back her cup. “Whatever, I have weird dreams, I know who to blame right?”
“As I was telling Bull,” said Solas with a sigh. “I did it from ignorance. The spirits I harmed and twisted never recovered.”
“Seems like you’re saying that if you found a way to make someone mad without harming your precious spirits. Like you’d set them all on us as long as you had some demons,” sneered Sera.
Solas watched her and their eyes met, the ever-present sneer on her face dangerous in a way that meant she was challenging him because she was afraid. When Sera was afraid she tended to lash out, maybe run and hide, but first she’d try some sort of attack.
Of course, this was a situation where fear seemed to be part of the battle. Or whatever it was to Sera. After all, she’d left the arrow next to his with her name on it. This wasn’t setup to be a nice meeting. It was supposed to be all edges. Solas wasn’t too worried about himself either. This wasn’t like before where a light conversation transformed into a deadly one in a second. Solas knew Sera was afraid, they had a healthy amount of distance between them, and Solas was actively reaching and toying with the Fade without tearing the Veil down to do anything.
At least not yet.
“I believe this belong to you," said Solas, holding out the arrow toward the girl. Sera continued to perch on her chair, watching him even as she drank from her tankard.
“Nah, it’s a gift, yeah, and a warning, you get me,” said Sera.
“A warning. Then you knew I was a Dreamer. I didn’t think it was a secret,” said Solas. Sera glared at him, knowing he was being obtuse on purpose.
“You made Dorian mopey,” said Sera, and that’s a bit surprising. Partly because Dorian hadn’t seemed mopey. Busy, yes, they were all busy with their own research and looking not only to find, but also defeat this evil that no one quite understood. “I noticed it happened after you two started walking in the Fade and acting all chummy. Now I find you mess with people’s Dreams and make them crazy. That ain’t normal, and your not being normal is hurting him.”
“I didn’t think you were that close,” said Solas, baiting her, but also genuine. He knew the two had a sort of peace and sometimes drank together. He didn’t realize they were actual friends. Most of the Inner Circle seemed removed from each other. Only close friends with the Inquisitor and, at best, friendly acquaintances with other members. The sort of friends you made in battle, that you talked to and got closer to because you knew they were going to be watching your back, but in the end who you weren’t close enough to keep by your side after.
Temporary. He thought that they were to each other what they were to him. Temporary. Everything these days felt so fleeting he hadn’t seen when connections deeper than the existence of the Inquisition.
That was, at once, amazing, wonderful. And also potentially disastrous to the Inquisition itself.
“Solas,” muttered The Iron Bull under his breath, even as Sera glared at the Mage and shook her tankard at him.
“You don’t get to judge. Dorian might be all polished and rich and high, but he cares. You grind his face in the muck and he complains, but then he tries to figure out how to clean it up for everyone and not just his own boots. He cares about people, just acts like a noble prick because he likes to preen,” said Sera, then titled her head. “Anyway, doesn’t matter. What matters is that he cares and all that rubbish, and you don’t. You’re all weird and elfy and think the Fade is better than anything real and spend all your time dreaming with demons, and now you’ve messed with one of my friends.”
“And Red Jenny cares about a Magister?” asked Solas. The Iron Bull was now staring determinedly at his drink, not even trying to curb the argument in favor of ignoring them both. He’d probably only intervened if one of them attacked.
“I care about my friends who are decent person,” said Sera, and Solas couldn’t help but glare at her. “You’re elfyness and freaky magic is messing with his head. That needs to stop.”
“I haven’t walked in Dorian’s dream since the Temple of Dumat. As I said before, I do not go where I am not wanted,” said Solas. The Iron Bull snorts, obviously wanting to point out that it was not what Solas said at all, but he doesn’t and Sera is red faced and glaring.
“Then at a normal time, go into his dreams,” said Sera, and Solas raised an eyebrow, sitting back in his chair, placing his drink to the side as he takes the arrow in both hands, testing it between his hands. “Dorian’s all magey, right? So maybe you did something to his magey brain, and now you need to fix it.”
“So, either I’m messing with Dorian by walking in his dreams currently, or I’m messing him up by not walking in his dreams. Is that your hypothesis?” asked Solas, bending the arrow in his hands and distracting the other elf.
“How am I supposed to know how magic messes with you magey types? It’s all weird and freaky. All I know is, you did something, so now you’ve got to fix it,” said Sera. Solas can hear the bard singing a little louder and that the tavern has grown quiet around them. Not that there are many people in here yet, but there’s enough that there should be a quiet din of voices bouncing off the walls, and not just the occasional creak of wood as Sera and Solas argue.
It really would have been better if Solas had been able to get to Sera’s room where they could have at least pretended at some privacy.
“Right, like how you fixed me after you stabbed me,” said Solas. Sera turned red.
“That’s what you get for scaring me with freaky shit yeah,” said Sera, leaning back.
“It wasn’t my magic,” said Solas. “Are you going to attack Dorian the next time he does something flashy that you see as freaky?”
“Dorian doesn’t usually flaunt his magically freakiness around,” said Sera leaning in so she was almost at the edge of her seat.
“So, you don’t so much like Dorian for who he is, so much as you ignore one huge part of him because it makes you uncomfortable,” said Solas.
“Well, it is freaky, and you can’t say that you magey types don’t abuse magic to make people do what you want and hurt people around you. Even the pisspots at the top and your friends. You even said you hurt whatshisname because you just didn’t know better,” yelled Sera.
“Which is why mages study and learn and reflect. Why do you think Dorian practically lives in the library? He lives and breathes magic. He’s from a place that embraces it,” said Solas and Sera snarled at him before he could continue.
“He knows its shit.”
“He knows the Magistirium is flawed, but he would not see all Mages locked away in towers,” said Solas. “You fear magic simply because you’ve been told to.”
“Well, with what the Chantry tell us what do you expect?” spat Sera.
“And since when do you just do what you’re told?” asked Solas.
“I also have eyes, you elfy…” and Sera threw her drink on Solas. There was a moment, when the sticky substance had just landed, the cool liquid a splash of shock that quickly started to sink against his skin and into his clothes. The next moment Sera was soaked in Solas’s drink. A thought that passed through the already opening Veil that the Fade seized upon to realize once Solas’s control had slipped.
There was a moment of complete silence. The echoes in Herald’s Rest paused with a collected intake of breath instead of just listening ears. And then the sound of clicking coins, followed by Sera literally falling out of her chair in cackling laughter.
“That was… and your—face—your stupid elfy face,” Sera degenerated into more whooping laughter and the general murmur of tavern returned and even a tentative song about Sera herself. “That was priceless. Though you cheated using magic.”
“Magic is a part of me. Using a natural skill is not cheating,” said Solas and threw Sera’s arrow at her. She caught it, dancing up onto her feet and smiling manically. The Iron Bull walked past, and Solas wondered if he had just paid off the glaring in their direction. Sera didn’t even say anything, just danced behind him.
“You get Dorian to join us here again? Yeah, or this’ll end up somewhere painful,” said Sera, then looked Solas over and her smile curled further. “Though I guess I’ll have to take out the stick you already shoved there first.”
And then she disappeared back to her room, laughing the whole way.
Well, that had been useless and a waste of his time. All that had achieved was aggravating her further.
“So,” said The Iron Bull. “That went well.”
Solas glared at him, the sticky feeling of the Ale sinking into his clothes and against his skin making him feel itchy. He should really leave and wash. He’d consider talking to Dorian, but now he needed to just reflect. Especially on his interactions with Sera. He already knew there was nothing he could do to support her even in her own interests, but he had hoped to keep from falling to petty arguments.
“You’re the one that is complicating things,” said The Iron Bull. Solas looked over at the other man, having to shift his irritation to the side and resume what he had been talking about with the other man before all this happened.
“You think that Dorian is attracted to me? Have you heard us complain about what the other is wearing. He’s a peacock. I am not,” said Solas. Bull snorted, letting his smirk show Solas know that he thought what Solas said was complete bullshit.
“You realize that Sera picked up on the two of you, right?” the Iron Bull pointed out. “You acting more down to earth. Talking with us instead of at us, and Dorian in the middle of it.” Solas raised an eyebrow, but The Iron Bull just continued to smile at him, leaning back in chair. “But Dorian could work with outright rejection because you weren’t interested or you were too oppressed. He’d be better if you two would just bang and get it out of your system and then you broke it off. He would be disappointed, but not so caught up.”
“And yet you admit that he should be used to rejection,” said Solas. “The people here are understandably weary of him even now. I haven’t seen many show any interest to him.”
The two looked at each other, but The Iron Bull was clearly not letting this go.
“But you’re interested,” said The Iron Bull. “And that’s the problem.”
“You can’t tell me that Dorian hasn’t approached someone who was interested in him and been rejected and then had to spend time with him,” said Solas with a roll of his eyes. “Even if, even in the Magisterium, they didn’t also have their mages in Circles, Dorian also socialized almost exclusively in higher society, and probably with only a select people at that considering his status as a pariah.”
“Of course he has, but that’s why it’s your problem and not his,” said The Iron Bull.
“I have to admit to some confusion,” said Solas, fidgeting under The Iron Bull’s stare. He had thought the two of them had come to an understanding. They would never agree that by becoming Tal-Vashoth that The Iron Bull had finally become the man he was meant to be, free of the shackles others had forced onto him and told him that he was better for. “I thought Dorian was the one who was sulking?”
“Oh, you are too, why do you think Sera shoot an arrow at your head while you were in the Fade?” asked The Iron Bull. Now Solas really was confused. He hadn’t been anymore reclusive than he’d always been. He’d always kept to himself. Staying with the texts, paints, and wandering the Fade. He wasn’t interested in socializing, and he was still recuperating. After sleeping for so long, even after over a year of finally waking, he still needed time to adjust to being back in the waking world. “I see what you’re thinking, but while you’ve always had this reserved nature that makes you think you’re better than all of us, you keep us all at arm’s length, even the Boss, all because you know that you’re going to leave.”
There was a pause in the conversation, where Solas realized he was supposed to say something. “I wasn’t aware that my leaving after Corypheus was a secret. I have always made my preference for exploration clear.”
“Yes, but most of us came in that way. Promising to stay only until the big bad guy is taken care of, and once the job is done, even those of us in the Inner Circle will go back to our jobs, our life, before the world was put in danger. Difference is, we won’t disappear the moment that happens and we’ll keep in contact with at least the Inquisitor for a good amount of time,” said The Iron Bull, leaning in to look intensely at Solas. “You plan on disappearing before word that Corypheus is dead has gone around, and you have no plans staying or keeping in touch.”
“And you know that for a fact?” asked Solas. The Iron Bull always had been decent at reading people. Not perfect, otherwise both Blackwall and Solas would have been in trouble before this moment, but Solas could believe the other man had picked up that Solas had plans to leave with the artifact before he could be drawn into any sort of celebration.
Solas wouldn’t deserve it anyway, and if he could trigger the events he needed not long after Corypheus’s defeat, a year or less, than he could hopefully end this world in a period of joy. A fitting end to people who despite every disadvantage, fought, scrapped, and lived to the fullest they could with the Veil ripping away the beauty and majesty of the Fade from their world. If Solas could give that to them, even as he ripped away their lives and hard earned peace than perhaps he could find some way to live with himself as he helped reestablish the world to its former glory.
“I can see it,” said the Iron Bull, cutting through Solas’s thoughts. Well, yes, he supposed he had rather shown his hand there, reflecting on what had to happen as he was talking to The Iron Bull. “And as you said, you never hid it. I think the only one who would really be surprised is the Boss. And that’s before she remembers that she used to work with the Carta and that not everyone is a decent person.”
“You don’t think I’m a decent person?” asked Solas.
“I think that you’re a crafty bastard that has more riding on this than just that of a concerned apostate elf, though I haven’t been able to put all the puzzle pieces together,” said the Iron Bull. “I also know that as much as you try, you’ve been making friends here and even some roots. Not much for a long time, just the beginning of something, but then you and Dorian really starting talking about magic and you took him into the Fade, and suddenly you’re playing Wicked Grace with us. You’re joining in on jokes and pranks. And you get close enough to Sera that you two actually have to talk and she ends up stabbing you.”
