Arlanan held his hand tightly. This was her idea, and yet the way he described it nudged a sense of anxiety into her. To ease her back into a sense of calmness, Solas had one last thing to show her, something he had wanted her to see for years, but which never felt right. It was more amazing than he had once described it, a vision of the first home of their people.
“I suspected my words could do it no justice, but seeing your reaction...it was worth showing you. I make no promises, but perhaps this will be yours very shortly…” he sighed.
“Do you ever wonder what could have been? If you had stayed at Skyhold?” she asked.
Taking a few more slow steps, Arlanan erupted into a coughing fit that brought her to her knees, her palm spattered in blood. As he had once said, the Anchor, despite having been removed years before was about to claim her life. That, and his pending end were the reasons he’d agreed to it in the first place. He frowned, kneeling in front of her, his hand cupping her cheek softly.
“Stay with me, just a little longer. It’s nearly time…” he instructed quietly. “I have often wondered that. What might happen if I could have changed my course…” sighing again, he brushed her silvery locks from her face, fixated on the golden hues of her eyes. “Are you ready? Remember, you must be calm, or this could hurt you in ways you haven’t considered fully…”
There was a sense of calmness in his presence, though she couldn’t profess that she was completely peaceful about what was about to happen. There was no more time, it had to happen regardless if she was ready for it or not.
“I’m ready…” she mumbled weakly.
Drawing her closer, his lips found hers. There was a noticeable heat to it at first, almost painfully warm, though his hands and his lips quickly began to grow cold. The feel of his pulse, the sound of his heart, all vanishing as if he had simply never been there. Instead, there was a warmth that felt like it was radiating from her soul. There was vigor, her strength returning, but it was too much after all. Rising shakily to her feet, she clutched her head, the vision shattering around her, her screaming lost to world around her. Blinded by agony, she stumbled clumsily, her one remaining arm feeling for anything solid to hold onto. The lingering energy from the Anchor welled up uncontrollably, tearing a rift, tumbling head first through it.
The impact from the landing didn’t hurt like she imagined it would, but when her eyes opened, the world looked very different. Nowhere she had ever seen, buildings and objects unlike anything found in Thedas. That was the least of her worries at that moment. She could see what was in front of her clearly, but it was amplified, everything she saw was tripled, including the rush of strangely dressed humans running towards her.
“Monster!” one shouted.
Arlanan cringed, flinching away as the group pelted her with stones, blades breaking as they tried to cut her. She didn’t understand what was happening beyond the feeling that her body and her mind were breaking under the intense strain. Maybe she was imagining it, but they looked so small to her. Snapping under the exertion, she looked again, the forms like statues then. That much was familiar, hadn’t Solas turned the Qunari to stone with only a glance? It was too much to hold on any longer. Collapsing once more to the ground, it felt like her body was twisting, aching far more than she could deal with. The world grew black, the solid thump of her head falling to rest on the ground the last conscious thought she had.
“Strangest shit though. A giant beast. Not sure the reports didn’t come from some joker.” he complained, tossing the papers to the desk. “Statues. That’s a lot for a simple prank.”
“You’re not going to turn her loose, are ya? She took a real beating...don’t feel right pushing her off on someone else…”another voice protested.
“Do you even know the first thing about taking care of someone in that condition? I sure as fuck don’t.” he said.
“Don’t mean we can’t figure it out.” the other voice persisted. “Hold up. I think she’s waking up…”
Scrambling back against the wall, her heart raced at the presence of two unfamiliar humans in front of her. One looked older than the other, but that was all she could process. The younger of the two rushed off, returning with a bottle and some mystery red thing that jiggled on the plate.
“Ya been out for a few days, should prob’ly drink this. Maybe try to eat if ya can…” he insisted.
“What are you? What’s your name?” The older of the two asked.
Her hand rose, fingers brushing along the edge of her ear thoughtfully. Her face was marked strangely in red ink, the jagged tears in her clothes indicating they at least extended along her throat and across her collarbone.
“I’m an elf…” she mumbled. “My name is…” her brows lowered nervously. What was it? Why couldn’t she remember it? “I...forgot…”
She struggled for a short time trying to open the drink before he took it back, opening it for her. Bobbing her head once, she meant only to take a sip, eagerly finishing it off quickly. Maybe it made sense to be so thirsty if she’d been unconscious for days.
“Do you remember anything?” the first asked.
Trying to think of anything familiar, she came to the frightening conclusion that she had no recollection of anything before waking up here. Her eyes stung with hot tears, which she quickly moved to wipe away, shaking her head.
“Still want to keep her here, McCree?” the first man asked. “Amnesiac kid sounds like trouble.”
“Thought ya liked trouble.” he said with a grin. “Can’t keep callin’ her ‘Kid’. Jus’ let her pick somethin’ for now…”
Standing up, he reached for a magazine someone left lying around. He regarded it with mild disgust before tossing it to her. “You heard him, kid. Pick something you like.”