Solas waited, not really like where this was going, but not surprised by it either.
“You noticed, Dorian noticed and he saw something he liked, and then you’re and his feelings scared you because you’re all about the long game, and you realized that by being with Dorian your long game would either have to change or you’d end up hurting yourself,” said The Iron Bull. “So, you’ve spent all this time hiding in your little alcove again, not interacting with the outside world.”
“And this is concerning how?” Solas asked, the slight edge of irritation starting to paint his tone. The Iron Bull shrugged and leaned back, never taking his eye off the mage.
“It’s not. I just thought, seeing as we’re all being so candid with each other,” at this the Tal-Vashoth smirked, letting everyone know he was bullshitting, “we should get all the facts on the table. Sorta make sure you know what’s been going and let you know that we as a group have seen this in you, and that most of us were really pleased to see joining in, even Sera. She thought you were learning how to be more like people and less like a shit. Her words. I want you to think about your options. You’re important to this mission, yes, but you’re also important to your friends here, that despite your best efforts to remain aloof, you have, and that you’re already hurting yourself by distancing yourself. We would all enjoy getting to know the Solas that can shout at Sera and call her on what you think is her bullshit and get into petty fights with her, and who joins us for a couple of rounds of Wicked Grace, and who makes Dorian smile and loosen up and help show some of the more stubborn Trevinter haters around here that Dorian is different, because hey, he’s got something going on with that proud elf after all.”
“People would see our relationship however they wished,” Solas pointed out and The Iron Bull just smirked at him.
“I just wanted to get that all out on the table,” said The Iron Bull. “Now, you probably want to go wash. You like you’re about to crawl out of your own skin.”
Solas heard the dismissal, though he had a feeling The iron Bull wouldn’t actively push him away if Solas decided to stay in the Herald Rest. But Solas Honestly had spent enough time in the tavern and the Tal-Vashoth was right about wanting to wash the ale off his body and just spend some time going over everything that had just been said and done.
When he returned to his room, Solas was mildly surprised to see a tub had been brought to his room. It was flimsy, and there was a bit of a puddle on the floor, though that could have been getting the water in. The water itself was rapidly cooling and only filled half way up, but no servants were in sight, so it seemed they had returned to whatever else they were doing, and Solas was left wondering who had ordered for this to happen.
And because he had just shouted at Sera, Solas felt with his magic around the tub, trying to find any hint of mischief reflected in the Fade or trigger any trap that might have been set up. He didn’t find anything, but that wasn’t a sure sign that she hadn’t done anything.
Solas decided to risk it, with a flick of his wrist, the tub was at a comfortable, just scalding temperature, and he found himself relaxing for a few moments, letting the water sooth his tense muscles and acknowledging the small headache that had started to form ever since he’d found the arrow near his head, and growing rapidly since he started his yelling match with Sera. Solas knew yelling at Sera was pointless. He wasn’t angry at her, not really. She was who she was because he had failed, because everything was fleeting with no chance to last past what to Solas felt like a heartbeat.
Solas knew that Sera didn’t appreciate the fact that he was, “all condescending and shit” with his “elfy” way of treating her, but it had helped him keep a clear head about her. He didn’t rail against her, because it was what she had grown up knowing, and in many ways, it was refreshing to see an elf act so little like one. She was so human, she hardly was an elf at all. Unlike the Dalish who tried to cling to the past, to remember a history that had been so stamped out by humans and all those around them, Solas sometimes found their preservation of the elvhen society both to be uplifting and hopeful, and also tragic. Because they not only could never know what it was like to be an elf before the Veil, but they also rejected any information that Solas tried to impart, refusing to expand their knowledge and wallowing in a past that had never existed.
Sera rejected all that, and for that, she was happy, in her own way. She strove and became a part of something grander than herself. She fought, and most importantly, she lived. There was something pure in the way she tackled the world.
Not something Solas would like to see in any other person, but admirable in its own way, especially in a world where the physical was so separated from the spiritual.
Night came quickly, and a couple of servants had come and taken the tub away by the time Solas returned to his room. It was a bit amazing how he was treated. Sometimes, especially if they were elven, the servants would stick around and gossip with him. Other time, his presence seemed to make them even wearier of him than even other mages.
The dreams of others sent ripples through the Fade. Not all of them were ones he’d care to work through, too many soldiers with dreams that Solas had seen through the eons repeated into infinity. Some other were dreams of fear, nightmares that dragged at the Fade and attracted the most dangerous of demons. Solas had learned that it was often best to let nightmares play their parts. As long as a demon didn’t threaten them, then it was often important to the person experience the nightmare and work through it, than for Solas to come in time and time again to “fix” the dream.
Still, as Solas felt the Fade moving around him, he wondered if he should walk in a couple of dreams. He’s mostly been walking the Fade of memories created long ago. Reminding himself to keep out of the other dreams. Not that he hadn’t wandered through some, though he was often careful to not alert them. The Inquisitor was jumpy even if she seemed accepting after the first one. He did need to continue to work with Lady Vivienne on some level of tolerance for one another, and The Iron Bull would have been beyond uncomfortable with him.
Still, he had wandered all their dreams at some point. The Inquisitor had surrounded herself with a diverse set of people, that who somehow all seemed to adore her, even when they couldn’t stand each other. The Fade and the dreams it created for those sleeping minds didn’t give him a clear picture. Murder, sex, love, hate could be interpreted in interesting ways in the Fade, but Solas had enough of a grasp on how the Fade interpreted feelings, emotions, and actions, that he could at least get a feel of who was an actual danger.
The answer, as far as he could tell, was as long as the Inquisitor didn’t do anything completely out of character, nothing, at least not until another more promising savior came to light, or the goals of the Inquisition had been reached.
Solas wandered into Dorian’s dream, opening the door to the Chantry in Redcliff. When he entered, he looked around in some interest. There were ghosts of people sitting on pews he didn’t remember being there when the Inquisitor went there, but that had been months ago, almost a year. Then he blinked in surprise as the ghosts of worshipping people changed into the ghosts of demons that flared and look in confusion until they turned back to worshippers.
There was a sound, and Solas looked down to see what looked like a line of tiny spider sized Coles going across the floor like little ants.
“You’re missing the best part,” said Dorian from the front of the Chantry. Solas looked up to where he saw the other man sitting opposite another man that looked vaguely familiar, though Solas couldn’t quite place him. Perhaps because the other human was bright pink. Dorian took out something from a small bowl and threw it toward the other man. When the human caught the piece, he turned in a cascade of color from his mouth through his whole body, turning him bright blue. “How does the Fade even pull this from my brain?”
“Who is this?” asked Solas, walking forward, staff in hand as he looked over the colorful man.
“Felix, a close friend from Trevinter, unfortunately no longer with us,” said Dorian with a long sigh. “I sometimes wish I could have spent his last time with him, though I’m quite sure he wouldn’t have liked that. He generally was against people hovering around him and worrying about him in general. He seemed quite happy…”
Dorian let out a long sigh. Then he turned to Solas.
“So, was there something you wanted to talk to me about?” asked Dorian. “I hadn’t thought I’d see you in my dreams within Skyhold itself, or without some request from the Inquisitor.”
“Yet, you didn’t see all that surprised when I showed up,” Solas pointed out. Dorian laughed.
“You’ll have to thank the rumor mill for that. Word got around that you got in a fight with Sera and Bull over my evilness I think. One of the poor idiots thought it was my honor, but he was laughed out of the building. Everyone knows that as an evil Magister from Trevinter meant that I never had any of that horrid stuff,” Dorian said in his usual exaggerated tone.
“But why would you assume that I would visit you in your dreams?” asked Solas. Dorian shrugged.
“Bull has a way of convincing people to do what they didn’t want to. This seems like an easier place for you to be… less composed,” said Dorian and then smirked. And then he sighed. “I also hope that he didn’t convince you to do anything you’ll regret or aren’t sure of.”
Solas laughed and shook his head.
“Would you like to see something?” asked the elf, standing and pointing toward the door, waving his hand so Dorian was wearing his usual getup. Dorian looked down at what he was wearing in interest, but stood and followed Solas out of the Chantry. He looked around, eyeing the area around him, the dark secluded area lit gently and the patter of flowing water soothing to Solas’s ears.
“Where are we?” asked the human.
“A memory of mine,” said Solas. “I come here when I wish to relax. It holds many pleasant memories for me.”
“It’s beautiful, peaceful,” said Dorian. Solas went and sat by the edge of the pound.
Solas smiled, closing his eyes and letting the cool air run over his body. He heard Dorian pause, before the man sat next to him.
“If the rumor is going around, you must know that I don’t plan on hanging around after we have killed Corypheus,” said Solas. “I dare say that was half the point.”
“To be fair, I think that was mostly his way of telling the Inquisitor,” said Dorian.
“By announcing it to everyone?” asked Solas.
“Well, he’s also getting back at you for breaking her heart. You know, you don’t have to disappear into the wild. Staying friends with the Inquisitor seems the best bet for an apostate mage,” Dorian pointed out. “Can’t hurt to send her a letter every once in a while. She likes you for some completely unknown reason. I mean, even she has better fashion sense, even if half the time she goes a little over the top.”
“It’s complicated,” said Solas, not that interested in lying, but obviously not wanting to admit to anything either. He felt like he was showing his hand more than was safe at this point in his plan.
Dorian snorted. “Of course, it is. If you weren’t complicated than you wouldn’t be a part of our Inner Circle. So, are you just letting me know that this won’t happen again? Because I didn’t need to know that personally. You’ll put a chip in my wonderful and robust ego. Or are you interested in having some fun here? Can’t say I haven’t dreamed about it?”
“Was that a pun?” asked Solas, Dorian just smirked at him and Solas couldn’t help but shook his head. “And no, I was thinking…”
“That sounds dangerous,” said Dorian. Solas pretended to look at him in irritation.
“I was thinking that perhaps we should consider a relationship,” said Solas. Dorian looked surprised. Solas smiled, a bit happy he’d caught the other man unaware.
“Even though I am returning to Trevinter and you’re disappearing after Corypheus?” asked Dorian. “That doesn’t sound very committed.”
“There is always a war or battle or obstacle that can make a relationship seem like a bad idea,” said Solas. “And seeing as you have money on us all dying. It seems like it would be worth having something that we’re both interested in.”
“You sure you wouldn’t disappear if it seemed like we were actually losing?” asked Dorian, looking at Solas, and the elf was glad to see he seemed to be thinking it over. Not because he was sure, but because he genuinely had to think it over. He had a feeling that Dorian never had a meaningful relationship with another man before. He’d simply had what he could because of his station and cultural norms back in Trevinter. This would not just be a relationship, it would be one with the understanding that if their goal didn’t end in tragedy, then their relationship probably would. “Perhaps I’m not interested anymore.”
“You’re not?” asked Solas, leaning in toward the other man. Dorian huffed, shifting where he was sitting. And then the human laughed.
“Alright, but this still doesn’t seem like your sort of thing,” said Dorian, his hand touching Solas’s. “I would have thought you only wanted something more permanent. Something lasting.”
“I want… I want something meaningful,” said Solas. “Everything in this world seems so fleeting. Without thought for the future and only for moments of stolen fame and glory, but… perhaps I have been spending too much time around Sera, or perhaps I’m remembering when I was younger when everything seemed to be going wrong, when I didn’t know…”
“Are you sure you want this?” asked Dorian, actually sounding concerned. Solas looked at the other mage. Dorian was brilliant. The way he thought about magic was limited, but only as much as any over confident powerful youngster was. And perhaps that was what drew Solas in. At first, there only seemed to be a thin layer under Dorian’s preening and playing up his station and station as a pariah. Solas, after getting to know him in Haven, had been actually sure that Dorian could be more if he was pushed to it.
But, he had genuinely shocked him in how deeply Dorian cared, and how his mind was so sharp but also so open to new ideas.
And he never gave up. He was bitter and biting, and he could be defensive when confronted, but he was worth listening to. He cared about everyone even as he pushed everyone away. He called himself a pariah, but he was his most comfortable with other people that he knew around him. He spent all day in the library looking up the smallest details for his research, but he was also an astounding fighter.
Solas leaned in, slow while looking into Dorian’s eyes. He paused for a second, and Dorian met him. The kiss was slow, a brush of dry lips, once, twice, before they leaned in, fitting together and feeling the pressure that gives way to open mouths and deep kisses until finally Solas pulls away, pushing and letting his body feel the man as well as he can in the Fade.
Dorian’s breath ran down Solas’s neck, they were still close. Solas felt like he could still feel, still taste the other man’s mustachio. He looked up at Dorian’s coal lined eyes, and Dorian gripped the ack of his neck and dragged him into a deeper kiss. Harsher, almost clumsy as they tried to mold to each other. Not just their mouths, but hands, sides leaning hard against each other, to the point that Solas didn’t know if one of them was going to climb in the others lap of if they were going to end up rolling on the ground like young lovers.
It was Dorian who broke the kiss first, pulling back with his entire body except his hands that pushed Solas away. Solas scouted back, this time putting enough distance between them that they wouldn’t fall into each other.
“So, think about it?” asked Dorian, then he looked up at Solas. “Sure you don’t want to just let off some steam together. Get rid of this tension.”
Solas chuckled but shook his head.
“If we continued this, I would like to begin a relationship. Perhaps not perfectly defined, but with an understanding that it’s…”
“Meaningful,” whispered Dorian, then leaned in to touch Solas’s face, wonder reflected in his voice. “I’ve seen relationships go horribly wrong. We could have sex once and realize that all we were interested was sex and want nothing else.”
“Then that’s it,” said Solas. “Perhaps it will be a disappointment, but I would want to peruse a sexual relationship only if it was meant to be worth having.”
“I think sex is worth having,” said Dorian with a laugh. Then his expression relaxed and his hands ran along Solas’s arms before the human pulled away. “But I think I know what you mean. We’ve spent that much time together at least. So, we’ll think about it. Any length of time preferable?”
“How about at least a week,” said Solas, feeling that the other man would be more comfortable with a timeline to work with. Dorian nodded and then smiled.
“Well, what else can you show me?” asked Dorian. Solas looked the man over, smiled, and pulled the other man into the water, causing the mage to complain and scream, but they ended up using magic to water fight. Solas continued to manipulate their dreams until it was time for both of them to wake up.
Chapter 10: Must Play the Game
Oh my gosh, I had another guys have a water fight in the last chapter. That is the second time I have written that. Apparently I either really need to finish Free! or need to see this in real life, or just.... something. It's almost a thing now.
Two days later and Solas had told Dorian that they both needed space to think, and that they couldn’t dream walk together because while it was fun, it turned out they had horrible control. If Solas was sure about his decision than it would be easy to either indulge or to gently turn the other man down. Personally, he’s glad, if a little surprised, the other man likes walking in dreams. Sure, Dorian probably enjoys it a lot because of their budding relationship and they get to roam the dreams freely together for hours with no interruptions or having to downplay or showcase their relationship because other people were watching, and Dorian is also a scholar and all the information to be found is impressive if not always reliable for accuracies sake, but that doesn’t change the fact that Dorian’s strength lay in magic that grounded him more in the physical world. He pulled spirits through, he didn’t create through the Veil.
But it’s hard to keep his head around why it’s a bad thing, and then at the same time, why he thought it would be good. He has a mission. He couldn’t leave the world like this. The world would burn, and many would be lost, but that was the nature of things.
It was obvious that Dorian had already made up his mind. The other man was flirting and hinting, and he obviously wanted whatever Solas offered, though it was hard to tell if it was because he was genuinely falling that hard for Solas, or if it was the idea of being openly with someone that drove him to the decision. And yet, while the man was clearly disappointed that Solas asked for space, he also agreed to the separation and told Solas to find him in whatever world when he was ready to give his answer.
That helped in his decision, but every step where his heart ached to find comfort in someone that seemed so genuine and was so captivating felt like a betrayal of his past and of his goals. A difficult balance, because being in a relationship with the other man wasn’t even fair to Dorian. Solas plans would kill the other man after all. If not because of the upset to the world, than because the people here simply could not cope to having the Fade invade not just the world but their very being.
But at the same time, it was also true that they both had this moment. They both may die, and Dorian would die. While it felt like a betrayal to be with someone he would be responsible for killing, it also seemed cruel not to give the man at least a taste of the relationship he had always craved. Perhaps he might not even know what Solas planned, that would be the best case scenario. Really, it shouldn’t take more than a couple years to set up the proper needs.
More than that, Dorian made him want to live for the moment. It wasn’t that Dorian ignored the past, he was not Sera, but it was becoming clearer why the mage and rogue got along. Dorian was reflective, and he listened when he wasn’t being attacked or felt he was being spoken down to. He even looked toward the future, now more than ever since he’d met the Inquisitor and all the other people, even mages who spoke of making better futures.
That did not stop the human from acting within the moment. Dorian seemed to revel in creating quips that served him well for the moment, but would bite him later and create him enemies.
Solas found that he liked that about the man however. Perhaps it was that he had spent so long in the Fade walking among these people whose lives flittered in and out so fast that they only seemed able to live for the moment, but Dorian made that seem so appealing. To not dwell on the past, but to breathe the moment. Solas usually wouldn’t enjoy that. If forced to act without careful consideration, some part of him would always regret not being able to figure out the situation completely so as to make the best decisions, especially when it came to acting later to similar situations. It appeared at first that people now just charged ahead without considering the past.
Even meeting the Inquisitor’s people, even the Inquisitor, didn’t seem to change anything. After all, they were just reacting to circumstances and forming another group in the hopes that they could do what an old woman hoped. The leaders seemed to send the Inquisitor off to the most likely way without really considering their options, and the Inquisitor reacted and reacted and claimed and killed and lived to spread their organization in the vain hope they were heading in the right direction.
Solas had followed, because that was his Anchor on her wrist, and as before, they were his best bet for helping guide them to him accomplishing his goals.
With a step back, Solas looked over his work. The paint smell filled the room, it wasn’t completely overwhelming, but it did bothersome. That was the reason it took so long to paint certain parts. If it wasn’t that some of the scholars above him were bothered by the smell, than it was the diplomats that apparently smelled it through the doors. It also bothered the Inquisitor who hung around doors and windows and dragged him out the door without ever actually telling him that apparently, she found it harder to breathe around the smell.
“Well we wouldn’t want that!” Dorian’s voice bounced over the other voices that echoed through the rest of the din of the library. That had happened a few times today. This wasn’t too different. True, most days Dorian lost himself in his corner with his books, but at other days there was something that just got under the other man’s skin and he complained at every little thing and seemed to go out of his way to be annoyed and share his annoyance with everyone in the general vicinity.
Solas sighed. Perhaps he would take a walk. Even if the other man wasn’t acting this way because of Solas’s decision the other night, he couldn’t help but wonder if it did have something to do with it. And that would remind him that for all of his ability to look back and try to improve himself, he was also remarkably young. Even for his age, there was something incredibly childish in how he would react to the world and put those shields of irritation and confrontation around himself.
The courtyard was beautiful as always. As much as the Chantry irritated Solas for how it treated and locked people into thoughts and actions, he can also appreciate what this Maker is for those that believe in him. He can also appreciate a God that does not interfere and is happy to let people be people. As always, it was people that tended to interrupt that doctrine and then try to strictly rule those around them so that everyone was “safe” and the “right thing was being done.”
But at the same time, when in the right frame of mind, the courtyard where the Inquisitor pretends to try and grow her plants and herbs and ultimately ends up with dry stalks of withered blankness, and the chantry folk milling around, are a comfort, even the chants are help with the feeling of meditation, the wording something that both brings comfort and unease.
Cullen was there, sitting at a table, a game of chess in front of him but no opponents. Chess and Wicked Grace seemed to be the two favorite games of the Inquisition. There are others. Blackwall seemed to be enamored with almost all games from card games to the more physical ones like jousting. The Great Game, the ones Josephine, the diplomats, and even Varric plays though he pretends that he’s too stupid to grasp what he does.
The former templar looked up. There were dark circles under his eyes and shaking in his whole body, though the worst was in his hands. For a moment that was clear in every frame of his body, before Cullen pulled himself together and most of that seemed to seep away, though his exhaustion was still clear in every line of his body.
“Solas, can I help you?” asked Cullen. Solas wondered if he should leave. It was clear the other man was exhausted. He could leave him to gather his thoughts. This place was probably comforting to the man. The Commander might not be a templar anymore, but it was clear he was still religious, and though he may have lost some of his belief in the Chantry, he still found solace in it.
“I simply was going for a walk to clear my head after finishing my latest painting,” said Solas walking up to them and looking over at game. “You were playing against yourself?”
“Sometimes I just like to build something up and then try to work around it,” said Cullen and then chuckled. “That made more sense in my head.”
“Really, Curly?” said Varric, walking up behind them. Solas glanced down at the elf. Every once in a while, the dwarf competently showed outside their adventures why he was a rogue. “Perhaps you should work on your observations of others.”
Commander Cullen looked over at the dwarf, looking unimpressed. Solas looked between the two, wondering what in their history lead them to their banter. There was something behind the conversation. Varric was smiling in that way that meant he was bringing up an uncomfortable fact, but that it was still all good.
“Would you like to play against me?” asked Commander Cullen, then his eyes flittered to Solas, looking uncertain. Varric chuckled and shook his head.
“Not really my thing,” said Varric, looking over the board. Solas looked at the dwarf. If there was a people that had always been hard for him to read completely, it was dwarves. The creation of the Veil had affected the dwarves as well, what they had built falling apart.
Though, their past was already complicated before that.
“I am sorry, I’m still not sure why the two of you are here…” asked Commander Cullen, clearly thinking that they were working together. Solas wondered if he should excuse himself at this point and find a quiet place to mediate.
“Looking for some friends to play Wicked Grace with, honestly. It’s been forever since I’ve had some time to get everyone together,” said Varric. “Perhaps we can go to the Herald’s Rest. Iron Bull should be good for it. His boys were sent out without him while we wait up for the Inquisitor to come back. And I’m sure everyone would thank us for distracting Sera from whatever tricks she’s currently getting herself into.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want to impose…” said Cullen, looking at Solas. The elf wondered if the human was trying to use him to get out of the card game, or perhaps would only go if he agreed. Solas looked over to the spot he usually made himself. Morgana was sulking around, but usually she didn’t bother him.
Perhaps she had a feeling for spirits of his sort, considering who her mother was.
“Ah, well, I also got Sparkler to join us. He’s cooped himself too long with all those dusty tomes that he’s calling them inferior, and I’ve been hearing murmurs that he’s in one of his moods today,” said Varric. “Sometimes it’s just good for all of us to get together and unwind. And it’ll help people if they ese us united together even without the Inquisitor and enjoying ourselves. The stuff with the Grey Wardens was a shit show, coulda gone worse, of course, and it was a victory overall. But that doesn’t change what the Grey Wardens did or where the Inquisitor went to end it all.”
And that was true enough.
“And with all the trouble with Samson…” said Commander Cullen, staring at his board. Solas wondered if he would instead use losing Samson as an excuse to go to his office and look over more reports in hopes he could track him down faster.
“I think that sounds like a plan. The Inquisitor is supposed to arrive sometime today or tomorrow,” said Solas, which seemed to catch Cullen’s attention.
“I had been meaning to talk with Dorian about some of his research,” said Commander Cullen. Varric clapped his hands together and then effortlessly signaled over one of the servants.
“Wonderful, though try to have a little fun the two of you,” teased Varric and then smiled at the elven boy he’d called over and waved at the table. “Clean this up and bring it back to the Commander.”