She stretched it over her lap, staring at the stump of her arm for a moment, it felt familiar, though she could no longer recall how or why it was gone. She flipped through the pages curiously, passing pictures of clothes she could tell she had never seen before. Scanning the words thoughtfully, she stopped on a name that caught her attention. She pointed to it, McCree leaning a little closer to look.
“Ellie? You like that one?”he asked.
Nodding again, he took the magazine back, setting it back on the table. This time, the older of the two returned with a fresh bottle of water, handing it to her after his brief disappearance. She took it gratefully, her hand curled loosely around it. He had been nice enough to open it for her before handing it over. The rolling beads of condensation along the sides felt good, but that wasn't what caught their focus. The water began to freeze in her grasp, ice crawling upward through the thick plastic.
“Are you seeing this, Gabe?” McCree asked in disbelief.
“How are you doing that?” He questioned.
Her eyes shifted lower, the sight enough to make her lose it. The ice began to break up, spidering cracks forming, before it was broken into smaller chunks, bobbing in the water. Her head pounded agonizingly, brief flashes of things that made little sense to her filling her thoughts. Ellie shifted, drawing her legs up to her chest. The blanket slipped lower, her slim legs bandaged up, some tinged with rusty brown-red splatters of dried blood.
“I… that's right. I'm a mage…” she murmured. “I had to stay away from certain people because of that...I don't remember who or why…”
The man he called Gabe pulled McCree to the side, only knowing they were talking about her by the slight movement of their lips and the occasional glance they spared her.
“See? She could really be useful. We get her back t’ normal, and she might come in handy.” He said hopefully.
“You're just saying that because you don't want to send her off.” He grunted. “Jack has the final say on recruitment. You think she can help? She's your problem then.”
“Gabe, come on. Don't make me figure this out by myself. I ain't even had a houseplant.” McCree sighed.
“I'm not raising kids here. I'll do what I can, but you wanted to take care of her, I'm not doing the work.” Gabe said sternly. “First, she can't run around in those rags. Get her something better to wear. The arm could be a problem. As much as I don't want to recommend her, Dr. Ziegler is the one to ask.”
“I'll give it a few days. Ellie needs time to adjust and heal up. If I take her now, you know she’ll try and talk her out of getting involved. I really think she could help.” He replied.
Gabe shrugged, wandering off without a word. McCree knew better than to question it, he did what he wanted. Turning back, she was fighting a losing battle with the jello, her hand shaking, too much to hold the spoon, let alone manage to gather any.
“Lemme help you with that lil’ lady.” He drawled.
Taking a seat next to the bed, he reached for the spoon, his fingers brushing hers for a moment. Her cheeks flushed slightly, but she said nothing. He'd never had to do this for anyone, though he'd been on the receiving end of similar care before, having been injured plenty of times in missions. Holding it out to her, his expression softened some.
“Open up, El.” He coaxed.
Her lips parted slightly, everything causing her to struggle pointlessly to try and recall something familiar in it. He set the spoon down for a second, his hand reaching for her. She flinched nervously until his thumb brushed against her chin, wiping at a fleck that had dropped.
“S’alright. I ain't gonna hurt ya.” He assured her.
“Th… thank you… uhh…” she stopped. The man he called Gabe called him McCree, but maybe that was too formal for someone she just met?
“You can call me Jesse, darlin’” he told her. “The other guy is kinda like my boss. Gabriel Reyes. You can prob’ly jus’ call him Gabe too.”
He fell silent, watching the way her vibrant golden eyes fluttered slowly lower. Of course she was probably tired, she'd been through hell. Gabe said they were going to work on flushing out and destroying the local gangs that plagued the area, but it hadn't gone so smoothly and she suffered for it. Sighing, he held out the spoon again, troubled by the way she winced with every move.
“Jus’ finish this up for me, and you can get some rest for a bit, ok?” He said persuasively.
Ellie gave a weak nod, rubbing the sleep threatening her away from her eyes. Silence fell between them while he focused on helping her finish the small snack. Reyes was absolutely right. The clothes she wore had been heavily damaged, and if not for the blanket covering her, the night chill might have been too much for her. As objective as he was trying to be, he was still a man, and he could guess at her size. He had a little left from his pay, maybe while she got some rest, he could take a break and go get something decent for her. Then there was the matter of the earlier discussion. Dr. Ziegler was the best around, sure. A pacifist, and a persuasive one at that. There was every chance she really would discourage her from trying to help if she wanted to. Then their was Morrison. He was a soldier, every bit of him was protocol and duty, nice enough but that didn't guarantee he wouldn't refuse her. Then again he might push her too hard.
“This’ the right thing to do…” he mumbled, affirming his choice to help her out.