He gave the boy some coins, but generally his manner was open and friendly and made everyone think that if you weren’t his friend, then he was sharing some secret with you. The elf smiled and was off in a flash. Solas looked him over, he recognized him, but he wasn’t one of the agents from the Qun. Most of those had disappeared after The Iron Bull had saved the Chargers.
Solas wondered if the Inquisitor knew about them, it wouldn’t surprise him.
Still, it probably wouldn’t be long before agents of the Qun started showing up again. They would wait until the worse was over and The Iron Bull was no longer around enough to sniff them out in Skyhold any longer.
Commander Cullen took the lead. Some of the Chantry Sisters gave them interested looks, but no one stopped them. Solas noted that Varric did not invite Morrigan. Perhaps it was that he also felt wary of her, or perhaps he was taking the Inquisitor’s lead. Not that the Inquisitor was rude to Morrigan. She’d talked to the woman, made sure she settled into Skyhold and from what Solas understood, she was polite to the mage.
But that was it. The Inquisitor was actually known to avoid Morrigan when she was tending her plants or talking to Mother Giselle. He knew that mostly because gossip about how smug Mother Giselle was about this fact was impossible to avoid.
They walked through the main area of the Keep. Not much, just around the corner toward the door. Commander Cullen walked in front, eyes forward like he was on a mission, only relaxing his stance and slowing his steps once they were heading down the steps themselves. Varric kept up, but also appeared to be walking at his own pace, hands casually at his sides. He even waved and gave a few friendly greetings to some of the diplomats both in masks and otherwise.
No one glanced his way, not Orlesian or Ferelden. He was just a knife ears to them. A people who had been brought to heel long ago, and not worthy of respect or notice. Solas didn’t mind so much. He was used to people underestimating him. Of course, he also was used to than showing up all those that underestimated him, but he could wait.
The right time for everything. He didn’t wear these simple clothing for no reason after all. He wore them for the same reason that he had a wolf’s jaw hanging from around his neck.
Herald’s Rest was still quiet. The Chargers were nowhere to be seen, well, Krem was sitting at his usual, spot, but he just nodded as they walked past him. Varric easily got them all working to get the tables together so they could sit all together. Sera appeared at one point, mostly being more a nuisance than anything, though her tricks were taken with playful ribbing. Dorian showed up just as the cards were being dealt and was forced to sit between a Sera lost in her drink and a surly Rainier.
Varric started telling a story about one his adventures with Hawke where the man had taken both Fenris and Anders with him. He spoke about both with fondness, though it was clear that even these happy memories were soured with the knowledge of what would happen later.
Still, between Cullen and Krem, Solas looked over his cards with interest. Watching the various interactions as they threw in their money and traded barbs and stories. The atmosphere was light, helped by general sense of goodwill, even if it was taking time for Rainier to loosen up. He probably still felt as if he was being judged everyone.
Well, he was, Solas supposed he should call the man by the name he chose. After all, it was through that name he was trying to be that better person. He should be himself, but Solas could understand the need to cling on to an idea of being someone else for a time.
Solas watched in interest as Cullen leaned toward him as he chuckled at one of Varric’s jokes.
“I’m sorry if you felt pressured to come here just to humor me,” said Cullen, trying to keep their conversation between them, but Solas could tell that those closest to them were listening in. Krem had suddenly become a little too invested in his cards, and both Varric and Bull gave them quick looks before returning to their relaxed demeanors.
“Not at all. I think Varric was trying to do it the other way around,” said Solas, and when Cullen gave him a sideways look of confusion, Solas smiled and nodded his head toward Dorian. “He mentioned Dorian hoping that it would draw me to this meeting.”
Cullen looked at the other mage in confusion. Dorian didn’t notice, currently making friendly, biting jibes at Blackwall, though the other man was currently giving it back as good as he got. Cullen then glanced back at Solas, still looking confused.
“I didn’t think you’d too be, ah, close,” said Cullen, playing with his cards nervously. “I mean, Dorian’s alright, I guess, but he’s from… and is… and you’re. Well, you’re a mage, but you…”
Solas watched the other man flounder in fascination. He’d heard the other man often tripped himself up with words, especially outside of official work. But he didn’t remember seeing it, at least, not to this extent. Though, perhaps that was because he didn’t see him often in social settings. Before the Inquisitor he had only joined once the man had taken control of the forces. And even after Corypheus had destroyed Haven and they were making their way across the mountains, the other man had been regrouping his troupes and dealing with stress.
There hadn’t been much time to relax and really connect with those survivors around them. Even at their last card game, Commander Cullen had seemed relaxed and even shared his own stories. The only place he’d really shown some of this uncertainty and shyness was when they’d stripped him in the last game of Wicked Grace.
“We walked our dreams together,” said Solas, watching as Krem started to tell his own story to the group, trying to embarrass a relaxed Iron Bull who was refusing to take the bait.
“That’s a skill of yours, yes? I hadn’t really heard of it. Only met one other mage who could do it. He attracted demons to him. We couldn’t do anything for him until Hawke helped out,” said Commander Cullen.
“Yes, it’s rare, and often tricky, especially with how spirits are generally viewed,” said Solas. Cullen gave him a hard look, and Solas realized that he might end up ruining the jovial mood that Varric had created and the others were effortlessly adding to. At the same time, even if these people were fleeting, if felt important to try and make them understand that while healthy respect should be given to the Fade, this fear they had created around it only made the Fade that much more dangerous.
The Fade was literally a reflection of this world. If the people viewed it as a dangerous and demon filled place, then that’s what it would become. There would be pockets and places that picked up on the wonder of the world and the moments of joy. But the moment people looked at a spirit and believed it to be a demon, well, that was the moment the spirit became a demon.
Any lecture that Solas was about to give was cut off as the Inquisitor banged through the door. He was surprised that she had been able to come in without any of Herald’s Rest current patrons going out to see her return. How they hadn’t heard her imminent arrival was a bit of a mystery. While it was true that the Inquisitor usually dragged him on whatever adventure she went to, didn’t mean he hadn’t been left behind for one reason or another, especially if either had research that needed to get done or the trip was meant to be a short one for her.
Every time, Solas had known from the buzz around him when she was close to or at least at the gate.
Solas glanced around the room. A majority of his companions seemed surprised to see her so soon also. The only ones with pleasant smiles were the Iron Bull and Varric. Of course, Varric had known. Despite his laid-back response and seeming to not know exactly when she was coming back. He had basically set them up, though Solas didn’t know why he thought he had to. Maybe he wanted it to be a pleasant surprise.
The Inquisitor wasn’t surprised to see them all, grinning and dragging the Seeker behind her with a sheepish looking Harding. They ended up shuffling seats while the Inquisitor bemoaned being unable to convince Madam De Fer to join them and then pouting as she realized that Josephine wasn’t there also, though she granted it was the middle of the day, though he had a feeling she would fight anyone who dared try to get out of the card game by using that excuse now that they were actually playing.
Everyone ended up shuffled around. Dorian somehow ended up between Commander Cullen and him. Scout Harding next to Krem, a determined Cassandra next to the man and Sera, with the Inquisitor wedged between The Iron Bull and Cole. Her newly dealt cards in full view of the human spirit as she flirted with the Tal-Vashoth.
Solas was careful to lose a few hands this time. He really preferred not to gamble. He didn’t enjoy losing, and it brought up some memories that really did seem to be better left from the past. Though, he supposed if he let himself get drawn into even friendly games like this, perhaps the memory and reminders what could go wrong were a good thing.
Cullen attempted to talk to Dorian about his research, but even the Seeker turned him down, and instead Dorian setup a time to meet the man in his office. The Commander did seem to be doing better, whether that was because it was a lull or most of his symptoms were physiological was hard to tell. Cassandra kept making the odd remark to Sera, who was looking cagey but kept glancing at the Inquisitor, which meant the seating was probably partly her fault.
Finally, Commander Cullen made his excuses and left with the Inquisitor to answer Leliana’s summons to the War Table. Solas got up to follow and it seemed to be the signal for everyone to start making their excuses to leave.
“I’m sorry about that,” said Dorian, his long legs making it easy to catch up with Solas. The elf raised an eyebrow.
“Sorry for what exactly?” he asked. He had an idea, and was amused that Dorian was blaming himself for their friends being manipulative matchmakers.
The Inquisitor’s conscious must really be bothering her if she was being this pushy about finding someone she thought might make Dorian happy.
“I know you wanted space,” said Dorian, looking at Solas like he was being thick on purpose. Which Solas supposed he was being.
“You can hardly help that our friends seem to be set on getting us together,” Solas pointed out.
“I didn’t think we were being that obvious,” said Dorian. “I mean, we weren’t hiding anything but…”
“Apparently, a scout saw us kissing,” said Solas. Dorian rolled his eyes.
“Of course, and if there’s one thing this place seems to be built on, it’s gossip,” said Dorian twirling in exaggeration even as they ascended the stairs. “Now I know how Blackwall felt. Though I think this is a bit unfair. We all waited for at least a month before we started asking him when he’d man up.”
“Was he interested in The Seeker or Josephine?” asked Solas. He honestly couldn’t remember. He’d only traveled with the man a few times, usually he traveled with Cassandra or Bull as their warrior with the Inquisitor.
“Both or… actually I’m not sure,” said Dorian and then laughed and shook his head. “I do know that he skulked around the Keep sometimes, and it seemed his eyes would settle on a certain ambassador. Honestly, I don’t think it matters whose affections he was trying to win, it’s not going to do him much good after what we found out. Cassandra wants to clap him back in irons and rebuffs any of his advancing to even talk to her, and Josephine won’t even look his way anymore, his connections are worse than zero in her mind, I’m sure.”
Solas nodded. They walked to Solas’s table, and they looked up toward where Dorian usually sat.
“I suppose I’m the one who’s imposing now,” said Dorian with a worried laugh. Solas smiled, reached over and put his hand lightly on the human’s arm. The one not covered by any clothes. A fact that Solas pointed out when the other man complained about it being so cold.
“Dorian, it’s alright. We work together, and our friends are trying to be helpful. You aren’t pressuring me,” said Solas.
“I suppose I’m just nervous. This feels probably a lot more important than it actually is and…” Dorian chuckled with a shrug, his eyes shifting from embarrassment.
“Remember, this isn’t just for me. I want you to be comfortable with what I’m asking,” said Solas. Dorian laughed.
“I don’t think that is a problem,” said Dorian, looking over Solas. “What you’re asking, it’s what I’ve always wanted. It frightens me, but that’s just how I was raised. And I know I can fight that. I’m used to working with being pariah. The thing that scares me is that our situations will separate us. And I’m not sure my heart could take it.”
“We are not sure anything will come from it,” Solas pointed out. Dorian smiled and this was perhaps another reason Solas should not peruse this, or a reason brought to the forefront, and that was that it wasn’t fair to Dorian. Dorian put up his walls, but even considering where he grew up, they were weak. It wasn’t hard to hurt him, and he gave his heart too quickly to others. “What if I’m just another Iron Bull?”
“Hardly, even if the Inquisitor hadn’t turned her attention to him, The Iron Bull was just a bit of fun. A distraction layered with the fact he was dangerous and something forbidden. A Quanari, how bestial and scandalous,” said Dorian with an exaggerated laugh. “We had some fun. He got to conquer the evil , and I got my forbidden fruit, but it would never be something that could last. I could no more take The Iron Bull to than I could take you. Plus, he has that open-door policy. Even now that he’s exclusive with the Inquisitor and calls her Kadan, he’s not comfortable with the way we do relationships here. I’ve heard him try to keep what they had physical before. The Inquisitor humors him, teases him, and then looks at him with those big green eyes and you can see him melt into them and never want to leave.”
“It sounds like you’re a little jealous,” Solas pointed out. He thought about leading them out the door to have a bit of privacy, but that wasn’t what they’re relationship would be about. Not that they’d have sex right out on his table.
Solas reflected the weird places his mind went ever since he’d started hanging around the human more.
“Of what they have, sure. Even with The Iron Bull being more afraid of getting close to someone than I am of finally being able to be open about a relationship, what they have is something worth fighting for.”
Solas hummed in agreement. Dorian looked at him in confusion.
“You don’t agree?” the mage asked.
“I think there is more than simple pleasure or even a bidding shy romance going on between them,” Solas said with a shrug. Dorian rolled his eyes.
“Well, of course, I know relationships are hard even between two people who can be open about it and genuinely care about it,” said Dorian. “I’m sure they’re relationship is full of secrets and both of them saying and doing what they think the other one wants. Those two are both master manipulators after all, even considering that they’re the two most social and open seeming idiots running things.”
Solas laughed, but had to agree. Both those two had the ability to make it appear they cared about everything and everyone. Probably helped that both of them followed through by doing whatever they could when they could do it, no matter how small the task was as long as they felt it didn’t jeopardize their overall goals.
“Well, I should return to my studies,” said Dorian, looking relaxed.
“Dareth shiral,” said Solas with a slight nod of his head.
Dorian left. Not far, though he walked silently and there was no more irritated yelling or muttering.
There were now two more things for Solas to consider now, though. One was that he liked who he was when he was with Dorian. Solas might treasure his solitude, but he had almost forgotten what it was like to connect with people. They had turned into pieces to him. They weren’t real, not really, just the ghosts of what could have been before the Veil. With Dorian the now felt important. More than the struggle, more than the moment, their lives, what they built and found for themselves.
He understood Varric a little better now. While racial preference still abounded, here it appeared the people that looked past it, that looked at other races and knew them to be different but still people, that were the ones who rose, adapted, and made the world better. Solas still felt mostly connected to elves, though he was not one of the people that now roamed this world, but he could see now what Varric meant.
It still saddened him how far Sera was from what she was, but in this world, perhaps that wasn’t the horrible thing he’d once considered it.
Of course, then there was the second thing. That he wanted that long, open relationship with Dorian. Solas closed his eyes and could see it. People would talk, but that would be part of the fun, really. If Solas could do anything, it was work what seemed like a bad thing into a positive. Take the name he was given for one thing, even if it was now mostly used as a curse.
The problem was that he couldn’t be open. He couldn’t tell Dorian everything. He’d have to kill the man if he did because Dorian was not the sort who would condone what he was going to do. Solas wouldn’t want to be with Dorian if he did, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to share it. It didn’t feel right to start a relationship with Dorian without the other man knowing all the facts. To really know who it was he wanted to be with.
Solas didn’t want to treat this as a game. It wasn’t a game to him. He wasn’t playing on the other man’s affections to get him something, if anything, it was dangerous to get so close to someone.
The problem in the end was that he wanted to let Dorian’s and the rest of the Inquisitions influence move him. He wanted to have something worth all the heartache, because he knew regret. He knew about letting a relationship never bloom, and then, even if it was doomed from the beginning, of seeing it fail. But, perhaps more than that, he was afraid to get attached to someone and something that even if he laid all his plans to the side, he couldn’t keep.
Dorian would not only return to , he would lead a mortal life. All the Inquisition would. They would all pass, and he would be left here.
Solas is honestly not entirely sure how he got roped into this.
The prevailing knowledge of anyone that close enough to know anything about Solas, the dreaded Fen’Harel, was that no matter how it may seem at first, he’s a terrible teacher. Solas thought that unfair. As long as someone was willing to learn, he was open to tell them what he knew. If they weren’t, it wasn’t like he sat them down and forced them to listen to him, though he would speak when he thought he needed to.
Of course, his friends then pointed out his longest student had been five years, which to put it into perspective for these mortals, was like going to a lecture only to storm out ten minutes in. Or perhaps better, sign up to train under a scholar in the field, only to quit and storm off to peruse someone else as soon as they reached the place of study.
Yet somehow, despite all that, he stood in the training area that Commander Cullen had worked with Grand Enchanter Fiona to make, to train the mages. The Iron Bull, the one who was supposed to be so good at reading people, had convinced Solas to come help a mage named Dalish who insisted she was an archer. Even when her bow glowed with the focusing crystal inside it.
The woman, despite refusing to admit even to Solas that she was a mage, had been taught well enough that she wasn’t uncontrolled, but only had the bare minimum of training. Her connection to the Fade wasn’t the strongest, so Solas wondered if she’d been caste out from her clan after a child of more promise had arrived. It was unclear, and she seemed in no hurry to explain herself.
Whatever her reason for protesting her status of mage, it was rather bizarre when he was teaching her.
“Come on Dalish, put him on his ass again!” crowed The Iron Bull. Solas didn’t glance in the man’s direction. The last time he had made that mistake, Dalish had been close by and tripped him up and he had ended up on his ass.
The Iron Bull had been nearby the entire time Solas had been trying to beat some lessons into Dalish’s head. Sometimes it felt like he was literally beating the elf over the head to learn the spells, but honestly, that seemed the way the elf learned best. But, he supposed her knowledge, considering her circumstances, was impressive, and her ingenuity more so. While her ability to work with the Veil was limited, she hadn’t simply fallen back on the few spells she had learned. That didn’t mean Dalish didn’t have some favorites or have developed some bad habits that weren’t going to be fixed by one lesson, but she was bright with a mind able to bend and learn.
Now if only he didn’t have to work around the fact she refused to admit she was a mage.
“Come on Dalish. I want to see the Egg Head fall,” called Krem from beside The Iron Bull.
The Tal-Vashoth laughed.
“If you hadn’t been distracted by them in the first place, I wouldn’t have been able to lay you flat on your back and you might have seen it,” said The Iron Bull with a chuckle. There was a ripple of laughter that Solas tried to ignore. While the lesson had started with just the two of them, it had quickly grabbed the attention of the mages that had taken shelter in the Inquisitor’s tower.
Some had been critical of what Solas taught. Which he thought was interesting because the spells he taught were ones he knew were taught in the Circle. Perhaps he didn’t teach them as one would to a Circle Mage, but Dalish wasn’t a circle mage. The base of her understanding of magic came from the Dalish themselves and then from what she’d picked up throughout the years and what she was able to figure out by experimentation.
But the mages watched and goaded on. Helped that The Iron Bull had stopped training his other Chargers when the crowd began growing, and as was expected of a Hissrad, even a former one, he didn’t look bothered by so many mages gathered around him. The Iron Bull did consider Dalish one of his boys, and she didn’t seem mistreated or neglected by her leader. Still, The Iron Bull and Krem kept up a steady stream of commentary, goading Dalish and the crowd to keep everyone entertained and happy.
Dalish made a swing with her staff. Solas caught it with his own staff and easily dissipated the magic that surged through her staff, and redirected their path down, where from the ground he focused Lightning Cascade at her, making her hair stand on end, and her body freeze as she shivered in pain.
As expected, the pain of the spell didn’t seem to bother the elf as she shook herself, Solas took that moment to blow her backwards onto her ass.
There was a laugh, and Solas watched as money changed hands. A couple of mages from the sidelines started yelling out ideas for Dalish and how to improve her spells. She ignored him, grinning at Solas even as she bounced back onto her feet.
“How’d you do that?” she asked, starting to circle him again. This time she took a step back so they had a good amount of space between them. Solas guessed this was how she preferred to fight, with plenty of space between herself and her enemy. Which, as a backup archer would be what she kept.
“I simply used Storm Magic against it, a lovely little trick of bringing it back to the Fade,” said Solas, and already he could hear the mages laughing and talking. Their arrogance showed in what they said, though he had no room to talk about arrogance in others. Still, they were scholars and ideas bounced off each other even as they criticized each other and him.
“Alright boys, it’s past midday, you know what that means,” said The Iron Bull. There were a few hoots of laughter and Dalish did a bit of a bow before she followed Krem charging out to who knew where. Solas was sure that it being past midday wasn’t such a thing as that was some sort of code phrase for the Chargers.
The Iron Bull watched his boys go, smirking at their backs and clapping his hands together. The mages started to disperse. The chatter carrying through the space. The Iron Bull looked over Solas, and the elf sent the Tal-Vashoth a look that warned if the other man tried to drag him into a hug or something similar, he would regret it. Bull’s smile took on a slightly more dangerous edge, but he kept a respectful distance from Solas and directed him to walk up the ramparts.
Solas was grateful, he would rather avoid the Herald’s Rest as much as possible. He felt like he had spent more time than he should there.
“That was quite the show. Really seemed to give the mages something to wrap their heads around,” said The Iron Bull. “And Dalish really flourished under your tutelage. And you thought you wouldn’t be a good teacher.”
“I have been reliably informed that I make a horrible teacher,” Solas pointed out with a roll of his eyes. “And I don’t know if she so much flourished under me, as I beat some facts into her head.”
“That’s how my boys learn,” said The Iron Bull. “You should see me with Krem. He has some bad habits himself, and the best method I’ve found is beating it out and reminding him until it get into his thick skull. Coulda sworn you knew something about the method after you complimented Blackwall on getting Cullen’s troops in line.”
“I understand making the children listen to you, but this is more than that,” said Solas. “I’ve never met someone who denied their nature even as they embraced it. And I know Sera.”
“I thought you said that Sera was as far as she could be from herself, or some such shit,” said The Iron Bull.
“Sera is who she is, but like Dalish, there is a part of her she refuses to acknowledge but that still informs what she does and who she is even as she tries to pretend that it doesn’t exist so she can be people people instead of our people,” said Solas.
“You saying that elves are natural at killing things with bows and arrows?” asked The Iron Bull, leaning against the stones though he could have easily sat on them considering his size.
“Nothing so simple,” said Solas. “But there are certain things that Sera does that belies her heritage that has nothing to do with her ears.”
“Even though she is not truly an elf in your eyes?” asked The Iron Bull, and Solas sighed, wondering how they had moved to the topic of Sera. He’d much rather talk about Dorian for all that he really didn’t as the situation with the human was both simple and complex in his mind, and his answer seemed to change from moment to moment, from justification to justification on why he should or should not.
“She is an elf. Just…” There was a scream like a wild banshee that only Sera herself could produce and even as Solas and Bull both ran to look over, both hands on their weapons. They needn’t have bothered. Sera wasn’t in danger, just angry as a cat. Spitting and swearing at the Seeker. Cassandra for her part didn’t look any happier and was shouting right back at Sera. Her tone was serious and Sera look fit to attack anything close to her.
“Looks like the Inquisitor’s idea isn’t panning out for her,” said Solas, relaxing back. The Iron Bull chuckled and started walking.
“Cassandra is more determined, and Sera wants to learn,” said The Iron Bull. “After what happened with you, especially with the Inquisitor running after her to talk to her, that really threw Sera off her game.
Solas looked over at Bull, but the Tal-Vashoth was walking in front of him. Something, a warning of sorts, made the elf pause. The same thing that made him almost stop himself from engaging with Bull and Varric when they somehow convinced him to teach Dalish.
Then The Iron Bull opened the door to the Inquisitor’s makeshift circle and a hopeful elvhen mage backed up away from it looking both nervous and excited. Solas wondered if he could sneak away without losing face. Not that he was as vain as Madam De Fer, but he also had his own pride to deal with. He wouldn’t just disappear in this situation.
The century’s old elf wondered if he would have before he met The Inquisitor and her people and started to care for these people despite how their minds had been severed from the Fade.
Well, perhaps not severed. Not completely, at least, or the word would be full of Tranquil. Solas tried to imagine what that would be like and shivered. That was something that could never be allowed to pass.
“You’re willing to teach us then?” asked the mage. His dark hands rubbing together frantically as he looked between him and The Iron Bull. “Or at least share what you know. Some of the other mages think you’re a bit… strange with your ideas, and probably not well educated.” The mage turned red as he spoke. Solas glanced at The Iron Bull, who caught his eyes and winked at him with his one eye. “But that’s not to say we think you ignorant. You fight along the Inquisitor and Madam De Fer, and I read that…”
The mage shut up, blushing.
“Read what?” Solas asked, almost afraid to ask, crowding toward the blushing man.
“You wrote that… but it came from Mark who probably took it,” they end up in the tower, the smell of herbs, books, and Fade so strong and heady that for a moment it echoed in Solas’s chest and made him ache for home.
“I usually leave out papers I don’t mind others being stolen. Between the birds in the tower snatching any loose thing they find, and the Inquisitor’s habit of picking up, reading, and then pocketing any spare information she likes, I don’t leave anything out that I don’t want shared with others,” Solas said, letting the place fill his lungs. There was a reason he avoided the Tower after it had been made. The library had been comfortable enough, and he kept himself separate even then from the main hustle and bustle, though mostly because he preferred what solitude he could even as he made sure to keep up on all the gossip and actions within the Keep and Thedas itself.
But the Tower. For one thing, it was removed as it could from the politics. So Solas couldn’t really justify going there, but it also was as close as he could get to what he remembered of his home without going to the Dalish. In some ways, it was even worse. Because the Dalish were proof of how much the world had suffered because of his actions. Even as they tried to cling to the past, they insisted on stagnating on misinformation that was horrifying to consider. After all, the Dalish put the Vallaslin on their faces, and worshipped the Evanuris as they had always dreamed of, though they were hardly in a place to reap the benefits of.
The Tower was different. It was plagued by the limitations that not only the Veil but they themselves had created for themselves as they desperately tried to deal with a world where those who could reach beyond the Veil were feared for good and ridiculous reasons. But Solas had learned many of the Inquisitor’s mages were different. While they were warry of Madam De Fer, the woman never entered the Tower, and they were emboldened by the Inquisitors not only support of them at Redcliffe, but all she had done for them since then.
Solas even heard whispers of “forbidden” magic in their own library, though it was hushed up quickly enough. Here he wouldn’t be surprised if some of it was talked more openly or even cautiously explored.
“So, you’re the elf with the ridiculous and dangerous scribblings,” said a short gruff human, his robes flowing behind him dramatically and his black wild beard seeming to bristle and crackle with energy as he glared at Solas.
Solas, meanwhile, was fully aware that The Iron Bull had already left and that he had no reason to stay and debate these people, let alone a human one step above being a dwarf in size.
“Is it true you can walk in dreams?” asked a red headed girl who looked hardly in her teens and clutched at her staff as if afraid it would be ripped out of her hands at any moment.
“That’s a rare ability,” said the gruff mage with a snort.
“Yes,” said Solas, the man’s eyes twinkled like he’d caught Solas in a trap.
“And you can never trust anyone with it. They’re always the first to let a demon in, and you can never trust them not to enter your dreams and mess with your mind,” said the man. A woman at one of the windows scoffed this time.
“Just as I’m a Qunari spy?” the Bas Saarebas said, looking Solas over. She had no marks around her mouth, and her accent was Orlesian, but she had still seen what looked like her share of fights with her horns cut off at unequal lengths and a nasty scar across her nose. “You were teaching the elf some interesting ways of reaching into the Fade. Wouldn’t work for everyone of course.”
Then started what Solas could only think of a proper magical theory discussion. Perhaps not a very advanced one. Back in his time, it would have been the sort that beginners asked as they started to understand and really get a grip on the Fade and magic. It was also so starkly different from how Solas had grown up understanding magic. As he debated and critiqued and told them about the knowledge he had, even if some of it had to be as abstract concepts, he realized the disparity between this world and the one he remembered.
He had always known that magic was limited here. He had known it as he dreamed. He had known it when he awoke and could feel from his soul to his bones how the Veil had stolen so much of what made the world beautiful. It wasn’t just the people, but the stones and air, they lacked what the Fade had given. That ability to push the world to be what you wanted.
The world was desolate. Its people dull and frightened of what had shaped and made every day worth living.
Yet these mages, even in their fear and uncertainty, with lives so short as to be harder beginning when their bones turned to dust, they strove to learn. Even as fear twisted them and made them flinch at every daring question the Chantry frowned upon, they strove to understand. They debated Solas, and some refused to believe him more than a joke. The angry mage, Brutis, apparently saw Solas only as a dangerous mage made all the more dangerous by how close he was to the Inquisitor. Still, he stayed with the core group that talked, debated, and speculated on the Fade and magic. The elf that had shown him in was named Atlan, had started writing furious little ideas down and was debating with another male mage on how to conduct an experiment safely. The nervous red headed human was hanging onto every word Solas said, looking as if she would drown in his words with ecstasy. Solas could easily see her becoming infatuated with him, though not because of who he was, but what he stood for her. An elvhen mage who worked along powerful people without fear. The Bas Sarabass, whose name was apparently Silence, and talked in a low sultry voice that hardly seemed above a whisper even as it attracted the attention of everyone around her, sat on her chair lounging, watching, and make quick observations and remarks that deepened or added a different perspective to their discussions.
Other mages joined in, many who were skeptical of Solas’s claims about spirits, but who often left muttering about verifying something in a book, or getting lost in their own thoughts as they left.
Solas decided he might want to talk to Grand Enchanter Fiona about setting up some regulations on experimentation. Perhaps discuss with the Tower and work out a safe way to go about their plans. Not that he wished to stop them, but he would rather keep the Inquisition from being overrun by demons because he had inspired a fool hardy mage to try something beyond his power.
“I never would have thought to find you going willingly into the Tower you accused me of hiding in,” said Vivienne, her steps echoing in the room as she ascended to where they had been talking. Altan’s angry argument with Brutis as she enters the room, her eyes settling on the mages currently surrounding Solas, probably taking note of who was guiltily trying to hide away their papers or look like they hadn’t been talking to the dangerous apostate mage with the weird ideas.
Madam De Fer’s gaze settled briefly on the red head, who was glaring at Vivienne and clutching at her staff so hard that her knuckles were turning white. Solas could feel the Fade reacting to her thoughts, and he nudged them, reminding them of her infatuation and turning that energy of emotion she was causing to ripple across the Veil, whispers of it passing through to the physical world to dance warmly against the skin of her neck and cheek.
The sensation startled her, breaking her concentration as she rubbed a hand against her cheek almost lovingly, and the way she looks at him is fond. Solas found the entire ordeal rather endearing in its own way. It reminded him of when he would rescue young slaves, born of freedom but with hardly a memory of it, they would listen to every word he said with baited breath, adoration and the need to learn now that they were free all they were denied when under the regulations and whims of the caste systems that had taken from them to live the way they wanted.
A defiant spark entered the young girl’s eyes, her gaze flittering from Solas to Vivienne, back to Solas. There is determination there, and she raised her hand, concentration pulling at the Veil, reaching into that part that separated the world and calling… Solas could see the spell as the Fade moved across the Veil to coax out the energy needed, her mana pulling at the metaphorical thread and the bleeding Fade crossing and changing her will, and for a moment Solas could see the vision of a dancing elvhen figure of flame before it disappeared in the blink of an eye.
“Is that what you’ve been doing? Party tricks and pretending it meant something?” asked Vivienne, sounding seconds away from tsking in disappointment. “Really my dears, magic was meant for such grander endeavors.”
“Like blowing up buildings?” asked the friend of Altan. The papers he had been fanning himself with, as if daring Madam De Fer to take, pause and his face pales as his brain catches up to what his mouth just said.
“Ah yes, how brave of you to mention a tragedy where a mage abused his Maker given power not to serve man, but to destroy the life of innocents including children,” said Madam De Fer, her tone like ice, probably happy enough to use the situation against the mage who she probably saw as part of the problem.
“Was there something you needed Vivienne?” asked Solas, standing and straightening his clothes with the hand not clutched around his staff. Not that he needed his staff against Vivienne. In his weakened state, she would be a challenge, but not invincible.
Still, why was she here? He hadn’t seriously considered what he would do if he was attacked by a supposed comrade. Then again, while Solas tended to irritate most of their companions, especially initially as they learned about each other and fought for the Inquisitor’s attention, it had been Vivienne who he had the most vitriolic conversations with, and it was Sera who hated him and everything he said and stood for.
“I told you, I wished to see you sequestering yourself in the very confines you mocked me for having the mind to take advantage of,” said Madam De Fer.
“I remember chiding you for locking yourself away in a tower because you considered yourself a wolf and wished to spare the sheep,” said Solas, cutting her off before she could put words in his mouth. She had a way of putting words into your mouth while implying you were doing so to her. Vivienne played her game well, but her more restricted mindset made her a dangerous opponent in a game Solas had no use in becoming a part of.
“Right, you would have all the Templars SILENCE us!” said Altan’s friend. Altan himself looked like he wanted to throttle his friend to make him shut up. Solas agreed. He knew this mindset of the young man. He had probably felt that he had no voice in the Circle, skulking in corners away from the Templars and Chantry members to talk about freedom. Now he had it, and his voice was supported by someone in power.
After all, while the Inquisitor was a fierce Andastrian, she was also open in her belief that mages should be a vibrant part of the Chantry itself. It was whispered that she had considered supporting Madam De Fer as the next Divine.
“What?” a young man, his dark hair slicked with something blue, pocked his head up over the stairs. “What does Silence need?”
There was a moment of silence. Then rich female laughter started to fill the room. Silence let her head fall back, her laughter filling the room and drawing out the laughter of everyone else. Solas caught a glance at Vivienne, who seemed to have resigned herself to having lost this. Or at least having to drop needling at Solas here.
Not that it mattered overly much. She had made some gains. She had proven that she could come into their tower at any time, and that she was enough of a threat that other people became defensive toward her. It wasn’t that she couldn’t turn this to her own advantage, but she did recognize at this moment, that letting the tension die with laughter at this random man’s expense, and perhaps even Altan’s friend, was the best for this moment.
“Well, this is interesting,” said Dorian, walking around the confused mage who had started the laughter and looking between Solas and Vivienne with a bemused smirk, though it was clear he was also a little confused and concerned. “I had thought to remind Solas that the Inquisitor wanted us at the banquet tonight, and I find you two having changed your animosity into a comedy routine.”
“Hardly darling,” said Vivienne, her posture visibly relaxing as she gestured expansively. “I simply wanted to offer a Solas another chance to pick something more appropriate for the dinner the Inquisitor somehow convinced our Lady Ambassador to have the entire Inner Circle come to meet with the elite.”
“And you came here instead of tracking down Sera?” asked Solas. Vivienne gave him a withering look.
“Come now darling,” said Vivienne, turning to look at Dorian. “Could you not think of how a proper outfit would enhance what Solas has? It would be a tragedy for his choice in clothing to reflect and bring down your admittedly dated, but still fashionable choices.”
“The Inquisitor seemed to think it would be a good idea for her people to wear what they felt comfortable with while we met them inside our halls for this meeting,” said Solas with a shrug.
“Personally, I encourage it,” said Dorian, leaning against the rail while smirking at them. “His drab choices enhance my own natural fashion sense and looks shine all the better. But either way we should start heading that way. We only have an hour.”
Madam De Fer didn’t even look around her as she started to stroll toward Dorian. Some of the mages glared at her, realizing she was dismissing them without care for them. Silence was ignoring the other woman, as if she had dismissed Madam De Fer already and didn’t even realize she was still there.
Dorian smiled as Solas made his way down the stairs, moving around Vivienne in a way she probably thought was undignified. Still, in that sly smile and the way Dorian automatically leaned in, not to touch consciously, but just wanting to be closer to Solas, made the elf feel calmer.
In some ways, it was worrying. Humans were… well, it was hard not to judge them harshly for their pasts. After all, they were who released the Blight back to the world. Solas couldn’t help but wonder what the dwarves’ relationship with humans if they really knew what it would mean. It wasn’t just that they released a plague, it was more dangerous than that.
“Can you send your mind into the Fade to wander when you are awake?” asked Dorian, dragging Solas from his thoughts. “You looked as if you were across the Veil for a while there.”
Solas looked out at the darkening sky of Skyhold.
“Sometimes I simply get caught in my own thoughts,” said Solas, ignoring Vivienne’s condescending laugh behind him. Dorian gave him a found smile.
“Now that I can believe,” he said. “Ah, and here comes Varric.”
“I believe the Inquisitor has finally made her move. Josephine may be distracted, poor dear, I will see if she needs any support executing our goals this night,” said Madam de Fer, walking faster toward the Hold. Her outfit fluttering dramatically behind her. There was pull from the Fade and a window smashed and Sera’s screaming cackle from her room. She appeared leaning out of the window a few second later with incoherent screams that the mage completely ignored.
“Why does she keep attacking Vivienne when she knows the other woman can so easily turn her pranks back on her?” said Varric, shaking his head as he came to set himself so he was walking along with Solas and Dorian.
“Because she’s Sera,” said Dorian with a chuckle. “So, something interesting going on? Nothing untoward has happened to our dear Ambassador, has it?”
“No,” said Varric with a shake of his head. “With Leliana having sent her man through the Eluvian and Dagna having done her research, the Inquisitor has gotten her Council to work together and we are making a concentrated attack on Corypheus and his army.”
“I hadn’t heard of this,” said Dorian. Solas agreed. They had obviously been working toward this goal, but after Samson slipping through their fingers, he hadn’t expected they would so quickly know where they needed to attack next.
“Ah, well, it was just decided. Inquisitor is going to be making the announcement tonight. Really get the coins and political clout for Josephine so that we can put a fire and a sliver of fear into the hearts of our enemies,” said Varric who then laughed. “Or you know, some shit like that. Inquisitor and her councilors will probably have some poetic speech ready by the time we’re all drunk tonight.”
“So, where has Corypheus hidden himself?” asked Dorian.
“The Arbor Wilds,” Varric said with a laugh. “At least if my sources can be trusted.”
Dorian chuckled and started to wonder aloud if the Council knew about Varric’s sources and who it could possibly be when the only ones who should be in that room were the Councilors, the Inquisitor, and sometimes a fifth person that is acting as a special advisor for some period of time. That person currently being Morrigan.
Of course, the War Room was also right next to the Chantry and the Gardens and the walls were thin enough to hear in the halls the sound of the sisters and others praying and giving their blessings.
Solas let his companions walk a few steps in front of them. The banter creating a background noise as he once again let his mind wander.
So, Corypheus was after the Eluvian’s. He had learned about this, but it was becoming clearer and clearer how much he had underestimated the man. It became clearer and clearer how much he had underestimated all these people. Fear gripped his heart, and his mind turned on how all that these people played with and experimented with that they didn’t understand put them into his way. In so many ways they were like children playing with fire. Like those young elves who had played with demons and corruption because of hubris and refusal to learn or because they never had.
They should not walk the Fade. They played with things they didn’t understand with reckless abandon and with no consideration for anything but their own aspirations and greed. And yet there was the Inquisition and the people who worked for themselves, but others who worked for the goals of doing something for the betterment of the world. Though these organizations would rot from the inside out.
You built these organizations to obtain certain goals, and it seemed by the time you were really starting to make a positive change, was when you would find that your organization had been corrupted from the inside out and that it had become something you had once criticized and worked against.
Yet, now, in this moment, the Inquisition was pure. Yes, there were spies, but they were working toward the goal they were made for and building themselves up as a political, military, and healing power.
Solas wondered what would happen when they fell. When the Inquisitor was forced to look at her baby and realize that her Inquisition had become corrupted and exactly like the Templars and Mages. He had a feeling she would disband the Inquisition. She knew what the Inquisition had been formed for, and while she might be sad to see it go, she also had the ability to look at her own actions and organization and reflect on it.
Solas would probably no longer be a part of the Inquisition by that point. Hopefully he would be close to his own goal, if simply to spare his friends what could be a devastating situation.
Chapter 12: Temple of Betrayal
It had been weeks since the announcement that they were moving against Corypheus. Leliana’s scouts had been the first to harass his army, slowing Corypheus’s push to obtain the Eluvian. Next had come the Inquisitor’s allies, and finally her own army marched, devastating the harassed army.
Now came the Inquisitor herself, not far behind the main bulk of the army. She had spent her time buried in paperwork on reports and theories and everything else that would give her an edge when she went out with her own group to attack Corypheus and Samson herself.
Solas had found himself sent out before her as well as The Iron Bull, though he found himself talking and supporting the mages. Fiona, for whatever reason, seemed to have taken a step back from the mages, something Solas had been aware of, after all, even before the Tower had been built at Skyhold. She had been known on “bad” days to turn mages away from her, loudly. Something was eating at her mind, and while she tried to lead the mages, something was breaking her.
Solas had helped lead the mages when they supported the Inquisitor in closing the hole in the sky. The Inquisitor had seemed harried when she came to ask him to lead them. He had agreed after a day of thought. Partly because he wanted that feeling of being a leader again, and he believed this would put him in a position to claim the artifact if they did come across Corypheus within the Arbor Wilds.
Also because a good many of the mages that worked within the halls of Skyhold asked for him to take the post. Solas found himself working closely with many of the mages that he had spoken with those weeks past. Brutis still grumbled at him, but he had a grasp on spirit magic and healing that was beautiful to watch. Altan and his friend worked closely together as if they were one soul in two bodies, their magic stronger and their connection to the Fade more meaningful when they worked together. Silence would make a powerful Enchanter, though she was currently in the healer tent though they had been able to save her leg.
Still, Solas started to wonder why he had been assigned this post. He was notorious for liking his own space. While he enjoyed leading and getting what needed to get done, he did not want to be tied to these people. He couldn’t help but see how he had been given this post not only after Bull had pushed him to talk with these people in the first place, but also after The Iron Bull had publicly pointed out Solas would be leaving once the mess with Corypheus was over.
Solas could not accept this post. Working with the Inquisitor would gain the artifact he needed in order to implement his plan and return the world to what it was meant to be. Walking with her meant he had many opportunities to encourage her to activate the old artifacts and for the time strengthen the Veil while also priming the world for what he would do.
The camp that the Inquisitor was apparently staying at was bustling. He could see her speaking to one of the soldiers who was probably filling her in before she headed out for her personal attack against Corypheus. Solas guessed that she wouldn’t be taking all her Inner Circle, though he wondered if she would still restrict herself to only three of them.
He could see the bags under her eyes, even as the dwarf bounced from foot to foot as she listened to the soldier’s rundown of the situation. A quick glance around let him know that most if not all the Inner Circle had at least had been brought along. He could see Varric looking Bianca over, and Blackwall was being hit around by an angry looking Cassandra. Though how Reiner had convinced the woman to spar with him the first place was something Solas would like to know.
The Iron Bull was a bit of a concerning sight. He looked rough, like he had right after choosing the Chargers, his freedom, over his people and their brainwashing. More concerning was Cole over his shoulder, the human spirit was whispering in his ear, and Solas wasn’t sure that The Iron Bull simply allowing this instead of pushing Cole away as most companions did was actually a good thing.
“Solas, wonderful to see you,” said the Inquisitor, sounding a little too bright as she clapped her hands together as she sauntered over to him. “I’m heading out tomorrow to The Temple of Mythal. I was hoping to have you in my party with Cassandra and Varric.”
Solas immediately decided now was not the time to ask her about his position leading the mages in this attack. He also knew that bringing up her need to only have a set amount of people in her personal guard would only cause her distraction.
That did not mean he didn’t have some questions.
“I’m surprised The Iron Bull isn’t joining us,” Solas pointed out. The Inquisitor’s mouth stretched into a thin line and her eyes flickered briefly toward The Iron Bull was still leaning close to Cole.
“Decided to bring Cassandra. I’m putting my support behind her to be the next Divine,” said the Inquisitor and then gave him a quick smile. “I’m going to sleep away all the paperwork they’ve given me this last month, and we’ll get started earlier in the morning.”
Solas watched her beat a quick retreat.
That left Solas to decide who he could get more information on the Inquisitor’s plan of attack on the Temple.
There was a part of him that was interested in what the place would look like now. Changed, broken certainly. Solas had walked the Fade here, and Solas could feel the elves left to guard the place. To guard what little they had left of a time and people that even once Solas returned the world to how it was supposed to be, would still be lost forever.
“I will not fight against you. It is not my job to punish you for what you have done in your past or to us,” said Cassandra, the sound of weaponry sheathing biting through the air from her somehow over everyone else’s. The woman stormed away from Reiner, the disgust clear on her face.
She met Solas’s eyes and her expression went quickly from irritation, to surprise, to determination.
“Dorian has been talking about you. It’s driving everyone to distraction. Talk to him,” she snapped then looked over at The Iron Bull. “Bull, have you seen Sera? I need to talk to her.”
“Ah, perhaps this isn’t the time,” said The Iron Bull. Cassandra started to sigh, and Solas decided to make himself scarce.
It wasn’t that he wouldn’t use everything in his arsenal to return the elves to their former glory, even if it tore him apart. The fact of the matter was that he could use this to his own ends. But forming these bounds, doing this work, he had learned it was best if he kept his distance as much as possible. Working with the elves, that was one thing. Though they were pale shadows of what they once were, they could strive for what they once were.
Perhaps they would lose their lives. A devastating blow, but with the way elves were treated and the ache that existed within them meant that they would instinctively strive to break the Veil again. Elves were uniquely made to sense what they had lost those thousands of years ago.
But these people. The Inquisition. It wasn’t supposed to end this way. He was supposed to use them, twist them only as much as he needed to in order to get back his artifact. Why else would he leave the Anchor in the Inquisitor?
That hadn’t changed, but, these people had in many important aspects become so much more than they once were. In many ways, the connections he made here would rip at his heart more than he thought possible. And what did his presence do to fulfil them. Yes, he spoke of the past and what was, but because of his goals all he could give them was vague useless nonsense. And yet, here they were.
Still, Dorian was something he should not allow. Not if he wished to keep what little…
He had once done this sort of thing. Considered it a part of the grand games he would play. Seduce someone to get where he needed to go, and everything would be just a part of the manipulation that went on with anyone in power. Just another tool in his box.
But, Solas had quickly learned that his mind didn’t turn that way. The fact of the matter was that Solas couldn’t stand to work that way. It was why in many ways while his love for Mythal was so deep it seemed endless, why being with her seemed so beyond his skill. It wasn’t fair to them to use them in such a way. It wasn’t fair to him either. The fact of the matter was that wasn’t fair to Solas either. The guilt would eat at him. The knowledge of what he would do would seep into his head, making murky his goals and thoughts.
“Lost in thought again?” asked Dorian, his hand running against the back of Solas’s neck, making the mage shiver as he felt the other man’s mana and presence pull at the staff against his back. “You look as worn as the Inquisitor. I heard you were going to be her mage on this little adventure. I wish she would take more of us with her.”
“We all deal with the changes in our lives in different ways,” Solas said, sitting back. He realized that Dorian was correct, the time fighting and leading had dragged on him. Solas had known he was pushing himself, but he hadn’t let himself feel it for a while.
“Yes, well, I think it’s time to escort you to our tent. We don’t need you collapsing on the Inquisitor tomorrow,” said Dorian. He helped Solas stand, letting the human drape Solas over his side and lead him toward his tent. “Don’t think too badly of the Inquisitor for this. From what we’ve been able to put together, you’re the only one in her choice that is based on any sort of well thought out reason. She knows that you don’t believe in the old gods, but she does know you are sensitive about their culture especially when it comes to their old relics and the like. So she wants you included so she doesn’t do anything disrespectful. Of course, the blasted woman forgot she sent you to lead a bunch of undertrained mages to fight in a war probably for the first time, but I suppose her head is stuffed with too many thoughts at the moment. I heard she didn’t even great the Empress or Gaspard when she arrived today. Hopefully she’ll be able to sleep some of it out otherwise her head’s going to be too full to go for Samson and Corypheus at Mythal’s Temple.”
“We believe he will be there,” said Solas, his voice slurring a little. He really should stay more aware. Even with trusted companions it wasn’t a good idea to start falling asleep before you entered your tent. But now, sleep dragged at him. He now found that simply keeping his eyes open was a task in of itself. “They kept trying to set the forest on fire.”
“Corypheus’s men?” asked Dorian, opening the flap awkwardly as he helped Solas inside. Solas shook his head.
“No, ours. Took all I had to get the mages to stop doing it too. Brutus is obsessed with making things explode,” said Solas, trying to catch a yawn that he felt would break his jaw. Dorian laughed, now helping Solas out of the armor that would hinder him in his rest, and placing it within easy reach.
“Yes, well, you southerners do shove your mages into tight spaces. The Imperium knows to let its mages air out a little. Let them explore their magic and even then, some find it too redistricting. Still, it’s no wonder your mages just want to watch everything blow up, that was my favorite thing to do when exploring my magic,” said Dorian, then he chuckled. “On reflection, that might have been why they had been so happy to see me go.”
“I’ve never been in a Circle,” said Solas. Dorian snorted, helping setup Solas so he would be able to sleep comfortably but still get to his staff and gear if there was an attack. Hopefully that wouldn’t be a problem seeing as not only was the Inquisitor here to begin her assault, but Celene herself.
“Yes, yes, you sprung from the wilds with a flower crown and perfect control of your magic and perfect knowledge of the Veil,” said Dorian in a teasing voice. Solas swatted at him. Dorian laughed, and before Solas could respond, his tongue slowed by his exhaustion, the other mage leaned over to kiss Solas on his forehead where his hairline would be.
Solas felt his heart beat faster. A part of him leaned in, and it was only that he wasn’t inebriated, just exhausted that gave him enough restraint not to move and return with a chaste kiss of his own.
He needed to turn Dorian down. Solas knew himself. He couldn’t do this. It really wasn’t fair to either to them. It would be one thing to have a doomed romance, one cut short by death or space. But this was a romance balanced on the fact that Solas meant to turn this world against itself and leave it in ruin in order to bring it back to what it is meant to be. Not only would this taint the relationship, the lie not only digging into their lives, but Solas would be tempting to use his relationship to further his own goals.
It might speed along his path, but Dorian wasn’t just some piece. It wouldn’t just be Solas using someone’s emotions for him to manipulate to his goals. Solas cared for Dorian. It wasn’t just sexual interest. Dorian had a beautiful mind. One flawed as any mind was, and scared because of his upbringing and his lineage. But he had so many traits that drew Solas toward him with hope and admiration.
Solas could watch from a distance. He could cheer Dorian on as the other man returned to and tried to free the slaves. To start the movement needed that would gain him many enemies, and that Dorian would probably never see happen. But that didn’t mean that Solas couldn’t want Dorian to try. To live life to the fullest, that was what one must do. To live their life to their most and make it beautiful and worth living. Solas wanted that for these people. He wanted them to thrive to the best of their ability in this lacking world.
Dorian could never do this if he was with the person who would destroy him and all that he sought to achieve.
Solas looked around him. The Fade and the Spirits drawn by his churning thoughts reflected back scenes of beauty. Conversations, passion, and other beautiful moments that Solas could have, reflected with scenes of violence and corruption that Solas knew he would bring to the relationship.
With a deep breath, Solas held in his mind the emotions and thoughts churning and drawing these spirits and world scapes. And then he let them go, letting them leak out of his mind to be replaced with more thoughts more to observations and analytical thoughts that cut the emotions almost completely, at least from his most forefront mind.
When Solas woke, he walked and received a field ration from a chatty Varric as they watched the Inquisitor finish a quick conversation with Cassandra. She then signaled them over. She danced from foot to foot, looking around. Solas was a little confused until Morrigan joined them. Making their numbers off, at least to the Inquisitor.
The Inquisitor nodded and then left the camp, at a run, her hands gripping the sword in her hands and seemed to be charging through the forest toward Mythal’s temple. She saved as many as she could of her soldiers, but she glossed over the thought of now fighting elves as well as the red templars.
She also had to do a double take to realize that Commander Cullen was with her when they were almost at their destination.
Still, it was a relief once they reached the temple. Solas looked around the temple once they entered the place. He felt detached for the most part, even as the others seem to freak out over Corypheus taking over the body of another Warden. He kept a careful eye on the Inquisitor, and while it was clear she was shocked. Varric stuck not wanting to deal with what he saw as freaky. Something he was good at by this point, but still something he obviously was struggling with and seemed to steal away most of his words as he just didn’t know how to contribute in any way that was beyond following orders and fighting the bad guys.
The only thing that did start to work under Solas’s skin was Morrigan’s inclusion. Solas wished he could have told the Inquisitor that the witch really wasn’t needed, but he did understand that would mean admitting to more than he was more than he appeared. Still, she assumed so much. She acted like she knew it all, and it was on Solas’s skin to just correct her. It started with finding Solas’s own wolf statue in Mythal’s temple.
For most, Solas was able to bite his tongue, partly by correcting her, and partly by paying attention to everything but her. Still, there were some things he couldn’t help but correct. He was glad that she suggested that they follow the rituals to open the doors. It was clear that Cassandra’s words for her to take what seemed like the easier way and just jump into the hole was clear.
Though whether this was because she wanted the battle over quicker for the men, or because she wanted this to be over quicker for personal reasons was hard to tell.
The rituals didn’t help. They were rather simple, but the Inquisitor was obviously stuck in her own head. At one point, after she hadn’t realized that she wasn’t finishing a puzzle because it had two parts to it, Solas was certain she would jump down. She even went to the spot. Cassandra urging her to just do it, while Morrigan seemed more like a needle in the head as she pushed her opinion in the most grating way possible.
Solas forced himself to take his own deep breath. The breath he took echoed the Inquisitor’s. Then Varric went to the Inquisitor. He didn’t say a thing. He didn’t push her one way or the other. He just put a hand on her shoulder. They shared a look. Cadash took a deep breath in, before she let it out in a rush.
For a moment, he could see her connection to the stone. See her reaching for something that she could never connect to, that no child of the stone could really find, but she in particular seemed to have lost connection to.
The Inquisitor changed, turning back and in only a few false moves, but with a concentration that had been absent of before, she got to work.
When they came face to face with Abelas, everything seemed to fall into place. The Inquisitor composed herself and treated Abelas and his people with calm rationality that spared them further bloodshed, and Morrigan revealed her true intents by abandoning them so she could track the elf down and demand to find her Well of Sorrows.
In many ways, once they faced Samson, and the Inquisitor destroyed the part of his armor that gave him so much power, it was rather simple to take him down.
Still, once at the Well of Sorrows, Solas found himself biting his tongue, his grip on his tongue and his emotions tenuous and in many respects, he felt like he would snap. That his resolve would be broken. Because Morrigan should not have those thoughts, no one should. They did not truly understand what it would mean. There was a reason that as much as Solas had loved Mythal, they had never seen eye to eye in any respect.
The answer seemed so obvious to Solas. The answer was on the tip of his tongue, and part of the problem perhaps was that he also didn’t want to lose what was left of Mythal. Everything about this situation reminded him of Mythal. Of one of the greatest things from the past. Perhaps the best thing that he could remember. To be reminded how far the elves had fallen by the end.
It was gone, but here was the Well of Sorrow. Memories and voices that would not be able to be understood to completion by either Morrigan or the Inquisitor. Solas felt his mind turning to Morrigan. Her actions, her selfish nature. Her mother.
Before he knew it, Morrigan had drunk from the Well, and Abelas had left to live the rest of his days hopefully finding some sort of peace.
The idea of Mythal’s daughter, in a sense, being under her mother’s control had a certain irony that seemed wonderful. The idea was wonderful even as it turned his stomach.
Corypheus came for them and they entered the mirror. Leaving the Magister behind them and making their way through what had become a desolate echo of itself before falling back into Skyhold.
Solas left the Inquisitor to hurry to send her advisor a message to let them know what had happened to her so they would not fret for longer than necessary.
Tea seemed a necessary. He hated it, but the servants knew how he liked it made, though how they had returned back to Skyhold had obviously already started to make it around as they gave Solas certain looks. No one asked, though they clearly wanted to.
“Solas,” said Cassandra, walking into his space and sitting herself down.
“Seeker,” said Solas, feeling a twinge in his temple as he looked her over. He was a little surprised when she didn’t immediately start to talk about why she had to come to him. The Seeker was a forward woman. Sometimes she would pause to find the right words, but she was obvious about it, and would often go ahead and start saying what was on her mind, perhaps with an apology for not being able to say it in a clearer fashion.
Now, Cassandra looked around at Solas’s frescos. Her brows drawing together and then looking over at Solas himself.
“We are waiting for Vivienne,” said Cassandra. “I believe we should let her know what is going on as soon as possible and not hear it through rumors while the Inquisitor works to make sure Cullen and the others know she is still alive and well and that we won the battle.”
“I would think you would want to talk to the men left behind to protect Skyhold first,” said Solas.
“I have sent word along with those in high positions to gather them tonight so I can speak with them. That will not stop wagging tongues, but the Inquisitor has a loyal army and well-trained men and she needs some time to gather herself and decide her next actions. She will have a clearer idea by then how to proceed, and I have convinced Varric to help me craft something to say. I think he likes the challenge,” said Cassandra with a chuckle.
“Ah, and Solas shall tell the servants then?” asked Madam de Fer. She walked into the room, her entrance as dramatic as she could make it. She looked around as if politely showing interest in something that was truly beneath her.
“Why, because I’m an elf?” asked Solas. Vivienne looked over at him, smiling as if he had fallen right into her trap.
“But darling, you yourself seem to be interested in the servants,” said Madam de Fer, sitting primly as she smiled at Solas. “You seem to go out of your way to talk to them. Especially the Elvhen ones, despite what you might claim. I don’t know why you would fight it dear. It’s clearly a passion of yours.”
“Do you think it would be wise? I know Lelianna sometimes likes to let rumors, especially grand ones that are sure to come out of this last victory to expand and for her to have a personal hand in directing it,” said Cassandra.
“My dear,” said Vivienne, hand to her chest even as she smiled. “I’m positively shocked. I would have thought you would jump at the chance to let the truth be known. Perhaps there is greater hope than I’d dreamed once you become our next Divine.”
“You have a point. The truth always is the best option, and these are our people,” said Cassandra, watching Vivienne carefully, obviously trying to figure out how Vivienne was trying to manipulate her. Madam de Fer smiled, and she shook her head just once and Solas wasn’t sure that Cassandra even understood what the small movement meant. “Not that I’m assuming that you Solas…” Cassandra slowed down. Taking a deep breath and a moment to collect her thoughts, her posture making it very clear what her thoughts on the matter were.
“I will not,” said Solas, and Cassandra glared at him. Obviously irritated that he had interrupted her as she tried to calm herself.
“I understand. These things are truly better left to those…” Vivienne sighed, her finger tapping and her attitude getting to them.
“Perhaps you could fill me in on what happened?” asked Vivienne, her eyes glancing over to Solas.
“Of course,” said Solas, sharing a look with Cassandra, who blushed as she realized that she was basically forcing Solas to explain things to Vivienne after he had refused to fill in the servants. He gave her a small smile, and he could tell that she took it well, and gave him a nod back.
“If you two are done,” said Vivienne, the comment a little heavy handed, but perhaps she that was an insult in and of itself. That she knew she was being heavy handed, and she was being so to reflect to them at how inept she felt they were.
Solas sighed. He could already feel the headache starting to ring in his head, but it was interesting to work against them. Vivienne listened for the most part, though she couldn’t help but interrupt with her own thoughts and disbelief of what they were telling her. Though often her comments were that if it weren’t Cassandra telling her this, she would not be able to believe a word of this. She said it to be an insult. Cassandra refused to take it as such, and she was even charming once.
Sometimes Solas craved the complexity of royalty and power, and sometimes he just wanted to go into forest and disappear into the simplicity of the spirits and the Fade.